Last week, SNEG revealed they will be releasing several Dungeons & Dragons classic PC titles in what's being called the Gold Box Classic set. Since that time, we've now found out they will be divided up into three different collections, as well as individual releases on Steam, so you can essentially pick and choose which ones you want or get everything together in a fancy set. Before those come out, the team set us up with an interview with SNEG director, Oleg Klapovskiy, who went into detail about the company and a little bit on the D&D titles before they are all released on March 29th, 2022.
BC: Hey Oleg, first off, tell us a little about SNEG. How was the company formed and what was the motivation for it?
Klapovskiy: In early 2020 a friend of mine, Elena Roor (coming from the games services business), found herself both on maternity leave and in lockdown. To keep it together, she came up with a side project where she'd look for games that made her feel nostalgic and were, in her mind, the "most technically broken" and try to bring them back to life. That game happened to be Diggles: The Myth of Fenris. Soon after, I started helping Elena as an advisor and investor. One project led to another and fast forward to October 2021 the company shaped to how we know it today with three of us pushing it forward [with] Elena, Artem Shchuiko, my ex-colleague from GOG days, and myself.
What's the idea behind SNEG as a company and what goals does it have for the industry?
I think that in order to answer this question properly, I'll need to dive a bit into how the overall entertainment industry looks from the cultural point of view. Video games get old and sometimes forgotten many times faster than movies or music. From a purely human perspective, we can't replay the game from our childhood at any time, while we can watch an old movie or listen to a song from that time. Games are part of our culture, and we want to preserve them. That's the main idea behind SNEG. If we try to simplify it, we can say that we want to ensure all great gaming mechanics, games themselves, and the IPs that we loved 20+ years ago are readily available to anyone.
What is your experience with retro/classic gaming? Are you personally a fan of older games over newer ones? Which ones are your favorites?
I've spent 12 years at GOG (or as it was originally called – Good Old Games). When we launched GOG, nobody but us believed there was a market for old games. Over these 12 years, GOG not only established the market for old games but also brought many IPs back to life and motivated many developers to create re-masters of the classics. I'm grateful that I was able to be part of this journey. I've been a gamer for as long as I can remember. I love playing both old and new games. Sometimes it's interesting to see how certain game mechanics from the past get forgotten for decades and re-appear later to help some games to become massive hits. As for my personal PC favorites from the past, I'd name Sid Meier's Civilization, Eye of the Beholder, Half-Life, Diablo II, and Neverhood.
Some of the first titles you've published on Steam include classics like Blade of Darkness, Fantasy General, and the Witchaven. What made you choose those games to start with?
I think that behind each IP we work on, there is a story of one of us. A story of passion, love, and great memories. The Fantasy General IP was lost for many years as it went through dozens of mergers, acquisitions, and bankruptcies – even though it has some of the best strategy gaming mechanics. I'm happy that not only the original game is available, but also new games were developed on this IP. Witchaven was in legal hell for quite some time. Blade of Darkness is a similar case, as, for many years, different parties believed they had the rights for it and we were able to define the actual rights holder. And this IP is really unique as it was the first gore-heavy mature RPG game on the market. It was almost impossible to launch this game on modern OSs, due to technical issues, but we've managed to make it all work.
Will you be bringing any of these games to platforms beyond Steam?
The goal is to bring these games to as many gamers as possible. It appears that Steam has the biggest PC gaming community in the world, but we are also working with the GOG and Humble Bundle teams. As for the other platforms, we'll definitely check them out one day to see if there is an interest in these classics there.
Is SNEG only looking to re-release older titles or are there any plans on the horizon to improve those games or produce original titles?
For us, the most important thing is to bring back the elements that made certain games stand out. Some games are known for their mechanics, others became cult classics because of the story, others were known as the precursors of a specific genre. How can we create or honor these elements now? By re-releasing the original game and later on creating a new game based on similar mechanics or just making a sequel – all options are on the table.
Are there specific licenses you'd love to acquire and help bring to modern PCs?
There are a few, and we are progressing in our discussions on them. If we are talking about our dream games, they vary from Chasm: The Rift, No One Lives Forever, Black & White, Neverhood, Ecstatica, and Myth: The Fallen Lords. The list is long.
What tech do you use to bring the older titles to Steam? Is it DOSbox, or some other application?
It all depends on the game. We have an individual approach for each. If source code (or even a part of it) is available, we are working with it and tweaking the game based on it. If not – we might reverse engineer it. In the case of games from the DOS era, like the Gold Box Classics, we work directly with the DOSBox team to ensure the best performance.
As you bring these games to market, what sort of improvements are you making to them? Will you be adding extra tools and helper apps like you have with the Dungeons & Dragons Gold Box titles?
Almost all classic games have some historical bugs, problems, and issues. We are trying to make as many improvements to them as possible, which includes fixing these bugs when we can. We always start with checking community feedback on the game. They are our best helpers. Throughout these years, they've spotted all the problems, proposed different solutions on how to make the gaming experience better, and even created the mods. They are really great people! We always take such things into consideration and try to convince the most active community members to join our dev team for related projects and to reward them for their hard work and passion.
Are you adding in any extras to the games when they launch? Like art books, soundtracks, cheat codes, modding, etc?
I think this is part of our DNA, we always try to add as many bonus goodies as possible to the games we release. Sometimes these are just manuals, sometimes hint books, clue books, soundtracks, etc. When it comes to mods – we try to ensure games we release are compatible with the main mods used by the community.
Looking ahead, are there any other titles you're looking to acquire in the near future?
We currently have a significant list of titles in our dev team's pipeline that's keeping us busy, and we'll be announcing those titles as we get closer to each one's release date.