Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Bumpy Trail Games Founder Miguel Antonio Rivera Casas, who details his new point and click adventure ‘Without Escape’ and lets us know how the classic library of the Gamecube and Nintendo 64 were influential in its creation.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was Without Escape born?
Miguel Antonio Rivera Casas: The original idea for the game hit me when I was about 12 years old. I became a fan of the Resident Evil franchise after playing the Resident Evil remake on the GameCube. It was my first horror game – and I was in awe! Resident Evil made me want to make a horror game – but I didn’t have any programming or drawing skills/experience. The solution? Create a text-based adventure using HTML pages and hyperlinks that represented individual actions. I showed that game to some friends, and that was it – for a while. When I began learning how to program, I thought of adapting the game into a Windows application – with buttons and some drawings made in Microsoft Paint – but I soon had to abandon that project.
Eventually, I learned enough 3D modeling to be able to ship the first “finished” version of Without Escape on Xbox Live Indie Games (XBLIG) as a point & click adventure. That was a huge deal for me – and a major milestone. However, when asked about a PC version, I just couldn’t do it. Remember, this was a time before Steam Greenlight and other “indie-friendly” storefronts; I had no idea how to get a game on Steam! In 2017, Microsoft announced that XBLIG was going to end –meaning that Without Escape would be lost forever. I had no choice in the matter: It was time to finally do something about it and make Without Escape into an actual release outside XBLIG. I started working on a Unity port of the game – and what started as a simple port ended up being a full remake … taking much longer than I had initially planned. In addition to the improved graphics, the game now features a ton of changes and refinements – including new, never-before-seen content. So I think all the extra development time was well worth it. If you told me it would take me until 2018 to finish Without Escape, I wouldn’t have believed you.
OSGM: What has development been like so far?
Casas: In a way, Without Escape was easy to develop – thanks to the first-person perspective and point & click gameplay. The game doesn’t have playable characters, animations, physics, camera handling, etc. – so it wasn’t challenging to implement the core mechanics. The only thing that I can remember being a little bit problematic was the input handling. Unity’s UI system has some well-known bugs – and it also lacks certain features, which makes menu navigation with a gamepad/keyboard a little wonky. I had to implement workarounds and a custom input handling system to fix it. There were also moments of low inspiration and/or motivation that delayed things a little bit (e.g., trying to redesign some of the environments but not really liking any of the ideas that I came up with). I continued working on other stuff and eventually hit on an idea that made sense. Problem solved.
OSGM: What makes this game special?
Casas: Without Escape is a point & click graphic adventure based on similar games from the ’90s. You don’t see this kind of game that often today. I also made sure it was engrossing over multiple playthroughs with unlockable endings and Easter eggs. The Steam leaderboards will encourage players to try and beat all the endings as fast as humanly possible, too – which is neat.
OSGM: What games influenced Without Escape the most?
Casas: Even though they’re not graphic adventures, Resident Evil and Silent Hill were my main sources of inspiration – and then, of course, graphic adventures from the ‘90s like Myst and The 7th Guest. I’ve always found games with pre-rendered CGI backgrounds intriguing – and maybe even charming in a way!
OSGM: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Casas: Without Escape features a number of full-motion video (FMV) sequences created with CGI – and even though they’re somewhat brief, they took quite a bit of time to render. A normal static background took 1-2 hours, which obviously isn’t an issue. But how about a 300-frame video? That would be around 300 hours (almost two weeks) of non-stop rendering for one small video. So I had to sacrifice resolution and quality a little bit in the FMV sequences to render them faster. Anyone working with FMV will tell you this: Finding mistakes or something that was missed while the video is rendering is all too common. If this happens, you need to start from scratch! After many hours of rendering, let’s say I find another mistake: Again … from the top. “It would be really neat to add more cushions to the sofas in the living room…” Let’s render the whole video all over again! So yeah, there was quite a bit of time spent rendering.
OSGM: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Casas: There will always be a place for titles that feature classic gameplay mechanics. Even if playing games from the ‘80s and ‘90s is not as mainstream today, there are still a lot of gamers out there who appreciate that stuff. Players remember the kinds of games they liked to play when they were growing up. Some may even go hunting for hard-to-find titles that still have a special meaning for them – and they eventually become collectors. It makes sense to give modern audiences a taste of classic gaming. Take me, for example: I personally enjoy 3D “collectathon” platformers – a genre that simply disappeared back in the 2000s. I’m thrilled that 3D platformers are popular once again.
OSGM: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Casas: I’m most fond of the Nintendo 64 era. Even though I already owned other game consoles by that point, Super Mario 64 made me see video games as more than a simple pastime. Exploring Gruntilda’s Lair in Banjo-Kazooie, sensing that sense of desperation in the final hours in Majora’s Mask – and spending lots of time with Super Smash Bros. and Perfect Dark alone or with friends laughing non-stop. Yup, those were the days!
OSGM: Who will enjoy Without Escape the most?
Casas: Anyone who loves graphic adventures and wants to explore creepy environments, discover some clues, and test their mettle by solving puzzles.
OSGM: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Casas: Without Escape is a small, humble game. It’s nearly impossible for me to think of people remembering it as an “all-time classic” or something like that. However, I’ve read comments by players who had fond memories of the XBLIG version. What an amazing feeling! Most of us – if not all of us – have fond memories of certain games and/or game consoles. Realizing that Without Escape, my childhood dream, can instill the same sort of feelings in other gamers is the best reward I could possibly have. I hope this PC remake will make it easier for more people to experience Without Escape. I can’t wait to hear their impressions of the new 1080p graphics and to find out if they had a good (or scary!) time with my little adventure game.
OSGM: What’s next?
Casas: I have some ideas for future projects, but nothing is set in stone.
OSGM: Anything else you’d like to add?
Casas: I appreciate this interview and your interest in Without Escape. I’d also like to thank Old School Gamer readers! If you get a chance to play the game, make sure to leave your impressions in the Steam forums or itch.io. I’ll leave your readers with a challenge: Can you find all of the game’s secret endings?!
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.