A Tale of Betrayal Rani Hasan explains the details behind A Tale of Betrayal
Date of interview: 25.08.2005.
Interview with: Rani Hasan
Interview by: A.J. Raffles (via email)
Interview about: A Tale of Betrayal

1. Do you have slightly sadistic tendencies, or is it just the hero of your game who has a thing for sticking needles into people?

Sadistic :) Oh no, I couldn't harm a fly, that's in real life of course, but why not in a computer game. After all, I do consider games as my best choice for escaping the harsh realities of the world whether when creating or playing them. Furthermore, at the time I was creating that part of the game, Shingle resembled all the bad things in my life. And sticking needles into that sorry lad was my way of getting even :)

2. 'A Tale of Betrayal' was the first game you made, wasn't it? Why did you choose AGS to make it?

'A Tale of Betrayal' was, actually, my first in many categories; besides being my first 'adventure' game, it was my first time drawing a game sprite, my first time creating an animation and my first time writing a script. I'm glad it turned out to be the way it did, although if I had more time it would have turned out completely different. One factor that strongly affected the game was that the whole game, including learning how to use AGS, the story, graphics, animations and scripting, was created in 10 days, approximately 3 hours a day.

As for why I chose AGS, after extensive research I found out that AGS is the best choice for creating a classic adventure game; it is so well coded, robust, reusable, extremely easy to use, scalable, and supports almost everything 2D adventure game creators need. Chris Jones deserves all the credit for AGS, he is just amazing.

3. Why did you start writing computer games? Out of boredom?

Out of interest is more like it, and that is interest in both programming and its application toward visual output; I wrote my first non-adventure game at the age of eleven, it was a replicate of Snake. Mini-games, and graphical demos followed, using Turbo Pascal back then. In 1999 the hype of 3D accelerated graphics got to me, so I learned OpenGL, and developed a 3D Pacman, Tanks of Despair and Mission Eagle Eyes. All were demonstrations of the techniques that I was learning, such as smart path finding, steering behaviors and artificial intelligence. Finally, in 2001, I created my graduation project, which, simply put, was a mix of the Sims game, in terms of social and character development based on needs and environment, and Peter Molyneuxs' Black and White in terms of the visual presentation of the society, its needs, and the inter-actions among members of that society. The project title was 3D Real Time Visual Simulation for a Prototype of a Human Society.

After I graduated from school, I got so involved in my full-time work as an IT Specialist for Peace Corps in Jordan. My part-time job as a C++ and JAVA instructor, and my other full-time job as a finance'/husband :) which consumed all of my time. For two years it kept me away from practicing the game programming hobby of mine, except when I wrote and lectured a 60 hours syllabus course in game programming and design.

In 2002 my passion for adventure games thrived, due to the shocking news about adventure games genre dying. I wanted to contribute, and so I did. For quite some time I worked as a scripter (programmer) in the Quest For More Glory fan-game, as a programmer for King's Quest 9 fan-based project, and as a programmer for the Space Quest 7 fan-based project. I also wrote articles for the adventure games e-zine 'The Inventory', and finally I created an Arabic font for AGS which was so rewarding that it even got my name listed into AGDI's King's Quest I remake readme file :)

4. What was the initial spark of 'A Tale of Betrayal'? Was it the story itself or was it some bit of the graphics? (My personal guess would be it was Ali's baggy trousers, by the way.)

Having been so involved in the adventure games scene gave me a push forward into making a game of my own. The spark was the Monthly AGS Competition, MAGS for short, in which competitors have to make a game from scratch in a month, following specific rules and themes. The theme of the September competition was Fantasy, something I always adored, and so I knew it was the time to make my game. Betrayal was something I personally experienced at that time of my life, and so driven by my passion and my anger, I spent all the time I could spare between my three jobs to create that game. Ali's baggy trousers though were the spark for the graphics, since I have never drew or animated a sprite, the trousers provided a hide out for the detailed animations of the lower body part which I could never have accomplished in such short window of time.

5. Am I correct in assuming you were slightly miffed at Lucas Arts when you wrote this game? Then why did you thank them in the credits?

