The Last Time - Interview with Creator Daniel Black

Today we have a very special interview with Daniel Black from Big Cow Studios and the creator of the upcoming game The Last Time.  A point and click adventure, where the decisions you make affect upcoming choices later in the game and ultimately affecting the outcome of the ending. Currently in development, you can back the game on Kickstarter and receive multiple awards depending on which tier you choose. You can also check out the progress on Steam, where the game has already been Greenlit by the community. If you are a fan of the adventure or point and click genre, this title should not be missed. We will be reviewing this game in a future article when it releases. In the meantime, check out our review below:

·  Hello, today we are talking with Daniel Black of Big Cow Studios and creator of the upcoming game “The Last Time”. Daniel, thanks for joining us today!

My pleasure, thank you for having me!

·  You left your day-to-day job to start making games. What made you ultimately decide to do this? Did you have encouragement from friends and/or family?

It was actually during a trip to Chicago, where I took a course in improvised theatre, that I got the inspiration to finally follow my dreams and start making games. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was, but there was something about that trip that made me see the truth behind the cliché ‘you only live once’.  Besides, I was bored and frustrated in my job, so I wanted to leave anyway.

My friends had mixed opinions as to the wisdom of my decision. As for my family, they weren’t initially very receptive to the idea at all; they’re quite cautious people, and would rather that I followed a more stable path. It took a while for me to convince them that it was the right choice.

·  What games are some of your influences for making The Last Time?

If I had to pick one game, it would be Heavy Rain; I’ll always remember pacing around my room struggling with a tough moral decision that the game presents you with. It was then that I realised just how emotionally engaging the medium of video games can be, and it’s what inspired me to make a game that takes the player on a rollercoaster of emotions. Other influences include Kentucky Route Zero, which helped inform my decision to give the player some control over the back story, and of course all the classic adventure games I played when I was a kid.

·  The Last Time is a non-linear point and click adventure. Adding in multiple paths makes the game development more involved. What made you decide to go this route?

As a gamer, I really enjoy having agency over the narrative, so I wanted to put this element into my own game. I find it much more engaging to be a part of a story than to have it told through cutscenes.

·  Your art style caters to those now in their mid-30s who grew up with point and click adventures created by Sierra and LucasArts. What would you say to influence a potential backer from this demographic?

Well, pretty much everybody aged 30 and above who has played the demo has immediately told me that it reminds them of Monkey Island, or another point and click from their childhood. So, it’s definitely got the nostalgia appeal, if that’s what you’re looking for. In addition, it’s got some fresh features, including a nonlinear narrative and my own unique sense of humour; there are new things to discover mixed in with the old.

·  What challenges are there to release a game like The Last Time on five different operating systems? 

Thankfully, I’m using the Unity3d engine, which makes it pretty easy to publish to multiple platforms from a technical point of view. The main challenge is the difference in interface between desktop and mobile; by definition, point and clicks are best played with a mouse, and I’ve had to adapt the controls to be suitable for a touch screen. I’ve got a mobile interface which works, but I’m still experimenting with it to see how I can improve it.

·  Audio can be a make or break aspect of a game, what are your ambitions for the audio in The Last Time?

I’m working with a composer who’s making a custom soundtrack for the game; we’ve got a good working relationship, and he understands how the music fits into the scenes. The aim is to have music which enhances the mood; since the mood varies from light-hearted to dark, from calm to tense, the music will change to reflect this.

·  Why did you decide to use Kickstarter over other crowd-sourcing platforms?

That’s a good question – it’s not actually a question which I really asked myself, it was a pretty immediate decision. I did think briefly about Indiegogo, but I preferred Kickstarter’s all-or-nothing funding system; I’d already adopted an all-or-nothing approach when I decided to quit my job to focus on game development, so I guess I was being consistent with the route that I’d taken.

·  You are more than half-way to your goal on Kickstarter, with more than two-weeks to go. Congratulations! How do you feel about the response so far?

Thank you! I’ve been greatly encouraged by all the positive feedback I’ve had, not just in relation to the Kickstarter but also in response to the demo and the Steam Greenlight page. It’s given me the motivation to put my all into this game, knowing that it will have an impact on a large audience.

·  One of our focuses here at Gaming With Swag is “The Swag Project” which is to chronicle different bonuses and promos that are associated with games. How do your Kickstarter bonuses such as the art book and the diaries complement The Last Time?

The making-of book – which encompasses art, behind-the-scenes story notes and entries on my personal life – provides a useful context to the game, shedding light on the story and characters. It will give the player a deeper understanding and appreciation of what goes on in the game, as well as being a really interesting story in itself. Other bonuses allow you to be a part of the game, including having your name on an in-game book which the player can interact with, and giving you beta access so you can provide feedback which will help shape the final product.

·  Adding a backer's character to a game has been very popular on crowd-funding sites such as Kickstarter. How will this work in the development of The Last Time?

There’s two options, depending on which tier you choose; one option is to have a character in the game based on your likeness, which will feature prominently in a scene in the game. The other option is to work with me to write dialogue for your character, in addition to the above; this means that the character based on you will be able to talk with the protagonist, using your own words. It’s an opportunity to have your writing appear in the game, as well as a pixel-art representation of you; and I’m offering it much cheaper than I’ve seen on any other Kickstarter project!

·  Finally, what’s next for you and Big Cow Studios? Any projects in the pipeline?

Hah – that’s way off. In all honesty, I have no idea what’s next; it depends entirely on how this game works out. I try not to think about it too much; I can easily drive myself crazy imagining all the possibilities. Besides, I have no idea what opportunities might come along, so I try to keep an open mind. One thing’s for sure; I’m not going back to a job that I don’t find fulfilling. Now that I’ve got a taste for the joys of pursuing a passion, I’m not ready to give it up!

·  Daniel, thank you for your time and sharing more with us about The Last Time. We look forward to playing the final version, and reading through all of those bonuses.

Thank you, it’s been fun!

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