Interview: Ragnar Tornquist, Writer and Director, Red Thread Games

In further pursuit of my own, personal closure on Dreamfall Chapters, I asked Ragnar Tornquist for a last interview. His insightful and honest commentary is a rare delight for the long-term fan.

Interview: Ragnar Tornquist, Writer and Director, Red Thread Games

What kind of ending did you hope to provide to players in Book 5 of Dreamfall Chapters?

One that could live up to seventeen years of high expectations, broken promises, numerous rumours, outlandish theories and fervent anticipation. Easy! We wanted to get it right, so we spent an extra month designing, writing, brainstorming and discussing how to shape the ending. The story outline has been there from the outset, the challenge was how to tie everything together in a way that felt emotionally satisfying to everyone, wherever they started playing. The messages have been so overwhelmingly positive and loving. It almost feels unreal and, definitely, humbling. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve been teary-eyed on numerous occasions.

What was the experience of making the Dreamfall series like for you, over so many years?

It’s been incredibly rewarding, especially since my life has changed so much over the years. Each game reflects a different stage in the journey through life; different priorities and different perspectives. While TLJ was about starting out on your own, leaving home and finding your place in the world, Dreamfall Chapters is about parenthood and homecomings, growing up/older, but also about rebirth. It feels like the story has come full circle. Because, you know, it has.

Are you sad that it’s over?

Personally? Not yet. Maybe that sounds cold, but I’m simply relieved we managed to complete the game without making any compromises. I was never entirely convinced that we’d be able to stay true to our original vision. But we did, so more relief than sadness. The fact that we’re working on console ports and a final cut for PC and Mac also means that we’re not quite done yet. I still have a few months of work left to do before I can completely put it aside. I’m sure I’ll be heartbroken once that happens, though. I do know that several people on the team were deeply affected. They’re sad that it’s come to an end. But everyone’s also excited about what comes next, so maybe “bittersweet” is a better word?

Is there any aspect that you wish you’d explored in more detail?

There’s so much I wish we’d had time to explore, like Kian’s story, past and future. Chapters was Zoe’s journey, the story of the Dreamer. Still, there’s enough material for another trilogy of games, so who knows? Hello, Saga!

Although we know it’s not in production, what would be required for The Longest Journey Home to be eventually realised?

Time, inspiration, financing. TLJH would be an expensive game to make, being art/animation intensive, with voice overs and an orchestral score. While Dreamfall Chapters has done very well, exceeding expectations, we’ve put almost all the profits back into increasing scope and improving the quality. I’ve stated publicly that TLJH is not happening anytime soon, if at all, but I’d love to see the game made; if not by us, then by someone else who loves the worlds we’ve created.

If you’re not making Dreamfall, what would you most like to do next?

We have a couple of games in production right now; one of them is a first-person psychological horror game called Draugen, set on the north-western coast of Norway in 1923. We’re calling the genre “Fjord Gothic”. There are other games we’ve been tinkering with that are now moving into full production, from a tiny mobile title to a huge, open world RPG.

Who is your favourite Dreamfall character and why?

How can I pick just one? Okay, Saga. Because she’s a character who’s been at the heart of the whole “saga” for so long, and yet no one knew anything about her until now. That’s exciting. She looks so good, different from any other character in the game. We also got really lucky with the actors, who gave her so much personality. I love Saga. She’s the best. But it’ll also have to be Crow. Because, come on, Crow! Crow is the one constant in these games; he never changes. Crow’s always been the easiest to write, I just imagine him sitting on my shoulder and I just transcribe whatever he says. I’m merely channelling. 99% of Crow is the actor, Roger Raines. Of course, there’s Zoe, who’s been through so much and has grown along with the games. I love Zoe, because she’s awkward and real and honest and… I don’t know. I can’t do it. Please don’t force me to make this choice!

Sausage or cheese soup?

No contest. It’s so obvious and there’s only one choice here. It’ll have to be OH LOOK AT THE TIME.

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