By Marty Mulrooney
Alternative Magazine Online reviewed point-and-click adventure game Anna’s Quest in September 2015, describing it as “a beautiful 2D point-and-click adventure game that does more than enough to stand out from the crowd.” The game had been on our radar since its original incarnation – Anna’s Quest Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower – was released in 2012, which we described as “indie adventure gaming at its finest.” In short, Anna’s Quest is pretty awesome. Therefore, AMO is proud to present an exclusive online interview with the affable and talented man behind the game, indie developer Dane Krams!
Hi Dane, thank you for your time and welcome back to Alternative Magazine Online!
Hey, glad to be here, thanks for having me back!
What have you been up to since I last interviewed you in 2012?
Wow, 2012? Really? Time flies! Well, finishing off Anna’s Quest mostly. I flew out to Hamburg to finish the tail end of the game – the ‘crunch time’ – in-house at Daedalic so all those final details came together just right. It was one of the greatest periods of creativity to be there with such talented people! But now I’m back in Brisbane Australia, chipping away at my second commercial title.
Congratulations on the release of Anna’s Quest as a full length adventure game last year! How do you feel?
Very much over the moon! The feedback from both critics and fans was amazing. I mean, you get so close to this thing you work on for so long, it’s natural that it comes with doubts about how good it actually is. To see the reactions people have had to it, particularly the emotional ones, numerous people commenting on it as one of their favourite all-time games… how can that not make me feel like it’s been a success? It’s been pivotal in helping me feel at home in this industry and absolutely driven me to make more!
How did Daedalic Entertainment become involved with Anna’s Quest?
Honestly? I have no idea! Haha, as strange as that might sound… it began with an email out of the blue from them actually, saying they’d seen signs of the game online and were interested in learning more about it. This was way back when all I had online was some concept art and my excited ramblings in adventure gaming forums! So I suppose they were possibly scouting for new talent at the time. Luck, is my answer! Over time we realised we had common ground and they were happy to get behind the game and support it any way they could.
How did this partnership benefit the project?
Oh, it quite literally brought the game to life, no doubt about it! I was very inexperienced and not at all ready to market and promote a game, let alone have the time and money to dedicate myself to completing a full length title. Not only did they back the project financially, they put extremely talented and dedicated programmers and artists on to help me realise my vision, AND did all the legwork in promoting the game and handling technical issues. I cannot begin to describe how amazingly supportive Daedalic was, Anna’s Quest is truly owed to them.
Did you continue to work from home, or did you travel to their offices in Germany?
Mostly I worked from home, but as crunch-time approached they flew me over and set me up over there in Hamburg to make sure everything came together just the way I wanted it to. There were a lot of late nights and beers haha, but we did it! It was an unforgettable experience, I loved everyone at that company and made some really great friendships, I miss them all so much!
How close is the finished game to your original vision? Did you have to change much when moving from the original plan of three ‘volumes’ to one full-length adventure?
Not a single bit, it’s almost identical to the original design document actually! When I first signed up with Daedalic, which was around the time I tried to release the first third in my planned volume series, I put forward the full design document to them outlining the direction it was to go in. Right from the start they were happy with it, and simply asked what they needed to do to help me get it done.
In fact, if anything, elements of the story were improved, just by the attention to detail that the Daedalic team had with the game, making suggestions here and there which benefited the story and design in small, subtle ways, but ways that ultimately were of great benefit. The idea of the ‘beggar’ (for lack of a less spoilery name) appearing at the lake earlier in the game as a prelude to later events came at the suggestion of the lead programmer! He talked it over with me on Skype one night and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it, it made so much sense! That’s just one example of many really.
I was delighted to hear Sophie Le Neveu return as Anna, I think she gave a wonderful performance! Was it important to bring her back after the original Anna’s Quest Vol. 1: Winfriede’s Tower in 2012?
I’m so glad you liked her! I was so incredibly impressed myself with her work on the original volume release of the game, I would have been devastated if she wasn’t interested in returning for the full game! By then, her voice was synonymous with Anna, it would’ve been like having a strange doppelgänger version of Anna if it was someone else voicing her after that haha!
