Interview with Joyfess

By Peter Ward

The Game

Joyfess: Martin’s Secret Recipe is a revival of the point-and-click adventure genre of the 1990s, featuring basic, casual controls and story-driven gameplay with a lot of character dialogues, which act as a medium for humor, depth and emotion. Our game is casual light-hearted but still involves a great deal of logical puzzles and a well-knit story with various surprises targeted at young and old audiences alike.

The Team

Desert Wagon was started by 3 brothers who grew up playing DOS games in the mid 80s and across the 90s. Having developed an enormous passion for adventure games in his youth and being an accomplished writer himself, our elder brother, Haritha, has been very ambitious about weaving stories that would come to life in the form of an adventure game. Although the whole ordeal started as a Flash contest entry, we eventually gave in to our dreams and put in all our potential, with art by Sinan Diraneyya and programming and animation by Kinan (programming was later taken over by Haritha as well). With the help of various freelance artists and voice actors, the game has reached a commercial production state with an advanced alpha version.


Re-Experience Traditional Animation

Everyone turned to 3D & puppet animation.

This move made us even more determined to bring back the classic hand drawn arts to the glorious high definition screens of nowdays. We think an adventure game should look like an interactive cartoon movie, and that’s why we’ve animated it manually by hand.

Meet A Memorable Cast Of Fully Voiced Characters

With 1.5 hours of spoken dialogue performed by 15 professional voice actors, our distinctively crafted characters will surely burn a lasting image in your memory.


The Protagonist

Having slain dozens of krakens in his career, adventurer Joyfess Tidesman attempts to revitalize his life by doing something relaxed and ordinary by signing up for a cooking contest.


The Bartender

William is the player’s only source of clues about the now-gone legendary chef Martin. But this sharp fellow won’t be giving any of the trade secrets away without a few favors & some serious persuasion.


The Rival

When you’re the best at something, someone will always challenge your position. Simon is another sea adventurer, and his rivarly means you’ll bump into him more often than sheer chance permits.


The Librarian

Tucked away in the island’s quiet library, Christina reads and writes towards fulfilling her scholarly dreams. You’ll find a great complement in her sharp mind to Joyfess’ adeptness at action.

Images from the legacy game that later turned into the recent Joyfess you know. The colored screenshot is from the Flash game. The sketches were my attempts to create artwork for Kinan. The farmer had a simple, three-frame animation. It was the first (and the last) animation I try to do in my life haha.At a later stage, we realized we grew so fond of the project that we stopped doing everything ourselves and started hiring freelancers to do the “technical” stuff.


What is your first gaming experience?

My brothers (who were a lot of aid in this project) and I have been gamers for as long as we can remember. Being from the early 80s, I lived the days when computers would struggle to run a game whose protagonist is made of fifteen pixels. Although we later played more first person shooting and strategic games, our first memories were with adventure games. We would spend hours on end on the King’s and Space Quest series. Another early favorite was Darby the Dragon, a lovely point-and-click adventure game which we believe is far less known than it deserves. Not much later, the Curse of Monkey Island was released, which unsurprisingly became an all time favorite! While my other brothers sorta “graduated” from this point-and-click adventure games phase into other genres, I was the one who stayed most loyal and faithful to the new in the adventure genre. Even though I play less these days due to the pressure of my professional life, I try to at least watch walk-through videos for newer adventure games (which I shamelessly prefer to old school–despite all nostalgia! Adventure games have massively improved in terms of writing, puzzle design, and the experience they give as whole).

What got you into creating games?

Well, it started in the least planned way possible. Being an older brother, one of my younger brothers, Kinan, approached me one day asking to make him some cartoon drawings for a project. Not fully comprehending what the project meant for him, I quickly sketched a few drawings for him but without giving them much thought or effort. A few days later, I was surprised to hear that Kinan won the second prize in a Flash programming contest. Turns out he designed a tiny point-and-click adventure game on Flash composed of three super basic scenes (even with a “mini-inventory”). That simple Flash game which had backgrounds horribly sketched by an older brother with pencils was what would later become the Joyfess Game Project!

What development tools or coding did you use?

None of us in the team is a real coder, so we’ve relied on friendly engines and plugins. We first started developing our game on AGS (which is built on the SCUMM engine), but for a few reasons the AGS version could not be completed (besides that we later figured AGS was becoming a bit outdated). We therefore decided to shift to Unity, instead. Soon we found out that Chris Burton (whom we knew from the days of AGS) had created a Unity plugin named Adventure Creator which was a massive aid to us in our project. We can’t recommend Adventure Studio enough to any aspiring developer who doesn’t want to invest much in the technical side of game development (preferring to free him/herself for focusing on other aspects such as story writing and game design etc.). I’m not a real coder, and yet I was able to fully code the game thanks to Chris Burton’s amazing plugin!

What hurdles did you have making your current game?

The biggest hick-up was when reached a dead end with AGS for a few reasons at a time when had a fully completed prototype of the game already (made with AGS). Deciding to shift to Unity and leave our half-completed work was a huge turning point in our project and a major decision, but we now know that we have made the right choice. Generally speaking, however, being our first large-scale project, learning how to design and manage our work flow and basically figuring out pretty much everything was a huge challenge. There were quite a few times in the lifetime of this project when we were pretty much sure it was the end of it and that we would never be able to finish it, but we were determined to figure it out every time, and eventually it paid off and our game was born.

After the completion of the game what game will you make?

We have plans for two parallel projects. One of them is working on the next episode of the same game where Joyfess would participate in the cooking contest itself (In this one, his objective is to find Martin’s secret recipe and gather its contents). Other than the next Joyfess episode, there is another project that we will share more about in the near future!

What other games have you made you made?

None other than the prototypes and a couple tiny ones for contests! This is our very first actual commercial project, and it won’t be the last.

What is your favourite retro game?

We’re (my brothers and I) much more of PC gamers than anything else, but we played a bit of retro Ninja Turtles (and quite a few different versions of it!) in the old days on older retro consoles (We have always geeked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles!).

Do you still game on the current consoles if so what’s your favourite game?

Occasionally with friends. Crash Team Racing (newly remastered) and Mario Cart all the way! A few things beat playing with your loved ones on split-screen. It has got the best of the two worlds: doing activities with your loved ones in the same room and in the comforts of your house while also playing a real-time and fast paced video game. A recent favorite I loved is Unravel. I just like how the developers implemented their concept and the artwork is breathtaking. It is amazing how a game that so not complicated and yet can have you totally hooked and immersed in its beautiful world.

Whats the worst game you have ever played?

I once tried to explore some recent indie games to show support to the community and stumbled upon a few obnoxious games. And I’m not judging things that can be blamed on limitation of resources (such as plain graphics). That’s totally understandable from an indie game, of course. I rather mean things like bad writing and terrible, crude humor that makes you cringe at best. These few games certainly did not impress me at all.Talking about the biggest “disappointment,” Yesterday comes to mind. It came from a known studio and I had expectations, only to find a dull, life-less, and certainly one of the least engaging and interesting adventure games I have ever played. Playing Yesterday felt rather like a chore.

Finally what game or feature would you like to see on Retrogamesmaster in the future?

Darby the Dragon! (We can make it qualify, right?) It is a great game that I believe deserved to be known more. It stands out in its attention to detail even among the best of the games in its genre (point-and-click adventure games).