Hi! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your connection with the “adventure” genre.
My name’s José María Meléndez. I've been playing adventure games for half my life. In the 2000s I used to write articles and reviews for the Spanish adventure game site aventuraycia.com. I was later hired by Alcachofa Soft to write and design a couple of games for the Clever & Smart license and help with the dialogues and bits of design in “The Abbey” game. Since then, I always wanted to write and design my own adventures, so here we are.
Postmodern Adventures is basically a one man studio. Is this going to change in the future, or you are considering it as a hobby project of yours?
It’s a one-man studio, but I couldn’t have made Nightmare Frames without the collaboration of many people. For example, Paco García (an old friend from the times of aventuraycia.com, and one of the developers of The Season of the Warlock), who did all the portraits for Nightmare Frames and illustrated all the covers since Postmodern Adventures was born. Or Stefano Rossi and Rubén Giménez, who did the music. I don't know what the future holds, but as of now I'm comfortable doing most everything by myself while having collaborations with such talented people.
You could say you've almost burst into the independent point and click developer scene, and in no small way. Your first two games, Billy Masters Was Right and Urban Witch Story, both won a bunch of awards at the 2020 AGS Awards. How unexpected were you with all this recognition?
It was a wonderful surprise! I’ve been following the AGS forums in silence almost since their inception – I remember to check on the development of adventures such as Apprentice, The Shivah or The Adventures of Fatman. That may give you a clue as to the era we are talking about. So, receiving the blessing of the forum members was quite a gift and an honor.
It's been exciting as a player to watch how much each of your games have improved. Billy Masters was a relatively short and simple game, but even there the writing felt like more than a simple introductory game. Urban Witch Story not only got bigger, longer and better written, but in my opinion it became one of the best cop dramas ever made in the adventure game genre. And your third game, Nightmare Frames, is not only better basically in all the previous aspects, but it's also much better graphically. What changes can we expect in your next game? Could you even be changing the AGS game engine? Or, would you try a different (non point and click) approach in the future?
Well, I have to say that Urban Witch Story was my first game and Billy Masters was the third. Some people think that my first adventure was Billy Masters, maybe because it was a short one, and it came out the same year as Urban Witch. I guess that can lead to confusion.
My next game will be quite similar graphically to Nightmare Frames. Although I hope to have gained enough experience to make it superior to Nightmare Frames. And I will continue using Adventure Game Studio, a tool that I feel very comfortable with, and if I'm honest, with no previous coding experience, I still don't know how I've been able to make four games with it!
Speaking of your next game and your plans. In Nightmare Frames, there is an “easter egg”, where we can see your previous games as movies. But there is a fourth one... :)
Yes, Dead Dimension. That game exists! You can play it here: postmodernadventures.itch.io/dead-dimension. I released it just after Urban Witch Story. I wanted to make a simple and short adventure. A mix between interactive fiction and point and click. It was not very successful (as I expected). The people who played it liked it but were not passionate about it. I didn't translate it into English because even I had no interest in it. It was fun to make, and it was what I felt like doing at the time. But it has remained, let's say "out of the canon" of Postmodern Adventures. But at the same time, I'm glad it's available for completists.
It’s hard for me to imagine how, as a single developer, you were able to design, plan and write everything (for Nightmare Frames) in 2 years and then program it all. Or do you develop several games at once?
I am never with two developments at the same time. The speed at which I develop games may be due to the impossibility of not having been able to make them for many years. Now I’m completely unleashed!
Nightmare Frames is your first commercial game. I suppose you wanted to tell a story that you had already thought up a long time ago and were just waiting for the right opportunity to do it. When did you think of making a game about Hollywood, or what inspired it? I have a feeling you must be a real movie fan, because as far as I know, Billy Masters was also inspired by movies.
The original idea for Nightmare Frames came to me during the development of Urban Witch Story. The plot was completely different. I had Alan Goldberg, a slasher writer who for some reason ended up with a murder plot with no connection to the supernatural. But it all didn't fit together until the element of the lost film came to mind. Then it all came together.
Also, with Nightmare Frames I wanted to pay tribute to all the people that made these B-movies that I enjoyed so much as a teenager. Producers like Charles Band, Robert Shaye, directors like Wes Craven, Stuart Gordon, make-up effects artists like Mark Shostrom, Kevin Yagher. The first act of the game set in Hollywood is like an amusement park for the hardcore horror fan who grew up reading the Fangoria Magazine.
And yes, I’m a real movie fan, especially of horror films. Although the inspiration for the game came from many fronts: games like Dark Seed II, Harvester, the intention of making a not very sympathetic protagonist, changing urban environments for more rural ones… But yes, ultimately Nightmare Frames is my love letter to horror cinema.
None of your games are the typical "funny" point and click, with all sorts of crazy puzzles and situations. So you prefer more serious, more "down to earth" themes?
I love games like Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle or Toonstruck. But my best experiences as a player of adventure games have been with more serious games. I can list games like the Gabriel Knight series, the Sherlock Holmes games by Mythos Software, Dark Seed II, Harvester (as I mentioned before), the Black Mirror series, The Lost Crown… a lot of them. So, when I start developing a game the only thing that I want is to make the games that I want to play.
Point and click is a very stratified genre, and I suppose there is a limit to the revenue that can be generated from these kind of games. Still, what else could inspire you to make more point and clicks (if that's your plan for the future).
The love for the genre and getting all the stories I want to tell out of my head. It also helps that players have fun with the games you make. That's priceless.
Looking at the point and click offerings of recent years, there have probably never been as many of them as there are today. Unfortunately, this has taken its toll on their quality, and here at AG.hu we're of the opinion that finding a good point and click is as hard as looking for a needle in a haystack. Many people have even started to mix point and click with various other styles, such as visual novels and RPGs. What do you think, what are the biggest mistakes nowadays the devs do in their point and clicks?
I guess I’m not so pessimistic. I like the actual state of the genre. As a developer I love to see so many people doing this and as a player I look forward to playing most of the games that are being made.
As a player, I think the BIG mistake of several adventure games is the inclusion of board-like puzzles like in Myst (you know, gears, switches, chessboards, etc.). They are decontextualized and minimally integrated into the flow of gameplay. I hate them. If you notice, several of the games that feature them have a SKIP button for those puzzles but not for traditional object use puzzles. That says a lot about how out of place they are.
We must also keep in mind that there is a lot of debut works in the genre. It’s normal that there are mistakes or questionable design decisions. I am sure that a second or third game will improve on the first one.
But if you ask me, I think we’re in a new Golden Age for adventure games.
Do you have any modern favorites which in your opinion are worth playing? (They don’t have to be point and clicks)
Sure! I love the stuff by Rem Michalski (The Cat Lady, Downfall, Lorelai), the games by Cloak and Dagger like Sumatra or Football Game, virtually everything that comes from Wadjet Eye… A Golden Wake, by Grundislav Games, is one of my favorites of the last decade, by the way.
As a developer, how do you see the future of adventure games?
I have no idea. But I hope indies never get tired of making adventure games. But there is one thing I am sure of: the mainstream media won't stop saying that "adventure games are dead".
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions, and I wish you all the best for the future!
Thanks to you for this interesting interview. I had a great time answering these questions. Greetings to all readers of adventuregames.hu and keep the adventure genre alive!