Phoenix and the Rescue of Design
A journey to Mike Hoge on behalf of the 20th Anniversary of Gothic
[ Translated by Catalin aka catalinux and Florian aka flosha ]
24.12.2020 - New Diary Entry
22 o'clock. My hands are shaking from the keystrokes.
In the past two months I lost 10kg, which took me 2 years to gain. Buried under the ruins of the temple that I had built. It collapsed. But “the deed has to be done, for it's written in the old scrolls that it will happen,” as Mike said, in an Interview 1998, when the vision of Gothic was a bit different.
The days before I worked into the night to get an update done on time, a new version of our Gothic Archive and a new website: phoenixthegame.com. It should reveal PHOENIX as the name of "our" game. Calling it "our game" takes some effort, given that we see ourselves as heirs to a vision that was developed by others, 20 years ago, when we were still children.
We believe that in the end we can admit it to ourselves, as we internalised the idea, developed it further and made something new and our own out of it.
But enough dreaming. The dream wants to be propagated. A new logo on a new website, on a new domain, reminding every Gothic fan and every Gothic developer inevitably of the old gothicthegame.com - the website of publisher Egmont Interactive.
This relief, when I finally finished on Christmas Eve around 9 p.m.... Another thread in the forum, an update on Mastodon (nobody looks in there, but at least it isn't Twitter). It was ten o'clock. I hadn't eaten anything all day. The update was more important. I went into town looking for something to eat, some shop had to be open. All closed... Well, at least I would be able to read a few reactions to our gifts at home. They also nurish, at least motivation.
But there weren't any. Who would look into the forum on Christmas Eve anyway? Empty stomach, dizzy head and a broken heart. Lonely Christmas.
Whatever: The dream of a game, there it is. I can't do more than that.
25.12.2020 - New Diary Entry
Well, one thing I still can do. Months before I had been urged to finally get in touch with THQ, the new rights holders of GOTHIC by now, the game PHOENIX is based on. In order to talk about handling the pre-alpha demos and other material. Every time I said: It's not time yet. They wondered what I was waiting for.
I was waiting for us to arrive at a point where such a request would make any impression. We had to present it differently. We had to know what we want. The idea had to be sharp, as the blade of a sword, otherwise it wouldn't penetrate. In other words: the vision had to be clear and it had to be clear to others how clear it is to us. We needed something like a pitch. Or at least some kind of pitch for a future pitch. And that was the new project page.
Now we had everything together: an archive that had slowly grown up (gothicarchive.org), which, thanks to Martin Dietrich, had received a bit of attention in the press. A suitable website for our indie studio (phoenixtales.de) and the new website for the game (phoenixthegame.com).
Putting all this together, I wrote to the person in charge at THQ. And surprisingly, an answer. The same day. And what an answer!
From time to time I checked the forum at worldofgothic.de. The place where the oldest (still existing) community of Gothic is gathered, still. I expected a little enthusiasm. Nothing happened. But I shouldn't care. The motto remains the sacrifice of the fruit, the consequence that is not in my hand; the action is the fruit itself, as the Gita says. But THQ's answer was a sweet fruit. A little Christmas present.
And there came other gifts.
I want to join you
New Diary Entry
Every now and then Oliver aka logx and I tried to actively win new members for our project. Without success. I believed and kept saying: If someone really wants to help us, they would come of their own accord.
<poet-mode> The dream would work like a spark that ignites his heart, slowly making him burn for it until he consumed himself. You put something of yourself into the project. Some a little lot. But we all die. Survive only to the extent that we exhaust ourselves: what we keep dies; what we give lives on. </poet-mode>
A project gets its value from such a sacrifice: the blood, sweat and tears that are allowed to flow into the matter make it special. Without that it's "just some kind of game". And someone who just kind of lets us know that they maybe could help us with something? That won't work. You have to find the motivation yourself, inspired by the shared vision that Mike Hoge developed of its day and that Tom Putzki carried into the world.
A few months earlier I had received an enthusiastic email from Romania from Dortman aka Arbax, who wanted to support us as a story writer and has since become a friend. A few weeks earlier I received an email from the Netherlands, from Adam aka Avallach, who in my head was some kind of famous Polish programmer. As Oliver said: "His tuneful nickname contributes to this." I don't know anyone who has studied the ZenGin, the old Gothic engine of the Mad Scientists, for as long as he has.
