Dreamfall Chapters: Keeping Faith in the Long Journey Ahead

Fans of The Longest Journey and Dreamfall will once again return to Arcadia, should Red Thread Games' Kickstarter campaign prove successful.

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The Longest Journey fans are a patient bunch.

The classic adventure game was released in 2000; its sequel, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, followed six years later. Dreamfall left us hanging, deliberating the fates of its sharply-drawn, empathetic characters for another half-dozen years. Finally, a new chapter is in development: Dreamfall Chapters. Series creator Ragnar Tørnquist is again taking the helm, though with a new studio created specifically to bring heroines Zoë Castillo and April Ryan back to our monitors.

That new studio is Red Thread Games--and like many independent developers, it has no lack of great ideas and creative drive. What it doesn't have, however, is the funding for a full game. And where else but Kickstarter would such a studio turn for support? Today, Tørnquist and team have announced their crowdfunding program for Dreamfall Chapters, outlining an $850,000 goal, as well as their vision for the game, its characters, and its world.

I got in touch with Tørnquist to clarify that vision. Dreamfall Chapters has a storied legacy to live up to, and I asked him why he thinks The Longest Journey and Dreamfall have attracted such passionate fans.

"They're very personal games, almost intimately so," he responds. "And while they're not perfect by any means, I think they're broken in just the right ways. They don't feel mass produced. There are still sharp edges and rough surfaces, unpolished and handcrafted. They feel honest, alive and real. They both have, as I'm so fond of saying, a soul."

"Tooting our own horn a bit, I also think both games feature very strong characters that players feel something for and care about, and good stories that really engage. Everyone who plays TLJ and Dreamfall has a strong emotional reaction to the games--both positive and negative--and those feelings linger and are remembered years after playing. I don't think you can play our games and not feel anything."

The lovely worlds also have a lot to do with the series' success, and Tørnquist admits that Dreamfall stumbled a bit in that regard, at least in comparison with its richly conceived predecessor. Expect to see that richness return in Dreamfall Chapters. "There will be more interactivity, more spaces to explore, more things to look at and to dig into. Scenery, characters, books, documents, strange creatures, sights and sounds… We want to bring back the magic from TLJ, that unique and special feeling of being in a place rich with history and lore. A place that's lived in, with living characters who live real lives, with families and friends, ups and downs. Worlds that exist beyond the confines of the screen."

One of the strengths of the series is how its people, places, and story beats live on in the minds of its players. It's hard to forget April Ryan's avian sidekick Crow, who delights in his womanizing ways. Or Burns Flipper, foul-mouthed hacker extraordinaire. Or indeed the worlds of both Stark and Arcadia, the former acting as the technology-focused yin to the other's magical yang. Dreamfall and The Longest Journey can wriggle into your psyche and remain there for good. The games didn't just make a mark on their players, however: they made a mark on Tørnquist, too.

"There's so much of myself in April Ryan, Zoë, Kian--Crow, definitely--and TLJ was the most personal and intimate story I have ever told," he says. "It's so close to my heart, such a big part of what I was back then, and even now. It's almost uncomfortably revealing, and it's a bit hard for me to sit down and play that game without feeling exposed."

"So yeah, I don't think I could go on making games without first making Dreamfall Chapters, and being able to conclude Zoë's story and the Dreamer Cycle. It's really, really important to me, and to all of us on the team."

The memories are fondly recalled, but that was the past. What, pray tell, does the future bring for Zoë, April, Brian Westhouse, and their contemporaries? (Caution: Spoilers ahead!) Dreamfall ended with one of its main characters presumed dead, and the other in a coma. It's hard to imagine a newcomer jumping head first into the continuing story and making much sense of it, and Tørnquist admits that if you haven't played Dreamfall, you might be a little lost. However, the team is aiming to shepherd new players into the universe without boring returning fans. But what about returning fans? What events will usher us back into the ongoing drama? (Caution, once more: spoilers for Dreamfall ahead!)

