Black Forest Games speaks to NES about Project Giana

After deciding to help support Project Giana’s Kickstarter, NotEnoughShaders was fortunate enough to speak with Black Forest Games about their modern revival of the Great Giana Sisters. Since Kickstarter hit it big, there have been endless waves of game proposals attempting to find alternative avenues for funding. Only a handful have looked as promising as Project Giana, a game that has already made substantial developmental progress. Project Giana looks gorgeous, but more importantly, it looks like a blast to play. Make sure you check out Black Forest Games’ kickstarter page for Project Giana after the interview and please consider donating towards the project’s completion. You can also talk about Project Giana here in our forum.

This interview was conducted with:

  • Andreas Speer, Managing Director
  • Adrian Goersch, Managing Director
  • Jean-Marc Haessig, Creative Director
  • Vladimir Ignatov, Senior Producer

The first thing I’d like to ask is how long has Black Forest Games interested in rebooting The Great Giana Sisters? How long has Project Giana been in development?

Vladimir Ignatov: We’ve been working on the project for almost a year now. Jean-Marc, our creative director, had the initial idea to do something more with Giana, to do more than a simple reboot. For him it all came down to the question on how to bring a 25 years old classic to the present. What he didn’t want to do is to simply upgrade the graphics. That would have been the simplest approach, but one that wouldn’t do Giana any justice. His idea was to improve every aspect of the game: from graphics to sound to gameplay. So he thought about what the most defining feature in Giana Sisters was. What made the game so great? He realized that it was the transformation of Giana: to change from a nice girl into the tough as nail punk Giana. So he told the team about his morphing ideas and from that moment on everyone was excited by the possibilities and the challenge of this idea.

What’s the story behind Black Forest Games and the original Giana Sisters game? How did your team get involved with the franchise?

The Great Giana Sisters (DS)

Andreas Speer: The Great Giana Sisters IP belonged to Spellbound, the company of the Giana creator Armin Gessert. The last title of the franchise released by Spellbound has been Giana Sisters DS. Early 2012, Spellbound filed for insolvency due to a last-minute-failed investment round. The management and the team decided to continue as Black Forest Games and took over all the Spellbound assets including the IPs.



It looks as though a substantial amount of work has already been done on the title. How close would you say the game is to completion?

Vladimir Ignatov: The games’ current status is that we have finished the first levels, one of the bosses with good progress on another one, we’ve got almost enough interactable objects to unleash level design creativity and provide a decent variety of challenges and a few enemies. We think that we will need around two months’ worth of development time for the basic version. Three to really finish it the way we envisioned it, with even more objects, enemies and levels that we planned for the basic version. The actual time depends on how much capacity we can throw at the project and that is currently strongly related to the success of our campaign on Kickstarter.

So who are the Giana Sisters? Can you tell us a little more about the protagonists for those unfamiliar with the characters?

Through the legacy of the previous Giana games, we tried to emphasize that aspect, symbolizing the transformation of a teenager as she comes of age. This stage in life is all about the inner conflict of rage and self-confidence.

Jean-Marc Haessig: In the original game, the Giana Sisters are two girls who found themselves being trapped inside a nightmare. In order to get out of there, they needed to find the giant diamond. But only when the Amiga version was released were you actually were able to play Maria. Until then she remained as a background character. In the C64 version it was all about Giana being able to transform into a punk version of her. In Project Giana, we decided to focus on Giana. That’s also the reason why we don’t call it “The Great Giana Sisters” – because it was always confusing.

Now Giana is a teenage girl who is again trapped in a twisted dream. Because she is in a stage of her life that is all about transformation she learned how to manipulate her dreams. Through the legacy of the previous Giana games, we tried to emphasize that aspect, symbolizing the transformation of a teenager as she comes of age. This stage in life is all about the inner conflict of rage and self-confidence.

The screens and footage you’ve released thus far look fantastic. Can you tell us about the proposed setting for this game? What kind of world does Giana inhabit?

Jean-Marc Haessig: Giana has to go through a haunting dream that tries to keep her in her childhood, while she wants to grow up. On one hand, the dream tries to remind her how scared she was from monsters lurking in the darkness. On the other hand, the dream overwhelms her with candies and plushies in the bright princess world she used to love so much. But being in the process of growing up the former amuses her and she lightly jumps and twirls over her demons. The latter, however, drives her mad. Again because she is growing up and wants to leave that kind of childish stuff behind her.