On the night of Christmas Day another application came from Jan aka Riisis as a 2D artist. He's taking care of the textures of our characters. One day later another one from Fabian aka AmProsius, who started to iron out the internal mistakes of my amateurish web design. Closely followed by Catalin aka catalinux, known for his Gothic Patches. Then there is Jonas, our composer, and Sebastian, who is beginning to help us with scripting.
There is no better gift for the project than these people helping us. The applications that reached us are full of enthusiasm and speak for themselves:
"I have read more than one time the ideas and beautiful articles that you have posted and offered to the public (...) I want to offer my help in the making of this beautiful project that you are working on as a writer/narrative helper or anything that could help the story process. To give a hand in the creation of this new era of how and what the Real World of Gothic should have been from the beginning." (Arbax)
"Even if I haven't really written much in your thread in the forum myself, I've soaked up every information you published like a sponge. (...) Please give me the chance to prove that I am worthy to help you, I would put my heart and soul into the cause. " (Riisis)
THAT were the people we needed. Phoenix is a non-commercial project. Its realisation requires people to sacrifice their free time; which you only do if you are passionate about the cause. Such people come on their own if you make sure that the dream shines bright enough. If it does, they fly there like a moth into the light.
I knew they would be reliable and actively involved. Without turning anything upside down through their work and creating more problems than they solve. Without wanting to force their own ideas so much that they destroy the big picture, which takes a while to comprehend, since the project and the story have become so complex.
They didn't disappoint. This is how Phoenix Tales became a team of people who passionately are developing further where the old Piranha Bytes stopped in 2001.
"Welcome to the Phoenix nest!" (logx)
The Alpha vision
New Diary Entry
At the beginning there is always a certain enthusiasm for the project idea. But the more someone was involved in our plot, the more they understood what we are about to do, the more enthusiastic they became, the more they internalised "our" vision as their own.
It's a strange feeling when people suddenly talk about your ideas and have internalised them so much that you don't have to say anything more; others can represent them as well as you. The ideas cease to be your own.
When I speak of 'our' vision here, I do it on the one hand because we internalised the vision developed by the spiritual fathers of GOTHIC so much, adopted it, on the other hand because we have creatively developed it further, the story as well as the design principles behind.
We stand on the shoulders of the old Piranha Bytes. They did not just make a game. For years they have developed an ingenious setting and only implemented a fraction of it in the game. Thus PHOENIX is a mixture of what they were conceiving back then and what we have dreamed of it. Without them there would be nothing of this. And should we sometimes appear a little cocky, it is because we are so enthusiastic and moved by the idea.
Oliver and I spent about two years trying to figure out how the story might originally have been and how we thought it should be. So we developed a plot that contains everything that PB had in mind at any point in time and put it together into a harmonious whole. For our sequel we took up all the many story threads, linked everything together; the plot twists gradually fell into our hands and everything slowly emerged in a mosaic that amazed us ourselves. And so it was with the others:
"This might sound a little weird but the more I read about the story and how it progresses, the bigger and more detailed it gets, it feels like a story with such a big potential, like a Greek or Sumerian myth with intrigue and so much plot development." (Arbax)
I asked Fabian how he got to know the project.
The answer was significant: He had heard of our projects before and linked them to the reconstruction of the Alpha, but he did not see what was so appealing about "restoring an old version of a game". What he did not know is the inexhaustible potential of this vision, which we summarise under the term "Alpha", that it is about much more than "restoring something old". We are not traditionalist reactionaries. We are revolutionaries in old school vesture.
He thought the developers would have had a reason why they ended up doing things differently. They had. Good reasons. Otherwise the game might never have appeared. Mike saved the release back then, more on that in our upcoming interview.
But as good as their reasons were and as happy as we should be that these decisions were made, so much do many who have read the first announcements, seen the first publications, wish that there would be a little more of this after all, what was originally announced. Whole parts of the story and features were only not implemented due to lack of time, others were discarded for technical reasons. Most of them don't know anything about the story events that were once planned, about the four classes with their four play styles, about the immersion through visualisation that no other game has ever realised so radically ...