Says Tørnquist: "So Zoë is lost in this place called the Storytime. She's still in a coma, it's a year later, and the doctors are losing hope that she'll ever wake up. But Gabriel, her dad, still has faith. After all, that's what Dreamfall was all about--faith--and that's not lost on any of us. Players will have to help Zoë escape Storytime, wake up, be reborn, and confront who she was and who she's turning into. It's about growing up, growing into yourself, becoming who you're meant to me, or who other people need you to be--and to be okay with that, to be comfortable with your role in this world."

"And the worlds have changed quite a bit, too. With WatiCorp's Dreamer released--think game console that allows you to dream lucid, realistic dreams, where you are in control of what you see and feel and experience--the world has become completely addicted, and society is crumbling. People are hooked up at home or in opium den-like Dream Factories that have popped up everywhere, and they're not going to work or taking care of their loved ones or doing anything at all. So the world is just falling apart."

You'll experience the story from three different perspectives--no surprise, given that Dreamfall took on the same structure. But Zoë is still the main character, and Dreamfall Chapters will bring her story to a conclusion. Adds Tørnquist, "Dreamfall Chapters is a game about changes. About life. About the chapters of existence--growing, learning, adapting. And time will pass in the game, from early spring through to winter, as our characters continue their journeys."

Curiously, developer/publisher Funcom is not backing this particular project. Tørnquist's Red Thread Studios is comprised of the same individuals who brought the previous games to life, but the Norwegian company that published The Longest Journey and Dreamfall, not to mention online role-playing games like Anarchy Online, Age of Conan, and The Secret World isn't part of this equation. The big question: why not?

Tørnquist answers: "Funcom's focus since before the launch of Dreamfall in 2006 has been on the online space, and I don't think they were ever able to reconcile that with continuing The Longest Journey saga, or to find a way to bring TLJ or Dreamfall into the online realm. Sure, there were Discussions. Ideas. Pitches. But it never really worked out, and The Secret World grabbed all the time and all the people for many, many years. There really was no room to do both, to be honest, particularly since they couldn't really do another Dreamfall without me and the core team."

"Part of me also didn't want to jump straight into Chapters after finishing Dreamfall," he continues. "I needed to do something else, and The Secret World was another labour of love for me, a game, story and universe I was deeply passionate about. We actually started working on that one before Dreamfall, so I was eager to get back to, and finish, TSW. I just didn't count on it taking six years…"

I asked Tørnquist if he was burnt out on massively multiplayer games--and his answer isn't that surprising, considering he's devoted so many years to them. "I love The Secret World dearly," he responds. "I am extremely happy with my time on that project, and with what we managed to accomplish. I'm extremely happy to see the game doing well, and being taken care of by a passionate and dedicated team. But it was time to move on, both from TSW and from MMOs. I spent six years of my life working day and night on that game, and yeah, I did miss single-player games, I missed adventure games, and I missed the characters and worlds of The Longest Journey and Dreamfall."

'We know where this story is going, we know where it's destined to end.'

Tørnquist plans to pursue other projects with Red Thread Games, but for now, the focus is Dreamfall Chapters. With Funcom out of the picture, the team can exert full creative control over the game--and that's where Kickstarter comes in. The team was awarded a $175,000 grant from the Norwegian Film Institute, which is enough to create a working prototype, and design multiple characters and environments. It's not enough, however, to make an entire game. Tørnquist seeks $850,000 more in crowdfunding, which is no small sum. He says he's equally excited and terrified by the process. Or, in his own word, "terrifited." But what happens to Dreamfall Chapters if the Kickstarter is unsuccessful?

"[…] we're putting everything we have into this Kickstarter and the project, and while it's not do-or-die for Red Thread Games, I think we're going to have a difficult time making Dreamfall Chapters happen without the Kickstarter cash. If the Kickstarter fails, we'll roll with the punches and get back on our feet, for sure. Red Thread Games will survive. We're passionate about this, and we aren't going to give up easily. We will finish the Dreamfall Chapters prototype and then jump onto other projects in order to keep our heads above water. Hopefully, we can get back to Chapters some day soon, but it will definitely take a lot longer and be a lot more uncertain without the Kickstarter funds."

