Secret Files: Tunguska
Interview with Jörg Beilschmid 
by Danyboy
June 22, 2006


On the morning of the 30 June, 1908, hundreds of eyewitnesses observed inexplicable and previously unseen phenomena in the skies above the Tunguska region.  Just a few minutes later, several huge explosions with the destructive force of 2,000 Hiroshima bombs shattered the stillness of the boundless central Siberian highlands.  In just a short space of time, a flaming inferno reduced everything to dust and ashes, and an unimaginable blast wave snapped trees like matchsticks, hurling the inhabitants of a settlement 20 km away, and their reindeer, through the air.  Despite countless expeditions, no crater and no meteorite parts have ever been found; scientists today are still searching for answers.  In the Secret Files: Tunguska adventure game, attractive mechanic Nina Kalenkov sets out on a dangerous quest to find her missing father.  The search puts her on the trail of the secrets and conspiracies that surround the Tunguska Phenomenon.

Jörg Beilschmid:

Jörg Beilschmid and The German development teams of Animation Arts and Fusionsphere Systems already have a wealth of experience in game development. They have been involved in managing projects such as Patrizier 2, Kick-Off 4th Edition 03/04 and Port Royale 1+2 (Ascaron Entertainment) as well as Robin Hood and Chicago 1930 (Spellbound).

I saw on another website that the puzzles will be integrated into the story in a logical way and pixel-hunting for hotspots will be avoided. It also mentioned that we might not need a walkthrough to find the solutions. So my question is what kind of puzzles are we going to find in this game?

The main part will be inventory-based puzzles (combine A with B to get C and use it with D).  But to ensure entertainment from the beginning to the very end, it is very important to offer totally new experiences all the time.  This is not only important for story and graphics, but also for the puzzle design.  So you’ll find all kinds of puzzles, from mechanical to dialogue-based, from safe-combinations to plays on words.  And for the most difficult ones we offer an extra help section in the diary with some more or less direct hints.

For those of us who don't have any idea about what happened in Tunguska, can you give us a few details about the tragedy?

Deep Silver: On the 30th of June 1908 an explosion with the combined energy of 2000 Hiroshima bombs rocked the region of Tunguska in Central Siberia and felled over 6,000 km² of pinewoods.  The explosion could be heard for as far 1,000 km away.  Eye witnesses saw a long object fall from the sky which was illuminated in a blue-white light.  A 20 km high column of light was preceded by a black mushroom-shaped cloud.  For the next three nights it was so bright across all of Europe that you could even read a newspaper outdoors.  In contrast a long-term reduction in sunlight was registered in California.  To date it still remains unclear what really triggered the Tunguska catastrophe.  The popular theories are:

· the crash of an asteroid or comet into the earth – why was no crater found?

· volcanic activity, probably natural gas – but how does this explain the increased radioactivity in the region of Tunguska?

· a (natural) nuclear explosion – why are there no burn marks on the trees?

· a small black hole – where is the exit location?

· the crash of an extraterrestrial spaceship – why was no UFO debris found?

No hypothesis has yet been put together that completely and logically substantiates all the facts and peculiarities of the Tunguska catastrophe.  The explosion may have been of thermal, chemical or atomic nature.

In the game we will play the role of Nina Kalenkov; who is she exactly?

Nina is a character which is quite untypical for the genre. We wanted to create a protagonist with which the players could find it easy to identify themselves with. She is neither a real hero nor an anti-hero. She is actually a quite normal girl, forced to develop some heroic characteristics. Her way of dealing with problems and fear is humor, but there will also be situations where despair and sadness will get the upper hand.

Can you give us a small bio of some of the characters we will encounter during the gameplay?

How long is this interview supposed to be? ;)
We have more than 40 totally different characters in the game, each with its own story.  It was very important for us to have real “characters”, not only exchangeable dummies whose only purpose is to give hints or to offer new quests.  You’ll meet scrupulous businessmen, a sexy nurse running for the office of the mayor, a dubious superintendent, a real Irish Lord and many more.

