Diamonds In The Rough
 
Interview with Alkis Polyrakis  
by Danyboy
April 19, 2007

 

The Story:

You play the role of a 20 year old American called Jason Hart. Jason is a high school dropout who works as an office boy. All that is about to change in the beginning of our story, when he is approached by a mysterious man who seems to know more about him than Jason does himself.

The man claims to represent an organization that recruits people who are believed to have "special abilities". Those abilities could be telepathy, telekinesis, or other extraordinary powers. Jason has had such an ability all his life, fearing to admit it to himself, let alone others. He accepts the job offer for this organization, which is called "Diamonds in the Rough".

The story begins as soon as Jason moves to a town in the Midwest, where he will be employed doing this mysterious "work". He will soon start to wonder who he is really working for, and what the purpose of the organization is.

 

Introduction:

Alkis Polyrakis is a 32 year old electrical engineer who lives in Athens, Greece. He has been playing adventure games since 1986, and he is a fan of the early 1990s era, particularly of titles created by Sierra and LucasArts. In 2004, he developed Other Worlds, one of the longest freeware games in the history of the genre, which became instantly loved by thousands of players despite its below average graphics. The positive feedback he received about OW made him found his own Adventure Game Developing company, Atropos Studios, in 2006. He is determined to recreate some of the magic feeling the titles of that era had, in a modern package.

 

The Questions:

Who is Jason Hart?

Jason is not much different than any 20 year old man who lives in a small town. His ambitions and thoughts on the future in the beginning of the story are non-existent. His special skill is something that belongs to his past, as he has suppressed all memories of it. He is however intelligent, kind and curious by nature, though a little bit naive and gullible.

What kind of things will Jason be expected to do with his psychic skills?

Much to his surprise, all they'll ever ask him to do is choose among a list of numbers.

How was Jason selected? How did they find him, and know about his skills?

This is not clearly explained. Diamonds in the Rough is portrayed as a huge, clandestine organization that apparently does not spare expenses when it comes to locating the employees they need. We can only assume that it is big enough to have an adequate number of specialized personnel in various parts of the world, who keep their eyes open for what they call “unusual activities”.

Twenty years old is very young to choose the right job, one we will keep for most of our life. What is so appealing to Jason about the job he chooses?

DITR offers their employees a “trial period”; however, it's unlikely that anyone will refuse the offer, as it's a relatively easy job and the salary is substantial. I reckon that if someone made you such an offer as we speak, you'd abandon this interview immediately and get on the first plane. I know I would!

Furthermore, you should consider two additional parameters: Those people they find are -more often than not- rather unsuccessful in their personal and professional life, due perhaps to the confusion and isolation their uniqueness causes. In addition, as soon as they are approached by DITR they realize that they are not alone, that they are given the opportunity to do what they were born to do instead of hiding it. It's an opportunity they have probably been longing for all their lives, and they welcome it.

Can you tell us a little more about this mysterious organization, Diamonds in the Rough?

Founded by a woman named Corinne Feller in 1989, the official purpose of DITR is to locate people with paranormal abilities, recruit them, confine them in a secure environment and study them. That 'secure environment' is a small town where they must all live 24/7 for a minimum period of 5 years. As I'm sure you can guess, there is a reason they do what they do, and your goal in this game is to find out what that reason is.

Can you give us some details about the special skills that some of the members of the Diamonds in the Rough team need to have?

Anything you consider as “paranormal” and dismiss as science fiction will do. Can you read minds? Can you move small objects just by looking at them? Can you complete every adventure game under the sun without consulting a walkthrough? Chances are that DITR will knock on your door sooner or later.

Will we be able to use some of those skills in the game?

Yes you will, but that is not the main purpose of the game, so don't expect a magical world with wizards and flying broomsticks.

In the game we will be able to read Jason's thoughts. How will this work and how will his thought influence the gameplay

The Thoughts Panel is easy to learn, but complicated to explain in detail; I will do my best.

Think of it as a second inventory. As you progress in the game, new thoughts are added and old thoughts disappear. A simple thought is a character's name, for instance. A more complex one can be a situation, like a meeting Jason just had or something he saw.