Slightly miffed! No. Enormously miffed describes my feelings better; having cancelled two sequels of my favorite adventure games, Full Throttle and Sam N' Max, and being so insouciant about the franchise and the genre that -in my humble opinion- helped them mount on the throne they now accede. It made me, along with millions of adventure gamers, feel betrayed which consequently reflected in the game at some point. However, one can't but honor the 'old' Lucas Arts, the company which we all loved and which I thanked in the credits along with Ken Williams' Sierra.

6. The other AGS game you've made, 'A Tale from the Zoo', is another very short game (I liked the graphics, though - although I never could manage to escape from that cage, so maybe it's not so short after all). Are you planning on making a full length adventure sometime?

A Tale from the Zoo was actually short, consisting of three rooms. I created it to test the capabilities of AGS at 'High Resolution', and also to familiarize myself more with adventure games development. As for my future plans, I've created and designed a story for a full length game, and had an artist do some commissioned artwork; including the main character. The game will be of full length and will feature rich environments, thrilling story and lots of puzzles targeted towards mature and smart audience.

7. Both of your games have more of a light theme. Could you imagine making a more "serious" sort of game, or would you say humor is essential for you?

Unlike my two 'light' games, my next game will feature a 'serious' theme. However, I believe that humor is essential to adventure games, as it keeps players attached, and so 'dark humor' was integrated into both the story and the puzzles.

8. A story-related question: how old is Ali? He looks a bit young to be captain of a ship, if I may say so (not to mention his being on such chummy terms with the Sultan...).

Ali is 29, however, he was cursed into the body of 16 years old kid after a misfortunate encounter with The Lady of The Burning Undergrounds. In the prequel, which I hope to find the time to develop, Ali will be faced with the hardest challenges, the most bizarre adventures, and will be cursed into the form we know him by now. A sequel also has been partially designed, in which Ali is assigned the mission of confronting the Evil One Of The North and lifting his age curse.

9. It's been a while since you wrote 'A Tale of Betrayal'. If you were to write a remake now, what would you want to change about it?

Such list of changes could go on forever! For a start, in the remake, I would make sure I have the time to integrate the different paths Ali could take in order to save his kingdom. Three were designed, but only one was actually put into the game. The introduction and the end could have been much better if there was more than 10 days to develop and publish the game, and an easy and hard mode would be added to spare some players the trouble they had trying to solve the barrel puzzle. And of course the graphics, animations and script would surely by revised and improved.

However, if I had the time to make a remake, I'd rather invest it in the prequel, the sequel, or a whole new game. Personally I prefer playing a new game rather than a re-make; unless it's AGDI's re-make of one of Sierra's EGA games :)

10. Finally, a question which has been bugging me all along: What is it about that undiggable grave?

There is quite an interesting mishap that led to having some undiggable graves, among which is the one that bugged you all along.

The final two rooms of the game -ACT 3- were designed, drawn, scripted and programmed in the last two days of the making; I was putting more time into the game creation at that time, working 6 hours a day. This left me with 12 hours only to create everything ACT 3 related. Graphics were created, story was designed and puzzles were integrated into the story, unfortunately, as I was cleaning up the code and fixing a few remaining bugs, the whole script for the last room was deleted by mistake, and that in terms of time would translate into more than 8 hours. To make things even worse, I only had 3 hours to re-write what initially took me 6 hours, which I did â?Š only after sacrificing some of the content.

So, to put up with your question I â??shamefully- admit that leaving a grave or two undiggable was the least of my concerns :) However, I recently have re-played the game, and noticed how the final scene lacked a lot of interactions, most I had to sacrifice during the script code deletion mishap. One in particular that bugged me, as a player, was interact-acting with the Mermaid yielded no interaction ;)

11. One more question: I understand there was quite a lot of response to 'A Tale of Betrayal'. Did the amount of recognition you got for it surprise you initially?

Of course it did! Not in my wildest dreams I imagined having my first small game being reviewed in English, German and Czech websites, as well as having walkthroughs written in the aforementioned languages.

Besides that, it won the MAGS September competition , and was voted as one of the best four MAGS games in 2004. But the best recognition A Tale Of Betrayal has got was when Greg a.k.a Geoffkhan the co-creator of the award winning series Apprentice said, and I'm quoting, "it's a must-play". I only hope my next full-length game would gain such highly encouraging recognition.


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