Jesse Tannous

  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Days Won


Jesse Tannous last won the day on August 19 2015

Jesse Tannous had the most liked content!

1 Follower

About Jesse Tannous

  • Rank

Profile Information

  • Gender
    Not Telling
  • Location
    Phoenix, Arizona
  • Interests
    Video games, anime, books, Sideshow statues, conventions, graphic novels, manga, game soundtracks...if it is nerd or geek related I probably like it.
  1. Independent games publisher Versus Evil announced a new partnership with Dublin based studio Gambrinous to help promote and manage their newest project, Guild of Dungeoneering. Steve Escalante, General Manager of Versus Evil, explained in a January 21st press released, “From the moment the team at Versus Evil saw Guild of Dungeoneering we knew this is something that we just had to get behind and help publish.” The turn-based dungeon crawler puts a few unique twists on the genre’s well known conventions. Players design the dungeon while their AI controlled heroes forge their own course. Using the Guild Deck players lay down rooms, monsters, traps, and loot for their heroes to stumble across. Harder monsters mean better loot, and placing nothing but weak monsters means players will start to increase the Dread Meter which is when really bad things can start to happen to your heroes. Outside of the dungeons, players manage their Guild by building new rooms to attract heroes and boost the effectiveness of the Guild Deck. Gambrinous’ sketched on paper graphics style and humorous character design gives the game a light-hearted comedic feel. In the press release the studio’s Founder Colm Larkin stated, “I am very pleased and excited to be working with Versus Evil on the launch of Guild of Dungeoneering,” and continued, “After all our hard work going through Steam Greenlight and making it onto Steam, it’s great to know that our first commercial game is in such safe hands with Versus Evil.” Guild of Dungeoneering is scheduled for release in May of this year to PC and Mac via Steam with a tablet release to follow soon after.
  2. Game development studio Fugitive Games hopes their Kickstarter project Into the Stars has plenty to offer players looking for a dynamic space exploration and resource management experience. Looking much more similar to Mass Effect, minus the linear story, than to Eve Online, Into the Stars puts players at the helm of a starship tasked with the crucial mission of finding a suitable planet for colonization in order to save the last vestiges of the human race. As captain it is your responsibility to explore a vast open world solar system with over 90 distinct zones, each with their own unique challenges and rewards. Resources must be gathered from planets and other space debris in order to keep both the ship and the crew going. Planet side missions can include a number of mining or gathering objectives which can endanger your crew. Considering that permadeath is a feature of the game this can make your decisions as captain both difficult and impactful. Lingering too long even when you come across a resource rich planet can be just as dangerous considering that the hostile alien race responsible for destroying much of Earth continues to track your ship while you travel across the solar system. Other hostile and even friendly alien encounters wait on the journey as well with plenty of weapon systems and ship vs. ship combat scenarios when diplomacy fails. Composer Jack Wall, who worked on the music of Mass Effect, Lost Planet, and Call of Duty has added his own touch to Into the Stars with an original score. This has likely raised the bar in regards to the rest of the soundtrack which should hopefully mean some evocative tracks to enjoy while traveling. By far the campaigns most favored pledge tier is the $20 level which offers a digital copy of the game for PC/MAC and a wallpaper package exclusive to Kickstarter backers. Already successfully funded with more than 3000 backers and successfully Greenlit by the Steam community, Fugitive Games has a long road ahead to creating their epic space exploration adventure game, but seems to have the support it needs to make it successful.
  3. If recently Kickstarted game Aviary Attorney can say anything about the state of the games industry, it is that sometimes history can lend a lot more to a project than simple inspiration. For game developers Jeremy Noghani (Designer, programmer, and writer) and Mandy Lennon, (Artist, animator, and writer) looking through old books helped them stumble upon some magnificent and little known art, that they decided to appropriate and design a game around. Aviary Attorney is a mystery solving, clue based, and narrative driven game set in Paris in the year 1848. The cast are all animal caricatures drawn by 19th century French caricaturist J.J. Grandville with added character and scenery animations given life by Lennon. Players investigate a series of cases as defense-attorney Jayjay Falcon and his charismatic assistant Sparrowson. Wealthy aristo(cat) Caterline Demiaou has been accused of murder most foul and has turned to the Aviary Attorney offices seeking an attorney who can cement a verdict of Not-Guilty. Plenty of obstacles and shadowy correspondences are sure to keep JayJay Falcon and co. busy as ace Prosecutor, and rooster, Severin Cocorico tries to tighten up his case against Demiaou. While humorous in nature due to the wonderful caricature art, Aviary Attorney promises a series of engaging stories where mistakes can mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment, or at worst, life and death. Already successfully funded on Kickstarter, Noghani and Lennon have utilized virtually everything that J.J. Grandville had to offer even utilizing the 100 year old font found in his old books. In addition, they also plan on using a series of musical compositions from famed 19th century French composer Camille Saint-Saens, best known for The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, and Samson and Delilah. While much of the project is being pulled from existing work and historical figures, Noghani and Lennon seem determined to ensure that Aviary Attorney does justice to their influential source materials. At the very least it seems that if the local library wasn’t on your list of potential research spots for your next game project, it should be considered.
