The company has provided us with authentic made in Spain jewels ranging from “Hollywood Monsters”, “Runaway”, “Yesterday” to “BlackSad.
Madrid, 1994. Once upon a time, there was a Spanish company that emerged with a clear purpose: to compete with the classic adventures of LucasArts. His beginnings date back to 1994, with the release of his debut feature Igor: Target Uikokahonia. This in fact, would be just the beginning of everything. Pendulo Studios has given us authentic jewels made in Spain from “Hollywood Monsters”, “Runaway”, “Yesterday” to “BlackSad”. An unstoppable study of pure survival, which is today the longest running Spanish study in the industry. Today at Meristation, we revisit the queen of adventure games that is no more and no less than 26 years old.
How has COVID affected your developments? What do you think of the next-gen? What projects are they up to? To answer these and many other questions we have been able to interview Alberto Lozano (Art Director), Carlos Colomé (Technical Director), Carlos Hernández (Animation Director) and Juan Miguel Martín (Production Manager). Accompanying us to discover it.
Question: How would you summarize a bit your key to success?
Answer: Our key to success is the philosophy we have within the company. An important aspect at Pendulo is trust and that we like what we do. All the people we work with have it in mind. We are all professionals and we love what we do, and in fact, we are more like family. This shows at work and of course, in the attitude of our employees.
Q: How do you apply that philosophy on a day-to-day basis?
A: Basically we do not fear excessive bureaucracy between procedures or departments. We think this cuts off creativity. In the end, pulling through complex internal communication methods ends up reflecting on the quality and communication of the team. The work philosophy is one of our focuses to achieve having that essence that characterizes us. At Pendulo, each member of the team contributes and is just as important whatever their role in the company. Each member has their own creative voice.
Q: Internally, how has COVID affected you?
A: It has affected us yes and no. The current situation forces us all to do telework, and at least in Pendulo the jump has not been so great. In our company, being smaller, we have handled it well, used to being with digital support all the time, and in the end it has not been so disastrous. We are doing well for now (laughs).
Q: What would you say are the most important changes in the study?
A: The most important change for the company was with Yesterday Origins. It was an engine change. We went from our own engine that we had then to Unity. At the company level, in game management that has been the most beastly change of the company. For the next projects we will surely move to Unreal, but there is still a lot in the air. But at the video game creation level, the engine has been key.
Q: Have your media also changed?
A: Yes. Another of the important changes has been the media, I don’t want to say professionalization, because it is not like that, but now we cover more things that we did not do before. Now we even have our own R&D department. Having more means allows us to reach more areas, we have more tools than before, and more people to organize in many more fields. A change from how things were done before, to how they are done now. That has been a change.
Q: How has the evolution been from your beginnings to the present?
A: A lot of work. One of the key moments of the company was with the launch of Yesterday in 2005. There we went from being 10 to being in 30-40 employees. A bestiality, very happy. A positive evolution that seems to grow over the years.
Q: As a result of tripling the number of employees, what do you consider to be your most ambitious title? More expensive or difficult?
A: We can say that Yesterday was an important change. But perhaps BlackSad has been our biggest jump, due to the repercussion of the game. We came from doing classic adventure games. Adventure games had their golden age, but it turned out to be marginal, so to speak. It is a highly respected genre that we love, because it has very loyal fans, but they are not a majority. It is still residual. With BlackSad we made the leap towards another type of more narrative, modern adventure. We have seen that the impact it has had on the market has been much greater. A challenge in all aspects and with quite surprising results and of which we are proud.
“We gave BlackSad much more heart, than the means we had”
Q: What has BlackSad meant for the company?
A: Technically it has been a lot of changes. We came from the typical 2d backgrounds, characters integrated into those backgrounds, and we were adding more 3D, more 3D already with Yesterday Origins. And from there moving on to BlackSad, which was technically a major change. We really liked comics, we put a lot of heart into it, and more than the means we had. We worked a lot and we are very happy with the result. We didn’t want to lose our essence working on bigger titles. We wanted to focus on a good narrative.
Q: How do you get a good narrative?
A: Well, the most difficult thing I would say is getting to connect with the player. Create interest, empathize with it and make it original enough, as interesting. And that is not easy.
Q: Are you planning to develop a title tomorrow that is not “graphic / narrative adventures”?
A: Never say never (laughs). For now we are closed to doing other types of genres, we like adventures. If we have an idea that pulls more for the classic or the most modern, but it will always be within the genre. It is what we like. We wouldn’t know how to play soccer games, we like to tell stories. Everything that comes out of there, for the moment we do not raise it.
Q: What do you think of the evolution of modern storytelling / adventure games? Has the essence been lost?
“Our natural step would be to incorporate a little more action into our games.”
A: We went from the classic point-n-click adventure with inventory to a more current concept with Yesterday Origins. It was still pigeonholed in that concept but more modernized and now we have taken the step to the narrative adventure. Let’s say our natural step would be to add a little more action to the games. Put more action and adventure mechanics. And I think this would be our natural step. But really, we are always going to be focused on the narrative. At Pendulo we pride ourselves on our ability to tell stories and create narrative games, and I believe we will continue on that path.
