If you listen to the podcast you’ll know that we’re massive point and click fans so when the opportunity arose to quiz Himalaya Studios about the well-received Mage’s Initiation we jumped at it. Adrian’s questions were answered by lead Himalaya dev Chris Warren. The preview vid below will give you a nice overview and you check out more/buy the game on Steam right now.
Hi Chris! Can you give our readers a little background of your gaming background and what games Himalaya Studios have created?
We started out back in 2000, by remaking Sierra’s iconic King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown. At the time, Sierra’s staff had recently been laid-off the year prior, in what became known as “Chainsaw Monday”. We saw a void and decided to fill it by remaking some of Sierra’s old AGI/EGA titles with revamped graphics and a Point & Click interface. Our little hobby project soon got noticed by Sierra fans and we went on to remake King’s Quest II, King’s Quest III, and Quest for Glory II. We delved into commercial games around 2003 with out first title “Al Emmo and the Lost Dutchman’s Mine” being released in 2006. And our latest game “Mage’s Initiation: Reign of the Elements” was in development from late 2008 to 2019, and has recently been released!
Can you give us a quick overview of your team at Himalaya Studios and have you always been huge fans of classic point-&-click adventure titles?
We’re all in our 30’s and 40’s, so we grew up on Sierra’s and LucasArts’ Point & Click adventures and were fortunate to be able to play them in the Golden Age, when they were first released in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Britney Brimhall and I are the co-founders of the company and always had gaming computers in our households from the early days. We were both introduced to Sierra games at a young age, which left a lasting impression. Daniel Stacey is our writer and his introduction to Sierra games follows a very similar story; he cut his teeth writing fan-fiction stories based on Sierra’s worlds, which is how he ended up writing for our Sierra remakes. Similar tales could be regaled for John Paul Selwood, our lead artist, Brandon Blume, our musical composer, or for any other of the numerous contractors we’ve had aboard, but to do so would be redundant.
You built up a great reputation within the gaming industry with you great remasters of the classic King Quest games. How did you first get the opportunity to work on the King’s Quest titles and do you reflect on these games?
We pretty much just remade King’s Quest I because we felt like it. At the time, we were hobbyists and not a game development studio by any means. A year later, we received a legal letter from then-owners of the IP, Vivendi-Universal. But rather than issuing us a Cease and Desist demand, they allowed us to remake several more of their classic Sierra games on the condition that we didn’t charge money. Whether this path was worth following is debatable. We spent many of our most productive years putting out free, unpaid content at a time we could have been making commercial titles and growing our company profile. Multiple deals proposed by both Vivendi and Activision for Himalaya Studios to work on a new King’s Quest title were reneged upon or outright bungled, which also wasted many years of our time and precious resources. So in some aspects, it’s hard to look back fondly on that era, knowing what could have been. Yet at the same time, it did allow us to grow a large and loyal fan-base.
Your team obviously had ambitions of making your own adventure titles. When did you first get the idea for Mage’s Initiation and can you explain the original inspirations and ideas for this title?
We polled our fans in 2008 on our forum, about what kind of game they would want to see next from Himalaya. An “RPG/Adventure hybrid” won the poll, so we set out to make something in that fashion. We wanted it to be similar to Quest for Glory, but not a total rip-off. Daniel, our writer, said that his favourite class in Quest for Glory had always been the Wizard/Mage, so he went forward with the idea of having four Mage classes, each pertaining to a particular element (fire, water, earth, air). He had also been reading Harry Potter at the time, so the idea of a magic school for students appealed to him.
You successfully raised over $125,000 on Kickstarter to create Mage’s Initiation. Why do you feel the classic adventure titles have had such a big resurgence and can you explain your feelings when you ran such a successful Kickstarter campaign?
I think anything “retro” sells because, in effect, you’re selling nostalgia and a taste of one’s childhood back to them. Kickstarter managed to carve out a niche that permitted indies to take risks that AAA companies weren’t willing to. It allowed fans to directly fund the kind of content they wanted to see, which AAA companies had been depriving them of. During the Kickstarter boom of 2012-2013, with some good pre-planning it was fairly easy to ride that wave to success. But now, after many of the Kickstarter campaigns from that era have failed to deliver, many backers are much more wary about which projects they’ll choose to fund. I’d be lying if I said that crowdfunding wasn’t also a double-edged sword. While it’s a real ego boost and provides great, positive affirmation to see so many people willing to back your game, your ideas, and watch those figures rise, it’s also very easy to go overboard with physical items and end up blowing out your budget. Then winding up either unable to fulfill all of the rewards or otherwise spending all profits made from the game on manufacturing and shipping tangible items to backers. Many projects seem to have fallen into this trap, and I suspect it’s something a great number of project creators and backers are much more aware of now.
