Behind the Game: The Serpent of Isis

In our latest Behind the Game feature, Gamgo Games head honcho Andreas Schneider talks about Indiana Jones, the Orient Express, the adventure games of his childhood, and how they all contributed to the making of Gamgo’s new hidden object adventure game, The Serpent of Isis.

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In our latest Behind the Game feature, Gamgo Games head honcho Andreas Schneider talks about Indiana Jones, the Orient Express, the adventure games of his childhood, and how they all contributed to the making of Gamgo’s new hidden object adventure game, The Serpent of Isis.

Hi Andreas, thanks for taking the time to speak with us, and congratulations on releasing The Serpent of Isis! To start, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do at Gamgo Games.

Thank you Erin. Gamgo is a small company – well – I like to say "tiny" because it is just me and my girlfriend helping me and two freelancers for sound and artwork. My job at Gamgo is nearly everything that needs to be done to create the game. So I created the story, half of the artwork, the text and I developed the game. I think that if I played an instrument, I would do the music too – just joking!

Before I started doing PC Games, Gamgo released some mobile games. We started with mobile games in 2002, and it was a great time. However, PC Games is something I really wanted to do ever since I discovered what video games were. As most of us, I started with a Commodore 64 and later coded some games for the Amiga.

What was the inspiration behind The Serpent of Isis?

I am a fan of the old Indiana Jones movies and of course James Bond. Also, a lot of inspiration came from LucasArts adventure games that I played a lot in the 80s. We saw a documentary on TV about the Orient Express and our first idea for the game was the train and the different cabins to explore. We had the idea about the moving landscape behind the window, and the feeling of being on a luxury train traveling through Europe and to make it possible to enter different cabins and move through the train instead of having static screens that you can’t exit.

We wanted it to make it as realistic as possible, because I think many people like the traveling aspect of games; the fact that they can visit locations that they can’t go or have never been to. The other inspiration was to make the game a bit different so that it stood out from the group of other hidden object games. I think it is a good idea not to look at other games that much. That’s why we created a game that we ourselves would love to play.

How did you choose which cities to feature as destinations for the train to stop at? Had you been to all these cities? Do you have a favorite?

Honestly? I have never been to any of those cities. The Web makes it possible to explore places and get all the details and information. We chose Venice as a starting point as a little joke and reference to our first game, Venice Mystery. The other stops were based on the real route of the Orient Express.

We also took care to depict real spots each city. Scenes like the Fisherman’s Bastion or the Pyramid in Parc de Monceau in Paris are real places that you can actually visit. I think this is a quality that makes the game more real. Even the museum in Cairo is real, and the reopening date, 1902, is the same as in the game. We also tried not to put in puzzles that can’t exist in the real world. I don’t like games where you have to play a mini-game that has nothing in common with the scene.

Your previous game, Venice Mystery, was also a mystery set in Europe, but the gameplay was very different from The Serpent of Isis. What made you decide to go from mah jong to hidden object?

Good one. I started with Venice Mystery because it was the first game I ever created for the PC and Mac and I thought it would not be a good idea to start with a 10-chapter game with more than 100 scenes like The Serpent Of Isis. I am also more a fan of adventure games, but it wasn’t possible when we created Venice Mystery in 2007.

Why do you think hidden object games are so incredibly popular at the moment?

That’s an interesting question, but I think everybody loves those hidden object images and remembers them from earlier on in their lives. I am 39 years old and I can remember that I had two books when I was a young kid, and those books were hidden object image books.

We also recently saw a lot of books for kids popping up on the market that use this hidden object style. I think it is a classic style, and some people really like them a lot. It is an easy style to turn into game mechanic as well – so I think that’s why it is popular.

However, I think developers of hidden object games needs to think about how to bring more value to the customer instead of just a list of items and an item-cluttered background. We did that by mixing the hidden object part with a little adventure spice. And we did that carefully, because most people that play these games today don’t know what a point-and-click adventure game is.

I grow up with games like Maniac Mansion, Full Throttle, and Monkey Island from LucasArts – games that tied us up for weeks in front of the computer screen. Return to Ravenhearst did an excellent job of mixing hidden object and adventure gameplay as well, and I think that it’s time for adventures to come back.

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

It was great and smooth and we had a lot of fun during the development. It is fun seeing your ideas come true and see the final product at the end. When I have an idea for a scene, I can see this scene ready in front of me, and this is very helpful.

Also, the good thing on a tiny team is that you can do things really quickly. So when I need a door in that scene, for example, I start Photoshop and insert the door and I am done. I don’t need to talk to the artist and see if he has a free time slot to do that tomorrow sometime.

On the development side, I created a script system that let us control the scenes very easily with lightweight commands – a sort of JavaScript for games. In addition, I have to say Big Fish Games did and awesome job of helping us to make the game as best as possible. Greetings to all fishes in the pond!

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

Well, the bathroom scene in Viktor’s cabin is the real bathroom of our hotel room during our holiday in Spain. It’s great seeing this scene in the final game.

Can you give us any hints about your upcoming releases? Will there be a Serpent of Isis 2?

I am sorry but at the moment I can’t say any details about that but I can say that this is not our last hidden object adventure game, and when you played Sepent of Isis you saw a "to be continued…" at the end! We also have another great idea in our head – so I think it will be an exciting year.

Any last words for your fans?

A big thanks to all customers sending in those great emails that they love The Serpent of Isis. Without great customers it wouldn’t be possible for us to create such games. Any feedback is importand for us.