Presuming Red Thread Games gets the funding they need, however, then you should expect to see Dreamfall Chapters arrive in November of 2014. It's hard not to wonder, though: is the strength of player nostalgia, and that of the Longest Journey/Dreamfall brand, enough to drive the Kickstarter's success? Says Tørnquist, "I think the strength of The Longest Journey and Dreamfall name will get us started, and I think the desire to see the story continue will definitely give us some traction, but it won't be enough. We're prepared to do a lot of work to get noticed, to spread the word, to show even non-fans that we're working on something really exciting, really beautiful, really important. After all, with Dreamfall Chapters, we're not just continuing The Longest Journey saga and wrapping up the Dreamer Cycle, we're making what we hope will be a great adventure game--one that all PC gamers should check out and play."

And what will playing that game be like? While The Longest Journey was a pure point-and-click adventure, Dreamfall took a different tack, adding gameplay elements like combat and stealth, and not always to the game's benefit. It's also hard to ignore inroads made by other adventure games, such as Telltale's The Walking Dead series, where choice is a major element. Tørnquist says that player choice is important to Dreamfall Chapters, though, he says, "I would use the word 'freedom' instead of 'choice'. Not that we won't have the latter, but the story is set and you're moving through it, discovering it at your own pace, seeing it from different vantage points and perspectives. You have the freedom to experience the story the way you want to experience it. To me, adventure games are about characters, worlds and plots--in that order. We want players to be able to explore the characters and the worlds freely and without artificial barriers and time limits."

He continues: "Movement in the game world will be similar to Dreamfall, albeit with a different control scheme and GUI, but interactivity will be handled a bit differently. We're doing a lot of work to bring point-and-click into a 3D setting, and I think we've succeeded with that. We'll show off our work-in-progress prototype during the Kickstarter campaign, and hopefully explain a bit more about how it works. But I think adventure gamers will be very pleased."

'Dreamfall Chapters is a game about changes. About life. About the chapters of existence.'

Tørnquist is clearly thrilled to return to the universe first described in The Longest Journey, and that excitement is likely to be shared by the series' passionate followers. "Recreating our characters, beginning with Zoë, and making her look so much more human, so much more expressive and animated, really excites me. (And no, not in THAT way.) The way we tell our stories changes completely when we can let the eyes and facial expressions tell part of the story. I can't wait to write for the new Zoë; it really is a revolution in storytelling for us."

"And in addition to the technical side of things, being able to finally continue and conclude the story we began in Dreamfall--that is, of course, incredibly exciting, incredibly inspiring," says Tørnquist. "That makes me jump out of bed every morning. We know where this story is going, we know where it's destined to end, and now it's just a question of giving life to our characters and worlds, to write the words and to fill in the blanks. That's a great feeling. We can sit down and flesh all of this out and do our best work ever. We've learned so much since TLJ and Dreamfall, and all of that is going into Chapters."

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Discussion

234 comments
PZcolo
PZcolo

Found out a bit late, awesome news all the same, been waiting eagerly for this news to come, today's a happy day thanks to DF chapters.
@velcroboy as for if it's worth playing, it was an awesome game, that's for sure, I love to play them even nowadays, but for newcomers, aged games are often hard to digest, so I'd recommend giving it a try, if you don't find it too outdated you'll certainly enjoy it.

velcroboy
velcroboy

I haven't played any of these games.  So, I understand it that this is the 3rd game in the series.  Right?  This game looks very beautiful and I will keep an eye out for it.  Is it worth it to go back and play the first 2 games though?  Or maybe just the Dreamfall game?

maramsp
maramsp

$898.650 Atm, it will get funded, and so it will get made! YEEE

lindallison
lindallison

I wonder if Zoe will spend less time in her underwear.

