Ten Questions With… Emil Esov (Mad Head Games)

Ten Questions With… Emil Esov (Mad Head Games)

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We recently covered Adam Wolfe, an episodic hidden object puzzle adventure from Mad Head Games. Despite the overcrowded genre, it is a title that manages to set itself apart from the rest of the pack with a strong story and some great point & click adventure elements. To find out more about the creation of the game we reached out to Mad Head Games and got some great answers from senior producer Emil Esov.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and your work?

Hi, I am Emil Esov, a senior producer at Mad Head Games. Besides being a senior producer, I also work with our teams on creative game design, narrative, 2d and 3d asset production and sometimes animation. In my spare time I am a hardcore gamer. I mainly play competitive PvP games, but I also enjoy good single player games.

Mad Head Games was started as a couple of guys doing many different aspects of game development, so nowadays many of us are well-versed in the entire production pipeline. The studio itself was founded in 2011 by 4 friends, Nenad, Aleksa, Uroš and Ivan. I came to the studio soon after. These guys were so passionate about making games that I was instantly infected and they made me a part of the family. Today… we are more than 120 Mad Heads in number, we have published 24 games with a lot more to come. We dream, make, and breathe games. It’s what we do, and what we are all about.

How did the idea for Adam Wolfe come about?

We wanted to create a game that we would publish ourselves. We had a choice of creating anything we pleased, but decided to go with a HOPA style game because we have a lot of experience with the genre. We analyzed the games that we made so far, saw what type of setting worked well with our audience from Big Fish Games but also a type of setting that could appeal to the more core-oriented gamers.

What was the biggest challenge while creating Adam Wolfe?

We had a lot of challenges. It’s how we make games. If everything goes easy… we feel we don’t do justice to the game that we are creating. We like to dig deep in terms of being creative with ideas and in terms of using technology at our disposal. I would break down the challenges into four categories:

– Organisation – We used a different approach in creating this game. While it usually takes us about 9 months to develop a HOPA title, here we wanted to shorten that time by having one team develop each episode simultaneously. That presented us with difficulties in achieving consistent narrative flow as we would often get creative ideas during development. If a new idea was once implemented in, let’s say episode 3, we needed to make sure it wouldn’t  affect the narrative in a major way in all other episodes.

– Game design – The challenge we faced was to expand the definitions of the HOPA genre,and make it more serious while still maintaining the casual way of play in terms of controls, navigation and the usual game mechanics. We decided to make the narrative a bigger part of the experience. We wanted the players to get immersed in a compelling mystery with a memorable story. Every game design decision was taken with that in mind. The main challenge in that was to make it interactable and to dose it for the players so they don’t become overwhelmed by the story and text while still learning important narrative.

– Tech – Our plan was to release the game on both PC and mobile platforms roughly at the same time. It affected our tech development in a way that we had to double-check that everything was always playable on both platforms. We had to do additional optimizations in order to make the game playable on low-end devices. Another challenge ahead of us was in the terms of self-publishing. We learned a lot with optimizing the game and integrating Steam API.

– Marketing – This was the first time we had to negotiate with different publishers all whom have different rules about marketing, as well as devise our own marketing strategy on how we would like to promote Adam Wolfe.

What is it that sets Adam Wolfe apart from other games in the genre?

We made a lot of hidden-object games for casual gamers while at the same time being core gamers ourselves. In all of our games, we try to use our own personal influences and  way of thinking and step outside of the genre a bit. With Adam Wolfe we had the opportunity to do it even more as we wanted to market it to both casual and mid-core audiences. So we decided to make a more compelling story, to do the first ever episodic HOPA game and make it more of a narrative experience than the usual HOPA game- we wanted it to feel more like a point & click adventure. We made puzzles and mini-games all contextually part of the story so it never feels just laid on top as something to do in-between the narrative sections. This is a game with a lot of colorful characters and it never stops introducing new ones. 

What made you choose the episodic approach for Adam Wolfe?

Usually in HOPA games there is something called “The Golden Hour”. It’s basically a free playable demo of the game that teases the player. And usually, due to time constraints and development costs it’s the part that is most polished and overall gives the best experience to the player. The idea with Adam Wolfe and its episodes had been to make four “golden hours“ and make four top-notch experiences, each having good narrative focus and being a complete game in itself, while also functioning as a whole. Also, it had never been done before in the HOPA genre, so we wanted to test if was a viable business model and how people responded to it.

What is it that makes Adam Wolfe such a compelling character?

For one part… it was the game designers’ job to make him a believable character and they did that splendidly. The other part.. well..  it was the Adam Wolfe himself. He wasn’t a completely made up character. It all started with his looks. We thought about it and unanimously decided that he must look like one of us, and the perfect choice was Petar Jandrić, our senior animator and technical artist who also happens to be exceptionally talented in writing narrative and dialogue. So he gave Adam Wolfe his looks and his soul. Much of him is actually in the character of Adam Wolfe. Well.. all the good parts 🙂 So from that point on, it was like having a real-life Adam Wolfe walking among us and helping us build a virtual version of himself.

What aspect of the game are you the most proud of?

Definitely the tone and the mood of the game. I am proud of the level of immersion we achieved and the dynamics of the storyline. Even in the slow parts of the game there is a sense of urgency which is hard to achieve. I also think sound FX and music are very well done in Adam Wolfe and that we nailed it : )

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

It’s a miniature tank made by a colleague of mine. He’s a real fan of cosplay and table top miniatures. Here’s a pic:

What Are The Future Plans for Adam Wolfe/Mad Head Games?

We will continue to make HOPA games and another season of Adam Wolfe is always a possibility. We also have a few surprises around the corner where we dabble in more core-oriented genres of games and we can’t wait to show off our ideas to the world.

Anything else you would like to add?

Thank you, GAMERamble.com, for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts on game development with your audience. Huge shout-out to the whole team responsible for making Adam Wolfe happen, it really was a great team effort that pushed all of us to be better game developers. And to all of the game dev enthusiasts with heads full of ideas… give us a visit at www.madheadgames.com, we’d love to hear from you.

Our thanks to Emil for taking out time from his busy schedule to provide us with these in-depth answers. The first season of Adam Wolfe is currently available on Steam and we encourage all fans of the genre to try out the game. For those who need further convincing, check out our recent review where it scored a respectable 8.7/10. Also, use the links above to follow Mad Head Games on social media and let them know if you would love to see a second season.

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