All of that obviously passed by those who are Gothic fans themselves and are still part of the community on World of Gothic today. With our Gothic Archive we have tried to do at least a little to change something about it.
This potential game, as expressed in the early ideas, has an uncanny fascination. We are at least as enthusiastic about the original potential as we are about the game as it appeared 20 years ago today.
“We wanted to make the game that somehow can do everything.” (Mike in Interview)
GOTHIC is very similar to STALKER: Here, too, a vision was first presented that never saw the light of day. Here, too, they had wanted too much. And here, too, fans are still working today to implement everything that didn't work back then for various reasons, see Oblivion Lost. Hardly any game has so much in common with GOTHIC, the atmosphere, the art design, the setting.
GOTHIC (first working title ORPHEUS, later PHOENIX) is set in the Kingdom of Myrtana, in a prison colony - inspired by Escape from New York. The orcs have fled from the racial hatred of the humans into the underground and built underground cities. One of these orc cities is located in the so-called mine valley of Khorinis. Convicts from all over Myrtana are brought to the mining colony to mine ore for the war. The empire is at war with the orcs. In order to make any escape impossible and to secure the supply of magical ore, which is mined in the valley of Khorinis and is said to be decisive for the war, the king has his magicians erect a magical barrier around the valley. But instead of total control, they create chaos. When the ritual goes wrong and includes the magicians, a revolt breaks out in the prison. The prisoners kill the guards and take control of the prison. A camp is created around the former prison fortress in the center of the valley and a new power structure.
Suppressed by the strongest, who have enforced themselves in the revolt, by the "Orebarons" and their guard, adopting the uniforms of the former wardens, the "Diggers" are forced to work in the mines, to continue the delivery of ore towards the king, who in return is conforming to the requirements of the barons. Soon the old camp is divided and a new camp evolves, in which all those find refuge, which want to get away from the rule of the barons. They open up a mine on their own and work on an escape plan.
The visions of a digger create a third camp in the swamp: a brotherhood that has renounced the old gods and now worships the 'Sleeper', a being that they believe will free them from the prison when it awakens. So they work tirelessly to awaken him.
The player is thrown into this prison. He can choose which faction to join and which path to take (warrior, magician, thief or psionic) to achieve the goal of the game: freedom.
GOTHIC had an ingenious setting and was then and is still revolutionary today. But more than that, it is the underlying vision that we roughly characterise as 'the Alpha'.
Likewise with STALKER: In the so-called "Zone" in Chernobyl, various factions are fighting for supremacy. In their center is the sarcophagus, heavily guarded by the monolith, a fanatical sect around the monolith they worship; but they are themselves victims of the C-Consciousness, an over-consciousness that controls them, just like the sect in GOTHIC, being under the influence of the Sleeper.
There are powerful mutants everywhere in the zone because of the radioactive radiation; in the colony there are the monsters that mutate through the magical ore etc.
A lot of those I know who are excited about the early vision of Gothic have also spent a lot of time in the zone. No one should be surprised why. ;)
"I loved STALKER 1!" (Mike in Interview)
Players don't know anything (anymore) about such more profound connections, because those are the things that didn't make it into the game. The things we bring back.
Did others feel like Fabian too? How many had overlooked our project because they misunderstood it? The presentation was obviously important. Only the new website and the design philosophy that Oliver and I had worked out convinced him.
I defend myself against the accusation of doing the finished game injustice by emphasising so much what was not included in the end. Not to emphasise this would be doing injustice. It would mean overlooking most of the passion that went into the project. It would mean overlooking the depth that was inherent in the design but could not be expressed in the game.
By putting my focus on it, I show that GOTHIC was so much more than what it finally presented itself as. Not to emphasise that would mean reducing Gothic to what was left on the surface. It may be that a part of the community is fully satisfied with it. We are not. We want to help the game regain the desired depth that it had to throw overboard in the sprint to the Gold Master. That is why we dive into the oceon of the Alpha to retrieve the treasures.
Viva la (Re)Vision!
Visit from Mike
30.12.2020 - New Diary Entry
Oliver first persuaded me to use Discord again as part of the project in order to organise the work through it. For the last few months I had organised it via Signal and email and rejected Discord (fundamental privacy considerations, which usually fail because the contacts don't even want to encrypt their emails...).