  4. With our earlier coverage of Merchant it seems that a trend is and has been growing where more and more games are allowing players the opportunity to step into the shows of what have been background characters or even NPC’s in many games. Where Merchant lets you play as the typical fantasy item shop manager, Orcish Inn has players serving drinks, raising crops, and managing a busy (hopefully) tavern full of thirsty Orcs. Orcish Inn seems to take cues from titles like Terraria and Minecraft with its’ pixelated artwork, emphasis on building, and resource management systems. If players aren’t already occupied building additions to their Inn, raising crops to make better foods or drinks, or serving a rowdy group of Orcs, then other mini-games like fishing can pass the time. Already approved through the Steam Greenlight program, developer Steven Colling recently announced his timeline for Orcish Inn’s Pre-Alpha plans, which are set to commence in early January. The games followers are currently voting on various in game content that will be added with the newest battle being between Fluffy Sheep or Cashmere Goats as alternate options to growing cotton. Colling also announced a contest for fans to have their own unique content implemented into the final game as loot that could be potentially fished up. Details about the contest, voting, and Pre-Alpha plans can all be found on Orcish Inn’s IndieDB page along with videos and screenshots of the latest updates. For those looking for an experience that doesn’t focus on combat and instead relies on exploration, creativity, construction, and farming, then pull up a stool and take a drink of Orcish Inn.
  5. If running an item shop and managing a group of brave heroes to wade through waves of monsters in search of valuable dungeon loot has always been a dream, then you’ll want to check out Merchant for Android mobile devices. Released just this month, Merchant, puts the player in charge of managing an up and coming item shop where heroes go to restock and prepare for their adventures. Selling and crafting items is only part of the duties of a fantasy shop-keep, as the best materials come from the dungeons that many of your patrons are braving. Sadly, the years of management have not been kind to your frail form and you must instead rely on paying stronger heroes to battle the depths of the dungeons to acquire the ingredients needed to craft truly powerful wares. This fusion of RPG fantasy elements and tycoon type systems was developed by University of Advancing Technology alumnus Garrett Savo and Gregory “Raj” James under the studio name Bearface Games. Currently available as a free download for Android devices, Merchant offers a dynamic experience as players juggle the management of their item shop with the effectiveness of the heroes they rely upon to deliver the goods. Enemy hierarchies promise to be increasingly difficult as players will repeatedly have to decide whether to sell a valuable item or equip it to strengthen their own roster of adventurers. Since its release on December 19th it has received almost 250 user reviews with the vast majority of them ranging from 4 to 5 stars out of a 5 star scale. With a simple engaging concept, clean art style, and a $0 entry point, Merchant is certainly worth a shot for anyone interested in being an item shop baron.
  6. The fluid nature of the video games industry, especially in the indie sector, can sometimes make titles like Art Director difficult to define. Different studios expect different things even from project to project. Art Director Mike McCain of Harebrained Schemes painted a pretty broad picture of the kinds of responsibilities his title could come with, especially considering one of the studios newer developments, Necropolis. Necropolis is a third-person action title that pits players against the ever-changing maze once inhabited by the mysterious mage Abraxis. With plenty of arcane and mundane dangers to overcome, players will be hard-pressed to avoid the rogue like perma-death mechanics. McCain and his team also spent a lot of time developing the standout art style of Necropolis. Having also been an Art Director on Shadowrun: Dragonfall, McCain was very excited to share some of his professional experiences, and how they factored into his role on Necropolis. Jesse Tannous: Can you explain what your job as Art Director involves at Harebrained Schemes? Does it differ at all from the position as it would appear in other studios? Mike McCain: Sure! It's common for folks here at Harebrained to wear several different hats. My job has ranged everywhere from graphic design, UX, creative direction, management and production, concept art, illustration, marketing, PR, and game writing. We are not always very regimented in our job definitions, so my role as an art director here has probably been somewhat more flexible than you'd find at a larger studio. I enjoy the opportunity to tackle a lot of different challenges, though. On Necropolis, I would say first and foremost my responsibility is to make sure the game looks great and that it will resonate with players. JT: What sort of technical, management, or communication experience is generally required for an Art Director position? MM: You know, that's a tough question! I think maybe you have to have "vision" more than anything. Be able to articulate a clear visual direction and rally others behind it. That can be very challenging. You should also know generally How Things Work, both within an art team and in other game-making disciplines. And be good at keeping your eye on the final product as a whole, not just individual components. (i.e., the concept art might look fantastic, but what's the actual game look like right now? Does it feel like a cohesive thing?) Requirements can also vary greatly depending on the project and the studio. Some art director positions are more managerial, while others can be more about establishing the right aesthetics. A small studio might be "we need you to do everything, and there's one other artist." Either way, good communication skills are critical. If you can't explain your ideas, or collaborate with others to achieve them, you're going to have a hard time of it. Lastly, you should have a well-developed sense of style and what's "cool" - be familiar with trends in art, not just within games but in architecture, fashion, and so on. Everyone has a certain style they naturally gravitate towards, but the more you can become style-agnostic - be able to dissect, understand and recreate a variety of art styles and moods - the better you'll be at defining a strong and unique vision that can hit a specific prompt. It's definitely a lot to juggle. JT: Describe the artistic direction that Necropolis is taking. How is it unique? MM: I'm really excited about where we've been able to take Necropolis so far, visually. We've been very inspired by what I've been calling "contemporary low-poly", a style that's become really popular in graphic design over the last few years. I would say it's a way of viewing polygons as a compositional tool, rather than a technical limitation. When you combine carefully thought-out geometry with current rendering, lighting, occlusion etc - you can get a really clean, modern look. You'll often see this style used in graphic design to create a very bright & airy atmosphere. It's been our goal to flip that into something darker. The Necropolis can be a bizarre and scary place... Another big visual goal of ours has been to