Q: Is narrative adventure for everyone?
A: I think in the end it comes down to taste. A God of War will have more mechanics and you will have to be more virtuous with your fingers than with a BlackSad. But the focus is on the narrative, rather than the gameplay or mechanics. It is a deeper way of connecting with the player, a way to hook him and empathize with what you are telling him. It can be compared to people who like to read and people who don’t. People who read want to be told stories, and they enjoy the process, and then there are other types of people who just like action better and hate the rest.
Q: What current storytelling / graphic adventures inspire you?
A: Whether it is graphic / narrative adventure, the Detroit Human saga and Beyond: Two Souls fascinate us. On a narrative level it is impressive. It is as if we were watching a 16 hour movie, it is fascinating. And the best of all is its replayability with different options and endings. It is a very interesting concept. Life is Strange, Heavy Rain… too. Although good, especially The Walking Dead (season 1), that one struck a chord for us especially.
Q: If you had to choose only one Pendulum set, what would it be?
A: Looking at it from outside the company, I would say Runaway. I played it in my teens and have very good memories. And from the inside, one of our favorites is Yesterday. It is something different from what the company had done, with a more adult tone, and that also created many changes in the company.
Q: Do you currently have any games in development?
“We’re working on Vertigo, a Hitchcock movie reboot title”
A: Right now we are fully involved in the production of Vertigo, a game that is a reboot of the Hitchcock movie. We are quite advanced. It is a narrative adventure that will reach several platforms and that we want to launch.
Q: 26 years of history. Have you had any crazy development anecdotes?
A: If we start we don’t finish (laughs). Many anecdotes. In fact, one of the craziest ones was creating our own music group in the studio. A real “Hold me the beer” moment. In addition, we paid him a tribute. The name of our band appears in Runaway 2 as an easter egg. Another was in Runaway 2, when it was decided to change the ending, and make a more alternative one to be able to expand it in 3. During the jump from Runaway 2 to 3, we were full, changing the office and doing the game at the same time. It was all very crazy and intense.
Q: Do you think you will abandon the PC?
A: The PC is our hallmark. But it is true that more and more, our games are adapting to the most modern canons, and that includes more formats.
Q: Have you considered VR? Do you see him leaving for now?
“There are no proposals on the VR table. But some research, maybe it might fit.”
A: At an experience level, yes, but not for the full game. At the moment there are no proposals on the table. But we do have it in mind. Some research, maybe it might fit, who knows. The tests we have done with BlackSad is something that we find incredible, very attractive, it changes the way we see games, totally immersive. If VR technology were more accessible to everyone, it could be considered.
Q: Do you think there is a lot to improve in VR yet?
A: Yes. Although Half Life-Alyx has surprised us a lot. I think that from there, it looks like VR will jump from experience to a game as such. In addition, the price is also an important brake. If Sony / Microsoft came out with some good improved glasses, it would be a good way to get the user used to it. It has many possibilities, but it is yet to be exploited.
Q: What do you think about the possibilities of the next-gen?
A: We find them amazing. The engines are putting the batteries, taking into account that from the first outing we will already see impressive titles. Another blank sheet to creativity. When barriers are removed, you become more creative. They open the doors for you. It is a different league. There are two attitudes, on the one hand, that of money that will have to be spent for the next gen, and on the other hand is that there is more creativity for those of us who do not get there. The counterpart of this is that expectations will rise (laughs).
Q: Physical or digital format?
A: Well here is an interesting change. The next-gen does not consist only in a change of console or architectures, but in the paradigm change of consuming video games. In fact we have already seen it with (Series S or digital PS5). And in the end, in the future we will go through a subscription model. We will not need to have a powerful pc, it remains to be seen what happens with Amazon, Stadia … and for me that is the real change. The form of the consumer changes that we are going to have the players with respect to the proposals of Playstation, Microsoft or Amazon. Let’s see what they propose to us.
Q: How do you see the future of the industry?
A: The future is going to be streaming. It is the future completely, and more now with 5G that is available to everyone. And not just with games. But also with the idea of PC. That before “I get a pc of 2000 euros” will pass away. We can contract a pc service for X euros per month, and we will connect directly. We will not have anything physical, we will not need a cutting-edge technological hulk. I think it is one of the most important changes. For developers it is much better, since that is how you work in a single version, instead of adapting it to all the formats available and to be. And on the other hand, the player is not forced to have X hardware to play. That is an abysmal step.
Q: If you had to get wet … What is your GOTY?
A: The Last of Us 2 at the narrative level is spectacular. A story not at all groundbreaking, but that has the ability to get you into the game of both 1 and 2, it is spectacular. Few games have reached that level. A shame not being able to say Cyberpunk (laughs) to see when it comes out. It will be a great game.