Now we had all these new team members. Discord was helpful, my stubbornness was not. Oliver was right. Sometimes he has to make a little effort, to move me to a decision, while being reluctant at first, that I find right afterwards too.
I thought that, while I would prefer a free alternative, I can still live with Discord and use it as part of the project as long as there is no better one. And since there was still nothing going on in the forum and the work on Discord was going so well, I even suggested opening a public channel myself.
"I'm not against it in principle," was said. Said and done.
We have long wondered where all the people are, who still dream of the old vision of Gothic. We had the impression that there was hardly anyone in the German community who was still interested in the radical ideas of “the” Alpha. Suddenly they all came together here. Not many. But a hard core of those interested. Even a few people who referred to themselves as 'fans' of the project because of our updates. I couldn't hope for more in this early stage of development. Especially since we haven't done any press work yet.
One day after the channel opened, there was another gift: Mike Hoge, the spiritual father of GOTHIC, joined us on our channel. His nickname: Adanos (one of the gods in the GOTHIC universe).
The days before I had discussed with Oliver. Should we really call the project PHOENIX? He had grown fond of our working title NYX. Me too. I chose it two years or so ago, designed a logo for it - which we still use as a symbol. And I was just about to get the domain nyxthegame.com when I saw that there was already a game of the same name under it. 'Coincidentally' it says:
'Nyx - The Awakening'. Their promotion text says:
Welcome to the nightmare.
You find yourself in a North American town in the ‘80s — NYX, the ancient goddess of night, has captured yet another mortal soul to play her torturous mind games. [...]
NYX: The Awakening is a blast of 80’s retro nostalgia — immerse yourself in the music, the world and discover all the tributes to pop-culture classics of that neon decade!
Whatever it is: Props to the developers. ;)
I had to find something else and phoenixthegame was available. After the publication of Mike's first Gothic pitch, which still had the working title Phoenix and the availability of the domain as an additional sign, it was clear to me that this was the right decision. I created the first draft of our Phoenix logo, based on the old Gothic logo, with GIMP during a boring class at school.
I was sure that under this name we would be much more likely to attract the attention of the founders and other former developers of GOTHIC.
Tom Putzki had contacted us already after the release of version 0.5 of our archive to contribute material. So they still have at least a peripheral interest in their old baby. Gothic lives. Even after 20 years.
I took the opportunity and briefly introduced Mike to Phoenix Tales, our Gothic Archive and the project. Since Mike had given a few glimpses of his old design documents on Gothic in a livestream with KaiRo (Kai Rosenkranz, the composer of the music of GOTHIC), which he keeps in thick folders, various attempts in vain had been made, to get him to digitise these concepts. He was open about it, but of time he has to little and of docs he has too muchy. He couldn't do it himself. So I offered to digitise them for him for GOTHIC's 20th anniversary. And he agreed.
I would visit him next month and save his design concepts for posterity: as part of game history for our archive, as invaluable designs for our game and as a gift for the community.
A lot has happened in the last year. The rescue of the two pre-alpha versions, the vertical slice and the press demo 0.64b. Many of the last mysterious details of the old story could be solved together (Mike would confirm most of them to me later).
And now, on the last day of the year, in our new channel, in the melting pot of the freaks, they managed to get the original Gothic multiplayer working in the pre-alpha demo 0.56c.
After more than 20 years, two players connected in the LAN via Hamachi and ran through the old test level together. They were beside themselves. Who would understand this enthusiasm? There they sat, about half a dozen guys, connected by Gothic, in Germany, Poland, Austria, Russia, the Czech Republic and the Ukraine, and were as happy as little children about the successful experiment.
Gothic inspires. Even after 20 years.
Visit to Mike
New Diary Entry
01.01.2021 - A meeting with Mike Hoge... A big deal when you devote your free time to a 20-year-old game that he himself designed. And the first drafts of it are in those same folders! Entrusting them to us is a great gift. So I suggested we should give Mike something as well.
29.01.2021 - The meeting is supposed to take place today.
11 o'clock. The journey begins and I had too much coffee. Structuring the questions for Mike with shivering hands - there they are again. I'm not used to the caffeine.
