Available: Q1, 2003
By: Saturn+ / Buka Entertainment

Interviewed by Dennis Sloutsky

As a part of our Buka week special, we've had a chance to catch up with Dmitry Lobov of Saturn+ (developers of Jazz and Faust) and talk to him about their latest horror adventure game Midnight Nowhere.

Hello, please introduce yourself and your company to our readers.

Hello, I’m Dmitry Lobov, the script manager of Midnight Nowhere (gameplay scripts). The game is developed by “Saturn+” company situated in the city of Voronezh, Russia.
The company was found in 1997 and until recently was creating adventure games only. At present, however, one of the company divisions works on a 3D RPG called Border Zone

Please briefly introduce Midnight Nowhere and its concepts.

The game is an adventure featuring 3D characters on pre-rendered backgrounds. If you saw Grim Fandango or Syberia, you know what I mean.

Game features:
- More than 150 game scenes, ranging from morgue to militia department;
- Huge amounts of dark humor – a real treat for fans;
- Perfect 3D graphics and lifelike animation;
- The twisted plot won’t let you leave your seat until the end of the game.

What is the main storyline behind the game?

The plot in brief is as follows: A young man regains consciousness at the city hospital morgue. He remembers nothing – who he is, how did he get there, and what circumstances preceded his appearance in this place, not very pleasant for any (living) man. So, the first problem the hero encounters is to break free from the morgue, as the metal doors of this institution are locked. Upon overcoming this uneasy problem, the hero travels through the hospital corridors, encountering numerous corpses of guards and hospital personnel. Now, his aim is to leave the hospital to advance in solving the mysteries which he encountered after his revival. The last thing I will say is that the game doesn’t end in the hospital, as right after the hero leaves it, he gets into the hands of the law representatives, who take him to the militia department and put him into a lockup. Communication with criminals, a maniac assaulting the department, more corpses - this time cops’ ones – all this awaits our hero. God knows how it will en :) . The game atmosphere is a bit dark, but the hero is always in good spirits, he has the sense of humour (though a bit dark it may be). Anyway, he has his own opinion on the situation, never wilts, and often jokes.

What audience is the game intended for?

I think the game is aimed at adult audience, as it contains gory scenes, dead and naked bodies. That’s why I won’t recommend it to 16-year-old kids.

Which game is Midnight Nowhere more similar to – Resident Evil or Syberia?

The atmosphere the game tries to create is closer (not to say very close) to Resident Evil. But, as it has no action elements, it resembles Syberia more. It is a pure adventure. Also putting our game closer to Syberia are the magnificent visuals created by our 3D artists. They worked hard to create true-to-life environments.

How much thinking will the player be required to do in order to pass the game?

The player will have to use the brains as he passes the game – that’s for sure. The game contains numerous puzzles having quite unobvious solutions. This game is for hardcore adventure fans, though the mere lovers of the genre will be interested as well. It won’t be too hard to find a solution, and it’s always pleasing to see the hero elegantly overcoming the next obstacle.

Will the puzzles that the player will have to solve be time-consuming? Could you give us an example of one?

The main obstacles in the game are closed doors, as the action takes place first in the hospital, then in militia department. But to open them, not only keys are needed. The hero will shoot, throw, and even use a computer to open doors. The game looks hard at the first sight, but we have put many hints in it, you just have to be more attentive to find them while playing.

What are some of the enemies the player will encounter in the game?

There sure will be enemies, but the hero will not interact with them directly – the encounters are scripted.

What are the weapons available for use in the game?

There is weapon in the game, but the hero will use it solely to solve problems. There is no weapon violence in the game.

How many Non Playing Characters will the player encounter in the game?

If we can call a dead person an NPC, there are plenty. But they are not just background items. Some died with weapon in hand; another body has a key in her handbag. So, no matter how disgusting it is, the hero will have to “closely communicate” with such “characters”. The plot has a few living characters as well, and the hero will be able to talk to them, and more than once.

What kind of a save system will the game have – will the amount of savegames be limited, and will the player be able to save the game anywhere?

The game can be saved anywhere. If you’re tired, or have to leave the game for a while, you can do that easily. Next time, you will start from the same place you finished. The number of saved games is restricted only by the file system, as each save file has the unique name.

What graphics engine are you using to develop the game?

The graphic engine is developed by our lead programmer Nikolay Khudentsov. I have to mention that we already used this engine in Jazz & Faust. Of course, some changes were made: the screen resolution was increased, particle systems and skeleton animation support have been added, etc.

What are the unique features of this engine?

There are no unique features, most effects you could have seen before. But our graphic engine gives the designer and script manager enough freedom to implement numerous special effects.

Does the game use CGI or engine-rendered cutscenes?

Some of the cutscenes are rendered in 3D Studio Max 4.0, some are scripted. However, both use the same character and environment models to preserve the integrity of the visuals.

An horror game is supposed to have an appropriate soundtrack... What kind of soundtrack does the game have?

The atmosphere in the game is supported by the original musical score. Different areas have different musical themes. It helps the player to immerse in the game. The music was written by two Moscow musicians. In the video cutscenes music and sound effects were managed by our animator.

How long will it take on average to complete the game?

I think, if you won’t use the full solution, it may take as long as 48 hours. That’s the minimum. The game is quite hard and the puzzles may be quite unobvious.

How many people were working on game development and how far into development is it at this point?

The game was developed by the team of 15 people, including the lead programmer, script manager (gameplay scripts), 7 artists (including 5 3D artists), the lead designer and the animator. The music was done by Moscow musicians.

Can we expect to see a playable game demo anytime soon?

All related questions should be addressed to the publisher, “Buka Entertainment”.

Any last words for our readers?

Adventure games are alive. :-)