Thoughts can be:

- Examined (example: click on a name and Jason will tell you what he thinks about that person at the time)

- Combined (example: use a name on a situation and Jason will think if there's a connection between them)

- Used anywhere else in the game, just like inventory items (example: use a situation on a person and the person may tell you something about it)

Successful use of any of the above may open a new location ("I'd better go ask X what he thinks of that"), trigger something somewhere else in the game, or even make Jason think of something new (a new thought will be added).

I like to think that the Thoughts panel will make Jason seem more real, instead of a marionette that obeys to the player's wishes. Plus, it should create some original puzzles.

Can you give us new details about the story that haven't been released yet?

You're always hunting for exclusive news, aren't you? Well, I can tell you that the game begins in the end of the story, with Jason in a somewhat uncomfortable position, eager to tell you what happened as soon as possible. The game will be Jason's narration of the events, and action will be interrupted now and then as we will switch back to ‘now' to listen to what Jason has to say. Only towards the ending will Jason's narration be synchronized with the actual events.

We already know from your website, that Nadine Conner, Sydelle Williams and William Hungerton will be some of the characters we will be dealing with in the game. In reading their profiles I see that they are very different. How are they able to work together?

DITR is not your average company where employees sit in cubicles. They will not be required to work together, as they each perform their tasks alone. They do have to live together in a small town though, and as you cleverly noticed their different backgrounds and profiles may cause some problems to their coexistence.

Are there other characters we would be interested in hearing about?

My personal favourite is Henry Saunders, a short tempered ex-lorry driver with an attitude. Henry does not care for Diamonds in the Rough much, in fact he does not care for almost anyone in the town. He has a theory of his own about DITR and he doesn't hesitate to express it openly.

How many locations are we going to be able to visit? Can you give us some details about some of them?

The town is all you're going to see, but of course that doesn't say much as some games can be confined in a single mansion and still give you a satisfactory world to play in. Among other places you will get to visit the apartments of some employees, a warehouse, a library and of course the DITR building itself, with its impressive architecture and locked doors.

What will be our main goal in the game?

You will need to discover the real purpose of Diamonds in the Rough, discover the dark side of the human nature and, above all, discover yourself.

In the game will the music be an important part of the atmosphere?

I can guarantee that it will. I have full confidence in the talent of our composer, in fact we're even considering the option of releasing the soundtrack of DITR in the future.

What kind of puzzles and what level of difficulty will the puzzles have in the game?

You are going to be challenged with mostly inventory-based puzzles. Note that I think of the Thoughts Panel as a secondary inventory. The game will be harder than the average title, with a careful balance between easy, intermediate and difficult puzzles.

Will the gameplay give us enough clues to be prepared for the ending or are we going to be surprised by it?

Anyone who has played Other Worlds will tell you that I'm not really into conventional endings.

What makes Diamonds in the Rough different from other games?

Let me start by telling you that what makes it special is that it isn't different than the titles many of us loved during what I personally think of as the golden age of adventure gaming: Late 80s – Early 90s. It will feature multiple cursors instead of an all-purpose one, hotspot descriptions for everything you can lay your eyes on, meaningful dialogues and no action sequences.

What makes it different is the main theme of the story, which is a secret that will not be revealed until late in the game. I could be wrong, but as far as I know no adventure game has dealt with this issue before. Furthermore, the main characters are complex personalities who talk and act like real people; they're neither stereotypes nor paper-thin, neither good guys nor bad ones.

So far what was the most difficult challenge you had to deal with during the game development?

Convincing my wife that I will have to work 16 hours per day for an entire year. Oh, and keeping my cat away from the keyboard.

What part of the game are you most proud of?

I would have to say the Thoughts Panel. It's an innovation that will hopefully prove to be as fun to use as it was to create.

When and where are we going to be able to buy the game?

Assuming everything will go according to schedule, it will be ready this fall. As for where... I'll keep you informed.

If I ask you to describe Diamonds in the Rough in just five or fewer words, what will they be?

Not just another adventure game.

Any last comments for us?

Thank you for a very enjoyable interview, Daniel, I thoroughly enjoyed answering your questions and I promise to keep an eye on your web site in the future. I'd also like you to know that I came up with a puzzle for the game while talking to you. If anyone complains it's too difficult, I'll blame you for it.

 

Official website:

Atropos Studios

 

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