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This time our indie Dev interview is with Tom and Emma Hardwidge, the husband-and-wife team based in Shropshire, England. Emma and Tom form Tall Story Games and they specialize in narrative-driven games like Lucy Dreaming.
Mina reviewed Lucy Dreaming and thoroughly enjoyed it, giving it our highest praise of Two Thumbs Up. She said this in her conclusion:
“I love this game. It’s deeply British in a very funny way. It makes fun of the Great British Baking Show. It has a joke about how the local fair successfully “installed the rain” just over its location and nowhere else. There are weird puzzles with fun locations. Everything I love about Sierra games is in here, and the devs didn’t include all the stuff people don’t like about them. Overall, I can’t say too much more without spoiling the whole thing, but if you love point-and-click, Lucy Dreaming is a game you cannot miss.”
Time to have a chat with Emma and Tom!
Tall Story Games
Tell us about what led up to forming Tall Story Games.
Tom’s always wanted to create a point & click adventure game after playing and loving them as a child. We were lucky enough to be given the opportunity to produce one, as part of a marketing campaign we were working on with our other digital design business, which was brilliant, but Tom still felt like he hadn’t quite scratched the itch.
When Covid hit, things were a bit quieter, many of our clients are charities and museums. I think that was a time that many of us stood back and took stock a bit. We’d reached 40 too and I think that does funny things to you. We were after a new creative challenge and homeschooling and living through pandemic didn’t seem to be quite stressful enough!
Tom started to work on a personal point & click game (Lockdown), and discovered a whole community of indie developers keeping the genre alive. This spurred him on to produce a full-length game and Lucy Dreaming was born.
We both realised early on that this was going to be a massive amount of work and potentially a huge investment so I suggested that, if we were going to do this, then we’d better do it properly and turn it into a business rather than just a hobby. That was when we founded Tall Story Games and started taking it a bit more seriously.
What’s behind the name of your studio?
We want to create games which have great stories and we wanted that to come across in the name of the company. Not all of those tales are going to be believable though, they might be fanciful or exaggerated. Tall Story Games just seemed to fit what we wanted to create with the business, and we couldn’t quite believe it when we found that the name wasn’t already taken.
You obviously had point-and-click influences on Lucy Dreaming. What were your favourites?
The first point & click adventure game Tom ever played was King’s Quest IV, it came on four floppy disks and kickstarted his journey through a large number of Sierra adventures (Leisure Suit Larry, Police Quest and others in the King’s Quest series to name a few). A few years later, he saw a friend playing a brand-new game on his Amiga 500, The Secret of Monkey Island. It wasn’t until a few years later that he had a computer powerful enough to run it, but it was one of the first games he bought, and he was finally able to complete it on his own. After that, he played a succession of LucasArts point & click titles like Monkey Island 2, Day of the Tentacle, Indiana Jones and Loom. He loved them all, and they are definitely the inspiration behind Lucy Dreaming.
Lucy is a funny character with a big personality. What was your inspiration for her?
Lucy’s sarcastic and cynical sense of humour is very much inspired by British comedies like Blackadder and Red Dwarf. We absolutely love the characters found in books by Terry Pratchett and Douglas Adams who, despite their often fantastical context, are very much rooted in real characters. We wanted to create a protagonist who could say what the player might be thinking, an internal monologue which acts as a commentary throughout the game. We knew that Lucy needed to be able to handle some pretty weird situations, so felt that she needed to be headstrong enough to take them in her stride rather than being phased by them, her consistently sardonic and sarcastic outlook is probably a coping mechanism too.
Why did you choose a young female protagonist?
To be honest it wasn’t a conscious decision. When we first started sketching out initial ideas for the game, it just seemed obvious to us that the main character should be a young girl. There are an increasing number of strong female characters in games, but a lot of the time strength is represented as aggression or physicality, we wanted Lucy’s strength to come from her wits and humour.
Point and Click Adventures
Why do you think point-and-click games are still important in 2022?
As a genre, point & click games have been kept alive by indie developers for decades. This was something that we didn’t realise until we decided to create our own, and soon discovered a thriving and welcoming community of adventure game fans and developers. With Return to Monkey Island releasing just a month before our game, there has been a lot of renewed interest in adventure games, and we are hoping that will rekindle wider interest in point & click games in the future. We also feel privileged to have Dominic Armato (Guybrush Threepwood from Monkey Island) providing a voice in Lucy Dreaming too, we started working with him last year before any of us knew that he was about to reprise his old role as the game industry’s mightiest pirate, and he’s been an absolute joy to work with.
Want to read the rest of the interview too? Find out about which of the puzzles in Lucy Dreaming are Emma and Tom’s favourites and why Figgington looks like a real English town. Read which difficult puzzle in an old point and click stuck with Tom, how the team maintains a life-work balance and what their plans for the future are.
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