create a space that feels unique without being firmly rooted in a particular genre. There are many fantasy elements in Necropolis, but we don’t want it to feel married to either fantasy or sci-fi. It's simply its’ own world that stands on its’ own visual rules. JT: What has been the most challenging aspect of working as an Art Director in general? What specific challenges has Necropolis created for you so far? MM: The most challenging thing about being an art director so far - at least for me! - is finding a healthy balance between being a director, and being a hands-on artist myself. This is something I really enjoy about working on a smaller team, it's very fulfilling for me to be able to remain an individual contributor. I get antsy if I'm stretched too thin as a manager and don't end up with the time (or energy) to paint. Necropolis is a lot of new territory for me, there was certainly a period at the start where I struggled to shift gears from Shadowrun, which is very different both aesthetically and in the type of game it is. I feel like I was able to navigate that, fortunately, it just took a little time! Now, I'd say it's probably just balancing the desire to continue to explore and noodle on certain ideas with production realities - some ideas may be really cool visually, but it's best to sacrifice them if they don't contribute enough to the core of what makes this game fun. Game development never stops being a learning experience (but I wouldn't have it any other way.) Looking at what is available so far it certainly seems like McCain is doing his best to make the Necropolis’ art style something that hasn’t been seen before. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  7. *Warning this interview contains spoilers for The Banner Saga* Reviewers generally agreed that The Banner Saga, released in January 2014 and developed by Stoic, did an amazing job of bringing a Viking inspired setting, incredible soundtrack and hand-created animation to life. The Banner Saga is no easy journey because catastrophe is as much a part of the landscape as the unique and appealing scenery. Players will trek through rigorous environments and will encounter a variety of characters and it’s never easy to tell if they be friend or foe. It is up to the player to make the meaningful choices that will shape each narrative, but in the end, The Banner Saga is really all about the relationships and we wanted to know more about the how and the why surrounding its character development. Stoic’s lead writer Drew McGee sat down with us and provided a glimpse into his perspective regarding some of the human liaisons that helped make The Banner Saga a storytelling success. Jesse Tannous: Many games that have been commended for their strong narratives and character development (The Last of Us, Bioshock, Silent Hill) have featured father-daughter relationships. This type of relationship seems extremely important in The Banner Saga with Rook and Alette being the key focuses even in the menu screen. Why did you choose this type of familial relationship as a key focus, and what do you believe makes it so compelling? Drew McGee: The father-daughter relationship pulled at us for a variety of reasons. Topically, it allows us to explore the importance of family versus clan versus humanity. Digging a bit deeper, it gives us views of gender in our Norse-influenced society. And beneath that, there's the chance to glimpse a father's knowledge - or lack thereof - of his daughter's mindset and vice versa. These mysteries (and often, misunderstandings) are a timeless part of the human condition. The games you mentioned give us brief moments to consider empathetic views from various perspectives - powerful stuff that really seems to resonate with audiences on many levels. That said, if The Banner Saga comes close to The Last of Us, Bioshock, or Silent Hill in this regard, we're just friggin' lucky. JT: Given the emphasis of this father-daughter relationship in the game, why did you decide to force players to choose between the lives of Alette or Rook at the end of the game? Didn't you just destroy one of the most compelling, if not the most compelling, relationships of the game? DM: While death certainly affects aspects of a relationship (for instance, hugs and conversations become remarkably one-sided), it rarely destroys the entire thing. In the wake of someone dying, there are opportunities for truly compelling growth, reflection, and even destruction. Emotions are either tucked away or worn on the sleeve and decision-making is affected along with the way. Others react to these decisions. Ultimately, the death of a hero should pave the way for greater character development and relationships with those still alive. JT: It seemed to be extremely difficult in the game to juggle between providing for the caravan and upgrading your main group of fighters, with purchasing items being nigh impossible. Was this intentional or is this something that will be potentially re-worked for the sequels? DM: It was intentional, which never means it was necessarily the "right" way to do it. Items in The Banner Saga are tricky on account of the balanced combat system. If too many characters have a chance to hit for double strength, battles are no longer threatening. At the same time, if no character has a chance to equip an item to hit for double strength, the RPG customization aspect is dinged. While we may look into ways of offering a few more chances for items, there's something fitting in the dire world of The Banner Saga about a small inventory of items which are true boons if you acquire them, but a distinct gamble if it means going without food. JT: One element of the game that many seemed to take full advantage of was the ability to revert back to old save points in order to modify decisions. While compelling in order to correct what were considered mistakes, it also seemed to make choices feel a little less meaningful. Was this effect noticed by your team during play testing? Has there been any consideration in creating a mode or difficulty setting that does not allow reverting to previous saves? DM: Originally, the game only had a system of very few and hidden checkpoints. We're older gamers who remember leaving the NES on all night because we couldn't get to a save point by bedtime - when dying meant hours of replaying content and anxiety about winning that battle the next time. It's fun in a damning sort of way, but alas, the outcry for more frequent saving was patched in. While we hear players mention that they went back at times, most of the Let's Plays we watch forge ahead with comments of, "I can't believe so-and-so died! I'll have to try something different next time." Obviously, we want people talking about the game, discussing their differences in choices, and not seeking out the "right" way to play it, so perhaps a type of "Ironman Mode" will be an option moving forward. JT: Choice and consequence are obviously a huge part of the game that will be continuous through all three titles. However, will you perhaps hint, at one specific consequence or choice that will have a huge impact on a situation in the next game? DM: So, you've already mentioned one decision that will have a massive impact on your saga moving forward. We're hesitant to name the decisions that will carry forward because once out there, players tend to start "gaming the system" rather than enjoying the ride. We truly want you to sit back, play, laugh, cry, and worry about whether you could've made a better decision - that's what carrying the Banner is all about. Leaving much for the imagination in regard to the upcoming titles, Stoic’s The Banner Saga likes to keep us guessing, but that’s really the best part of this expedition. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  8. Based in Jakarta, Indonesia Touchten Games contended with the unique challenges of game development in that part of the world and have managed to establish a foothold in the market with their simple, yet consistent, game projects. Most recently they celebrated the successful Kickstarter funding of one of their larger projects titled, Target Acquired. Despite Indonesia being a completely different type of gaming market compared to the United States, with more than a dozen different mobile titles for sale on their website, Touchten Games certainly has plenty of experience in maintaining a consistently producing studio. Touchten Games’ CEO and Executive Producer Anton Soeharyo sat down with us to explain how the studio keeps up and manages so many different projects while continuing to create new ones like Target Acquired. Jesse Tannous: You have a fairly large team with several seemingly smaller scale light hearted games under your belt. How do you manage the existing projects while also working on new games? Anton Soeharyo: We adopt the 2:1 ration so far. Two casual light games that we can finish and launch ASAP, and one more "advanced" game like "Target Acquired" where it takes more time and resources. When one of these slots is gone, we can then always fill it in, keeping in mind the 2:1 ratio. We hope to expand this overtime as our team does. JT: What have been some of the most important tactics you’ve put in place to ensure your studio continues to stay afloat and grow? AS: Never stop creating. I think the mistake that most people make is to be married to only one project. The smartphone gamer crowd can drop our game anytime, therefore we should continue to please them. That's the secret, I personally think. JT: As a CEO and Executive Producer what are the hardest challenges you encounter during the game creation process as opposed to the core development team? AS: The hardest challenge which I totally enjoyed, is definitely marketing the game. Connecting our games with the media, is something of a passion for me. JT: How does your studio decide what game project to work on next? Is it a collaboration between the whole team or are current market popularity trends more important in your process? AS: We have these game pitching days, so when one of the slots become available in the 2:1 ratio I mentioned above, we gather the team, buy pizza or snacks, and then prepare for Game pitching day. Anyone can present their game idea (within our guideline of gameplay and retention flow). Then the company votes together to find a great game we want to make and play! JT: Are you aware of any unique challenges to making games in Indonesia that developers in other parts of the world may not have to contend with? AS: We have such a huge population, (4th largest in the world, 1st in South East Asia) and such a young population too, but the challenges are: no payment gateway to collect money, low credit card penetration, slow internet, and low Smartphone penetration. But having said all that, I believe things are ONLY going to get better, and I am excited to see where we can be in the future! While the steady stream of titles that Touchten Games creates may seem over simplified, their cooperative structure helps produce experiences that they consider fun and are built with an understanding of the obstacles unique to their national market. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  9. A lot of what makes games truly shine happens without the players consciously knowing. Characters and scenes just look really good sometimes, but without even a rudimentary understanding of programming or software, it becomes a lot more difficult to identify why something looks good. German software developer Dennis Faas believes that one key component to quality looking games is dynamic lighting effects. It just so happens that Faas has announced a Kickstarter campaign for his program Sprite Dlight that claims to make implementing dynamic lighting a whole lot easier for any developer. Already successfully funded on Kickstarter, Sprite Dlight is designed to take a lot of the repetitiveness and reliance on artistic skills out of the picture to make dynamic lighting effects possible for any 2D images. Deciding to leave much of the technical explanations to Faas, we wanted to sit down with him to learn how his tool worked and how it can benefit the game development community. Jesse Tannous: Can you share some of the reasons why you developed this tool? Dennis Faas: Many of us grew up in a time where games were restricted to two dimensions, low resolution and a limited color palette. That is probably one of the reasons why we still love pixel art and 2D games in a modern age that provides technologies for games almost as realistic as life itself. But why shouldn't we combine the amazing look of 2D games with some of these? Imagine a pixel art character being affected by the atmospheric lighting of campfires and other light sources, depending on the angle and the distance to them. All that can be achieved with some basic 3D information for two dimensional characters and objects. While there have been approaches to make hand painting of that 3D information easier, Sprite DLight generates it automatically, based only on the already available 2D art. JT: For the non-programmers out there can you explain what Sprite DLight actually does? DF: Sprite DLight uses simple images of game characters or objects or even sheets containing multiple animation frames of a character and estimates 3D information for them. Based on the shapes and surface details of the input image, the tool calculates a normal vector for every pixel to determine the direction the pixel faces in 3D space. Using this additional image together with the original sprite and a light source allows for beautiful dynamic lighting effects in games. Sprite DLight also has an internal lighting preview, which makes it possible to simulate dynamic lighting on any 2D image. JT: How do you believe Sprite DLight will improve game developer experiences or make their work simpler? DF: Dynamic lighting is one of these dreams many developers have, but the possibilities to achieve this in an acceptable quality have been restricted to hand painting multiple versions of the same subject, which would be a huge amount of effort when doing it for all characters and objects of a game, that is why we have rarely seen it to date. To use Sprite DLight, you don't have to be an artist or mathematician, you just feed it with one or multiple images, adjust the settings to your needs and let the tool do the rest. I believe this technique will be used in quite some games soon, because dynamic lighting is an improvement for any game, and why shouldn't you use it when it can be done with almost no effort? JT: On average how much potential time could developers save by utilizing the functionality of this program? DF: It depends on the number of assets you want to process, and it depends on the tools and the workflow you would use instead of it. I won't go deep into detail regarding common normal map generators, as they can only achieve a "bevelish" look for a surface. For a simple game with 3 different characters, where