Jean-Marc Haessig: The setting and the characters are based on the original Giana Sisters. But we have designed the levels from ground up to support the twist and provide a fresh experience. Giana doesn’t behave the same way in the two worlds. While the basic movements are the same, the cool side of Giana has the ability to twirl in order to float over big gaps. The wild side of Giana furiously dashes through stuff or bounces on walls. These two abilities will be challenged in lots of manners. There are places where using one or the other ability is the key to progress in order to defeat traps, monsters or simply defy gravity. We played around with lots of ideas in order to provide refreshing situations and combinations; a kind of puzzling that doesn’t require days of thinking, but a good usage of previously learned tricks.

What made Black Forest Games turn to crowd-funding for Project Giana?

Adrian Goersch: Crowd-funding the project was the logical next step after talks with several publishers weren’t as fruitful as we thought they would be. It’s an opportunity for us not only to raise the money we need to finish the game, but also to see how the whole project would be received by gamers around the world.

Most people are unaware of the pitfalls associated with working with big publishers. Do you feel the developer-publisher model is in need of change?

Adrian Goersch: It is actually already in the process of changing. The classic publisher-role used to encompass financing, marketing and distribution. The distribution part will change for sure, driven by the markets themselves. Whereas the financing will change with publishers trying to reduce their financial risk by asking developers to come up with a finished prototype, by making contracts only up to vertical slice with options on their side to proceed and so on. This forces developers, being driven by the publisher’s reluctance, to find alternative forms of financing. The last remaining part is marketing, where the main advantage lies in enormous amount of added value they can provide if they keep up with the pace of change in the industry.

Their challenge is to structure their market: To make it easy for customers to find the games they want to play and to create an area where indies can present their games.

You’ve recently announced that an Ouya version of Project Giana may be possible if you hit one of your stretch goals. How do you think Ouya will impact the indie development scene when it debuts?

Vladimir Ignatov: The question is more how it impacts the first-parties and the other platform holders. We believe that it may force them to be more open.  Ouya itself will be a great opportunity. Their challenge is to structure their market: To make it easy for customers to find the games they want to play and to create an area where indies can present their games. If they make it right, they will have lots of friends on gamer and indie developer side.

How long will a play-through of Project Giana take to complete from start to finish?

Vladimir Ignatov: That depends on several things: First of all on the outcome of our fund raiser on Kickstarter. If we meet our stretch goals, we will be able to create more content. Secondly on each individual player’s skills and whether or not he is the exploring type and wants to discover all the secrets we will implement.  We expect players to go through a level in 10 minutes on average if they look for all secrets, but the length of each level increases continuously. Our minimum goal is 16 levels and 3 bosses, so roughly 3 hours.

How much larger would the game become if Project Giana met its stretch goal for the “complete” version?

Vladimir Ignatov: While we guarantee 20 levels if we achieve $250,000 in funding, our ultimate goal is to create 24 levels divided in 4 sections with a boss fight at the end of each section. This should lead to something around 3-4 hours of game play time. Not counting the time attack and hard core mode if we reach the respective goals.

What other projects can we expect from Black Forest Games in the future? Do you see crowd-funding as a major part of Black Forest Games going forward?

Jean-Marc Haessig: This Kickstarter Campaign is an awesome experience for us. Sharing a project, getting feedback and knowing about the enthusiasm of players all over the world is just great! We have more game ideas in mind, but it will take some time to sort them out and be able to communicate properly about it, also regarding how the game industry will change in the near future.

We will be releasing our most anticipated project in 2013, which looks really cool by the way! We also never stopped working on concepts for Ravensdale, and we will drive the project forward in small steps. A large part of our heritage is our proven open-world-streaming technology, which we intend to enhance and develop further. You can rest assured that everything we release will have a great art style, state-of-the-art tech and game play and always something special.

Thank you again for agreeing to speak with us. All of us at NES hope Project Giana comes to fruition.

Readers can learn more about Project Giana on the official site and their Kickstarter page. You can also tweet about this article using the button to the left of the page and follow the project on its official twitter. Get involved and help make this game a reality!

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