|Straight to Video Games||
Check out this sneak peek of Superlumina - First Contact on Norwegian IGN.
We got the chance to talk with Catharina and Marianne from Sarepta Studio about their upcoming game Shadow Puppeteer. Find out more about the development, their attention to gameplay and when you will be able to buy the game!
Steve: Shadow Puppeteer is a co-op, puzzle, adventure game, where a boy and his shadow must work together by manipulating light and darkness. That sounds like a really good premise for a game to us. What more can you tell us about the story?
Catharina: The story is about a man called the Shadow Puppeteer who steals shadows. The boy and the shadow need to travel together to stop him. The game starts with the Shadow Puppeteer, who uses a device which makes the shadows of people come to life. He then steals these shadows to harness their power. The boy awakes as he does this, and is able to save his own shadow. Now the boy and the shadow are the only ones left, and must go after the shadow puppeteer.
Steve: And in co-op one player plays as the boy and the other as his shadow?
Steve: With a "swap-function" if you have no friends?
Catharina: That is right. And an AI taking over the simple controls of the other character like running and jumping.
Steve: The gameplay trailer for Shadow Puppeteer looks great! How far along are you in the development of the game?
Marianne: Thank you! We have completed the main production, and are now in the process of polishing the game. We expect to complete production early next year, 1Q.
Steve: Have you set a release date yet?
Catharina: Not yet, but it will be in 2014.
Steve: Why did you choose Xbox as your preferred (exclusive?) distribution platform?
Marianne: We originally aimed at Xbox because the players we were intending the game for fit into that group. But so much has changed since we started development, so we are examining all options now.
Steve: Mobile/tablet and pc as well? And what have changed? The game, the audience or the market?
Catharina: We are looking at Playstation, Wii U and Steam also. Not mobile though.
Marianne: The market has changed. There is a big difference in how indie games are viewed these days.
Steve: Will you release both on Xbox 360 and the new Xbox One?
Marianne: We are looking into all our options, and haven't decided on this yet.
Steve: A game has many elements; gameplay, story, music, game design, graphics etc. Which has been the most important to you in creating Shadow Puppeteer?
Marianne: That would depend on who you ask on the team. We try to keep in mind all aspects, because they all uniquely contribute to the gaming experience. But I think maybe we are a bit more focused on gameplay.
Steve: What has been the biggest hurdles so far, in creating the game?
Marianne: That is an excellent question. Getting the balance in the gameplay right. Tweaking the difficulty and giving both players the right degree of challenge.
Steve: Getting your game noticed is very hard, even with an amazing game. Most indies usually tries to go to conventions etc, write a blog, publish on social media and cross their fingers. But the probability of getting major exposure is still quite low... How do you plan to tell the world about Shadow Puppeteer?
Marianne: Subliminal messages in Coca Cola ads? No, sorry, just kidding. I'm afraid we can't reveal the details of our marketing plan... The best way to get shadow puppeteer related news these days is to follow our Facebook page. In addition to the web page, Facebook, and Twitter, we've been attending various conventions: Most recently GDC and NGC.
Steve: Sarepta Studio seem to be mainly occupied with 3D-visualization (at least according to your website...). Is everyone at Sarepta involved with the game making or are you a select circle?
Catharina: Our current website is mostly for the B2B part of the company. The company is kind of divided in half where 7-8 people are in the Shadow Puppeteer team. But we draw a lot of inspiration and creativity from each other. There is not really a noticeable split in the company even though they have different focus.
Steve: So you are making a Xbox (and other consoles, plus pc) game with 7-8 people? That's awesome!
Catharina: Hehe, it is an awesome team.
Marianne: Thank you. One thing we have never lacked is ambition.
Steve: You are also a active part of the Hamar Game Collective. How did HGC come about and how has it influenced, and helped, the Hamar based game creators so far?
Marianne: The HGC is the natural result of working in close proximity to the other game creators in Hamar, and a desire to create a community. So far the HGC has been most visible as the local host of Global Game Jam.
Catharina: The gaming community in Hamar has been very good for a long time thanks to Hedmark Kunnskapspark, Hedmark University College and the companies that have decided to work in Hamar.
Steve: Growing up, what games did you play?
Marianne: For me, top 5 are: Mario 1 & 3, Tomb Raider, Spyro the dragon, Jak & Daxter.
