We had a chat with Eric McConnell, Hidden Sanctum's founder, who has shed some more light on Pieces of Eight.
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Strategy Informer: Firstly could you introduce yourself to our readers and let us know your role within Hidden Sanctum?
Eric McConnell: My name is Eric McConnell and I formed Hidden Sanctum in late 2005 after nearly 10 years of programming in the corporate world. I am currently the lead programmer and artist, with music being outsourced as the need arises.
When did the idea of creating Pieces of Eight come about?
Eric McConnell: I’ve constantly got game ideas running through my head with several that I want to pursue at some point. Pieces of Eight specifically came about through a desire to create a solitary exploration adventure game. The pirate theme specifically through a trip I made to Salem Massachusetts while doing research for Raven’s Hollow and visiting the pirate museum there.
When the idea for a solitary adventure game gained momentum, I revisited my notes I had taken on that trip. I always associated pirates with the Caribbean Sea and looting Spanish ships. So I received a nice history lesson on the pirates of New England – Captain Kidd, Blackbeard, etc. With that, everything seemed to fit together nicely.
Could you tell us a bit more about the single player side to the game?
Eric McConnell: There are virtually no characters to interact with other than some minor roles in key places. The emphasis is on logic-based challenges for the player, solving cryptic clues, avoiding traps, etc. Adventure Games rely on letting the player sit back and think through a problem at their own pace. Hopefully, if successful, the players will find it to be a rich and rewarding gaming experience.
What can you tell us about the graphical and physics features?
Eric McConnell: The screens are all pre-rendered, so there are no cutting-edge programming or graphical techniques being used. It’s all point-n-click. I just don’t want the screens to be static and hopefully will be able to breath some life into them.
What kind of support will be offered to users when the game has been released; will you be releasing any patches if bugs become a problem?
Eric McConnell: Of course! Hopefully that will not be an issue, but you can’t predict what might happen on certain systems. It’s being coded in C/C++ using the PTK game library for graphic and sound functions. That library has proven to be extremely stable and has been used on many of the top selling casual games on the big portals. In other words it’s been very well battle tested by millions of players and proven to be extremely reliable.
Can you give us an assessment of the health and long-term viability for Pieces of Eight?
Eric McConnell: Everything is in place, so there should be no reason that this will not be completed. I’ve got a good handle on the costs, which is the number reason for a game to be cancelled. In other words, the outlook is good for Pieces of Eight being brought to market.
As a gamer, what's your favorite part of Pieces of Eight, what makes you proud to have helped create it and why is it a game people will want?
Eric McConnell: I really enjoy the mental stimulation, strong atmosphere, and ties to history. I am proud of some of the puzzles in the game that I think are pretty fresh compared to some other titles. I think anyone who enjoys a good mystery and wants to hand a hand in solving it will be pleased with the game.
What’s the current release date for Pieces of Eight and is it likely we’ll see some delays in the future?
Eric McConnell: I’m shooting for towards the end of Q2 2007, so sometime around June. I don’t foresee any issues with hitting that mark, so as long as there are no major complications along the way it should be good to go by then.
The team has been hard at work on Pieces of Eight for a sometime now, what has been the hardest challenge for them, development wise?
Eric McConnell: The biggest challenge thus far has been in developing unique challenges and settings for the player. It’s important that the game isn’t lost in a sea of other titles. The more Pieces of Eight stands out from the norm, the better. It’s very easy to fall into the pirate clichés because they are so common, so it’s an ongoing battle to be different yet still retain that pirate flavor.
Do you plan on releasing a demo so fans can try out the game before it’s released or is this something you’ll leave until after it’s released?
Eric McConnell: There might be. The first location will give the player plenty to examine and go through with several puzzles to solve before heading out which would be good for a demo. After that, the game is wide open with the player free to go anywhere they choose, so there aren’t any good places the put up barriers for a demo.
What’s in store for the future of Hidden Sanctum once Pieces Of Eight has been released to the public?
Eric McConnell: Back to work on Raven’s Hollow. It’s another adventure game set in a New England village in the early 1800’s with a heavy dose of inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe’s stories.
We've come to our last question, is there anything you'd like to say to the fans of Pieces of Eight which are eagerly awaiting the release of this title?
Eric McConnell: Pirates lived fast and died young, so don’t expect a Disney version of them here.