The Let's Play Archive

Bureau 13

by Bacter

Part 18: Super Interview Gaiden

Alright everybody. I KNOW this is a bit text-heavy (it's an interview, son!), and I bet at least some of you don't normally read non-update stuff.

But you should really, REALLY read this.

In fact, to get you to read it, I'm going to title this post "This game is Braid". Yeah, keep going.

I was lucky enough to get Rick Hall, main programmer, writer, and all-around dev for the game to agree to an interview.

AFTER he read this thread.

Think about that for a second. If you're the project head for a game, even it's some soulless piece of shovelware crap, and you read a seven page long thread where phrases like "This game is almost dadaist in its rejection of narrative structure, logic, and aesthetic values." get thrown about (I'm not picking on you, Roe, it's not like all of us haven't been agreeing the whole time), you might start to see the thread as a colony of screaming monkeys, dedicated to flinging their feces and displaying their buttocks at your labor of, if not love, at least time.

Now imagine that you love the game.

And then, in this scenario, imagine that the MAIN monkey, the monkey CHIEF, who has been hooting and hollering louder than the rest, who in fact brought the OTHER monkeys to their damned perch near your baby, comes to you hat in hand, and wants to ask you a few QUESTIONS if you don't mind.


Suffice it to say this dude is chill. He is so chill, in fact, that I have represented him in the following interview as a pixellated "The Dude". And further suffice to say, he abides.

I am of course the ramblin' evil mushroom. There are a lot of things i want to say about this interview, but I want you to read it before you read my commentary.



So there is a twist nobody expected, huh? Sure knocked me over. This is an INDIE game. This is what happens if you try to make an indie game before indie games got MADE, before toolkits and engines and self-publishing was available.

I mean think about what was done here. They:

a) Had a (I presume) awesome idea backed by solid source material. We STARTED OFF this LP by talking about how solid the Bureau 13 source is. The idea is AWESOME. And you know? A big 'ol complicated RPG with divergent (and emergent) puzzle-solving options? That sounds PRETTY BOSS.

b) Found a backdoor means of publishing it. They essentially turned a major studio into an indie publisher. Through sheer cussed force of will. As it turns out, there was a TINY sliver of space for these fan-made games back then: if you give a professional caliber game to a studio, as it turns out, they'll publish it. I'm not sure why the 11 month deadline was so sacred? But there it is.

c) Had a pro team take this on as a labor of love. With a ragtag team of lovable misfits of course. Rick Hall is no slouch in the coding department, with credits on much of Ultima Online, some other Take Two adventure games, Madden '06, he's all over the board. And Tom Howell likewise has an impressive graphical resume - Star Trek: Shattered Universe, Might and Magic IV, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2000, and so on. These were professionals with successful careers giving it their all for about a year.

And, somewhat ironically, I hypothesize that's why we got what we got - a sort of half-formed shell of the game it was intended to be. With a two-man team of lesser skill or lesser dedication, we simply wouldn't have any Bureau 13 game at all. It was a herculean effort to get everything up and running, and the strain of doing so meant there was no time to make the game like they originally intended.

You know what this game is? It's me, born 300 years ago. Dead of nearsightedness and allergies, because the now-easily-accessible tools to fix those things didn't exist.

Make this game today? You've got off-the-shelf engines, publishing options in case you, you know, want to take more than LESS THAN A YEAR designing your RPG epic, and far superior networking abilities to get it made. Don't have a sound guy? Get a good tech and art demo up, and I'll be somebody will want to jump on board.

The difference back then was that major studies held ALL the cards. All the publishing power, all the engines, all the professionals, all the tools.

This game is as clear a thesis as I've ever seen presented for the existence of the indie games framework and pipeline tools.

To drive this home a little more? This game is Braid. No, not because of emotional depth, it was always supposed to be goofy. This game is a great idea, independently executed by a body of professionals.

Does this mean we're done mocking it? Oh heavens no. We will continue to cheep and holler until the closing credits. In fact, I'm very confident you'll LOVE the ending to this game.

But there's a nuance now. We know the story. As it turns out? I struck gold, unintentionally. All I knew was this was a wacky game I used to own. I had no idea, and you certainly wouldn't have read anywhere, that this was an important game, a game that says some important things about the industry, and was a cool sample of history.

But I found out about it, and I've told all of you. So now, we are the ones who know the most about it. This is the best Bureau 13 interview ever (admittedly a tiny field to conquer), and speaks volumes about the filled need of indie game tools, and it's all because of you guys!