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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Simon the Sorcerer: The return of the fantasy classic believed dead faces a huge problem

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As if Return to Monkey Island wasn’t enough, another adventure legend is coming back in 2023. We have all the info on Simon the Sorcerer: Origins.

For many of you, this game was one of the very first ones you fed into the floppy drive of your then cutting-edge 486 PC or Amiga. It took you (and its titular protagonist) on a journey to a faraway land, interactively introduced you to the primal pillars of fantasy like goblins, magic and dragons, made you giggle and laugh at those hilarious comments from a hero you could identify with perfectly.

Because Simon the Sorcerer was one of you in 1993, a clumsy teenager with a loose mouth who accepted his sudden teleportation into a colourful fantasy world with unusual equanimity and at the same time commented sarcastically on the events on screen. Often, he dared to go as close as his toes to the border of the fourth wall and gave the player in front of the screen a smug grin or a perplexed shrug of the shoulders.

With Simon the Sorcerer: Origins, this unwilling sorcerer’s apprentice aims to win your sympathies once again 30 years later, as a prequel to the familiar story. Developed by the Italian Smallthing Studios, the adventure game aims to win back the former teenagers (today presumably the majority are family fathers and mothers) as well as to inspire a whole new generation of PC and console gamers for classic oldschool puzzles.

In a world-exclusive interview with the developers, we tried to find out how this can work. And then we asked the biggest Simon fangirl we could find for her opinion on the details and images released so far.

This is what we know about Origins so far and this is what it looks like

The great challenge of the two opposing target groups is not exactly made any smaller by the new graphics style in Simon the Sorcerer: Origins. For from the former pixel look to the polygon graphics of the 3D sequels, Smallthing Studios has now arrived at a look reminiscent of cartoons, which fortunately looks far more coherent in motion, as in the first trailer, than in the screenshots:

These are the most important facts about Simon the Sorcerer: Origins

  • Classic point-and-click adventure game with inventory and combination puzzles
  • Story prequel that takes place a few weeks before the events of the very first part of the series
  • Familiar places and characters return.
  • No Verb Interface
  • Planned release 2023 for PC and consoles (PS4/5, Xbox One/Series X/S and Nintendo Switch)

The following is our interview with the developers conducted via email.

What the prequel offers and how it came to be

Why is a new Simon the Sorcerer coming now of all times?

Massimiliano Calamai:  “We didn’t have a specific time in mind for this. Since Part 1, we’ve loved Simon, the character and his world. I and most of the other Origins developers are veterans who started making video games in the late 80s. We were convinced that we had a really intriguing idea for a prequel to Simon the Sorcerer, and were sure that our intense story would work if we reshaped it with an aesthetic that approximated an animated film.

We worked for almost a year on a variety of documentaries, sketches and mockups, and the original writers were impressed! It was the right time to make the project happen.

(Simon is just a typical teenager at first. Only later does he become a magician.)
(Simon is just a typical teenager at first. Only later does he become a magician.)

Does the game play like a traditional point-and-click adventure game or does it also incorporate new ideas?

Massimiliano Calamai: “Yes, it will be a traditional point & click adventure game, but with modern controls, suitable for fans of the series or more generally of classic 80s and 90s adventures, as well as for new players.

The story, the events and the graphics will together create an intense and very characteristic impression. For the player, it will be a journey between comedy, emotion, nostalgia and challenge.

(Conversations will presumably be in classic multiple choice style.)
(Conversations will presumably be in classic multiple choice style.)

What is the premise of the story and what challenges must Simon overcome?

Massimiliano Calamai: “We can’t say anything about that, it’s supposed to be a surprise. Origins is closely, very closely related to the first episode. It is the prequel to the series and takes place a few weeks before the events of the first episode, to be precise, the adventure begins in April 1993. The story is based on two narrative threads that intertwine during the adventure: a prophecy and Simon’s personal problems.

We will explore different aspects of the character and the series, maintaining a constant contrast between typical humorous moments such as breaking the fourth wall (Simon will talk to the player) and intense moments that we believe will make some players’ eyes moist. “

What are some of the elements that every Simon the Sorcerer must include?

Massimiliano Calamai: “We focused a lot on the events of the first and second parts of the series and we can say that the strongest symbolism of Origins is redemption. We want the character Simon to be a message for all the young people who are mistreated but just haven’t found their position to be their best.

(Classic combos should be a big part of the gameplay again, here we manipulate lights.)
(Classic combos should be a big part of the gameplay again, here we manipulate lights.)

How is Simon as a character different from the version we know from the earlier games?

Massimiliano Calamai:  “Simon is the same as in part 1, but deeper and more complete, restless, funny, always with a joke on his lips, with several problems to solve and a path to find. It is the image of many youths of today and the past, energetic, bright, brilliant, with thousands of goals and paths to follow, but perhaps without a clear sense of which of them is the right path. “

Graphics and audience: two big challenges

What kind of audience do you want to target with Simon the Sorcerer: Origins?

Massimiliano Calamai:  “Of course, fans of the series and adventure gamers will have the most interest, but I’m sure the gameplay style and visual look will appeal to all lovers of visually well-told stories. “

Why does the game look the way it does?

Massimiliano Calamai:  “The look was a challenge with clear goals: We wanted a strong connection with the first part, so we needed a style that would adapt to today, but at the same time connect to a video game developed in the early 90’s with 16 bits.

We worked for many months on the style, the stroke, the lights, the colours and the visual effects. The character Simon should be modern and expressive, but at the same time the right evolution of Simon from the pixel art of 30 years ago.

Thanks to the skills of our artists, in this case our talented lead artist, we decided on a visual style that resembles modern animated films, especially Disney. But it retains the colours, lights and brushstrokes that hark back to the past. We are convinced that Simon the Sorcerer: Origins has the right visual style to appeal to nostalgics and young gamers alike.