each character has 5 different animations, consisting of 8 frames, you would have 120 frames. If you take the route of hand painting the shading from the cardinal directions and calculating the normals based on these, it would be 120x4=480 images you would have to draw by hand, before processing them. Processing these 120 frames (and probably some environment objects) with Sprite DLight would require you to set the desired intensity and wait a few seconds until all images are done. So, on average I would say, you could save a shedload of time. JT: What are the biggest downsides to the program at this moment? Are they things that can be fixed? DF: At this time, the tool is still in an early development phase, so there are of course things that are not yet optimized. For the tool, it is also sometimes hard to guess if an area inside an image is concave or convex, just as it can be for the eye. You won't always be able to generate perfect normal maps with it, but the feedback I got so far makes me confident that the quality is good enough for most purposes. However, there is still room for improvements and that is why I have been asked to add a feature for manual artistic control, which is already planned and introduced as the 4th stretch goal. JT: Does this program benefit inexperienced or veteran developers more? Would this be a good learning tool for students studying game development? How? DF: From an artistic point of view, there is a lot to learn about shading and how colors interact. On the technical side, it could be a good match for shader programming exercises and an example for the combination of 2D and 3D technologies. As the use of Sprite DLight is very simple and straightforward, beginners will benefit from it just as much as experienced developers. My main goal is to make dynamic lighting possible for every game developer and I am glad to provide something that helps to give indie games more atmosphere and to make them look more awesome. If Sprite Dlight ends up performing as described then it may be on the fast track to become a favored tool of amateur developers lacking the required technical or artistic skills needed for dynamic lighting effects, while also benefiting more established studios looking to save on time and resources. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  10. Indie development studios all have different methods of operation. Some set strict deadlines for themselves to push forward and not get caught up on details, others determine whether or not they make a game based on successful funding strategies like Kickstarters or investors. The two man team of Eneme Entertainment have decided to take however long it takes to make their game Eitr exactly as they envisioned. Artist and Game Designer David Wright has wanted to create games for some time and decided to follow in the footsteps of some of his favorite titles, Diablo and Path of Exile, for his own project Eitr. This combat driven exploration game was inspired heavily by Norse Mythology and follows the quest of the Shield Maiden as she tries to restore order to the 9 Norse Worlds that have been corrupted by the toxic substance known as Eitr. With plenty of enemies, items, and areas left to create, Wright and Programmer Tobi Harper, are currently remaining quiet on their release date. Wright had plenty to say in our interview about the studios use of the Unity engine and how they are holding up financially. Jesse Tannous: How much experience did either of you have with the Unity 3D engine before starting to develop this game? David Wright: I personally didn't have too much experience in Unity, I'm the artist and game designer. I had used Unity on a few projects in the past but I'm no guru. Tobi Harper however, the coder behind Eitr has many years of experience in Unity and is actually the main reason we decided to use Unity, simply because of how comfortable he already was with using it. JT: How easily have you been able to pick up the Unity 3D tool? DW: There's a ton of resources available for Unity on the internet, because it is free and appeals to so many Indie Developers, the community has built a wealth of knowledge, tips and tricks available to everyone. It makes learning the tool that much easier. We're both for the majority self-taught, we both have a background in Software Development through education, but almost everything we have learned has just been us following tutorials and guides we've found on-line over the past 10+ years. Just like with any piece of software, the more you use it the more you feel comfortable with it, but Unity has that added benefit of having an immense amount of free information available. JT: For most players, how long will this game generally take from start to completion? DW: As the game is still early in development, this is a question that I can't answer at this time. What I can say though is you won't be blowing through this game in a couple hours on your first play-through. JT: How much have you both already invested in the development of this title? Has funding become an issue yet? DW: Well we've been developing the game for around 6 months, however for 2 of those months we were still working and not working full time on Eitr. I think funding is always going to be an issue for indie developers, but our expenses so far, similar to most indie devs, are just for our survival. We are still evaluating our options for funding, for now, we're "okay". Haha. JT: Given the current speed at which you are developing the game and the funds you have available, do you have any idea when the game might be getting close to release? DW: At this moment in time, the best answer I can give to this is that we want Eitr to be as great as we want it to be, we want the game to be complete and polished before release and we're going to do whatever we have to do to make this happen. So at this time, we're not going to make any promises on a release window. Similar to Eitr’s nameless Shield Maiden, much has been left to mystery as to what the game will truly be upon completion, but it seems that both Wright and Harper will be giving their project all the attention and dedication they possibly can. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  11. Finnish game studio Almost Human has about as humble of an origin story as you’d imagine for an indie game developer. From their meager beginnings they created what would quickly become a hit among fans of dungeon crawling adventures with their first release Legend of Grimrock (LoG), and are currently taking a step back after the release of the sequel Legend of Grimrock II (LoG2). Like many studio beginnings the team that came together to design the world of Grimrock gave up industry jobs to pursue their own dreams in the hopes of gaining the ability to create the games they imagined. So far so good as the revenue attained from LoG enabled the team to not only develop the sequel but hire on some help to really give it some polish. Almost Human’s own creature modeler Juho Salila sat down to describe the studios origins, talk some sales numbers regarding LoG, and discuss some potential reasons for including in-game editors. Jesse Tannous: What sort of experience do you and your team bring to the table from previous studios or game projects? Juho Salila: That's a big question, but to make it short, I'd say we tried to learn from others mistakes and naturally from the things they've done right. We wanted to combine everything we've learned to our own