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The 7th Guest: The Collector aims to harness new tech and live-action human emotion

Driven to bring the adventure action game to new audiences and leverage mobile touchscreeen for the game's iconic puzzles, Trilobyte Games launched this week a revised campaign to fund The 7th Guest: The Collector, the sequel to Trilobyte's classic adventure-puzzle franchise.

The 7th Guest: The Collector is the third chapter in the series, the first of which was released in 1993, followed by its sequel, The 11th Hour, in 1995. Trilobyte originally announced The Collector March 2013 and launched an unsuccessful 38-day Kickstarter funding drive for the adventure game last October, seeking $435,000.

The Collector returns to the mysterious Stauf mansion, the longtime setting of the franchise, now set up as "something of a historical museum" and newly restored with games, puzzles and artifacts. The establishment is still haunted and players will learn more about what happened in the original story and discover previously hidden secrets of the mysterious toymaker and antagonist, Henry Stauf, played by the original actor Robert Hirschboeck.

It is in development for Mac, Windows PCs, iOS and Android where it "will thoroughly leverage touchscreen, mobile technology and modern standards in video game presentation to bring you the 7th Guest of your fondest dreams (and nightmares)."

"This will not just be a remake and it will not just be a retro game. Part of the point is to look what new and check logical capabilities and employ them," Rob Landeros, co-founder of Trilobyte, told Polygon. "For one thing it will have much better video and improvements than in 1992. In terms of puzzles, which were pre-rendered animations, now we can use tools like Unity. So like the puzzles become more like a physical object with physical properties and more like a toy that you can manipulate in your hand.

"For instance, a puzzle called a gear maze, one of those tilt mazes where the balls travel down a channel, and by tilting the iPad using an accelerometer, it is more like holding a toy and able to manipulate it that way. I'm looking more the puzzles in the sequel as more puzzle toys, physical objects, so that'll be the main difference there."

With the player's ultimate goal is to escape the mansion, the house is "one large mechanical device" where the 20 puzzles must be solved in order to "configure the mansion in such a way that escape from its confines becomes possible." Particular rooms can only be accessed when the house is in certain configurations. In the previous games, there were hidden rooms and passageways not shown in the mansions floorplans.

"In this sequel, the underlying premise is that Stauf's mansion has been rebuilt by a mysterious, unknown stranger according to floorplans that were not in the public record and so there are new rooms and chambers and passageways that have never been seen before," Landeros said.

Puzzle design and what players expect from games has evolved over time but the team is not resting on its laurels and are designing puzzles with a new approach.

"We are very excited about working with some of the worlds leading puzzle designers for The Collector," studio co-founder Charlie McHenry told Polygon. "We are working with Oskar van Deventer [puzzle designer] who was in the Guinness Book of Records. We have a variety of experts of advising us. The new tools that we have available enable us to build some puzzles that nobody has ever seen before. Tod has been working on impossible objects. We have been bandying about the idea of puzzles that you might enter and solve from the inside out and, of course, the mansion itself being a meta puzzle that you have to solve to free yourself from its confines. So there are a lot of possibilities in that regard."

According to Landeros, the original The 7th Guest showed that puzzle games "aren't just a bunch of puzzles that designers can just throw on a disc and tie together with a theme." The story enhances the puzzles, the puzzles enhances the drama. Puzzles need to be intertwined with the story, series writer David Wheeler added, and stories shouldn't be displayed as standalone cinematic piece and then the game abruptly gets on with the gameplay. He explained that the continued evolution of games has arisen renewed interest in games like The 7th Guest.

"We talked numerous times over the past several years saying that we should do another The 7th Guest... but one of our problems at the beginning of this century is that shooters kind of took over the market, and that is part of the mistake, I think, publishers made back several years [ago]," Wheeler said. "They would say things like ‘If you aren't doing something like twitching some part of your anatomy to make something happen every 1.4 seconds, you are not making an interesting game.' ... I think that shooters are fading, to tell you the truth, especially with the rise of app games, indie games, now there is interest in other things."

The Collector will retain the full-motion video presentation like its predecessors. The use of computer graphics was considered but the team decided to work with live-action people as they believe, without a huge budget, as it was the best way to convey drama and meaning and emotion.

"Another thing that enhances the storytelling is to tell a story using drama using human beings," Landeros said. "Nothing really quite replaces real people talking to each other and emotional expression on faces and that something that we have always been intersected with The 7th Guest."

The 7th Guest and the sequel featured scary elements, such as being a house of horrors with random hauntings that the players encounter through the game. For the third installment, Trilobyte is approaching the horror side of the game with physiological engagement, as opposed to jump scares and sawing peoples limbs, an example of a visually-driven emotional device as seen in other games. The developer also aims to make an interactive story based with the injection of emotion through an investment in the characters and treating them as humans players can relate to.

"One of the things that made The 7th Guest successful was the presence of Stauf. He would be ever present there chiding you, making fun of you, riding you as you play the puzzles," Landeros explained. "So there was this atmosphere of people feeling that there was this presence even as they try to solve these puzzles. That is the nice thing about interactivity, as opposed to movie making, is that you draw the person in by telling a good story or just making them feel like they are absorbed in whatever activity you are providing, in this case mostly puzzle solving."

"Those elements of suspense, fear of what is in the dark, of what you don't know," Wheeler said. "I think those things are more effective than you know. If you are trying to solve a puzzle and you're sweating because you know there is something out there, it's great."

Trilobyte launched a CrowdtiltOpen campaign this week to fund the development the of the new installment. The developer will divide funding and development goals into stages, with the first stage of $65,000 to fund a playable beta. Titled The 7th Guest 3: The First Story, the demo will just involve the first fooor of the mansion, while the remaining floors will be locked.

"The first story we'll have some hints some background info about that whole background and Stauf history, you won't seeing a lot of acting in it, but a lot of drama, but again like a movie we will kind of build up story you'll it'll introduce the story," Landeros said. "And then we'll start introducing a lot of the story content with story and try to build up the interest that way. So by the time you get to the third part, hopefully we'll have peaked curiosity of people and hopefully they'll want to find out what is going to happen next."

"We anticipate that the playable demo the first story will be a significant enough development, and intriguing enough, and packed with enough good stuff that folks will see within it the potential that is our vision for the completed full final episodes," McHenry went on to explain. "We think the incremental approach is the way to do that, we want to do it in a way that our fans can participate in every state and it seems to a us a good model to pursuer."

The campaign offers various backing tiers such as the Secret Chamber of Horrors, a special room that is reserved as a reward for backers of the campaign.

"We have been asked 'what is in it?' and our answer has been, 'that's why it's called a secret'," Landeros said. "All we are willing to say at this point is that it is pretty horrible.... something like you might see in a very dark version of a wax museum, but where the exhibition is come to life."

The next level of puzzles.

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