The Carol Reed detective adventure series by MDNA Games has developed a devoted fan-base over the years. With the latest chapter, Bosch's Damnation, due to be released this spring, we reached out to Mikael Nyqvist of MDNA Games to get some insight into the game and his work.
Like all prior Carol Reed games, Bosch's Damnation is a point and click adventure that uses photography, predominantly in and around Norrköping, Sweden, as its background.
Each of the Carol Reed Mysteries has their unique backstories. What is your process in developing the story behind each mystery? For example, is this influenced by your own background as a short-film maker, or perhaps by books and movies you may have enjoyed in the past? How did the story for Bosch’s Damnation come to you?
Each game, except the first one, has incorporated non-fictional characters into a fictional story in various ways. I never intended this to be a recurring theme; it’s just the way the scripts have turned out. I guess that I’m more inspired by real life events and locations than books, movies, and games.
The films I made were all purely fictional and bear little resemblance to the games. However, some of the people appearing in the games were also in the films.
The idea for Bosch’s Damnation came from very fortunate circumstances. For a long time, I had wanted to do a game based on Malte Stierngranat, one of the strangest men that have ever lived in Sweden. He’s buried in a pyramid that he designed himself in his hometown Stjarneborg. There is also a museum dedicated to him. The pyramid is occasionally open to the public, but only for group viewings.
I eventually scrapped the idea since I saw no way of gaining access to the pyramid, or being allowed to take photos in the museum undisturbed. Then we discovered that the cousin of my wife’s mother worked as a caretaker in the museum AND was in possession of keys to the pyramid.
Can you provide us with an anecdote on Malte Stiengranat to help us visualize the kind of man he was?
His home town Stjarneborg didn’t have a train station, so he would simply get up on the tracks and stop the train when it approached. When he wanted to get off he pulled the emergency cord. Tired of having to pay several fines each month for these actions, he finally built his own train station.
This also made it easier for him to protect his coffin from rain while waiting for the train. He always brought his coffin on his trips, even shorter ones.
The Carol Reed series is set in your hometown of Norrköping, Sweden. What is the general impression you get from neighbors and residents who may comment on your game?
My games have received very little local attention. I’ve been invited to some local television shows, but that’s all.
Many fans of the Carol Reed series often make the comment that playing your games is like taking a vacation to Norrköping, Sweden. Have you ever thought of expanding or adding other geographic location settings for the Carol Reed games?
Several games have locations in various parts of Sweden. A great deal of last year’s game, Cold Case Summer, takes place in Stockholm for example. We also shot some scenes in a deserted leper colony in the Canary Island Tenerife for that game. Some people noticed that that these scenes hadn’t been shot in Sweden, since some cacti could be seen in the background.
Has there been any change in the way you develop each game? For example do you still use the Wintermute Engine?
Oh yes, this is the 7th game I've made using the Wintermute engine. The first 3 games were made with Adventure Maker, which is a very good tool for absolute beginners.
Is MDNA still a 2 person team comprised of you and your wife Eleen? I’m sure many people would like to know how the two of you managed to successfully develop the series over the last 10 years.
I make the games myself nowadays, that’s how we’ve managed :)
After 3 games, Eleen need more time to tend to her allotment/community garden (which, by the way, plays Carol’s allotment in the game). Even though I’ve made the games on my own since then, we still discuss the games a great deal, and Eleen still provides significant help with all the practical stuff involved in the making of the games.
You note that Bosch’s Damnation is the first Carol Reed game which takes place in both winter and summer. Has this made a difference in terms of the story-telling for the game? One would imagine that having a wider timeframe would allow for more story-telling possibilities.
All the previous games have taken place during summer. I usually take the pictures very early in the morning, around 4-5 a.m. That time is perfect; the sun is already up, and there are hardly any people on the streets.
Players had been asking for a winter game ever since the first game came out though. Most of them probably associate Sweden with long winters and lots of snow. The problem is that it’s difficult to photograph exteriors during snowy days. It’s cold, wet, and there are only a few hours of sunlight during these days, at which point the streets are usually crowded.
Nonetheless, I managed to somehow do it, and am very satisfied with the result. My fingers almost got frostbitten shooting these scenes though, so I doubt that very much that I’ll do it again.
It would be great to hear your thoughts on the general state of the gaming industry, and perhaps more specifically, your thoughts on adventure games.
Since I belong to the Sierra/Lucas Arts generation, it’s probably not surprising that the majority of my favorite games were released between 1987 and 1995. I do, however, think that the average quality of adventure games released today is much higher than the ones released in those days.
I miss the full motion video games terribly, and am still waiting for them to come back in style. Wouldn’t it be nice if the upcoming Tex Murphy game would be the start of that era?
It’s nice to see how the classic adventure games constantly find new audiences, through gaming portals and such. 20 year old adventure games can be as relevant for the newbie adventure gamer as they were for me when they were new. I doubt that anyone plays 20 year old action games today.
That is one of the most rewarding things about making adventure games: You know that your games will always find new players in the future, regardless of new technology and trends.
You’ve released a number of images for Bosch’s Damnation – who’s the bearded guy with the tattoos? Could he be George the Cleaner?
The bearded guy is Bigge. He’s been in all the games, although he only had a cameo in the first one. No, he’s not George the Cleaner, but Bigge has been a janitor in some of the games.
Thank you Mikael, for taking the time to talk with us. All of us at Just Adventure are looking forward to Bosch’s Damnation.
The pleasure was mine!