Was your son too old to return as the voice of Ted/Ben? Also, why was the character renamed? 🙂
Haha, Ashton (my son) voicing Ted proved to be quite a divisive part of the original volume release! People either loved his voice and thought it was the cutest thing in the game, or were put off by it and thought it was the worst thing in the game! We were a bit unsure about having something that polarising in there, so unfortunately I had to fire my son from his first job haha! I don’t think he minded too much, it was a struggle to get those first lines recorded – I believe Skylanders were part of the bribe at the time.
Ted becoming Ben, now this one was debated right up until the last few weeks of development actually! I started the game well before the movie ‘Ted’ ever came out, but in the end we decided there was just too much coincidence there, and we didn’t want people relating our sweet, innocent bear to a, errr… not so innocent movie variation haha!
What’s your favourite moment in Anna’s Quest and why?
Ooo, tough one. I quite liked Ben being forced into drinking with the royal guards, mostly because of the performance Nick (the voice actor for the guards) gave, but for drama it’s probably the ending. So much of the time spent working on the game was keeping that in the back of my mind, I really wanted to do my best to make sure everything felt like it led to that moment, and I was really happy with how well we were able to achieve that. Obviously I can’t go into much more detail than that for spoilers!
Do you have a favourite character?
The easy one is Winfriede, mostly because of the last chapter – writing her in that chapter came SO easily and was an absolute joy, and I loved the way people responded to it. I have to say though, it’s a split between Rinkrank and the Mill Witch, and again that’s mostly because of Nick and Karen’s voice acting respectively. I think I just have a soft spot for insane yet somewhat lovable characters?
I loved the surprisingly touching backstory of Winfriede! What made you decide to give her character more depth than the typical fairy tale witch?
That’s great, I’m so glad you liked it! Well, a big part of what I look for in my stories is empathy, and for me it’s a waste to have a villain who is just bad for the sake of being bad. It’s such a waste of drama and conflict, really. The more folktales I read in research, the more black and white they made the sides of good and evil, and so often I found myself wondering well… what if there’s more to it than that, you know?
There was a pivotal moment watching Kung Fu Panda 2 actually, where the advisor talks to Gary Oldman’s peacock villain about the dangers of perpetuating the injustices of his past with his own evil actions, and I thought it was just simple, brilliant storytelling. I knew I had to take a similar approach after that!
In AMO’s review I said how “the storyline is one of the best told in recent memory within the adventure genre and was more than worth the three-year wait.” How do you feel about the response to the game from reviewers and players around the world?
I know, and thank you so much! That’s extremely kind haha! That kind of commentary makes it feel worthwhile, really it does. It sounds corny but, when you have those hard days and you wonder if slogging it away in the indie game scene is the right career choice, it’s reflecting on that kind of feedback which really pushes you on.
Some days I go on a forum and Steam comment reading spree, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. For me, it completely justifies what I’m doing, and to have that I can’t thank the people who played and supported me enough. I think about it and appreciate it every day, really I do.
The ending of Anna’s Quest was superb and I even felt there were some subtle hints pointing towards a sequel. Is that something you’d consider in the future?
Hehe, indeed there are some hints there, and there are most definitely a LOT of places to take the story. At Daedalic we often spent nights discussing and brainstorming where the next game would go while we were crunching on Anna’s Quest! A lot of great ideas came up just from that actually. The idea of making a sequel has come up too, I can say that much, and even though I’m currently working on a new project I would say I am always open to the idea of revisiting that world.
Can you tell us anything about your next project? I’ve seen some beautiful concept art…
Thank you! It’s a far less ‘cartoony’ style, for lack of a better word, a lot more dark and sombre. It’s a murder mystery that takes place in a fictional rural mining town in America, where a mysterious woman (who you play as) shows up to solve a very gruesome murder of a young teenage girl that has been left unsolved under very suspicious circumstances. So you’re playing the game to both solve the murder and to find out who this mysterious amateur detective is as the story unfolds. Sorry about the vague terminology and names haha!
Thank you for your time! I loved Anna’s Quest when I first played it in 2012 and I couldn’t be happier that a full length version was released last year. I can’t wait to see what you do next!
Thank you so much Martin! I hope you like what comes next!