15 o'clock. I am a little bit nervous. But at least my Thinkpad is prepared.
The journey takes me past the vineyards, castles and palaces along the golden Rhine.
There was an announcement:
“We're NOT stopping in Essen today! I repeat: We are NOT stopping in Essen today!"
5 seconds later: “We will stop in Essen today!”
Lucky. Everything will be fine.
30.01.2021 - Mike Meeting
Yesterday at 4:30 pm I arrived in Bochum. At 5 p.m. I was at Mike's door.
I had until 9:30 p.m. Then I had to get my train back.
At first it was a bit surreal to sit in Mike Hoge's living room and see him pacing up and down while he was on the phone with Sascha Henrichs.
He showed me his shelf, on which he had put all the Gothic stuff that he could find while preparing to move. Not as much as some might think. He doesn't have a single edition of Gothic 3, remembering the project with regret. Not a single cardboard box from Gothic 1, just the CDs. There was a poster for Risen on the shelf. "Nobody cares, I'll throw it away."
He's obviously not a collector, nor am I.
But I didn't come because of such physical goodies, I was there for the designs. Little by little we carried the three folders and some CDs to the table. Then we went through one at a time to decide what I would take with me and what not.
As I said, in view of the fact that I had received these valuable gifts, I had brought some to Mike myself. Avallach had suggested that we let someone forge a sword for him. Just imagine I showed up with Uriziel. That would have been a gift... But of money we have too litte and of ideas we have too much. ;)
Instead, I brought him a copy of the latest version of our Gothic Archive, the two pre-alpha demos that were saved not long ago - he was very happy about them - and another demo from an Alpha inspired modification from Ukraine that the creator asked me to give Mike.
After we had clarified what he would give me, I initiated a small, amateurish interview with our questions and those from the community that I had prepared. Well, it wasn't that small. It was about 80 minutes and typing it probably took twice as long. We left out some passages. It should be about Gothic, not about past conflicts.
We weren't able to solve all of the questions. Some I forgot to ask, some he couldn't answer, for some there was no more time - and some I should have left out - sorry Mike, always these freaks... ;) He also told me that he would have visitors that evening, so I hurried with the questions.
The visit were two friends, about my age. They met Mike to play cards. The game is called “Tichu”. Allegedly it comes from China, according to Mike just a marketing gag. It is played with four players, so I joined in.
Mike explained the rules to me. It seemed very complex and I can't say I got it. It only became clearer while playing. Anyway, there is a dog, a dragon and... a phoenix! Also called Nexus. I'm not going to try to explain to you what he's doing; you can find out for yourself (or try to). I had it once and wasted it while Mike dropped bomb after bomb. We heard Billy Talent. I was on a team with Mike and we won. But Mike's been playing it since... you guess? For 20 years.
So much personal notes be allowed: Mike is cool, the opposite of aloof. He is authentic and direct and made it easy for me to feel good and not be too nervous. He provided me with enough coffee to make the long journey home I was facing. And so that I didn't have to carry the files to the train station for half an hour, he took me there.
I was asked to take a picture with him. I forgot... sorry. Maybe next time.
At 10 p.m. the journey back.
New Diary Entry:
Meet Mike, the Mastermind
In Hagen I had to wait for a train that was 80 minutes late…
It got cold and I took the opportunity to do a few handstands at midnight.
Acrobatics has been on hold since Corona. The circus, the sport - on the ground, all the shows, the World Championship - canceled, the dreams of many acrobats - destroyed. Just like my dream... A shock in the dark. A temple in ruins. But the fire is still burning. And as long as it burns, the phoenix can rise again. Like the gothic phoenix.
When I was finally on the train, I looked at the documents and was able to tell the community about the meeting. With cold, shivering hands I unpacked the folders and looked for the first time at the treasures I had with me.
The design concepts
31.01.2021 - New Diary Entry
Rumor has it that Piranha Bytes wanted to throw these old folders in the trash. A burden of the past, so to speak. Mike prevented that, thanks to Adanos. Now they are with me and I will take care that they're not lost.
Mike described them to me as scribbles of a crazy game designer. The man is humble. But for us they are the last puzzle of our years of investigation, "Alpha Research", as we call it. They also contain old drafts of levels and characters that (almost) no one has seen before. We will implement them in the game.
