The identity of MacVenture titles in this day and age of oversaturating AAA titles sure seems like a thing of the past as we only reflect on said genre with the remembrance of games that were from a time before. While titles now do offer plenty stinging dialogue options, diverse world landscapes, and intriguing casts of characters, it is appreciated to see what these titles were, but to also keep them in relevance not only as reference, but as a still living category.
Primarily, I have grown up with lesser descriptive titles from big budget developers, but age has also opened my eyes to the latter of dialogue-focused projects more recently. This is what drove me to approach SuckerFree Games’ From Beyond Prologue: having no history with games that set the foundation for the market following the drought of the industry in the early 1980s, From Beyond stood out to be a revival of the games of that era, but also a refreshing take on a genre that we should see more of in the industry.
Giving a synopsis for the $2.99 Steam title, you fill the shoes of university professor Crawford Tillinghast as he ventures to the winterish wastes of the unnamed European mountains. Along his journey, Tillinghast equips himself with the goal to unearth the cemented rumors that have been tossed around on an forgotten village. Respecting the mount of context provided on the Steam page regarding the game’s plot, the remnants of the story is left for the player to decipher through their experience with the title hands-on.
From my passage with the game when playing on the show floor at Dreamhack Atlanta, I was unfortunately met with a grave ending among the many branching conclusions that are imbedded in the title’s progression. However, I felt that one play through was not the full experience disregarding the presumption of the ending to outlive my initial and short-runned playthrough. More that I was invested to see how the other choices I could have made to alter the path that is already laid out for me.
Speaking with the lead developer at SuckerFree Games William McDonald, I was interested as to why the studio decided to make a point and click, single-player title. Noted, the team’s previous work focused mainly around cooperative titles, Kobold’s Quest & Dungeons the Eye of Draconus, so From Beyond was unique in contrast to the developer’s prior projects.
McDonald shares that the studio was faced with a cut in staff, so the project fit the team’s metric of workload now with limited developers. Another aspect that fueled the development for the game was that McDonald recently finished original MacVenture titles like Shadowgate and Uninvited, so he was set on creating a game of the caliber by then. But one interesting side note that he told me was that the game was initially not intended to be a point and click adventure at all.
“Originally, the game had been deigned to be a first-person multiplayer game,” McDonald revealed about the project’s initial development. “The game would have been different to other first-person games as it included more puzzles [Like in From Beyond].”
Asking with a follow-up question already holstered, what truly made From Beyond Prologue standout from its inspirations? McDonald is aware of the close similarities his game holds with the original MacVenture lineup by explaining that this is intended to be a throwback to the era of titles. However, he also tells that his game does offer more context to the world which is done through the bevy of puzzles you complete progressing through the main storyline. Another trait he included was a more descriptive environment; something that the older titles lacked to provide. Reflecting on the game’s puzzles once more, he explains that some will offer multiple solutions than just the one you find which alters the ending: some can even be skipped without having to be completed.
Which is clearly evident in his work as my playthrough did show to be one of the rougher paths of the progressing storyline. Not only did I die early on, but at one point I walked down a fading cliffside which resulted with me falling and losing a majority of my tools I had equipped when starting the game.
Dissecting the game’s background even more, the name alone gives away that there is more to come for the context of the plot as it’s titled “Prologue,” implying that there will be at least another installment following. This is where I discovered that there is another game, The Dinner Party. Prologue came out in 2018 originally, so it is expected that development is already well more than halfway completed. McDonald when questioned about the game explains that he already has an entire lineage planned to be made, it just has to be translated into a game.
Specifically for this second installment, McDonald says that the upcoming game will offer more depth in character structure, endings, and of course, puzzles. Adding more, he explains that this will be a direct follow-up to the first game set twenty years following the events of Prologue. “A lot of fans who already played were interested in what happened to the professor after the ending, so this [Dinner Party] is set two decades after the first game.” Furthermore, he plans for each title to be dressed in a different generation design (Prologue uses NES, Dinner Party uses Sega Genesis).
What the sequel will introduce differently is a selection of characters to choose from. Rather than playing the single professor like in the predecessor, you will have the option to choose a selection of different personas: a butler, chemist, maid, naturalist, and college student. Among the few listed roles that you can pick from, McDonald still has other additions he didn’t mention. One he did shared was the addition of a cat that you can play, “maybe that will be DLC for the game,” he jokingly tells me.
Looking ahead for The Dinner Party, the game was initially scheduled to release sometime during this financial quarter, but was unfortunately pushed to 2020. McDonald expands on this by sharing the sequel is expected to release within the next six months roughly. Development currently stands with the soundtrack close to complete, however, the reason for the game’s delay is due a corrupt hard drive and work had to be recreated on for all aspects.
One burning question I had to ask was the chances of seeing the game eventually hitting console. Influencing titles like Shadowgate is already on Xbox One, so it looked that this would suit SuckerFree’s title. Thinking more realistically, I asked when the full package of titles McDonald has planned to release as a full lineage for console: where he answered that his hands are tied on that decision for the time being. Although he does own a developers kit for Xbox One, he thinks it might be too late seeing we’re already on the verge of the next generation. The Nintendo Switch does however rank in the new line of hardware, but he doesn’t own a dev kit as of asking.
Ultimately, picking the mind of SuckerFree Games regarding the From Beyond Prologue as well as the planned lineup of following titles really engrossed me in anticipating what is next for the Washington studio. Reiterating what I already said before, this current market is pretty vacant of MacVenture titles and the potential From Beyond series could possibly introduce the genre to a wider audience that it deserves.
From Beyond Prologue is out now on Steam.