Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Realms of the Haunting Article Extra: Interview with Sascha Kimmel

Realms of the Haunting was a 1996 game from Gremlin Interactive.  A mix of survival horror, FPS and point and click, it was an innovative effort at widening the shooter genre and a highly influential title.

You play the hero, Adam Randall
I interviewed Gremlin producer Paul Green for the article in this month's Retro Gamer magazine; it appears as one quarter of a feature dedicated to four spooky games called Tales from the Retro Crypt. In the course of researching the game, I found this excellent tribute website run by a guy named Sascha Kimmel.  I interviewed him with the aim to getting his valued opinions on Realms of the Haunting into the article but sadly there wasn't room, so here's the interview in its entireity.  Check out Sascha's unofficial ROTH page by clicking here.

ROTH's title screen was very reminiscent of the film The Thing
Hi Sascha.  Can you start by telling me how you got into games and Realms of the Haunting.
I got my first computer - which was a C64-II - in 1988 with a datasette! It wasn't only a gaming machine for me so I started programming in BASIC and created some small programs which due to the lack of the internet were used by a huge amount of users - myself! I actually used the C64 until 1996 when I purchased my first PC which was a Gateway PC with a Pentium 166 processor and a 3.8 GB hard drive - and I was asked what I needed the 3.6 gigabytes for! The first two games I played on the PC were Tomb Raider and Realms Of The Haunting - two very different kinds of games although they also have some things in common as well.

Nothing spookier than spooky eyes!
What do you admire so much about ROTH that inspired you to create the website?
I have never seen a game like ROTH since it has been released way back in 1996. The dense atmosphere and the thrilling storyline in combination with the adventure and shooter elements are unmatched. Numerous similar games have been released since 1996, but I so far couldn't find any new game like it. Nowadays you either find shooters in this genre or point-and-click adventures (which I do like by the way), but a combination of both tied together with the epic story is nowhere to be found.

I created the website as an homage to the game and also as a way to help and support other fans of the game and keep it alive - and a very small hope of a sequel.

Why do you think the game has such enduring appeal?
Despite the graphics (which look even worse on today's large screens) I regard the atmosphere as the most important part of the game - something I have only experienced with the relatively new (from a retro point of view that is) point-and-click adventure game "Scratches". Although there are some splatter and gore elements in ROTH it doesn't focus on portraying gruesome scenes. Unless you have played the game very often you don't know what to expect next so you're in a constant mode of fear - a fear of the unknown. In contrast to other games of that time that have used FMVs the game itself isn't just a way of clicking somewhere to see the next video (like the Phantasmagoria franchise in my opinion) - the adventure and shooter parts are really interwoven which I find really fascinating.

And of course it's also a classic "haunted house" storyline.

What do you think marks out Realms of the Haunting from other games of its time?
At that time many adventure games started using FMVs to tell the story and were rather interactive movies than pure adventure games. ROTH combined both elements perfectly so the videos gave you more info you needed to achieve progress in the game. The shooter elements were also integrated into the game and didn't feel as if they were just added to attract that potential audience as well.

Do you think it has any weakpoints?

The main problem I see is that the game doesn't have any cheats. There are some parts of the game that can drive you mad because they make the game hard to solve - these are mostly shooter elements. I believe that the reason that ROTH hasn't become as popular despite its high ratings at that time is in fact the combination of adventure game and shooter elements because I think that these are mostly two distinct audiences it tried to attract at that time - despite people like me who really enjoyed the combination of both.

Do you generally like this type of atmospheric game?
Yes, but I haven't found any other game that combines the adventure and shooter genres as ROTH has done so I mostly stick with point-and-click adventures nowadays.

One of the cool weapons, The Staff
If so, which others?
In general most of the games I play are point-and-click adventure games but also the TOMB RAIDER series. Sometimes I also enjoy some shooters but I generally prefer point-and-click adventures with a mysterious story like the Black Mirror series, Overclocked, Reprobates, Scratches, Moment Of Silence, the Secret Files series and similar games. I also enjoy games like Penumbra, Dark Fall, The Art Of Murder, Still Life and Delaware St. John. I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the Delaware St. John series despite the outdated graphics and controls. As I said before the atmosphere is the most important part of the game for me because with a great atmosphere you're not playing a game - you're in the game.

How do you see Realms of the Haunting's position in gaming history?
I think it's been undervalued because it hasn't found as many buyers as it deserved although it got really high ratings. I regard ROTH as a game that's incomparable to any other game because of the mix of genres, the combination of adventure and shooter elements.

Thanks very much to Sascha for sparing the time.  Please check out his excellent Realms of the Haunting website.


  1. Nice interview!

    Really enjoying Realms Of The Haunting right now, and it should have done a lot better than it did...it's an awesome game!

  2. Dear JD, ROTH being one of my most favourite games I'm always glad to find some kind of coverage even 17 years after its release, so thank you very much for the interview with Sascha and the Retro Gamer article. It was a bit disheartening to read, though, that they already had a sequel in mind but had to dismiss it because of insufficient mainstream success.

    Kind Regards,

  3. Thanks very much for your kind words Jessica. Look out for more PC game coverage soon.