Words by David C. Obenour
The unfortunate side to being exposed to a large amount of art, whether it’s listening to music or playing games, is the more you’ve experienced the fewer things there are that can really surprise or excite you. The mechanics start to become apparent and the inevitable trends seem to reoccur more and more. Sometimes though, for all you think you’ve seen and done, something exciting comes along that breaks free. The Crusoe Crew is that something exciting!
Updating the simple and nostalgic fun of the choose-your-own-adventure novels, the concept has been reimagined as fun for all ages, first with seasons one and two of Van Ryder Games’s Graphic Novel Adventures and now with their first cooperative multi-player game, The Crusoe Crew. Utilizing four similar graphic novels, differentiated for four different playable characters, you’re off on an ongoing adventure for treasure and excitement!
For their third time for Graphic Novel Adventures, The Crusoe Crew partners one-name French writer and game designer, Shuky with one-name French illustrator, Gorobei. We spoke with Gorobei over email about his new game and what’s to come.
Off Shelf: How did you first find out about Graphic Novel Adventures and what they were doing?
Gorobei: I discovered GNA from Van Ryder when they launched the first season of titles [Loup Garou, Tears of Goddess, Captive, Sherlock Holmes, Your Town]. But I already knew about the choose your own way adventures comics since all the titles are edited by Makaka Editions, a French editor which is quite specialized in those types of books, they also edit classic comic books. In fact Pirates – the Great Chase was the very first I made with Shuky, back in 2012.
OS: What do you personally find exciting about the kind of adventure books that they publish?
G: Well, a younger me was a reader/player of choose your own way books, mainly Lone Wolf ones. The trend kind of faded I guess, but it always seemed strange that no one tried to have the concept transposed to comics, the possibilities given by illustrations were an obvious add-on to the genre. Anyways, what’s exciting, beyond the type of books we are dealing with, is that there’s a book for every taste, every age. What’s more, each book has its specific mechanics and gameplay, you won’t get bored any time soon! And I like the season like treatment, it puts the reader even more on a mission, quest!
OS: Your three titles so far for Graphic Novel Adventures are Pirates: The City of Skulls, Pirates: The Great Chase and The Crusoe Crew, yes?
G: Right! Though I made more, there’s a third pirate adventure available in France. I released two adventures for younger ones, Hocus and Pocus which are edited by Quirkbooks in US, and I just wrapped up a theme park builder book with Shuky, which is to be released by the end of August here in France.
OS: How did you two partner up?
G: Shuky and I met around ten years ago, thanks to the internet, and through a collaborative comics website [30 jours de BD], at the time there was an event in Paris each year, Festiblog, sort of a blog comic con, and that’s where we met in person for the first time. Shuky had this idea of a choose your own way comic book, and liked my work. I loved the idea, and luckily we got along well, laughing to the same stuff, having the same concerns regarding how to make things to the readers. The partnership turns out to be a real friendship now.
We indeed started collaborating with Pirates, and made three volumes. We worked on a comic book for kids, called Atma, which we made two volumes of. We worked together for The Crusoe Crew, and more recently as I said we made another choose your own way multiplayers book titled Your Theme Park.
OS: What excites you about how Shuky works? Can you think of an instance from working with him that stands out to you as an example?
G: There’s not really an instance that comes to mind, it’s more about the way he considers each new book. It goes beyond the simple universe chosen and explored, he puts a lot of energy in the gameplay and mechanics, therefore I know that working with him will be another experience from the one before. That’s pretty nice, for the readers and players first, but for me as well, cause if there’s a routine in the process of making such a book, well thanks to Shuky’s way of working, it’s a bit broken, and having fun remains what it is all about.
OS: The Crusoe Crew is an exciting new way to play a Graphic Novel Adventure. Do you remember how the idea to do a group adventure came about?
G: I guess this question can only be answered by Shuky, since he’s the one with the brains! The way I see it is, the more, the better! And once again, it’s about giving people a unique experience.
OS: How was working on The Crusoe Crew different from your previous titles you’ve done for Graphic Novel Adventure?
G: The complexity of the plan, well the plans in fact, the many interactions, and the need to have the whole thing balanced, whether you play by yourself or with other people. As an illustrative point of view, the work remained quite similar as usual, maybe some extra care on special scenes but that’s it. In fact the big change came in the organization of the visuals and pages, being messy was not an option here!
OS: A big part of The Crusoe Crew is hidden objects and paths as represented by numbers for panels. How do you decide if an object is too hidden or not hidden enough? Was there an ideal mix of more and less obvious that you were trying to reach?
G: Of course! Every hidden object, subtle hints and clues, don’t all have the same values. Therefore, the reward they lead to, or the damage they make you avoid define how well they are going to be discrete in the visual. As I said before, we do have to obtain balance between each solo character adventure, as well as a multiplayer party, I guess the construction is more about mathematics in the end.
OS: The Crusoe Crew is a game that is highly affected by the people that you’re playing with. Is there an ideal way you like to imagine people playing The Crusoe Crew?
G: [laughs] That’s a good question, I’ve never really thought about it. But, during a comic book festival, there was a demoing session around the game, 4 tables of 4 players. I saw how people play differently depending on their nature. And, I have to say, I love the ones making noise, screaming, even running around the table, almost playing all the 4 characters at once. I suppose I like that the game in itself surpasses the goal of reaching a top score. Therefore, I imagine ideal players would be the ones giving more attention to the experience, never minding being exuberant.
OS: What about the genre of pirates and tropical islands appeals to you?
G: Several reasons, I think there cannot be better adventures than in such universe! It’s rich, colorful, and free, even though it is really codified. Plus, as a kid I lived 8 years in Africa in the Ivory Coast and Gabon, and later we moved to Singapore for 3 years. So much so that I do have an appeal for tropical and exotic environments… and voyages!
OS: Do you have other Graphic Novel Adventure titles that you’re working on?
G: I mentioned it earlier, I worked on other books, yes, and just finished one. However I can’t say for the moment if it is going to be published beyond France boundaries. But I sure hope so!
OS: Do you know if other group adventures are in the works?
G: Absolutely, there are! However I am in no position to disclose anything. But don’t worry, info should pop any time soon!