What kind of dangers are ahead of Nina in her quest to find her father?

Like almost everyone, Nina’s enemies want their dreams to come true.  And they do not really care about the health of anyone standing in their way.  Unfortunately Nina is standing pretty much in the middle of this way – and she’ll have to find out quite early how her opponents deal with situations like these …

Are we going to be able to visit a lot of places in the game? Could you describe some of them for us?

Starting in Berlin your search will lead you to places all over the world: You’ll creep through ancient ruins in Ireland, enjoy the Caribbean flair in Cuba, travel with the famous Trans-Siberian Railway and follow the trace of a mysterious tribe in the Himalaya.  And, of course, you will go to the place where the Tunguska catastrophe took place.  Overall there will be nine totally different locations, each having its own atmosphere.

Will Max Gruber also be a playable character?  Who is he?

Max will definitely be playable.  Nina will meet him while searching her father.  Since the police does not seem to be very interested in helping her, she is quite happy about Max’ offer to be of assistance.  In some parts of the game you can only play with Max, in others both have to cooperate.  Than the player will be able to switch the two characters any time he wants.  E.g.: There are some places only Max can reach.  So he finds two items, combines them and hands them over to Nina.  She uses this modified item to solve a puzzle and get another item, which Max might need.

Can you give us more information about the bad guys we will encounter during the game?

I don’t know who the bad guys are.  Okay, okay, of course I know.  But I won’t tell.

We will be collecting clues on our journey through the game.  What form will those clues have?

The clues will be of totally different types.  Sometime you’ll get some historic facts to learn about the past.  Other information is not that precise, such as rumors you heard about someone or items leaving enough space to speculate.  The information will be transported in totally different ways: Dialogues, documents, movies, items and so on.  And they will be well dosed so you don’t have to worry about reading pages after pages.

Will we learn something we wish we hadn't?

It depends on what you want to learn.  If you enjoy learning lessons like “don’t trust anyone even if he might behave like your best friend” or like “it is definitely not true that crime does not pay” then the answer is no.

Except the fact that we will be looking for our father, what other goals will we have in this game?

The player’s motivation might change quite early in the game.  For Nina the disappearance of her father is, of course, still the most important motivation.  You’ll find out that both factors – as different as they might be – belong together.  Don’t worry, there will always be new mysterious questions the player will be anxious finding the answer to.

From what most of us know of Siberia from books, movies and even games, it is a cold and unfriendly place.  Will we have the same impression when we are playing the game?

What you have in mind is Siberia in winter.  In spring it is totally different: Swampy with millions of gnats torturing you.  Does it sound better?

What's your favorite location in the game?

Phew, hard to say.  In some locations I especially like the puzzle design, in others I’m still laughing about some dialogues (although I’ve written them and heard them about 50 times).  But even within the team the favorites vary; some like Cuba most, others prefer Moscow or Ireland.  Buy the game and form your own opinion.

From what I was able to see in the screenshots and in the trailer you worked a lot on the smallest details; facial expressions and objects are very well designed.  Why have you chosen to do all of that extra work?

The answer is quite simple: We want to create a game that is as close to perfect as possible.  To do so you need to meet two conditions: People knowing their work and people loving their work.  In our staff everyone meets both conditions.  The result: screens full of small details and animations, background effects with dozens of gags and surprises and dialogues in which you will find new allusions every time you listen to them.  And: We want to convince the players to buy our game.  If we wouldn’t offer the best we can, why should we expect the players to spend their money for our product and not for anything else?

A lot of theories have been incorporated into the Tungaska mystery.  Will all the major bases be covered in the game?

Sorry, but answering this question would mean telling a very important part of the story.  The only thing I can say: You’ll probably be surprised …

Will the end of the game bring a satisfying conclusion to the Tunguska mystery?

Yes, of course … probably … maybe …

Jörg, thank you very much for taking the time to answer my questions, good luck with your new game.

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