Old School Gamer Magazine chats with “3 Minutes to Midnight” Game Director Jan Serra, who discusses the origin and creative process behind the game and how the team got inspiration from classic point-and-click adventures the likes of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max Hit the Road and Full Throttle.
About 3 Minutes to Midnight:
A comedy adventure with a sprawling story and colorful cast. Betty Anderson can’t remember who she is, but she has bigger worries—like a doomsday plot threatening to wipe out the human race. Join Betty to crack the conspiracy that starts with a bang and ends at 3 Minutes to Midnight.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Jan Serra: I was not happy with the work I was doing for the past fifteen years and I wanted to change that into something more fun and fulfilling. Based on that thought, my girlfriend Pavlina and I had a conversation that basically consisted of “If you could choose what you would like to do, what would that thing be?” (Honestly, I think people don’t ask themselves that question enough.) So, that question was answered: “I want to make a video game.” I took some time off to write the story and to think about the main and secondary characters. I made some drafts about locations, puzzles, conversations, etc., and eventually put together the team that is now working together to make “3 Minutes to Midnight” a reality.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What was development like?
Serra: Well, we are still in development, and we hope to finish at some point next year. But if I had to say in one word what the development is like, it would be “challenging”, challenging in so many aspects. For starters, this is my first game, so there’s a lot of stuff that is new to me. Many things I don’t know bring a lot of issues that keep coming up. The good news is, though, that we are solving everything step by step (successfully so far) and keeping the project on budget and on track.
The team is really important to us. There are six of us, plus we’ve got help from students at local universities who help us with smaller tasks. Every single member has a crucial part on the development of 3 Minutes to Midnight. I think this game is going to be awesome, mainly because of the people behind it. We had to make sure that every single member was the right fit, so it took some time to put the team together. We’ve now been working together for 15 months and we’ve well managed to hit our stride.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Serra: I would like to point out three things: story, art, and puzzles. About the story, I dare to say, you have never seen something this complex in a point-and-click adventure game. 3 Minutes to Midnight is a game about Betty Anderson, a teenager uncovers a conspiracy that has enveloped her small New Mexico town and beyond. We have a main plot that revolves around Betty’s character, and then there are secondary characters, all of whom have their own developed backstories. Usually, you cannot dig deeper into NPC’s minds, but that’s not the case for this game.
For the art, we wanted to make sure that each environment and character was so beautiful that you could stare at it for hours like it was a painting. Last but not least, the puzzles. We are designing them so they are as crazy and fun as you remember them from the “good old days”, but at the same time, they will make much more sense.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Serra: That’s an easy one, anyone who will play 3 Minutes to Midnight will notice the influence of games like Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, Sam and Max Hit the Road, Full Throttle, etc. …all from the golden era of this genre. I’ve played them all, enjoyed them a lot. And now that I miss that kind of game, I’m making my own.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Serra: We had a lot of both wild and fun stories during the development. Some of them we will tell in a documentary we are preparing.
Attending our first event, E3 2018, was really wild. All the preparations, all the stuff we had to bring on the plane and carry like mules in and out of the event daily, because we couldn’t afford security at our booth. (I even hurt my back doing all that!) Being at an event like that and meeting industry greats like Josef Fares, Shawn Layden, Todd Howard, Maya Moldenhauer, Angie Smets, and thinking, one day we could be there.
There are many more, but you’ll have to wait until we release our documentary.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Serra: Of course, I find it really important to preserve the traditional point-and-click mechanics, but it’s also important to give them a little update to make the game more accessible to people who normally aren’t big fans of this genre. For example, we sacrificed the classic on-screen verb interface and simplified the UI to just 3 buttons on the mouse: left-click for all the actions, right-click to “look at”, and wheel to pop-up the inventory. Like this, we don’t have to lose 1/3 of our beautiful environment to the interface. We also added functions that make the game “faster” to play. For example, holding down the left button while the character walks will make her go faster, double-clicking on certain doors and paths will change the location immediately, and you’ll also be able to skip conversations.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Serra: I have so many, for example, I remember with a smile every time how my dad used to bring me new games every now and then. I remember looking at the art on the boxes, which I enjoyed as much as playing them. I spent hours playing with the code wheel of Monkey Island. I also remember when I used to help around the house and I got some pocket money for it. Then, when I got enough, I used it to buy my first game. That was Full Throttle. And of course, getting stuck with puzzles in various adventures, talking about different ways to solve them with my brother. (Oh yeah, good old times…)
Old School Gamer Magazine: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Serra: It’s a game made by fans of point-and-click adventure games for fans of point-and-click adventure games, and for anyone who likes good stories, crazy puzzles, and colorful dialogue.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Bottom Line, why must someone play this game?
Serra: So many reasons, but apart from all I’ve already mentioned, gamers should play “3 Minutes to Midnight” because we made sure this game is something they will love and enjoy. Nobody can imagine how much work, effort, and love we put in this game. We took care of every single detail in the environments, and we polished every character, every animation. We read every sentence a thousand times to make it concise, fun and perfect. We hope everyone will appreciate this from the very first second they play this game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Serra: We want everyone to play it, have fun with it and love it. So, in the end, you will remember 3 Minutes to Midnight as an awesome story with unexpected twists, fun and crazy puzzles but with quite logical solutions, and beautiful art design.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Serra: Right now, we are 100% focused on 3 Minutes to Midnight. It’s our first game and everything has to be perfect. However, we are also working on concepts of two other projects that hopefully we will be able to bring to life soon. In fact, the development of one of them should begin at some point in 2019.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Serra: Yes, a couple of things, first I would like to give a big shout-out to our core team: Pavlina Kacerova who does PR & Marketing, Daniel Peña who does character design, David Puerta who’s in charge of the environments, Jorge Bompart our animator, and especially Julen Diéguez. Julen is our programmer, and he’s been working the extra mile to get this project done. Without him, we wouldn’t have even made it to E3 in time.
Patrick Hickey Jr. is the author of the book, “The Minds Behind the Games: Interviews With Cult and Classic Video Game Developers,” from McFarland And Company. Featuring interviews with the creators of 36 popular video games–including Deus Ex, NHLPA 93, Night Trap, Mortal Kombat, Wasteland and NBA Jam–the book gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of some of the most influential and iconic (and sometimes forgotten) games of all time. Recounting endless hours of painstaking development, the challenges of working with mega-publishers and the uncertainties of public reception, the interviewees reveal the creative processes that produced some of gaming’s classic titles.