As I’ve written before , I’ve been following the troubled indie adventure game The Silver Lining for quite a while. The game has had a rocky development and the project itself died, twice, each time after the King’s Quest intellectual property changed ownership. Thanks to a fervent effort from fans and wide-spread media attention, Phoenix Online Studios was finally granted permission (again) to go ahead and release their work to salivating King’s Quest aficionados like myself.
This past weekend, Part One (out of five) of The Silver Lining was released for free. I downloaded it immediately, gathered an unhealthy supply of soda and snacks, and prepared for an afternoon of being immersed in the game.
30 minutes later I had finished the game and sat there stunned, unsure of how to spend the rest of my day. After waiting so long, after so much turmoil, after so much hype once Phoenix Online Studios received the go ahead to continue their game, was this all there was for Part One? It was essentially a glorified trailer with little actual game play. A demo of The Silver Lining had been released a couple years ago and this was pretty much the same thing but cleaned up and filled out with cut-scenes.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Part One. Designed by a volunteer part-time staff, the game is beautiful. Character movement and scripting in the game is much more smooth than what I saw in the demo. The voice acting is hit-and-miss but mostly hit. At first I was thrown off by the sassy narrator but I think she picks up the King’s Quest tradition of a playful narrator very well. Some exposition in the game is lengthy, but I’d rather be given a lot of details about the game’s world than not enough. All of these things left me wanting to play more The Silver Lining, which any good episodic video game release should do, but there simply wasn’t enough in the first place.
Frustrated, I dared to go somewhere I normally abhor: I went to the game’s official internet forum. I wanted to know if other people were having the same experience, if I was being unreasonable, and if there was some explanation for Part One’s brevity.
Sure enough, I immediately came across people who had written posts summarizing what I was feeling about the game. In response to these people’s complaints was a post from project director/designer César Bittar, “There were 2 chapters we were working on. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Chapter 1 was meant as a long winded introduction that was meant to welcome you back to the world of King’s Quest and just get you completely set up. Chapter 2 throws all the gameplay and puzzles at you.
When we decided to break Chapter 1 and 2 into episodes, Chapter 1 naturally became Episode 1. Extending it towards sections of what is Episode 2 didn’t feel right, so we made the call to make it its own episode. There was talks at the time of making it “longer” with more puzzles, etc, but if we did that, we probably wouldn’t be releasing today.”
It’s nice to see a response from Phoenix Online Studios as they aren’t really obligated to say anything, but even so, Mr. Bittar’s post brought new questions into my mind. Why was it deemed necessary to split Chapter 1 and 2 into two releases in the first place?
The first time Phoenix Online Studios were kept from continuing their work was when Vivendi Universal owned the King’s Quest name. After Vivendi lifted their cease-and-desist demand all was in the clear until years later when the new owners of the property, Activision, stopped the game’s development again. Was Phoenix Online Studios trying to rush something out as soon as possible after Activision also relented on their cease-and-desist actions? It would make sense to hurry the release before some other roadblock manifested.
It’s all conjecture on my part and I’m really just trying to assuage my disappointment in Part One. My complaints aside, The Silver Lining is still a free game and from what I’ve seen so far, well done. I’ve waited a long time for this game to even be allowed to be released so I’ll be a little more patient. You should go out and play the game yourself. I’m very excited for Part Two (release date unannounced) and will have soda and snacks at the ready.