Stefan Vogt is a Berlin-based writer and developer of interactive text adventures for 8 and 16-bit computer systems. He is also a member of Pond Software, a collective of eccentric game devs obsessed with the 1980’s who develop new titles for old systems like the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum and Atari and give them away for free.
Vogt came to our attention recently when we noticed people sharing pictures of a gorgeous new boxed edition of his debut science fiction game Hibernated 1: This Place is Death (published by Poly.Play). It was obvious that a lot of work, heart, and soul had gone into the game’s development because it had such a clear vision behind it and we wanted to learn more about Vogt and his work.
Inspired by the writing of Isaac Asimov and the German adventurer Perry Rhodan, Hibernated is the first part in planned trilogy of narrative games centered around main character Olivia Lund, an interplanetary explorer working for a future organization called Terran Alliance. In this first game, Lund wakes from 200 years in hypersleep to discover she’s been pulled onto an alien ship. Along with IO, a navigation robot, you will need to help her discover the ship’s mysteries and help her escape.
We got the chance to speak with Vogt briefly about Hibernated 1 and how he fell in love with the interactive fiction genre.
“Hibernated actually plays more like a dream of an 80s adventure. An idealized version if you want to think of it that way. “
The Story Fix: What inspired your love of text adventures?
Stefan Vogt: My passion for text adventures / interactive fiction dates back to the days of my youth. On a snowy Christmas in 1987, my parents bought me a Commodore 64. It was the system that introduced me to the wonderful work of Infocom and Level 9, an endless source of inspiration up to this day.
A good friend also had a ZX Spectrum, a machine that spawned one of the most vibrant adventure scenes ever. So adventures always played a major role in my life, and fortunately this never changed.
How long did it take to develop and release Hibernated?
SV: That’s not easy to answer, since a lot happened on paper before I
wrote a single line of code. From initial concept to the first version
on the Commodore 64 it probably took 6-7 months. Then it took another 2-3
months for porting the code to the other platforms (ZX Spectrum, CPC,
Amiga, Atari ST, DOS).
Do you play modern AAA games too, or stick mostly with retro titles and new games developed for old consoles?
SV: Yes, I actually do play AAA games. I especially like open world titles and RPGs, sometimes shooters. My favorite modern game was probably Witcher 3.
I also appreciate the efforts of smaller studios for transforming and adapting the classic concept of an adventure game to modern platforms; Life is Strange for example, or the wonderful adventures from Artifex Mundi.
But as much as I love modern gaming, I do enjoy sitting in front of my retro systems. I have quite an impressive man-cave with nearly every 8-bit and 16-bit computers system in hands-on mode. I buy many of the new titles for old machines and, of course, I like to play the old classics. Time has not been kind to all of the original games of the 80s. You remember things idealized and not all titles that were great back in the day are still enjoyable today.
Anyway, when I started developing Hibernated 1 I noticed that people actually don’t want to play an adventure that feels and plays exactly like an 80s counterpart. Modern gaming formed us all and we can’t deny that we became sort of casual gamers and also expect some concepts in games that were not common back in the day. Hibernated actually plays more like a dream of an 80s adventure. An idealized version if you want to think of it that way. You can’t die, the puzzles are not ultra-hard and very logical, you can save and load anytime and at no part of the game you actually have to
guess a verb.
I’m describing things here that were common back in the day, so I learned my lesson when creating a new adventure for an old system. But maybe that was the reason why the game already went pretty viral when it was only released digitally. Now that the wonderful boxed collectors edition is out via Poly.Play, it has the release it deserves and sales seem to reflect people’s appreciation for it.
Do you develop alone? If not, how big is your team?
SV: Hibernated was developed solely by me. I had an inner circle of supporters though that helped me testing the game and also gave me much advice, especially later when porting the system to other platforms.
I also had Tim Gilberts as a mentor, a vibrant personality and a legend of the 80s UK adventure scene. His outstanding support surely played a major role in reaching a certain level of quality for the game.
Even though I’ve been the only developer, I’m a member of Pond Software, a collective of wonderful individuals from all over the planet that is creating outstanding new games for classic 8-bit and 16-bit systems. The other members are Vanja Utne, Andreas Gustafsson, Anthony Stiller, Graham Axten, Craig Derbyshire, Tom Roger Skauen.
Pond has a great reputation in the scene and is responsible for some fine releases with Spaceman Splorf and The Bear Essentials being the big hits that everybody knows. Other people involved were Sebastian from Poly.Play (the publisher) and his staff that created the amazing box artwork and feelies for the physical release.
Graphics were done by our talented artist Vanja Utne and an external contributor Dylan Barry which is active as “rail_slave” in the scene.
What did you write/develop the game on?
SV: The game was developed with DAAD, a very sophisticated adventure system which I recovered with Tim Gilberts (its original creator) last year.
When is Hibernated 2 releasing?
SV: We are currently planning to release the game sometime in 2019. I’m
aiming for a release in the third quarter, but it all depends on how well
the development is going.
The plot is done already and now I’m designing the puzzles and other details. Nothing is coded yet, but that’s not uncommon. Usually 70% when creating an adventure happens on paper.
Thanks for your time, Stefan!
SV: No problem.