Catharina: The Final Fantasy and Zelda games.
Steve: And how do they influence what you make today?
Marianne: Well designed gameplay, exploration, the importance of engaging the players in the characters and the world. We often use examples from game experiences when we discuss how to solve challenges in Shadow Puppeteer.
Steve: Finally, please recommend a hidden gem of a game!
Marianne: Old or new?
Steve: Whenever! Big or small.
Catharina: Legend of dragoon.
Marianne: Bugs Bunny & Taz: Time Busters (old PS1 title). Difficult question, though.
Steve: Thank you so much for talking to us and best of luck with Shadow Puppeteer. We can't wait to try it!
Marianne: Thank you so much for inviting us to this interview, and best of luck with the development of Superlumina!
The trailer for Superlumina - First Contact is finally ready for your viewing pleasure! Enjoy!
Continuing our series of interviews with Norwegian game developers, we are happy to present a talk with Rain Games. They are they people behind the highly anticipated game Teslagrad. Read about the team, what’s happening to the «prequel» Minute Mayhem, whether we get to play Teslagrad on the metro/bus/tram or not, and other stuff, below!
Steve: We appreciate you taking the time to talk to us, we know you are very busy with Teslagrad at the moment.
Peter: No problem. It is always nice when others take an interest in what we do.
Steve: We really like the graphical expression of Teslagrad. Did you envision this style from the beginning or did it evolve through «trial and error» with other styles?
Peter: Well, we hit pretty close to it right form the start. Olli did all the testing of the style in the concept stage so everything that went into the game was already made the way we felt it would be right. We have this nice design thread in our internal forum where we can see how it all evolved in the concept stage. There is also some artwork on our open forum: http://teslagrad.com/forum/
Steve: Can you tell us a bit more of the plot, and how much it has to do with Nikola Tesla’s legacy?Minute Mayhem
Peter: We have created an imaginary world for Teslagrad. We do take inspiration from the real world, but diverge from it quite a lot too. For reference of something similar in the way of fiction I would recommend taking a look at GirlGenius by Phil Foglio. In our world the Genius of Tesla was not limited to one individual, but rather follows the name trough an entire family. The family, along with their pupils, are known as the Teslamancers. But of course: Their science is like that of Nikola Tesla. Coils, magnets and currents. And since this is fantasy, it allows us to take it one step further, and add a fantastic element to the story.
Steve: What has been the biggest hurdles in creating the game?
Peter: Well. The unsung hero of many a good Indie team is the programmer. We actually have three people doing the art together: Olli for the animation and visual control, Petter for the backgrounds and Aslak for some of the bosses and other stuff. Fredrik has had to handle almost everything on the programming side alone, however, and this has been a real challenge. Teslagrad is far from bug- ridden, so think of Fredrik every time nothing goes wrong :-)
Magnus Holm contributes on the game design. We also had Jørn Lavoll doing our music from the start, but the rest of the sound was far behind for a long time. Now we have Martin who also does the sound for Krillbite’s "Among the Sleep" doing it for us, and that is quite a relief.
Lastly there is the old bogeyman: Money. We have had some funding, but for the biggest part Rain as a company is completely bootstrapped. So we worked half a year for no pay at all, and were all pretty happy when this increased to NOK 50 an hour. Considering that we do this as a full time job, that is pretty rough... But: Doing it this way, we get to own the company ourselves.
Steve: And your role? ;)
Peter: I brought together the Rain team. I do the business side of things, and I do the game design. I have some experience with both art and programming, and that helps a lot. It basically lets me understand everyone on the team. I also spend a lot of time making levels and puzzles in Unity, and planning out the layout of the game itself.
Steve: Is the game design evolving as you progress with graphics, code and sound?
Peter: Well. I always have to consider how long it will take to create a feature or animation when I design things. And sometimes I may find that something does not work.
Steve: But the GDD is more or less the same now as it was when you started the project? No major tweaks, add-ons or removals?
Peter: Not really.
Steve: Incredible! =)
Peter: Thanks :-)
Steve: Do you have any plans to port it to mobile or tablet?
Peter: We would like to see it on portable devices. However, there are some challenges with the input controls. Teslagrad uses a 4-way D-pad, start and jump button, plus four other buttons. This will have to be adjusted to work well on phones and tablets. The hardware specs are also a challenge, at least for now. Both issues probably make Vita a better choice than iPad...