ethics and mentality and that combination so far has fitted us really well. Of course there's all the technical aspects we've learned during the years in game making business, but that's just technicalities, the most important thing is to have a clear vision on determination. JT: What sort of resources and finances were needed to get your studio off the ground with the Grimrock title? JS: Not that much actually. We did LoG1 with our own savings, which actually run out at the end, so we had to double our efforts to finish the game. We rent a small basement and got some old beat up computers up and running and basically just hammered Grimrock out of them. The rough start has paid itself back and allowed us to stay independent. Luckily LoG1 sold so well that it allowed us to create LoG2 also. JT: If you care to discuss some numbers how have your games done in terms of sales? JS: I can't say exactly what LoG2 has sold so far, but it is close to paying itself back, so it's looking good. LoG1 passed the 900,000 copies mark this September. JT: Why should other game developers consider releasing an in-game editor program, and what is really required to be able to do so effectively? JS: If you think business-wise it could get you a lot of extra content and maybe spawn a successful mod that could be sold and you get the royalties from it. But we never thought it that way. We thought it would be cool to see what people could design with the tools and since we have pretty fun pipeline going on, why not share it with our fans. Our editor is pretty easy to get started. Within seconds you can create your own dungeons, but with some coding skills, you can redo LoG2 with the editor, because the tools we give with the editor are the same we used to make the game. JT: What is next for Almost Human? Are more Grimrock games in the works already or are new projects to be anticipated? JS: We haven't planned that far. We're having some well-earned vacations and take things a bit more slowly because we really had to push hard to get LoG2 done. But we'll soon start working with the Mac port of LoG2 and we're already pretty well on our way with LoG1 iOS version. What the future holds for Almost Human, we'll just have to wait and see. With two games under their belt that continue to sell it seems that Almost Human will have the option to take its’ time to decide exactly what direction they want to head in. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  12. Back when Ken Levine announced his departure from Irrational Games, to pursue a different creative experience, it came as no surprise that others also wished to focus their efforts in a small studio environment. The Molasses Flood is a new studio created, mostly, by former employees of Irrational Games including Art Director Scott Sinclair, and Lead Level Designer Forrest Dowling, who was kind enough to sit down and talk about their first project The Flame in the Flood. Already successfully funded on Kickstarter at over $200,000, The Flame in the Flood is a rogue-like survival experience that sets itself apart with its’ unique backwater style and emphasis on the perils of Mother Nature. The Molasses Flood utilized the expected random level generation in a different way, replacing dungeons with river rapids and swamp riddled woods that host a variety of dangers. Players control the character Scout as she travels with her loyal dog Aesop as they journey to the end of the river against rapids, hunger, natural predators, and much more. Dowling, a veteran of AAA development, discussed how this new studio formed, what the small teams’ hopes are for their project, and some financial facts regarding the development of a game on this scale. Jesse Tannous: It seems like your entire team had worked on some part of BioShock Infinite, is that where you all came together? How did this partnership come about? Forrest Dowling: Almost the entire team worked on Infinite. Bryn worked at Irrational years ago, around the time of Freedom Force. The rest of us knew each other through working on Infinite. The partnership came about after the closure of Irrational. There were suddenly a lot of talented developers in a town without a lot of jobs available in games. We knew we’d all have to move or start something new. Around that time, Damian was finishing up his own project, Third Eye Crime, and was looking for a new team to work with. We convinced Bryn to leave his job at Harmonix to come join us. Working on a small team on your own project is a pretty appealing idea for a lot of developers, so it wasn’t a very tough sell. The hardest part was convincing everyone to forego a salary for the unknowns of indie development. JT: So far how has the team enjoyed the smaller studio environment as compared to working on something as large as the BioShock franchise? What have been some of the key differences? FD: The biggest difference is scope and resources. Working on a large project means that you can do just about anything you can think up. If you need a voice actor, or motion capture, or weeks of an artist’s time, it can be done. Now we have 6 of us. If an idea can’t be done by someone in the room, in a reasonable amount of time, it’s not happening. That being said, on a large project you can do anything, but you can’t do everything, so we’ve always had to worry about scope. It’s just a much lower threshold now. One big advantage of working on a small team is nimbleness and speed. If I need a new tool written by an engineer, I can get it almost immediately. On a large team, there’s always more steps along the way, and changing things means fighting a lot more inertia. JT: While a $150,000 Kickstarter goal is not the highest, especially considering previous video game projects that have appeared on the website, but it is on the higher end. What was the main motivation for setting a higher Kickstarter goal like this, especially when backers seem fully willing to fund projects well-beyond their stated goals? FD: We set the goal at the lowest point that we felt we could and still make the game. $150,000 really is a shoestring budget for a game of the size we’re making. If we set it lower, there would be a risk of hitting the goal, but not blowing past it. At that point, we’d be in a pretty bad position, in that we’d have some of what we needed, but not all of it. I’d rather miss an honest goal then set one that was too low and hit it, leaving us unable to deliver what we promised. While backers are willing to go beyond funding targets, it seemed really dangerous for us to count on that. JT: You state in your Kickstarter that you are combining self-funding, and crowd-funding in order to make this game a possibility. For those less experienced with developing a game on this scale how much does it really cost to put something like this together and how does it break down? FD: That’s a good question. Not so long ago, Tim Schafer tweeted a number. It takes about $10k a month per developer to run a studio. That’s pretty accurate when averaged over a large team. You have some entry level people who make a bit less, and senior engineers can make a bit more. So for us, if we were just bankrolling this project and hiring experienced developers, the napkin math would point to about $720,000 in payroll alone. Considering that we’re all pretty experienced, I’m guessing hiring the 6 of us at a major studio would even run a little higher. Payroll is the single biggest expense in making games, particularly on the engineering side, as