A little while ago, I had a chance to interview Javier Cabrera, one half of the Cabrera Brothers. The entire Cypher interview is archived at GameSkinny.com but an excerpt can be found here.
Cypher is a text adventure built into a world any Blade Runner fan would find instantly recognizable. With cyber-punk elements, a 3-D User Interface, and a distinctive world, Cypher was the first major text adventure release in several years.
The Cabrera Brothers chose to develop their game in Unity, a departure from the typical text-adventure system and constructed their own parser.
Interviewer: Why a text adventure?
Javier Cabrera [JC]: Text has always been a good part of the gaming industry. Today every game has 3D animations and visual effects, but the best games, the ones we remember, the ones we used to play when growing up were text-only (or involved text as a big part of their game design) so the choice was natural to us.
Cypher started as a “choose your own adventure”, only we didn’t use Unity3D for it but jQuery mobile and was going to be an iPhone exclusive instead of a PC / Mac game. We worked on Cypher for a week or so and then dropped it because of work. The game slept in that dark place where unfinished projects go when we devs get busy with other stuff. After six months we decided to dust it off and give it another shot, this time we had Unity3D around since we were making the new game and thought “hey, why don’t we do something with it this weekend?” That weekend became four months pretty soon and Cypher was born.
Interviewer: Why did you choose to use Unity rather than a text adventure engine?
JC: Actually, we went for Unity3D because we were already making another game with that engine; one that’s in production right now and we’ll be launching for iPad/PC/Mac next year. When your team consists of only two devs, working on a single project can make things difficult over time, so you need to change the mood a little, just to get the creative juices going again, and since Unity3D was our weapon of choice… well, it was not a difficult choice. It was kind of crazy now that we think about it in retrospective because we made the first and only 3D commercial text adventure.
Interviewer: Was choosing to make Cypher a text adventure partially due to nostalgia? The game does have a certain Blade Runner quality in tone and theme, and text adventures are considered a tiny bit old fashioned.
JC: You got it: it was mainly because of nostalgia. We wanted to bring something we used to love and couldn’t find on the shelves back into our lives. You can’t fight time no matter how hard you try. Kids growing up today with Gears of War and The Last of Uswill know this fact somewhere down the line tomorrow when they are 45. They will have PlayStation16 and XBOX 3000 in their living rooms and the games will be something strange for them again. They won’t get as excited as they used to. They will look back and remember how cool the games they played in their youth used to be. How great those series and movies used to feel. There’s only so little we can do about it when we grow up; one solution is making our own games and movies. Since making movies is almost impossible, we went for games. That’s why you’ll see a Blade Runner / Akira vibe on Cypher; our own little time machine.
Interviewer: What is your response to people who believe the text adventure is dead? What do you think it still has to offer gamers?
JC: I say they’re nuts. Genres never die, especially in gaming. We see it happen in movies all the time. Just until a few years ago everyone could be quoted saying small frogger-like games were dead. Now look at Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, etc.
Text adventures are no different.
They offer a style of gameplay you don’t get from any other genre since with text adventures you use your own imagination to see the locations, characters, etc. It is not a “passive form” of entertainment where you sit back and let the game events unfold. With text adventures YOU are there. It is YOU who move through the world and talk and run and shot and jump and take all the important decisions. It is you in your mind who gets to see all the action, and it’s different for every player. At the end of the day, those memories will stay with you like an old dream you have once had. It’s beautiful and no other form of entertainment can get close to interactive fiction in terms of reality. Interactive fiction has a lot to offer in the future and we can only hope to see more games being developed.
For more information on Cypher, you can visit the Cabrera Brothers website. For the full interview, you can find that in the original Gameskinny article.