Ankh - Interview with Deck 13

Interview by Rosemary Young (November, 2005)
Ankh promises to be a fun-filled adventure game packed with humour and amusing surprises. It's on it's way to us from Germany, courtesy of Deck 13 Interactive.

Now I should confess that I'm a huge fan of humorous graphic adventure games so I've been waiting patiently for Ankh for a good while now. Then came the trailer and my patience dissolved into thin air. From what I've seen it looks suitably manic, with vivid, eye-catching graphics, crazy characters, and all set in Ancient Egypt. It's the story of Assil, the son of a pyramid architect, who is in a spot of bother due to being cursed by the resident mummy after partying in a pyramid. Will he preserve his sanity and his life and beat that curse, and what more can we expect?

Jan Klose from Deck 13 has some answers for us.

Rosemary: Hi Jan. Thanks for chatting. Firstly, can you tell us a little about Deck 13 and how you fit into the team?

Jan: The Deck13 team has been in the games business for about 10 years now. We started with small games on the Acorn RiscPC platform and switched to the PC in 2001. Since then we have produced another four games, among them "Stealth Combat", a game that was praised for its good storyline about a political intrigue.

I am the Project Leader at the Ankh Project. My task is to coordinate the whole process and make everything fit together. Which is almost impossible without the strong technical and art staff. 13 people have been working on Ankh in our office in peak times, and the external work involved at least as many, so I guess the Ankh team has consisted of about 30 people. And there's our publisher, Germany's bhv Software. The company has been around in the software market for more than 20 years now. They have a young and very hungry games team who gave us great support.

Rosemary: And what about Ankh. I know a similar game was originally developed for the Acorn platform a few years back. When that platform never 'took off' the original Ankh couldn't either. You must have a lot of faith to bring it to the PC. What has this entailed? I'm wondering if it's a completely new game or an enhanced version of the original?

Jan: It's inspired by the original, but in the end it has become a totally new game. If you've played the original you'll recognize many characters and locations and also one or two of the puzzles. But besides the huge step regarding art and technology, Ankh also received a whole new story.

Rosemary: Now thinking back to the time of the original game, about 7 years ago, when there were a lot more humorous adventure games. Do you know of any one (or more) that might have inspired Ankh?

Jan: Our favorite back then was The Secret of Monkey Island which has definitely inspired Ankh, although we were careful not to copy anything from it. I think we've achieved that and Ankh has developed its very own spirit.

Rosemary: Thinking back to the 'golden age' of humorous adventure games, they were so versatile, kids and adults loved them equally. So what about Ankh, will everyone want to play? Is there any content that might be deemed 'unsuitable for children'? You do say on your website that it has 'Deep-black humor'.

Jan: The game is targeted at a very broad audience. Everyone who just likes to smile and be entertained should have a look at Ankh. It's definitely suitable for children, but some jokes will only be understood by adults. Still, in no place does the game get too violent or obscene. Nevertheless, in my opinion it's important for a humorous game to be satirical and a very tiny little bit politically incorrect. Comparing it with movies, you'd find more of Dreamworks' Shrek in Ankh than Disney's Aladdin.

Rosemary: Can you tell us a little about developing a humorous adventure game. Is it fun? How do you come up with the gags and make them work? For instance, does the team sit around sipping tea (of course) and throw ideas into the ring? Or is it primarily the work of one person?

Jan: Sipping tea was definitely one of the more important actions when developing the gags. Ankh is the work of very many people. Initially, two colleagues and I were on an adventure trip through Africa when the first ideas for Ankh where brought up. Later we had discussion groups that developed ideas for gags and riddles, supported by professional script writers.

Rosemary: Clearly in a humorous game the writing is very important, but the delivery of those words is too. Can you tell us a bit about recording the voices? From what I've heard we're in for a treat.

Jan: Recording the voices is a very important aspect. Each line has to be recorded with care and with the knowledge about where in the game it will be heard. The voices create much of the atmosphere and decide about whether you like a character or not. In this area we were supported by Telltale Games (who recently released their adventure game Bone) who checked the voices and suggested changing one or two of the speakers. All in all we are very happy with the voices and I think they fit into the setting very well.

Rosemary: Ok, so we know that Ankh comes with a point and click interface, complete with inventory. Will there be lots of weird and wonderful objects to collect and use, and will it be possible to manipulate and combine items in inventory?

Jan: Yes, and yes. There are a lot of strange and funny items to collect, use, combine, and trade. All of this is done using an absolutely easy-to-use point and click interface.

Rosemary: And what about the puzzles? What difficulty level have you aimed for? Are there some tricky ones?

Jan: There are some tricky ones, but all in all the game has a very smooth learning curve and all of the riddles can be solved by beginners too (however some might take them quite some time!). We carefully avoided all annoying box shifting and sound puzzles because we believe that all puzzles ought to be tied into the gameplay.

Rosemary: Still with the puzzles or challenges. Any timed or action sequences? Any of the more abstract type puzzles such as sliders?

Jan: We omitted anything that'd just play for time, so Ankh is definitely slider free. Also, there are one or two action sequences but they are never timed - the feeling of action and pressure of time is created, but there's no timer running out. At no place in the game are we breaking the classic adventure rules: you'll never have to have the reflexes of a five year old to solve the game.

Rosemary: Last question. Being a humorous graphic adventure, Ankh will surely appeal to fans of such games as Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle, Simon the Sorcerer, etc. But what about those who haven't played a these games. Tell us why we'll all want to play Ankh?

Jan: Well, if you like funny movies like "Shrek", "Ice Age" or "Madagascar", you'll surely love Ankh. And if you're just sick of wielding huge sci-fi guns or running through ghettos or dugouts, then Ankh is definitely for you! The German games press called Ankh the new adventure reference, we got great reviews and already a lot of awards - so we're looking forward to also entertain you, too! :)

Rosemary: Well, thanks again for this. I'm definitely looking forward to being entertained :)

Watch out for Ankh. Visit the official website for more information.

Copyright © Rosemary Young 2005. All rights reserved.