you’re competing with Google and Facebook to hire people. Beyond that there’s QA, localization, certification costs, marketing costs… those can all be extremely variable and shift based on how many platforms you’re supporting. At a baseline, if someone wanted to hire the group of us to make this game, they would probably need to budget close to a million. Fortunately, we can make this game for a lot less because we’re dramatically decreasing the biggest cost, payroll, by living off savings. We’re willing to do this because we’re not working for a paycheck, we are hoping that we’re building a studio that is ours for years to come. JT: How did Chuck Ragan get involved in this project? FD: Chuck and Scott Sinclair go way back. Sinc has done most the album covers for Chuck’s previous band, Hot Water Music, and their bands used to play the same shows back in Sinc’s college days. While we were figuring out what we wanted to make, I had initially proposed looking at traditional American acoustic music, folk, bluegrass, that sort of thing. Sinc proposed that we see if Chuck was interested. We approached him, told him about what we wanted to do, and he was immediately interested and wanted to help out. JT: Are there any plans to update or add expansions to Flame in the Flood after it has been released? FD: While the game could be expanded pretty easily, we’re just focused on the core experience right now. If it does well and people love it, we’d consider additional content down the line, but that’s pretty far off and not something we’re really thinking about right now. The Flame in the Flood will have its’ own challenges to survive throughout the development process, but with the popularity of rogue-like games and the professional experience The Molasses Flood brings to the table, it could be the perfect move for a young studio hoping to make a name for itself in the wake of the Irrational Games closure. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  13. Living in the quickly growing space between book and video game resides the genre known as interactive fiction. Interactive fiction generally focuses on character interactions and story engagement through text based commands or devices. Developers Aaron Reed and Jacob Garbe decided to utilize the video games category to announce their Kickstarter project Ice-Bound, which may not adequately describe the successfully funded project. Users interact with an AI program called KRIS, a computer intelligence designed to mimic the consciousness of fictional and immensely popular writer Kristopher Holmquist with the specific goal of finishing a manuscript left uncompleted as a result of his death. Players read through fragments left over in notes by the author and create the rest of the story themselves by selecting different options made available at set points. As the digital embodiment of the original author, KRIS must approve of the choices which is accomplished by showing support found in the physical Ice-Bound Compendium that is used in conjunction with the game. Using altered reality technology, KRIS will scan various pages players show it in support of their story decisions, while the AI slowly learns more about its’ creation and purpose. Currently, Ice-Bound is set to be available for owners of the iPad 2 or newer as well as Windows PC’s equipped with webcams. According to their Kickstarter a MAC OS port as well as Android tablet functionality is planned but not guaranteed. This unique fusion of game and narrative construction warranted further investigation which led us to sit down with developer Aaron Reed to learn more about developing for interactive fiction, and the functionality of Ice-Bound. Jesse Tannous: Describe the pacing of this experience will there be chapters or clear stopping points? How were those implemented as to not break the immersion of Ice-Bound? Aaron Reed: The story's divided up into eight chapters, each one corresponding to a deeper level of Carina Station. Each level tells a self-contained story of people who lived at the station at a particular time... the deeper levels are older, and thus farther back in history. In the later levels, the stories start threading together a little more complexly (but I've already said too much). The breaking serves a similar purpose to chapters in a book: giving you a place to stop for a while if you like and resume later without being too lost, and a sense of progression through the narrative. JT: You mention how the AI program can react differently to certain prompts found within the Ice-Bound Compendium. Will players know beforehand what prompts will result in certain responses or will that be something that they simply have to figure out over the course of playing? AR: A little of each. When you've arranged a certain story the way you like it, KRIS (the AI simulation of Ice-Bound's original author) will ask you to find some evidence in the printed Ice-Bound Compendium that your version of the story is correct. He'll do this by looking at a set of "themes" which each potential ending fragment is tagged with. Each of the pages in the printed book are also tagged with themes. You can't see those themes directly, but the content of the page helps you understand what they are. Showing KRIS a page that has a theme in common with your ending will convince him that your version of the story is appropriate. An important facet of this is that there isn't a single right answer: there are enough pages (80) and ending fragments (er, hundreds?) that you can use surprising pages to resolve endings in ways we as the creators didn't specifically think of in advance. The catch, though, is that KRIS also picks up other information from the pages you show him: things about his past or his digital rebirth that his creators would rather he didn't know. Showing him a certain page might get the ending you want, but might also give KRIS the last piece of evidence he needed to understand a secret from his past or something about his ultimate fate. So the choice as player of what page to show him is complicated: how much do you want to reveal to him, and when? JT: Depending on player choices will different players be exposed to completely different stories or will their choices simply effect details within the same core narrative? AR: The individual stories of each chapter can change quite dramatically based on player choices, even to the point of being in different genres. Part of the joy of the system is exploring how seemingly minor changes can have drastic effects on the whole narrative. Giving a character a drinking problem might unlock a whole set of events and endings that weren't there when she was afraid of the dark, instead. You're exploring these stories in the larger context of your ongoing relationship with the AI writer, KRIS. His story follows more of a pre-set path, although many of the specifics can still vary quite a bit (his mood, and what information he's learned about himself, can trigger various scenes and lead to a number of possible endings for him). JT: Since you and your partner have been involved with the interactive fiction (IF) genre for quite some time can you explain how the genre is doing? Is it growing and innovating or is it suffering from stagnation and lack of mass appeal? If the latter what can be done to change that? AR: IF is actually in the midst of an extraordinary renaissance right now. Over the past few years, a combination of the rise of mobile devices that make casual reading of