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Interview: Georg Heinz, Sproing Interactive (english)

del 11 Febbraio 2007
Interview: Georg Heinz, Sproing Interactive (english)

A cura di Adriano Bizzoco

A warm welcome to Georg Heinz from Sproing Interactive. Your company is well known in Germany, can you give us some background info about your team?

Sproing is located in Vienna, Austria, and is run and owned by the two founders Gerhard Seiler and Harald Riegler. The company was founded in 2001, and we've developed over 30 titles so far - during the last years we have established quite an impressive track record on a variety of platforms, both all major consoles and PC.

Your last game, Undercover: Operation Wintersun obtained very good ratings in Germany and now it's ready to be released in all the rest of the Europe. How do you think it will be received by European gamers?

We are very much looking forward to the reception in countries like France and Italy, where we know there is a great audience for good adventure games. From the response we got to the German version, we are very confident that gamers all over Europe will enjoy Undercover: Operation Wintersun: We collected awards from all major German adventure gaming websites and placed 3rd for best German adventure game at the German Developer Awards.

The game is set in 1943, during the Second World War. Though many movies and games use this period, it is quite a new theme for adventure games. Why do you choose that particular historical situation?

You are right that it is a theme seldom seen in adventure games. That’s what attracted us to it – the war offers a rich historic framework that is ripe with interesting events and dramatic consequences. Even though the story of Undercover: Operation Wintersun is fictitious, it is grounded in historic facts, framed both by authentic details and actual events, as well as myths and speculation about the Third Reich.

Can you talk about the plot of the game? We know that it is inspired by a What If theory. Can you elaborate on this?

In Undercover: Operation Wintersun, you step into the shoes of John Russell, a British physicist. Russell is called into MI6 headquarters in London, where he is confronted with evidence that the Nazis are constructing a nuclear weapon. As an expert in the field, the British intelligence agency needs him to confirm the authenticity of documents they have obtained from Germany.
Before he knows it, Russell is involved in a daring mission to Berlin with the aim of getting to the bottom of this chilling scenario…

Was there really a German bomb? It’s not altogether clear, though there is no doubt that Germany was leading the way in nuclear research throughout the 1930s. The Nazi regime did work on a way to take advantage of the principles of nuclear fission. There are plenty rumours about this enterprise, widely known under the name “uranium project”. Even experts have a hard time deciding, which of these are nothing but fiction and which are historical facts. There is a wealth of theories; some even go so far as to claim that the Nazis detonated a test bomb on an island off the German Baltic Coast…

Have you implemented realistic locations in the game? What are the most known place we could visit?

Undercover takes advantage of its historical setting to take the player to real locations from the period. After a short introduction in London, Russell finds himself in Berlin, where we modeled a number of authentic buildings and sites, such as the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut for Physics, a real center of nuclear research in the Third Reich. Later, Russell visits Haigerloch, a small town in Germany’s rural south, where German researchers constructed a hidden underground lab and a nuclear test reactor. When the war ended, the complete reactor was captured by the Americans and transported to the US…

From the screenshots, it seems that the graphic part is one of the most impressive of the last years. Can you talk about the engine you used, and its strengths and weaknesses you'd like to improve?

The engine we used is the Vision Engine from Trinigy GmbH, a Germany-based company focusing on the development of 3D graphics technology. Vision’s core part is very easy to use, with effects like real-time shadows coming out-of-the-box, giving the programmers more time for other tasks because they don’t have to worry so much about e.g. the rendering and animations. In the beginning and sometimes during the project we had some trouble getting our characters exported right, and putting in some additional graphical features like volumetric lighting, but that is only naturally when you have to switch to a completely new engine during the project. All in all, I think we got some really nice features out of the engine, and the screenshots speak for themselves.

The most impressive graphical feature: John Russell, Anne Taylor and the rest of the characters are all rendered in real-time 3D, casting correct shadows on all objects while the characters’ shading responds to local light sources, e.g. flickering or malfunctioning lamps. These lighting and shadowing effects are realized using vertex- and pixel-shader technology, and make for authentic locations, as the player secretly explores Nazi research installations. We also have some cutting-edge features such as volumetric lighting, real-time water, motion blur and heat haze in some of the scenes.

What kind of puzzles will we find in Undercover?

Undercover is a classic point & click adventure game (so there are no action elements or jump’n’run puzzles) with an espionage theme. Some of the things you’ll get to do include decoding scrambled messages, finding secret doors, constructing elaborate traps and some fun minigames that involve things like cracking a safe or silently sneaking past armed guards.

The main character is Dr. John Russell. What can you tell us about him and his personality?

Dr. Russell is a renowned researcher in the field of physics and a brilliant mind. Russell is not a trained agent and far from an action hero. In fact, he is more of a thinking man and at the start of the game he is hesitant to get involved in the risky high-stakes world of espionage. But as he delves deeper and deeper into the plans of the Nazis, he starts to accept his responsibility with more confidence.

In addition to his background in nuclear research, he also speaks fluent German, which is why MI6 is so interested in him.

In France, the name of the game was changed to Berlin 1943. Do you agree with this change or is something out of your decision?

The international publishing partners know their respective countries very well. If they feel a certain name will help the success of our game, we tend to trust their expertise. But of course our partners at ANACONDA have a close eye on what happens in each territory and are very much involved in such decisions.

Do you like any of the adventure games of the last year? Is there something in one of these that inspired you the most?

Last year was a great year for adventure games: We definitely feel very inspired by the amount of great adventure titles coming out of Germany at the moment, of course. It drives us to try and excel with our games and obviously we love to play great adventure games ourselves.

In Germany there's a new golden age for the adventure games market? How can you explain this and do you think it would be the same for the European and North American market in the next few years?

Germany has a very healthy market for PC games, a fact which is great for adventure games, a genre that has many fans and reaches a very broad audience here (both male and female, both young and old). In addition, nowadays German (and Austrian ;)) developers are producing great adventure games that really hit a nerve with German gamers. Our publisher dtp and its ANACONDA label certainly have played a crucial part in this resurgence of the genre, as they recognized its potential early and have supported adventure games exceptionally.

Publishers with the courage to set such trends are few and far between, especially in North America and, for example, the UK, though we definitely see potential in these difficult markets as well. Who knows, maybe we’ll see an English Undercover release sooner than anyone might think…

Talking about the future: We know that you are working on Dual Motives, an Undercover sequel for Nintendo DS. Have you planned a port of the game for PC? Or can we expect something else for 2007?

There are currently no plans to port Dual Motives to the PC. We are really designing it from the ground up to fit the unique capabilities of the Nintendo DS. We try to use both screens in an interesting way (in Dual Motives, each screen will display one of the two main characters, and the player can switch between them at any time), as well as the use of the DS touchscreen and microphone especially in the puzzles.

Anything to add for your fans?

Thanks for giving me the chance to tell you all about Undercover and I hope you will have a great time playing it. We look forward to hearing from fans from all over Europe on the official forums at ANACONDA. For more info on the game check out the official English website.


Info Requisiti
Sviluppatore: Sproing Interactive Media
Publisher: DTP - Digital Tainment Pool
Distributore: Blue Label Entertainment
Data Rilascio: Q3 2006
Piattaforma: PC
Genere: Avventura/Storico
Grafica: 2.5D
Visuale: Terza Persona
Controllo: Mouse
Doppiaggio: Inglese
Sottotitoli: Italiano
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