FlashCharge
FlashCharge

I guess a lot can be said of where this game maybe headed but here's hoping it gets off the ground so that we may judge for ourselves what the merits of this game hold.

k_h_a_n
k_h_a_n

only two words..at last!

ernelson1976
ernelson1976

"Tørnquist says that player choice is important to Dreamfall Chapters, though, he says, "I would use the word 'freedom' instead of 'choice'. "

In other words, they're not taking anything from recent gaming developments, they're just trying to pass off older gameplay with new gameplay language. So, no real choice, just a linear story. That's fine, and I loved the original games, but be up-front with us about it. If you're not giving us player choice, just tell us. Don't beat around the bush.

crdeath27
crdeath27

I would gladly throw some money at this game, so long as they promise to deliver a complete story this time.  The 'ending' to Dreamfall was far and away the worst ending to a video game I've ever seen.  It was worse than the end of The Sopranos.

Reaiko
Reaiko

Funny enough ! 

I didn't like they named it "Chapters".. what is this going to be like "The Walking Dead" where people had to be buy  another episode every few months ?..?

If this is true I really hope the whole campaign fails.

Void_Kross
Void_Kross

I guess fans of this have truly been on "the longest journey" waiting for this game.

Fatima
Fatima

Finally!! It has been a long time coming, the first two games were great.. really looking forward to where they take Dreamfall Chapters!!!... :D

Alucard1475
Alucard1475

I remember this game being beautiful and the music was outstanding. Definitely looking forward to Chapters. 

Nimbil
Nimbil

I'm gonna buy the shiz out of this!

Arkhalipso
Arkhalipso

Wow, never heard about this saga before and everybody seems to worship it. Is it that good?

Kars
Kars

YES! Y E S ! ! ! Finally! It's been so long, too long! I kinda pissed myself reading this and now I'm crying ;( FINALLY!

Rinnerz
Rinnerz

TLJ was hands-down one of the best story-driven games I have ever played, and Dreamfall (while I preferred TLJ) was great as well. Backing this is a no-brainer for me.

Rayn303
Rayn303

Dreamfall TLJ was THE best adventure game I've EVER played, in the 20 or so YEARS of playing video games. Nuff said... Backing it till it hurts, and suggest you do the same. If you're having second thoughts, you've never played Dreamfall. And that really is: your loss.

AdamK47
AdamK47

Dreamfall was such a great game.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I was saddened by the ending.  I'm very interested to see where this new game picks up from.

scarred_fox
scarred_fox

saw the second chapter release as i was getting into PC. most of my tastse have evloved from run and gun games to a more serious or story driven gameplay like mass effect, KOTOR and the whitcher. reading the fan based reviews and the excitement from die hard fans make me want to jump into the series aswell...once i finish fresh supply of SP games that is =P

ChiliBean2000
ChiliBean2000

I've completely forgotten about this amazing game!  Had no idea they were continuing the story and the Kickstarter.  Thanks Gamespot for mentioning this.  I am more than happy contribute and hopefully they exceed their goal.  Another story type game I wish would also continue is Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.  It was state of the art back in 2004 and you really were immersed as a vampire.  Hope they bring it back too!

hostX9
hostX9

YEEEEEEEEEHAAAAAAAAAAAAA YESSS I was waiting for this stuff for soooooo long!!! I'm really exited!!! I hope the  sequel to be as great as the past two parts!

The ending of Dreamfall was one of the most interesting and unexpected endings of a game I've ever seen. I really really hope for them not to let us down with the new sequel!

plasticreality
plasticreality

I'm glad this has been featured on GS and other gaming sites.  Dreamfall is one of the best adventure games I have ever played (never played TLJ).  A new game in the series without the interference of a publisher is exciting, to say the least.  Can't wait to see their stretch goals (assuming the funds keep pouring in).

Phelaidar
Phelaidar

Btw, great soundtrack in the kickstarter video... Is this part of the Dreamfall (2nd game) soundtrack?

64-bit
64-bit

That game was just a sweet dream.

chechak7
chechak7

i can't wait ...

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey girl was cute this one look creepy 

Gen-Gawl
Gen-Gawl

i for one can't wait. loved tlj and dreamfall. been waiting for chapters since dreamfall came out. i'll back any game tlj related.

lindallison
lindallison

@ernelson1976  

His response about choice and freedom was pretty vague and did imply the game will have a linear story, which is not a problem and still the predominant form of game-design.  I'm curious what you meant by 'recent gaming developments'  

Choice and Consequence hasn't evolved much from what I can tell. Some games have linear stories that branch in response to player choices like the Witcher series and Mass Effect.  