How do you want to appeal to (younger) players who either don’t know the original Simon games or have never even played an adventure game?

Massimiliano Calamai: “You don’t have to be experts in the genre or know the series. Origins is a video game of progressive difficulty, it teaches you to tune into the logic of the world, its contradictions and contrasts, but once these tools are available, ingenuity is required to solve the puzzles. It is a compelling story that everyone can fully enjoy. If you know the saga and the first part, you will find many tie-ins, Eastereggs and familiar environments and characters.

Who are the developers?

Who is Smallthing Studio and what kind of games have you worked on so far? Do you have experience developing adventure games?

Massimiliano Calamai: “Our studio is relatively young, about four years old, and Simon the Sorcerer: Origins will be the first title we will publish under the Smallthing Studios label. In fact, the team consists of several veterans of video game development (in addition to exceptional young, promising developers who have been selected with great care).

I’ve been developing video games since 1989 and I’ve worked in Italian companies like Simulmondo (the first Italian software house), I founded Light Shock Software (Fightin’ Spirit, Pray For Death) and Artematica, and I’ve developed various products for Ubisoft, Virgin, Disney, 505Games and others as a game director and designer. On adventure classics such as Diabolik: The Orginal Sin and Martin Mystère Operation Dorian Gray, I was responsible for the design and development

Smallthing Studios is a company that is growing very fast, we are looking at more licenses and our own IPs and opening new offices to expand our group. We have an exciting plan for the next few years that revolves around narrative, emotional games.”

(The architecture in the game gives off a classic medieval feel, but the series' signature humour is never meant to be far away.)
(The architecture in the game gives off a classic medieval feel, but the series’ signature humour is never meant to be far away.)

What connection do you have to the series and are any of the original developers at Adventure Soft involved in the project?

Massimiliano Calamai: “The original writers are very attached to their series, Simon is an iconic, I would say legendary, character in the world of video games. In the early stages, it wasn’t easy to convince the creators to give us the licence, mainly because they thought we wanted to change the original story with the prequel and adopt the visual style 1:1. Over time, we gained their trust; we keep them constantly updated on the progress of the development and we kept hearing, ‘Wow!’ as a reaction. “

How long have you been working on Simon the Sorcerer: Origins?

Massimiliano Calamai“About three years with an important and dedicated development team.”

(Is it you, Dumbledore? Of course, the game also takes pop culture to task, here the headmaster of Hogwarts.)
(Is it you, Dumbledore? Of course, the game also takes pop culture to task, here the headmaster of Hogwarts.)

Do adventures also have to keep up with the times?

How do you think the adventure genre has evolved over the last 30 years and how will Simon the Sorcerer: Origins take that into account?

Massimiliano Calamai: “There was a clear division into two genres. On the one hand, normal technical, visual and narrative development has led to hybrid adventures Depending on who produces them, they have become almost interactive films with different details and controls, see for example Detroit: Become Human.

On the other hand, the aesthetics have evolved and the controls have simply been adapted to modern devices, but basically these titles refer further to the first point-and-click adventures from Lucasfilm, Sierra and Adventure Soft. We live in a wonderful time in which ‘Graphic Adventure’ no longer specifically refers to a technical aspect, but to a story to be told.”

Finally, what goals do you want to achieve with Simon the Sorcerer: Origins?

Massimiliano Calamai
: “We want the fans of the saga and the young players to be excited, have fun, laugh, use their minds and maybe cry and have an amazing journey in the process. “

Conclusion of the editors

When I learned from my dear colleagues at GlobalESportNews that there will indeed be a new part of Simon the Sorcerer, I immediately felt happiness hormones flowing through me. With Simon I associate with the most beautiful memories of my childhood. I was born in 1990 and was very lucky to grow up with an Amiga that took me into the world of video games. Simon the Sorcerer was a floppy disk that found its way to my family sometime in the 90s. It was my first point-and-click adventure that directly sparked my love for this genre.

For my whole family, Simon was something completely new. So it turned out that my brothers, sisters, parents and I sat spellbound around the small monitor of the Amiga to play Simon. We took turns with who took the mouse and clicked wildly. Together we wondered how it could go on. Sometimes we had to spend days pondering to get ahead. Because complete solutions on the Internet could not be looked up at that time. To this day, at family celebrations (for us) we shout famous phrases such as: “Sit, sit, eat your soup!” Yes, Simon has a special place in my heart.

When I saw the screenshots of Origins, however, I was shocked. THAT looks completely different than I would have expected. At first I couldn’t put this anime look on top of each other with my Simon. However, I also know that you can’t trust the nostalgia glasses, because they simply see a lot of things transfigured. My first scare quickly subsided when I watched the trailer. Suddenly, the whole thing looked very charming and loving in detail. Even familiar elements like the inventory at the bottom of the screen were there. The anticipation increased.

Ultimately, a new part of Simon the Sorcerer will stand and fall with the humour, characters and characterization of Simon. Because they have always distinguished the point-and-click adventure. The cynicism and sarcasm that goes into the series and Simon are simply delightful. The same goes for the characters with their goals and problems that you encounter.

It reassures me in the interview that the developers worked closely with the original minds behind Simon. They seem to want to capture the very charm and wit that makes Simon special. Modernizations are important and good, especially when it comes to comfort functions. Today we are much further along than in the times of my beloved Amiga.

I’ll definitely be watching the prequel to Simon the Sorcerer and I’m really looking forward to being invited on a bizarre adventure. Who knows… maybe I’ll even manage to drum up the family for it again.

PS.: I hope very much for a performance of the swampling!

Age: 31 Origin: Sweden Hobbies: gaming, football, skiing Profession: Online editor, entertainer


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