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Interview: The Meteor Mess 3D Team 02 Aug, 2010 / 8 comments

Meteor Mess 3D aims to recreate the whole of Maniac Mansion in 3D, along with new graphical details and gameplay improvements. The project began in 2008 and already has a playable demo available at vampyregames.de.

The team describe it as “a fan project for fans and for those who have probably never played Maniac Mansion at all," as well as it being "a hommage to LucasArts for making this pearl."

Maniac Mansion was released by Lucasfilm Games in 1987, and is widely considered a pioneering classic in the adventure game genre.

Please introduce yourself and the team.

My name is Thomas Boissé, the 3D Artist from VampyreGames. The main team consists of Sascha Galla (developer), Heiko Borgiel (developer) and myself. In addition to us three are Jason (responsible for all English in-game texts), Gerardo Cardena (Spanish translation), Ron (voice-director), Robin Kindler, Stefan Scholer, Sven Oesterle, Claas Bötcher and Pascal Philipp (all beta testers).

How old are you all?

The core is somewhere around 35 years old... so we all grew up in the glory adventure years .

What are your plans for the future of the project?

Our primary goal is to achieve release quality. At the moment this means: debugging, adding features, improving the graphics quality, and adding voice recordings.


What are you looking for in the voice recordings?

Ron is our voice-director. In his spare time he's working as a narrator for audio books. Ron and some friends of him will do the German voices for MM3D. After that we will try to find a way to do the recordings for the English voices. This coordination can be a bit harder, because we want the narrators to be native speakers.

Are you going to be holding open auditions for the characters?

Everyone who's interested in taking part in the english voice recordings can send us some voice samples and then Ron will decide who gets the tender.



What did you decide to add to the original game, and why?

Most changes were made in the behavior of the Edisons. In the original game, only Ed Edison was able to really walk through the house while the others had only a two rooms radius or "beamed" (for example in Edna’s case from the kitchen to her room). In our version all Edisons (and the tentacles) move through the mansion. So if Dr. Fred wants to play in the arcade room, he leaves his lab and walks up there, with the result that he can catch kids like the other Edisons. This makes the game a bit harder, but far more interesting.

To compensate for this we closed some dead ends, e.g. the “can of paint remover” is a thing that is needed to solve the game. In the original you can give it to Green Tentacle or to the plant and then this item is gone and nobody tells you that the game is unsolvable from then on. In our version the remover can only be used for what it was meant to be used for. Other changes are something of the kind: “didn’t you ever wanted to know what the postman looks like?”

Although we made many little changes like that, we tried to stay as close to the original as possible (yes, you can still use the hamster in the microwave).

What is it that you love so much about Maniac Mansion?

For me - and I think it’s the same for many others on our team - this was the most thrilling game back in 1987. I always had the feeling that I could do almost anything in this creepy house. And there was always the fear that Nurse Edna will come around the next corner ;).


One other important thing is the fact that you can play this game in so many different ways by choosing other kids. There are at least five main endings and a few sub endings with some variations in each of them. You can play this game over and over again without getting bored.

It has taken you about two years to get to the stage you are at now: fast progress for a fan game. What is the reason for this speed and success?

During the first months of the project Sascha built a kind of construction set called G.A.S. (GameStudio Adventure System) upon the 3D engine (GameStudio A7 Pro) we use. The concept is quite similar to SCUMM. GAS provides all base functions needed by an adventure game and is still growing by new features we implemented for MM3D.

Additionally we have a great support from Conitec [the makers of GameStudio] for GameStudio related things (a lot of features were added to the engine because of requests from us).

We use a bug tracking tool called Mantis to handle all project tasks and GoogleMail (and GoogleTalk) for communication.

What is the meaning of the name “Meteor Mess 3D?” Why not “Maniac Mansion 3D?”

We changed the name when we took part on the AUM retro contest. The name “Maniac Mansion” would have been against the contest rules, and since we made 1st place many people followed the project under that name and it has never been changed.

