In our latest Behind the Game, the team at Cateia Games sheds some light on The Legend of Crystal Valley‘s rather ambiguous ending, chats about how European storytelling is often much different from Hollywood, and discusses the challenges of creating a game with good graphics that can still run on older computers. They also provided Gamezebo with an exclusive "blooper reel" of screenshots that didn’t turn out quite right during the development process.

Participating in the interview are Co-Founder, Lead Developer and Lead Programmer Krešimir Špes, Art Director and Lead Developer Ivan Brali?, and Lead Artist Nenad Kajgana.

Please start by telling us a little bit about yourself and Cateia Games.

Krešimir: My name is Krešimir Špes, co-owner of Cateia Games, working as lead programmer.

Cateia Games is a game development company based in Croatia, Europe. The core team consists of some 7-8 members plus many part-time employees who work on various parts of our games.

We are one of only a few active game development companies in Croatia and are primarily focused on casual games development.

What was the inspiration behind The Legend of Crystal Valley?

Krešimir: LOCV‘s inspiration came from  many different sources and many people contributed to the storyline which our script-writer Ante Jeluši? cleaned up and perfected.

We always wanted to develop an adventure game, one that would put an end to some annoying features we’ve seen in other adventure games. For instance, LOCV has a cursor that changes colors, hints, the ability to speed up the character’s walk if you don’t feel like waiting for Eve to move somewhere, and most importantly, challenging but logical puzzles.

Your previous games were an arcade platformer and a strategy game. What made you go in the direction of an adventure game with The Legend of Crystal Valley?

Ivan: Well, it’s a challenge to develop an adventure game. But on the other hand, you can be very creative since an adventure game is all about the story, interesting characters and puzzles. Also, you have a lot of freedom creating artwork which we really enjoyed!

I think that the most important reason why we decided to develop LOCV was its interesting and original story and fantasy environment inspired by myths and legends. Also, many publishers were interested in this title since the beginning, which was a real motivational boost.

Like many people who played the game, I found myself caught up in the story. What were some of the inspirations you drew upon for the story? Alice in Wonderland comes immediately to mind.

Ivan: Since we live in Croatia (which is in south-eastern Europe) there are many great and original mythical motives that just waite to be used in a video-game. Of course, there is Alice in Wonderland, just as you said. But obvious are also motives from Tolkien, different science-fiction literature and movies and the Grimm brothers’ fairy tales.

So, I guess, LOCV is a mix of fantasy, fairytale, science-fiction and drama.

Some people found The Legend of Crystal Valley‘s ending a bit vague. Can you comment on this? Are there any insights you can share about the final cutscene?

Ivan: Well, that’s not odd, at all! The ending just leaves many questions unanswered and I understand that some players will be, hm… disappointed perhaps?

(Spoiler alert!)

Eve found her father in a different time dimension where her mother is alive. But there is nothing else around them – Eve’s father (Issac) did many bad things and created a strong imbalance in the universe. I think that LOCV‘s ending is a sad one because there is nothing else there except their little farm, father and mother.

(End of Spoiler alert, phew!)

Krešimir: I like to think of it as a sort of X-File ending – there are questions, there is a mystery, but at the end, there are no precise answers. Just a possibility that the story will continue in some way!

If you look at most of Hollywood movies you’ll notice that mostly they have happy endings. European production is a bit different, and I think we prefer more dramatic endings. Perhaps, the main character is also the one who suffers the most.

Nenad: Regarding the final cutscene, I remember talking to Ivan about viewers being able to see what was going on as the camera moves out. I was going around asking people: Can you see the floating island in the end?

All of your games have a distinctive graphical "look" that’s above average for casual games. Can you talk about the game’s graphics and art direction? How do you balance good graphics with the fact that the game needs to run on older machines?

Ivan: A nightmare!

Nenad: We wanted to make as many different environments as possible so that every chapter or location in the game is unique and has a distinct feel about it.

For LOCV we used s hybrid 2D/3D approach. Only the characters, some items and objects are 3D but the rest of the scene is a flat picture. The in-game camera is matched to the background picture so that everything fits together. This system enables the game to run smooth on older machines. However the biggest problem was the wide array of graphic cards we had to support, mainly the older models.

Krešimir: Yes, I would like to say that after LOCV‘s quality assurance I’ve come to personally hate Intel’s video cards!

How would you describe the development process overall? Smooth? Difficult?

Nenad: My part, scene and cut scene modeling and rendering, was relatively smooth. Some parts were tedious, like modeling door knobs and handles, but I managed to survive… We had most problems with some characters and their exporting from modeling/animation program to the game engine. Some characters would just seem to get “mangled” in the exporting process without any reason we could think off.

Krešimir: The development process was mostly smooth, and for me, rather fun and challenging.

I was particularly careful to design the game’s engine so it can be easily extended and modified.

The same engine is now successfully used in our next adventure game!

Aside from myself, two other programmers worked on the game, and in their experience, the most boring part of the job was endless testing of quests and dialogs.

Are there any funny or interesting things you can share about the game’s development?

Ivan: We are a funny company and hilarious people! Just joking! But seriously, a development process is both difficult and fun. We have our archive (mostly pictures and short videos) of strange and funny situations that occurred during the development and testing process. Unfortunately, they are not for the public.

Nenad: I remember always complaining about modeling windows, doors, door handles and the rest of the everyday boring stuff.

Also, when we switched to the new office we didn’t have any curtains yet. So for some time I had a problem with the sun hitting my monitor and not being able to see all the color tones. I had to creatively use chair pillows around my monitor to block it out..

Can you give us any hints about your upcoming games? Will there be a sequel to The Legend of Crystal Valley?

Ivan: We hope so! If the game performs well, there will almost certainly be a sequel.

Any last words for your fans?

Ivan: Thank you all so much for playing our game, for great reviews and comments, and we just hope that you’ll spend many exciting hours playing our games. Cheers!

Special thanks to you, Erin. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Nenad: I hope playing our game was a positive experience for you. Thanks.

The Legend of Crystal Valley – Blooper Reel
Sometimes during the development process things go horribly, humorously wrong:

Crooked Eva

Feet first

Graphics card error

So wrong…