In Focus: Interview with Producer Andrew Nelson
Apologies for the huge delay in between posts. I am still here, it’s just the fan blog has taken a bit of a back seat over the past year due to moving house and the birth of my baby. So in the meantime I took some time and managed to interview TAOOT’s producer, Andrew Nelson. Enjoy!
Q. As producer, what did your job involve?
A. I conceived the idea for TAOOT from a comment my sister-in-law made to me. Debi Lambert told me she would love to play a computer game but didn’t have the time to invest in a longer story. On the plane back from New York I read that it took about 2:20 hours for the Titanic to sink and thought what if I made a game that was literally “a race against time” which is what we used in the subhead for our title. Next was convincing the team to think about doing a story around it. That, I thought, would be difficult as we were doing sci-fi so I pitched the Titanic as some sort of Steam Punk star ship suspended in a vast void (The North Atlantic). I guess I did a good job of selling it, because everyone grew enthused. Remember, this was at the very beginning of graphical adventure games. We would be the first people to build the Titanic in “digital dry dock.” Then I spent a lot of the summer writing Titanic in New York City in a loft in SoHo. I came back to CyberFlix with a completed script.
Q. I read that you were also involved in casting. Do you have personal favourites when it comes to the characters?
A. My favorite characters are Penny Pringle, the Steward Smethells, and, of course, Buick Riviera. Buick was played by our marketing director Rand Cabus, a wonderful guy with a lot of effusive energy. Buick was a character I came up with for our earlier game DUST — we liked him so much we put him on the Titanic, a little bit older but no more wiser and a lot more devious!
Q. From the credits it states that you were responsible for writing the game, along with a few additional writers. Is there any part of the story you are particularly proud of?
A. I liked the various outcomes – thinking about alternate futures and what would happen had Adolph Hitler been celebrated as a painter and not rejected as one might have changed the world in all sorts of ways so that was fun to imagine.
Q. Do you stay in touch with anybody from the Cyberflix team?
A. Yes, I see them on Facebook! Bob Clouse, Jamie Wicks, Rob Dean and Alan Mazzan are prospering designers. We’re all scattered. Rand is in Atlanta. Michael Gillmore is on the West Coast. Scott’s still in Knoxville. A bunch of real talented guys — and gals. Ani Chang and Blue Dean among them! They were the heart and soul of CyberFlix and I think the world of them!
Q. Looking back on the game – is there anything you would change about it?
A. I don’t know. I never think about that. It was such a labor of love and enthusiasm for what adventure games could be. I would just make another Titanic game and make it even more submersive!
There are a few rumours flying around the net about the game, so I was hoping you could you dispel a few myths for us…
Q. An old wikipedia article about the game talked about audio that was excluded from the game. Apparently if you open some of the pup files on the CD in notepad the missing text can be viewed. Is this true? Was some audio excluded? If so, why remove it?
A. What you are reading is the original script. When recording, because of time constraints and limitations with budget, we opted to cut some of the dialogue. (Just as you would in a film) So what’s in the pup files remains the original script. I don’t think anyone quite realized it at the time, but golly, how fun to have as an artifact in your game. It’s sort of like an Easter Egg!
Q. Is it true that in the German version Adolf Hitler is not mentioned as any reference to Nazism would violate censorship laws in Germany? Again, this is sourced from wikipedia.
A. That is very true. I recall that in the localization efforts, we had to omit references to Hitler. That was a difficulty to achieve as that was a central part of the game. I can’t remember which parts were particularly irksome to the German censors, but I do remember we made some complicated maneuvers to fulfill the requests of the censors.
Q. One question I always get asked is who owns the rights to the game at present?
A. I don’t know. I’ve not kept track, but somebody certainly does have those rights.
Q. What are you doing now? Are you still producing games?
A. No, I no longer produce games, but am still involved in them in some way — I teach Mass Communication as a visiting professor at Loyola University New Orleans. I’ve got a big framed picture of Titanic in my office, and some of my students are amazed to remember a game they played in their childhood was written by the guy at the desk across from them! We are looking at starting a gaming minor at the school so the Titanic might be fun to teach!
I also asked a few people on facebook what they would like to ask you. So I’ll add their questions here:
Q. Sandy asked whether or not you have tried to beat the game.
A. I have, and I did!
Q. Various users asked about the possibility of a sequel, an ipad version or a remastered edition of the game. Is there anything there that you would consider doing or have considered?
A. Unfortunately the rights to Adventure Out of Time do not belong to me, nor even, I am told, to Bill Appleton, the programmer who developed DreamFactory. Time and technological advance has passed TAOOT by since. Since the Titanic is a historic event there’s no copyright on developing another storyline or purchasing the rights from whomever owns the copyright so that Penny Pringle can sail again.
Q. Just for fun, if Titanic – Adventure Out of Time were ever to be made into a film, which Hollywood stars could you see playing the characters?
A. The one casting decision I am sure of — Leonardo Di Caprio in the role of Buick Riviera!
A big thank you to Andrew Nelson for taking the time to answer questions.