Steve: Your first game, Minute Mayhem, were put on hold in favor of focusing exclusively on Teslagrad. What led to this conclusion?
Peter: We got funding for Teslagrad... And we need to eat. That: And Teslagrad catered better to the teams strengths.
Steve: Minute Mayhem reminds us of good old Bomberman. We love how you have Pac-Man and Tetris inspired maps :) Is the plan still to continue development of Minute Mayhem around March next year? And when do you expect to release it?
Peter: We are not quite sure. We are pretty sure we are going to do another game in the same universe as Teslagrad, but we also have a lot of other potential games on the drawing board.
Steve: Many indie developers make great games, but unfortunately sometimes they end up relatively unnoticed. What have been the most effective methods in telling the world about your game?
Peter: Well. Greenlight is its own way of getting known, of course. But it wouldn't work if we didn't work at it too. The first time we were picked up by the media was when we put the game up on Desura. Desura makes you register the game on Indie DB too, and from there Indiegames (The blog) and Eurogamer picked it up. Rock Paper Shotgun followed soon after. The YouTubers have also been pretty nice to us. A lot of people have gotten to know about the game trough their broadcasts. This however required that we actively sent out a press-build for them to review. Following up press contacts and remembering to send out announcements also counts. Especially to those contacts that already know you.
Steve: Growing up, what games did you play?
Peter: I owned the NES and SNES. Later I went over to PC. My favorites were games like Megaman, Zelda 3 and Super Metroid on the SNES. On PC, it was strategy games like Battleisle, Heroes of might and magic 3 and Warlords 2. Ah. And Ufo :-)
Steve: How do they influence what you make today?
Peter: We are making a Metroidvania after all... But I am just 1 man. Everyone at Rain gets a say in this. I am glad I played Metroid for this, though. It is always nice to have seen something done right before you get to it.
Steve: There is a lot of changes going on right now. New hardware generation, the rise of mobile gaming, different pricing models, indie developers getting huge hits etc. Where do you see games going next?
Peter: Well. Unity seems to be growing. For us it allows us to basically port Teslagrad to any platform that would have us. This will go for a lot of other games too, basically making developers far less platform dependent. Of course: None likes a port that is done poorly. So I think part of it is developers thinking about the issues with multi- platform from the very start. As always, the issues are system requirements, and controller input possibilities. A keyboard and mouse are pretty different from a D-pad after all. I am sure glad we kept this in mind from the start.
Steve: Finally, recommend a hidden gem of a game!
Peter: Bob the Blob by Henchman and Goon.
Help Teslagrad get on Steam here:
VIEW Conference is the well known Italian event on Computer Graphics, Interactive Techniques, Digital Cinema, 2D/3D Animation, Gaming and VFX.
This year it is held from 16th to 19th October in Torino. It will continue to focus on exploring the boundary between real and digital worlds, covering everything from cinema to architecture, from automotive design to advertisement, from medicine to video games.
New this year is the VIEW Award Game.
Here is the categories:
If you have made an animated short with 2D/3D animation and VFX in the last two years, you are eligible to participate. Want to show your work to the world? Sure you do!
The jury consists of:
ERIC DARNELL Director, DreamWorks Animation
REX GRIGNON Head of Character Animation, DreamWorks Animation
CHRIS PERRY Professor of Media Arts & Sciences, Hampshire College
PAM HOGART Chair,Publicist at LOOK Effects
Prof. MARIA ELENA GUTIERREZ Jury’s President, Director of VIEW Conference & VIEWFest
Download the entry form here: http://viewconference.it/view-award-game
Best of luck!
Welcome to the first interview in (hopefully) a series of interviews with Norwegian Game Developers.
First out is Kristoffer Jetmundsen, also known as KrisJet.
Read about the upcoming game Little Big Mansion, how it feels to be showcased at Right Arrow, KrisJet's favourite games, and much more, below!
Steve: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
First, tell us about your current project, Little Big Mansion.
Kristoffer: Little Big Mansion is a puzzle platformer based on size. You play an illusionist with the ability to switch the size of objects, and you have to use this ability to solve puzzles to progress through the game. The game has kind of a mysterious mood to it, predominantly due to the music, which was created by my brilliant sound/music guy and co-designer Martin Kvale.