Do you think there is more of an audience for a game like this in Germany?

I’m not sure if people in Germany are more interested in adventure games than other countries, but we in Germany like to solve problems and puzzles and we like a good story; most adventures combine those things.

What are the biggest challenges in working on a project like this?

I think it’s the original game itself. Many team members played this game since its release over and over again, and even after over 20 years we find new things we never knew or realized. Nobody who hasn’t been part of a Maniac Mansion remake project can imagine how complex this old game is. It’s just a conceptual, coding and design masterpiece. Further difficulties are that all team-members can only work in their spare time on this project and we don’t sit together in an office. The complete team is spread all over the world: Germany, USA, Australia… so we have a lot of time differences when communicating with each other.

With all the references to LOOM in the demo, can we hope for a 3D LOOM to be made in the future?

I don’t think so. Our first idea was to create our own adventure and with that the idea to build G.A.S. was born. To setup G.A.S. under real conditions we had the idea to use our all-time favorite Maniac Mansion and do a 3D remake.

So currently our plans are still to make our first own adventure after this project... but, depending on the MM3D reception, maybe some time we will come back with another LA remake... Zak McKracken 3D would be great, too :).

Can you sum up the project in a single word?

FUN!

8 Comments

  • Avatar
    QueZTone on 10 Aug, 2010, 07:53…
    awesome!

    ps: two column layout, great idea, im excited that it works so well!
  • Avatar
    bakana on 05 Aug, 2010, 00:06…
    Kind of neat, but I'm still much more interested in the DOTT-style remake being worked on. I hope that project hasn't fallen to the wayside...
  • Avatar
    DrMcCoy on 03 Aug, 2010, 01:43…
    Ah, okay, my bad, then.
  • Avatar
    ernie76 on 03 Aug, 2010, 01:27…
    @Dr.McCoy: LucasFan games wasnt closed by LA, thats just a Myth one of the ex-teammembers startet with that grave on the homepage. LA never had anything to do with it, i know that for sure.
  • Avatar
    DrMcCoy on 02 Aug, 2010, 22:59…
    Ah, no, LucasFan Games, that was the one I was thinking about. In 2005, apparently.

    Of course, I know nothing about the background there, and the website doesn't say anything either, so that might actually have been something else entirely.

    Gabez

    They wanted to cause some trouble with Scumm VM but I think backed down after Scumm VM made a good legal case.


    From what I know, it was actually not quite that glorious and trouble is always possible as soon as they remember that they had lawyers put on the case.

    Gabez

    Also, I think that the company is much more community aware now than it was before


    I for one certainly hope that.

    Gabez

    and I bet lots of people working there love these sort of fan projects.


    The devs, sure. I don't trust the management though. Any management, really... :P
  • Avatar
    Gabez on 02 Aug, 2010, 22:17…

    DrMcCoy

    Hmm, hasn't LucasArts already shut down at least one fan recreation?

    The last time they did that (as far as I'm aware) was for Narrative's Legends of LeChuck and Scurvyliver's Fate of Monkey Island 2 Part 3, and that was back in 2000 or so. They wanted to cause some trouble with Scumm VM but I think backed down after Scumm VM made a good legal case.

    Those fangames used art as well as characters from the LucasArts games, and Scumm VM directly plugs into the LucasArts code, so maybe LucasArts is more sensitive about that sort of thing. MM3D is obviously based on a LucasArts game, but at least all the art and code is new.

    Also, I think that the company is much more community aware now than it was before, and I bet lots of people working there love these sort of fan projects.
  • Avatar
    DrMcCoy on 02 Aug, 2010, 21:04…
    Hmm, hasn't LucasArts already shut down at least one fan recreation?
  • Avatar
    elTee on 02 Aug, 2010, 19:51…
    This is great, I love hearing about fans who are so passionate about these classic games. Congratulations on your rapid progress, guys! I look forward to the final release :)

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