Here Mike has written, sketched and drawn his ideas for the game on almost 400 pages. There was a lot more, but much was lost over the years. There are also around 150 concept drawings by Ralf, some of which have never been published (e.g. for the Temple of the Sleeper) and some artwork by Vadim, who designed the monsters. In the third folder is a whole Gothic novella in which a friend of the developers wrote a story inspired by the early designs on 159 A4 pages.
But I do not want to go into the content of the documents at this point. At the end of this essay you can take a look at our first publication from it for yourself. :)
On the way back I changed trains four times and had to stay up all night. Not only because the return trip took the whole night, of course I also had to be attentive of the bandits who might be after the artifacts.
“I am still very alarmed though, watching out for bandits.
Quentin is always lurking around the corner.“ [04:38 AM]
About 19 years ago I saw my cousin play Gothic for the first time. Fun fact: The same cousin who played Gothic at the time, who initiated me into computer games - Gothic as well as Max Payne, Alice and Stalker and so most of the titles that influence me and our project today - he gave me his scanner now to digitise the Design documents.
Strange how one thing leads to another. If I hadn't seen him play this game 20 years ago, I would never have played it. If Issues hadn't dealt with the Alpha and worked on its Anniversary Edition (back then for the 15th anniversary), I would never have had the idea of starting such a project, and Phoenix Tales and the archive would never have been created either. That, in turn, would not be as big as it is if it weren't for the years of detailed work by odin68 in his chronology.
On the other hand, we didn't know half as much about the cut content that we are restoring in Phoenix - and that inspired our vision of even more consistent immersion through visualisation that we had to digest ourselves before we were convinced that we really would do it that way - as we know today, if Dmitriy, Vaana and others wouldn't have undertaken so much effort for the alpha versions.
My design in turn inspired Oliver and others who have been helping to shape it since. If he hadn't urged me to use Discord again, I wouldn't have done that either. Mike would not have been on the channel if he had not been made aware of it at the right moment.
So all these small events and the influence of numerous people from different parts of the world led to this moment: That we now hold these documents in our hands. A network of influences, too complex to understand them all. Thanks to Mike and thanks to everyone whose mutual influence made this possible.
The journey home began at 10 p.m. I was home at 8 a.m. the next morning.
When I got to my hometown, it was light again.
A strange feeling to have gone so light and come back so heavy.
At the beginning I wrote that I lost 10 kilograms. I weighed the material at home. My bag weighed 10 kg... Here I have it again.
Sweet sleep, bitter dreams ... Gothic may be alive, but asleep. At the bottom where it all began: the vision. Our reboot will wake it up: Phoenix is a reawakening of that old vision. Back when Gothic was a little different. Long live Gothic for the 20th anniversary.
01.02.2021 - New Diary Entry
With the help of Avallach I tried for several hours to get the shitty scanner to work under Linux. We have come to the conclusion that I should try installing Windows XP on my X220. But that didn't work either. Coreboot was flashed on the BIOS to get rid of the proprietary firmware. And of course, Coreboot didn't want Windows to boot. Right it is.
02.02.2021 - New Diary Entry
I finally found a solution: I scan with the
smart phone. No Windows needed. The design documents see the light of the digital world for the first time on Graphene.
The scanning software is strange. Scanned documents are initially only saved internally in the app; then they can be released and sent. So the process looks like this: From my smartphone I instruct the scanner to scan the documents. One side at a time. Then I'll send it to Signal. With Signal-Desktop they end up on my computer and so in the archive. Why easy, when it can be done complicated...
18.02.2021 - New Diary Entry
I scanned the documents in the best quality available to me, but I still had to manually rework each individual page, for example to cover the holes in which the pages were stapled or to adjust the contrast of heavily faded pages.
Since the documents were barely organised, I had to develop a structure. I have separated more elaborate concept drawings from simple sketches. And I cut out some of the gems on pages full of scribbles that Mike is reluctant to publish so that I could publish them. Among them for example this first draft of the logo.
There was some kind of structure in the folder with the records by means of yellow, labeled stripes. I also scanned them to make cover sheets for my structure. It was my goal to do justice to the design and present it in a reasonably appealing way. I hope I succeeded and I hope some people will enjoy it. Our Gothic Archive will grow by about 1 GB.
