For its time, the fantasy film The Dark Crystal was unique. When it hit theaters in 1982, it was the first feature film to feature solo puppets. This is the work of two Muppet inventors Jim Henson and Frank Oz, efforts to continue failed in 2012. Until a few years ago, Netflix took care of it and announced a prequel series in the style of the film. in the age of resistance. The season has been streaming since August and now follows a video game.

The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics is a tactical strategy game that goes a bit towards XCOM and for many BonusXP developers it is “the fulfillment of a childhood dream” as Dave Pottinger tells me. , president and game director of the studio. “We want to give people new perspectives on the rich world of Thra through an equally deep and thoughtful tactical strategy game. “

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The entire studio is usually involved in the development of new concepts, but the central idea for this title comes from lead concept artist Andy Cotnam. “In an office full of Dark Crystal fans, Andy is the biggest,” he says. “For many of us, this game is a childhood dream come true. Black crystal has helped shape many of us in creative ways. When we were asked to create this game, there was no answer other than “HELL YES”! ”

BonusXP had the advantage of an established partnership with Netflix. The studio had previously developed the two Stranger Things games for the streaming service. So it happened that both sides were talking about other projects that could be used to make good games. “We immediately stopped thinking about other options when Dark Crystal landed on the table as a suggestion! Pottinger said. “The original idea was created in conjunction with Netflix and was intended to highlight parts of Thra in a way that on the one hand did justice to the series and on the other hand developed and developed. was developing. ”

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During development, the studio had weekly meetings with Netflix and its publisher En Masse Entertainment. Which is needed when another company’s brand is involved and things need to be approved. Jim Henson was on board as another partner. “It was one of the strengths of the project,” he says. “We visited it several times to talk about the game and the world of Thra. […] It was wonderful to work with them. They went out of their way to help us develop a great game. ”

“It sounds logical, but it’s a problem every now and then when you’re working with the world and other people’s intellectual property,” he adds. “Rights holders are not always receptive to the changes and adjustments necessary for a great gaming experience. Jim Henson’s company was doing very well. We talked about various challenges we faced and they went straight to brainstorming to help us find a solution. ”

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Those in charge would have made their work easier, Pottinger explains. In terms of creative freedom, the studio approached the project like any other internal game. Over half of The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics covers locations, characters, and story elements that aren’t seen in the Netflix series. “Netflix and the Henson Company have given us the freedom to create these elements,” he notes. “As big fans, we wanted to make sure everything was authentic, so we got comments from everyone on this content. “

Still, the developers are walking a thin line, which was also one of the “toughest issues” during development. “On the one hand, you have people who watch the show first and quickly see familiar things or want to unlock their favorite characters,” Pottinger explains. “On the other hand, the game has to be stand-alone and serve as an introduction to the world of Thra if a player has not yet seen the series or film. “

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After several years of development and a long pre-production phase, he is convinced that he has finally found a good compromise. At the same time, the end result is close to what the team had originally planned for the game. “The individual characteristics are different from what we originally imagined,” he says. “Whatever you plan on paper doesn’t work in the game.” Relevant things like the order of movement or how fast the characters move. “But we’ve always seen the game as a classic turn-based tactical game. For many of us, Final Fantasy Tactics holds a special place in our hearts. I think the passion is manifested in the game. “

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The team had no major difficulty adapting the model as a tactical strategy game, Pottinger describes it as one of the “simpler things” because the source material is so rich. “Choosing which objects or creatures to leave out was much more difficult than choosing which characters to appear in the game,” he says. Die-hard fans will note, however, that the in-game proportions do not match those of the model.

“It was a necessary change to make everything visible on a TV screen,” he said, indicating that he had experimented a lot. “We started with the correct proportions, but the smaller units just didn’t have enough detail. It sounds ironic, but our goal when adapting models like The Dark Crystal isn’t for everything to be 100% accurate. “Instead, we want to make sure the game is based on The Dark Crystal. It’s heard. This is the ultimate service for fans, but we’ll see if the community agrees with this approach. ”

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As mentioned at the start, for many developers the dream has come true. “I saw the movie when I was a kid, for me it was the benchmark for fantasy works with The Lord of the Rings and other fantasy books that I read when I was young,” Pottinger explains. . “Every time I’ve seen the movie over the years I’ve discovered a new detail or something that I haven’t noticed before. Henson’s attention to detail over the past 40 years is incredible. ”

Much love, which also presented challenges to manufacturers. In this, decisions were needed so that the game did not always get bigger. “It’s so easy to get the idea to embrace every feature imaginable, every creature in Thra and every story in the Netflix series,” he says. “If we had, the game would have collapsed among the many content. Originally, we wrote a much longer story than what ended up in the game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with the cut. bigger events – in the series and the stories we’ve added – while working more on the details and fine-tuning of those elements. ”

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Overall, it was a “rapid development process,” Pottinger explains. The studio benefited from its experienced staff, who worked on titles such as the Age-of-Empires series and Halo Wars – including Bruce Shelley, who at the time developed Civilization and Railroad Tycoon for Sid Meier’s MicroProse.

“My favorite moment during development was the announcement at E3 last year,” he says. “No one saw the game coming and the reactions from the fans were great. This is one of the few times when it is fun to read comment boxes on the internet! One of his favorite features is the comic book panels that continue the story. “They weren’t originally planned,” he reveals. “I wish we had this idea earlier. Andy Cotnam, our lead designer, did a great job with the designs and Alfonso Callejas, the game’s lead artist, brought them to life with his animations. “

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Going forward, BonusXP will be looking at updates to the game first, with fan feedback playing a big part in any changes, of course. Apart from that, there are two other games in production.

“Both are bigger than anything BonusXP has done so far,” he says. “One of them is close to our hearts, we’ve been trying to do it for twenty years. The other has a completely different genre – one we’ve never touched on before. Our desire has always been a turn-based tactical game. With The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance Tactics we’re taking this off our list, so let’s move on to something new for us. It’s extremely motivating for us as a studio. It’s rare, so much time in an industry and being able to work on new things. ”

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