Steve: I have played some levels and it is captivating and feels fresh. The difficulty is ramped up quite fast as well. Have you set a release date yet?
Kristoffer: No, not yet. We're aiming to finish production late this year, but it's still a bit early to tell exactly when that will be.
Steve: You mentioned Martin Kvale. How do you cooperate on the game design and other aspects of the game?
Kristoffer: Martin helps keep the design cohesive. We want all the different elements to fit together: the game and level design, the sounds and music as well as the story, and that's where Martin is especially helpful. Usually when we meet we go over what has happened since last time we met, and we brainstorm some ideas around on how we can improve things, and at the same time integrate the new ideas into the game in the best way possible.
Steve: What made you want to create LBM?
Kristoffer: The idea for the mechanic was first conceived when working on a game for the competition "NM i Gameplay" (norwegian nationals of gameplay). After creating the initial prototype and posting some links online I found out that the game really struck a chord with a lot of players, so I decided to apply for some funding at the Norwegian Film Institute. It seemed like a concept that could succeed commercially, and at the same time it was interesting and new, so those are the main reasons.
Steve: How long did you initially think it would take to finish, and how much time have you roughly spent so far?
Kristoffer: We estimated something around a 1000 hours divided between the two of us, and I'm guessing we are somewhere around the 200 hour mark as of right now. We both work on some different projects, so we are not technically "full time" on LBM.
Steve: And you are 1/5 there? ;)
Kristoffer: Well, we are still exploring some mechanics and stuff, so it's still a bit early to tell, but I think we've accomplished a lot considering, and we are getting closer to having a crystal clear vision of the final product.
Steve: Has the game mechanics been the biggest hurdles in creating the game?
Kristoffer: Game mechanics and level design are both super important in this project, as they are in all games, and it is definitely a very challenging game from a game design standpoint. I know that Martin feels a lot more "done" in the music department, he has sort of nailed his vision for the sound and music design already, but the game design is still evolving.
Steve: You recently went to Right Arrow. How did that come about and what did you get out of it?
Kristoffer: Shalev Moran, the curator for the exhibition, contacted me after playing the prototype online, and asked if I wanted to participate. After some back and forth he asked me if I would be interested in coming down during the exhibit, and I said yes. At Right Arrow I met a lot of great people, and a lot of people who would never have played my game otherwise got to play it, so I consider it a great success!
Steve: That's got to feel good!
Kristoffer: Yeah, in the beginning I actually was a bit sceptical, it sounded almost unbelievable to me :)
Steve: So they flew you down and set you up with a "booth" of a kind to show your game? And you also participated in a panel discussion?
Kristoffer: Yeah, all the games were set up in these black box displays at the show. It was awesome walking around and seeing people having fun with LBM. I had a short talk about Little Big Mansion and Krisjet Game Design, and then there was a panel discussion afterwards, which was very cool to be a part of.
Steve: Many indie developers make great games, but unfortunately they sometimes end up relatively unnoticed. How do you tell the world about your game?
Kristoffer: Right now we're not doing enough to get exposure, but we are entering competitions, trying to keep our facebook page and twitter feeds up to date, writing some blog posts and the usual obligatory stuff. We're also going to conferences, like Nordic Game Indie Night at Nordic Game Conference in a couple of weeks, Indiecade this summer and of course Independent Games Festival at the end of the year.
Steve: Competitions seems like the odd one out. Tell us more!
Kristoffer: It's a great way to get exposure if your game is good enough, and a great way to get good feedback from other developers if it's not.
Steve: Growing up, what games did you play?
Kristoffer: I was a Nintendo kid. I've had every Nintendo console since the NES (except Virtual Boy, and now Wii U), so I grew up on Zelda and Mario and stuff like that. Later I got really into storybased JRPGs when I got a Playstation, and survival horror with the Resident Evil franchise. On PC my best experiences were with Lucasarts adventure games, and later with Half-life and Starcraft.
Steve: How do they influence what you make today?
Kristoffer: That is such a hard question. I feel like I'm just as much inspired by new games as by old games, especially games from the indie space are very inspiring to me. I guess out of those games I mentioned the ones that I feel are most relevant even today are actually the oldest ones. Zelda and Mario are truly timeless classics, while the Resident Evil series and Final Fantasy games really haven't held up all that great in comparison. What I do try to bring into my designs is as little handholding as possible, without frustrating the player. I also don't like killing off the player, especially in puzzle games. I guess I might have gotten that from Lucasarts :)
Steve: There is a lot of changes going on right now. A new console generation, the rise of mobile gaming, different pricing models, VR making a comeback, indie developers getting huge hits etc. Where do you see games going next?