Mage’s Initiation: Reign of Elements is a really impressive point-&-click adventure title. Can you give our readers an idea of the game’s story?
The plot follows D’arc, a sixteen year old initiate who is training in the Tower of Iginor to become a Mage. Taken from his parents at the age of six on account of having rare magical gifts, D’arc has spent the past ten years waiting for this day. After being ordained with the power of his chosen Element (Fire, Earth, Water, or Air magic), D’arc’s Mage Masters task him with the retrieval of three items to prove his worth: A lock of hair from an evil priestess, an unhatched griffon egg, and the horn or a trinicorn. If D’arc can return with these, he shall pass his rite and become a fully initiated Mage. His quest takes him across a vast lake to explore an abandoned palace, ascends to the lofty mountain peaks where the hostile Flyterian bird-people dwell, and into the dark and twisted Bloodbark forest where redcap goblins and a horde of other monsters lurk. But not all is as it seems in the land of Iginor and what begins as a simple quest quickly unravels into something more sinister with the underpinnings of treachery from within the Mage’s Tower. But who is the culprit? Build XP and apply it to your stats to make yourself a more proficient fighter and spellcaster as the game progresses in a mission to confront the ultimate evil.
Did any previous classic adventure titles help inspire your work on Mage’s Initiation?
Mainly the King’s Quest and Quest for Glory series. We used our experience working on the Sierra remakes to craft a brand new game that we thought fans would like, based on their favourite elements of these classic games.
The game also incorporates a number of clever RPG elements. Was it easy to merge the classic point-&-click style with RPG elements, and was this an idea from day one?
We also borrowed from the first Diablo game for the RPG/Stats system, in order to add our own unique flavour and not just appear as a direct rehash of the Quest for Glory formula. It actually proved to be a bigger challenge than anticipated, having all four classes be Mages, so in retrospect, it might have actually been easier and saved development time to stick with the Quest for Glory system. That said, we had always planned to include stats and RPG aspects in the game, because that’s what the results of our poll reflected.
Do you have a personal favourite character from your game, and can you explain why?
I always find it quite difficult to pick absolute favourites because I’m always thinking about them in complimentary and subtle ways; about how they each benefit the story in their unique style. I suppose the Fire Mage mentor Varner would be a stand-out for me. Both the intricate way his character is written, his story within the game world, as well as the great performance by his actor. Varner is one of those characters who just falls together in all the right ways where all the individual pieces just make him “work”.
Where is the best place for our readers to learn more about this game and what platforms is it available on?
If you head over to www.mages-game.com you’ll find everything you need to know!
Do you have any plans for a physical release of the game and even a sequel?
We’re having physical boxes and DVD cases made as rewards for backers of our Kickstarter campaign. We might have some surplus stock left over at the end, which we’ll sell on our online store (the same goes for resin character figures, and metal pendants, cloth maps etc.).
As far as a sequel is concerned, we’ll see how well this first game sells and then will be in a better position to make that call. At the moment, we need to focus on completing our current Kickstarter obligations, so it’ll probably be a while before we commence working on a new game project.
What are your personal favourite point-&-click adventure games?
Quest for Glory 2, Quest for Glory 4, King’s Quest 6, Gabriel Knight 1, Full Throttle. Too many to count!
Do you have any other games or projects in the pipeline?
Funny enough, I was just talking to Daniel (our writer) last night about doing a new, original game that’s smaller in scope and which would have a faster development cycle. While it’s not “official” yet, it does seem like a good direction to head in for our next project. Like I mentioned though, we have to finish our current Kickstarter obligations before launching headlong into any new game developments.
If you could share a few drinks with a video game character, who would you choose and why?
Well, I’m a teetotaler, and I get enough amusement from watching Daniel get drunk and re-enact game scenes (and/or scenes from Zoolander that involve mid-air spins) to last me a lifetime.
Although, I suppose it’d be fun to sit in Lefty’s sipping a Coke, among the barflies, watching Larry Laffer spin around in circles to offkey jukebox music.
Thanks for the interview!
Now go check out the Steam page.