Intrigue At Oakhaven Plantation
 
Interview with Cindy Pondillo  
by Danyboy & Caroline
June 4, 2006

 

About the game:

Just when you thought things were going along nicely, you receive a letter from your Grand-mere asking you to "please" come to Oakhaven to discuss some important issues.  Oakhaven, that lovely southern plantation that still looks like it belongs in the 19th century.  Well how can you resist?  When you arrive you discover your cousin has also been invited and Grand-mère has more than just discussions on her mind.  Tests and conundrums are scattered throughout the plantation and you need to solve them before your cousin does. Along the way, you begin to learn the dark secrets of the past.

Introduction:

You may have encountered Cindy Pondillo (aka Ghostlady) in several forums.  Cindy is always generous with her comments and is always ready to provide a helping hand or hint in a game.  After taking a class in HTML, she created the Mystery Manor website in the spring of 2002.  A few months later the forums were born.  Since she loves old houses, adventure games, books and cats she tried to reflect those interests on both the website and in the forums.  In 2005 she began working on creating her first adventure game.  Hauntings of Mystery Manor was released in June 2005.  In this interview today, Cindy is answering some questions about her upcoming game Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation.  

Carolyn: What is the storyline?  Will it be similar to Hauntings of Mystery Manor or completely different?

First off let me say that Oakhaven is first and foremost, a puzzle game, but that's not to imply that there is no story.  There is a very dramatic story and something a little different than the norm.  There is no similarity to the Hauntings Of Mystery Manor, other than the fact that it takes place in a house again, this time a Southern Plantation.

Carolyn: Is the location for "Plantation" an actual place in real life or is it modeled on a real location?

In 2000, I took a trip to Louisiana to visit some plantations that were deemed "the palaces" of that era (1800's), the houses that had not been destroyed by the Civil War or ruined by neglect.  This is when I had fallen in love with OAKALLEY.  I would be lying if I said there wasn't just a little bit of Oakalley in Oakhaven.

Daniel: Can you give us more details about the history of the family?

This particular area of the United States had such a diverse influx of people (German, French, Spanish, African, Haitian, French Canadian) and I was so enchanted with the colorful history and people of this area. But... the people that I enjoyed learning about the most were the Cajun people.  The Cajuns were the persecuted Acadians from Canada who left their homeland and journeyed to the Louisiana Territory.  They are a fun loving bunch of people that make the best food on this planet.

The family in Oakhaven are descendants from this history.  They live in an ageless plantation house and still farm the sugar cane crops like their ancestors did a hundred years before them.

Carolyn: Will we be playing in the 1st or 3rd person perspective?  Will there be anyone that's alive in the cast to interact with?  Is there any relationship to the ghosts we met in "Hauntings"?

You will be playing in the 1st person perspective and, yes, you will interact with other characters.  You will meet Grand-mère, Paulina the cook, Joe the bartender, and you may even run into a Mamba and a Swamp Witch.  No ghosts this time around.

Daniel: Who are Daphne and Dominic?

They are the two characters that you will be playing as.  They are cousins who had spent their summers together at Oakhaven and are now being summoned back to the plantation by their Grand-mère.  Their exploration leads them to learn some dark secrets that happened in the past that may have an affect on them even now.

Daniel : We will be able to play both as Daphne and Dominic.  Can either one of them be the winner?  What will happen if there's a tie and since we're playing two characters will that lead to some multiple endings?

You will have to play as Daphne and Dominic to successfully finish the game, and can swap out the characters anytime during the game.  Yes, either one can be a winner.  There cannot be a tie because one of the characters will finish their puzzles before the other.  Multiple endings?  Well, maybe.  I am still deciding.

Carolyn: The screen shots I've seen are beautiful. Is the graphic style similar throughout to "Hauntings"?

The "style" is similiar to Hauntings.  The difference between the two is that the Hauntings graphics were created with Photoshop and Oakhaven with Bryce.

Carolyn: What are the recommended computer specifications?

As in Hauntings, Oakhaven was created with Adventure Game Studio (AGS) which typically runs very well right out of the box.

Pentium or higher processor
32 Mb RAM
Windows 95 OSR2, 98, ME, 2000 or XP, with DirectX 5 or above
Supports all DirectX-compatible sound and video cards
500 Mhz system

Carolyn: What's new in this game - have you made any radical changes to the interface or graphics style?

I wouldn't say anything was radical, but the interface gui's were designed for the game as opposed to the default one that comes with AGS, as you would have seen in Hauntings.

Carolyn: I really enjoyed the music in Hauntings, it was suited so well to each character.  What can you tell us about the music in Plantation?

The music is essential to this game.  That is the part I enjoy the most in game creation, the sound effects and music.  I think you will see in Oakhaven that the music is well suited here also.

Carolyn: When is the projected release date and where will we be able to purchase the game?  Will it be available as a 'boxed' game or download, or both?

The release date should be around the end of June or early July.  You will be able to purchase the game from the Mystery Manor Website.  The game will come on a CD in a DVD case, but not in a "box".  I haven't decided whether I am going to do the download route this time.

Carolyn: What inspires you to make these games?

Beautiful environments, and the fact that I just enjoy making them.  When I play a game I like to see beautiful environments, whether it be Egypt, or Atlantis, or Syberia.  So when I am some place that "awes" me, my first thought is that it would make an interesting game.

Daniel: What kind of puzzles should we expect to see?

Of course your typical inventory puzzles, but in this case the items will be needed to trigger the abstract puzzles, which will include word puzzles, matching puzzles, history puzzles, memory puzzles, the dreaded music puzzles...

Daniel: Is it true we will encounter a maze among the puzzles?

Oh, yes, a Swamp Maze!  Don't worry, it is not one of those very hard mazes where you run into walls and will hate the game for it, you'll have a lot of fun with it, I promise.

Daniel: Why did Grand-mère choose to give them these challenges?

Her time is near the end and Oakhaven is a big plantation to care for.  It is only a person with the most keen mind that can fill those shoes.

Daniel: I saw there were more than 20 puzzles in the game.  How would you rate the difficulty level of the puzzles?

Most of the puzzles were not created on a difficulty level.  My goal, since this is a puzzle game, was to create them on a "fun" level.

Daniel: In one of the screenshots we see a Ouija Board.   Are we going to be able to communicate with some spirits?  

Of course, this is Louisiana. 

Daniel: You have had your website and the Mystery Manor forums for a while now which I'm sure keep you very busy.  Why have you decided to become an independent game developer?

I love everything about it.  The challenge of coding it, seeing the graphics developed from something in my mind, watching the story evolve and change as I go along.  But the most rewarding of all, are the people, the players.  There is something very special about the "Adventure Gaming Society".  I can't begin to tell you the friends I have made and the kindness that has been showered upon me through this whole process.

Daniel: Have you learned anything you didn't know before doing your research about the game?

Yes, a lot of fascinating history about the area and the people, which I can go on and on about.

Daniel: Will interested buyers be able to buy both your first game and the second game as a set?

Eventually, but not when the game first releases.

Daniel: Are you working alone on this game?

There are two very talented graphics artists involved.  All the outside scenes were created by Bill Munns and the inside of the plantation and the puzzle images were created by Rebecca Cox.  The story concept was created by me, but I had a "ghostwriter" who edited and developed the story much more deeply than it was originally written.

Daniel: Can we expect another game in the near future?

Oh, yes. As soon as Oakhaven gets its feet wet, I have another project waiting in the wings.  But that's another story...

Cindy, thank you very much for the time you have spent answering our questions.  Good luck with the Intrigue at Oakhaven Plantation.

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