Kristoffer: Right now I think the OUYA is pretty exciting but I really believe that if we got a secure and easy way to do payment online, like you can in the Android and iOS Appstores, it could redefine the way games are distributed, and HTML5 would be the new platform of choice. I haven't tried the Oculus Rift yet but I'm not sure if it's really gonna be that interesting. It sounds very cool, but at the same time it seems like it's more for the core audience, not something that will redefine games as we know it.
Steve: Finally, recommend a hidden gem of a game!
Kristoffer: Actually, I've been playing VESPER5 for a month or two I think. It's a game with a pretty interesting premise, you can only make one move per day, and it takes something like a 100 real life days to complete it. It was created for a competition with the theme Ritual, which is a pretty accurate description of what you are doing when you make your daily move.
Steve: Interesting! We will have to give it a try.
Again, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. We are looking forward to the release of LBM :)
Kristoffer: Thank you so much for having me!
I recently wrote a blog post on the lack of women in games. This is sort of a follow-up to that, a part two if you will; the portrayal of women in games. The problem is not only the fact that there are very few women in games, but that the few female characters out there are portrayed in such a one-dimensional and juvenile way. For an embarrassingly large part of video games out there, women fall into two categories: the damsel in distress or the overly sexual woman.
The damsel in distress is an ancient (and, quite frankly, antiquated) role for female characters which has been used over and over again to the point of being the epitome of a stock character. The victim of some sort of foul play, she is totally dependent on a strong man to save her. The rescue of this powerless woman is the be-all and end-all, leaving the damsel in question reduced to a prize to be won or an object to be obtained.
It’s not like there can never be a distraught woman in games who needs the aid of a man without it being stereotypical. It’s just the way it’s done... There is a great game example which avoids the cliché of the damsel in distress even if the goal is to rescue a woman; Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. In this (excellent) game, the protagonist’s life is dependent on rescuing the woman, Trip, as she has placed a slave headband on him which forces him to follow her orders and which kills him if she dies. In addition to the fact that the plot niftily stays clear of the banality, Trip is actually a very cool chick. So there is a way to rescue female characters without being uninventive and stale.
The other trope is the sex kitten. The most notable of all sexualized female characters is probably Lara Croft. In theory it’s all well and good: an intelligent, fearless and athletic archeologist and world traveler. Still, the immediate thought is “sex symbol”. In the case of Lara Croft I don’t think it’s accurate to point the finger entirely at her creators. This one is mainly on the hands of the fans. They have famously found ways to angle the camera in order to get a closer view of her cleavage, perform in-game actions where it looks like she is in the middle of a sexual act and even created patches to remove her clothes. Sadly, the game’s marketing department has taken this and run with it, focusing squarely on her sexuality.
There are, of course, much more sexualized characters out there, and in my opinion fighting games are the worst offenders. Pretty much all of the women in these games look like they belong in x-rated movies, with massive, gravity-defying breasts, hardly any clothes (for increased agility maybe? ...Probably not.) and who keep moaning in fights. The reference to sex is so thinly veiled that they might as well have portrayed them as stark naked and on their backs.
I’m not saying that female game characters can’t be attractive. All I’m saying is that there should be less focus on their appearance. Perhaps spending less time and money on making the breasts of the female characters move in an arousing way, and more on the plot and the characters’ backstories? Maybe even stepping way out of the box and having a female character who is brave and intelligent, and who is also voluptuous (yes, it is actually possible to have curves and be smart!). Luckily, there are some great examples of well thought-out characters out there whose looks are inconsequential: Faith in Mirror’s Edge, Jade in Beyond Good and Evil, and Elena and Chloe in the Uncharted-series are excellent examples of strong female characters who add an extra dimension to the experience, resulting in not only entertaining games, but terrific stories.
I’m happy to say that this year we’ll see some big titles featuring female leads. And they all seem to be strong, tough and intelligent women with rich backstories. As a matter of fact, there are just as many female protagonists as there are male in our list of top ten most anticipated games of 2013. This is a great sign, and hopefully a precursor of what’s to come in the future!