03.02.2021 - New Diary Entry
8 a.m. I should have written an exam. Of course, I had learned nothing. I wondered if I should go, could read someone's summary on the train ride. Will be enough, I thought. But when I got to the bus stop, I realised that I had forgotten my wallet. So back again.
Now I would have been late anyway and I didn't have to go any more. So I wanted to use the day to scan more documents when suddenly Tom Putzki came into our channel. So we got in touch again.
Oh and by the way: Tom uses Signal and you still don't have it! It's time to swear off the old gods, fuck facebook, WhatsApp and the like. The Sleeper will destroy them and bring us freedom! ;)
In any case, I was able to organise another interview with him for the anniversary and he sent us further material for the archive. Seldom have I been so happy to have forgotten my wallet.
Now not only Gothic Alpha fans from all over the world, but also more and more Gothic developers are gathered in our channel. We hope there will be a few more, even if not all of them are still as connected to the game as Mike and Tom. But the motivation that I would have been happy about at Christmas - there it is. Thanks to all of our supporters who motivate us in the channel.
What we are doing here
Gothic was born on the premise that the design of the games of the time had fundamental problems that they wanted to solve. They didn't just want to join the success concept of other games of their time (even if there was a lot of inspiration in terms of game mechanics), but to deviate. Because they were convinced of their own ideas that they couldn't find elsewhere. Their vision was not only driven by the idea of doing something of their own, but of doing something different. The principle was: Other games suck, we make our own.
Just as our work on Phoenix is motivated by the two circumstances that on the one hand Gothic itself could not achieve what it had previously promised, and on the other hand, for 20 years now, no other game would have offered something that the original vision of Gothic with its radical immersion would have even come close to. I would never have started the project if there had been something like it, if it weren't for the need for someone to do it. We do the work because nobody else does it:
"The rescue of design". Does the title mean saving Mike's design documents? Does he mean saving a vision of a game as it was once conceived? Or - quite presumptuously - the rescue of game design in itself?
Games are now being produced as if on an assembly line. Most of them are no longer worth mentioning. They are arbitrary, meaningless pastimes, without attention to detail. We try to tell a drama with meaning, with profound implications. We want to make a game that points beyond itself. Art is not made in factories; it cannot be industrialised, it is not produced in the so-called "game industry". It is full of artists, no doubt, but their art is constantly being corrupted by the industrial context: time pressure, market research, monetisation etc.
Wherever there is art, it does not exist because of the industrial context in which it arises, but in spite of it. And the most valuable games of the last 20 years, the most loving, detailed and uncompromising ones, were not made in the big game studios, but in small manufacturies, in indie studios, sometimes by individuals. In my opinion, this is where the center of art has shifted towards.
It shifts to where you give art a space.
Total Chaos, Dusk, various STALKER mods, they define atmosphere and art design. Titles as Fran Bow and Hellblade tell stories with meaning - and help people.
In comparison, there is not so much money involved in these works, but all the more content, artistic substance. There may be cases where both come together. They are the exception, not the rule. In GOTHIC this potential for a work of art is laid out. Maybe they didn't quite do themselves justice. But they created something that is timeless. The four founders responsible for GOTHIC were idealists. And this you still can feel today.
In the game industry, just like in the movie industry, billions are wasted in undemanding blockbusters just so that a project like Joker (played by Mr. Phoenix;)) comes around the corner to make huge profits on a comparatively tiny budget. Who would have thought that there is a market for something with demand.
No project will save the game design we are bothered about; to do this you would have to change something about the economic conditions under which it is created; while we stay beyond it, beyond the market, by not selling the game but giving it away. But at least a game design we can save, by realising the old idea of GOTHIC, which we consider to be the best - potential - game in the world.
That's what we do. We are trying to bear testimony to something that is lost in the face of a craft trapped in the ideology of growth and degraded from art into an 'industry': love. We try to make a loving game whose vision is not corrupted by time, money or any compromise, beyond the realm of necessity. For the sake of love of the idea, we are trying to reignite this phoenix from the ashes of the industry, to let it rise again. By hand.
And be it shivering hands, like mine.
Florian aka flosha
15. March 2021
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