Others give you the ability to choose when to tackle otherwise linear quest-lines or missions like Skyrim or GTA.  

There are truly non-linear games that have dynamic campaigns like some flight sims, or very broad goals like the campaign objectives of 4X titles.   None of these approaches is a recent development in gaming history, examples of each can be found all the way back to the early days of the form.  But maybe you could clarify what you were thinking of?

Kevin-V
Kevin-V moderator staff

@Reaiko Did you read the article?

It's called "Chapters" because it's about the "chapters of existence." The article and Kickstarter also plainly state that this game would bring Zoe's story to a conclusion. It is not being split into episodes. 

Domaldel
Domaldel

@Rinnerz Agreed, but bad timing for me financially. At some other time I might have helped out with 4 k USD, today I could only afford 10 USD...
Going to save up a bit and see if I can manage a little more before the time is up.

2bitSmOkEy
2bitSmOkEy

@Rayn303 Well said.  TLJ was brilliant, as was Dreamfall.  Everyone please back this!!!!!!

Domaldel
Domaldel

@scarred_fox The SP games can wait, jump into TLJ and Dreamfall right away ;-)
You won't regret it (to much)
Of course the cliff hanger at the end of Dreamfall will perhaps hurt a little, and make you understand why backing this kickstart is so incredibly important.

Domaldel
Domaldel

@hostX9 Oh, it was interesting alright! But damned ><
I'd be ok with it if I'd only have to wait a few months, six years however was a tiny bit on the long side after such a cliff hanger...

Domaldel
Domaldel

@plasticreality Dreamfall was a good game, no question about that, but compared to the original, TLJ, it was a tiny bit disappointing to be honest, at least to me.
Because while TLJ was fantastic, Dreamfall was *just* great.

crdeath27
crdeath27

@plasticreality You really should play TLJ.  Unlike Dreamfall it actually had a complete story with a conclusion, as opposed to just ending abruptly without resolving anything.

hostX9
hostX9

@plasticreality TLJ was for my taste even better then Dreamfall yet I'm not saying that Dreamfall was bad or average at all! You really should check out TLJ if you love great stories.

Domaldel
Domaldel

@eric_neo3 @bluefox755 If you read more carefully it says that Tørnquist will continue working as an adviser for another game named the secret world that *is* published by EA while leading Read Thread Studio's work on Dreamfall chapters: The longest journey, a game *not* published by EA or Funcom or anyone else.
They are however sharing revenues with Funcom as a part of their licence deal.

PS. What do you mean with "all that", it's only one page of text Oo
PPS. I do hope that little piece of TL:DR text makes the two of you feel a tiny bit better even though you *could* have read it on your own :-)

Domaldel
Domaldel

@Kevin-V @Reaiko I'd probably prefer episodes to be honest. It's a world I'd like to play a lot more in and with some kind of chapters it would be a lower threshold to make new ones then with a full game.
Still, you're right Kevin, this will be a full game, for better and worse.

Domaldel
Domaldel

@Estel78 @Arkhalipso You're kidding, it's not just *better* it's way, way, way better.
TLJ made it to the top 10 list of adventure games of the last decade on adventuregamers.com at least once that I know off back in the days.
And on some lists it came as high as number 3.
I know some people rank it as top 1 or 2 of the games out there still in the genre although that's something that a lot of people would argue isn't a good place for it, it sure as heck come on top 20 on all lists I've ever heard about for the genre.
Of course, I might be somewhat bias, considering that I mostly just look at those lists if TLJ is in it. :-P
Still...

Domaldel
Domaldel

@2bitSmOkEy @Rayn303 And yes, TLJ was *the* best game ever in it's genre in my opinion, and Dreamfall was great too, even if it's not quite up there with TLJ, again in my opinion. ;-)

Domaldel
Domaldel

@2bitSmOkEy @Rayn303 It's going to hurt :-/
It really couldn't have come at a worse timing for me financially, but I'll help out with what I can.