digital texts easier than ever, and a proliferation of new tools for writing this kind of content, has really created a perfect storm for a rebirth of digital text. I can't even keep track of all the new systems and communities flourishing right now: StoryNexus, Inklewriter, ChoiceScript, Twine, and Versu, to name a few, alongside older tools like Quest and Inform. As far as the games, you've got stories driven by complex simulations of social convention, like Blood and Laurels from Emily Short; you've got the brilliant writing and experiments in form by people like porpentine in "their angelical understanding"; you have the success on Steam of interactive narratives like Christine Love's Analog: A Hate Story, Zoe Quinn's Depression Quest, or Zachary Sergi's Heroes Rise. And I guess the fact that our own text-driven game just won IndieCade's Story award maybe counts for something too. In short, there's an explosion of interactive fiction right now, and it's amazing to be watching it evolve. JT: What would you recommend for someone interested in breaking into development for this particular genre? AR: The barrier of entry is refreshingly low compared to many other game genres. Twine is a really popular tool right now for creating link-based fictions, and ChoiceScript is another easy system for making choice-based narratives that can track state over time. Versu and Inform 7 are more complex systems for telling stories that involve more sophisticated simulations of people, places, and things. One of our Kickstarter stretch goals is to open source the narrative engine behind Ice-Bound, so that might soon be a potential option, too. I think the biggest advice I would say is start playing what's out there, join the conversations online, start making work and releasing it. You don't need art assets or 3D modelers or an expensive engine. You just need words. Ice-Bound certainly promises to be a very different type of game, but seems to promise an interactive experience that allows for creativity and individual experiences. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  14. If developing a game around writing being the primary engagement factor sounds too difficult to consider, then you probably aren’t part of the Dejobaan Games team developing Elegy for a Dead World. This independent studio recently ended a Kickstarter campaign after acquiring over $70,000 towards their original $48,000 goal. Their purpose? Make a game where players get interested in writing while exploring abandoned alien worlds. Despite having an intriguing elevator pitch, the developers at Dejobaan Games had many creative and mechanical obstacles to overcome. Most concerning of which was figuring out what kind of a game they were creating. Eventually the team settled on basing the visual aesthetic of the three worlds they currently have in development off Romantic era art, and poetry by Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats, and George Gordon Byron. This, combined with pre-generated and randomized writing prompts would constitute the core game-play as players slowly uncover and create the history of the alien races that once inhabited the lands. However, the developers at Dejobaan Games, known for their humorous and uniquely engaging game concepts weren’t happy with creating a simple educational experience that promoted writing with aesthetically pleasing game-like images. Elegy for a Dead World was designed for all players regardless of writing ability. Its purpose seems to be to inspire creativity while giving an outlet to share that creativity with others. This comes in the form of the built in platform that allows players to share their finished stories with others. Studio lead Ichiro Lambe sat down to help explain how you create a game based on getting players to write and how this might benefit or entertain the gaming community. Jesse Tannous: Do you consider Elegy an educational game? How is it similar/different? Ichiro Lambe: It absolutely can be, in that it gets people writing creatively. We've had educators come to us wanting to use Elegy for everything from English as a second language (ESL) learning to introductory rhetoric classes and beyond. Where it differs from more traditional educational games is that there are no quizzes or wrong answers. JT: This is a concept that targets a niche audience, as developers how was support for this project acquired? Did it depend heavily upon crowd-funding? IL: Elegy was funded out-of-pocket for most of its development, but we've just run a successful Kickstarter campaign, which means that the remainder of development is crowd funded. It's totally a niche game, but I think that's actually why we've received so much support for it. JT: Throughout the development experience thus far what have been the biggest creative obstacles you've encountered when trying to base a game on writing? IL: Oh boy! The biggest question was: what the heck is this game, anyway? Programming lead Ziba and art lead Luigi know how to implement and illustrate (respectively) as well as anyone, but none of us knew how to create a game that encouraged players to write. For the first third of the game's development, we just asked players to write freeform, without any prompting. We later found that constraining players (the fill-in-the-blank writing prompts) actually helped them write. JT: How receptive have educators been on utilizing a game like this as a teaching tool? IL: One of the Kickstarter stretch goals we reached was "1,000 free keys to educators," and a majority of those are now taken by people who teach everything from ESL to middle school to AP Literature and even university courses. Educators occasionally do use our games in an academic setting, but Elegy's by far the most popular. JT: What would your advice be to other game developers who might be hoping to explore unique concepts? IL: What worked for us was that we scoped the project appropriately (the game's not this full-blown 3D experience, for instance), and we made sure to keep iterating on the core concept and putting it out there to gauge reactions. We didn't stop refining until people literally told us, "Holy crap, I have to play that." Even if writing doesn’t seem like an interesting enough hook for you, many supporters of the Kickstarter seem eager to experiment with this new concept and maybe learn something while they’re at it. Jesse is a reporter first who just happens to love video games and enjoys writing video game related articles and interviewing industry professionals.
  15. Perhaps one of the most memorable and talked about aspects of Supergiant Games titles Bastion and Transistor, is the quality of the games soundtracks and audio design. From the ever present narrator of Bastion, to the interplay of narrative themes with vocal performances in Transistor, what was heard throughout the games, for many, made the experiences vastly more impactful. Sound Designer Darren Korb and Vocalist Ashley Barrett are given the lion’s share of credit for the soundtracks success. During previous interviews with Supergiant Games’ Creative Director Greg Kasavin and Voice-Over Artist Logan Cunningham have provided insight into the studios unique creative processes that emphasize collaboration and taking time to ensure quality. Korb and Barrett both seemed to latch onto this ideal throughout their collaboration on Bastion and Transistor. We decided to sit down with these artists to hear about how they started working together, what sparked their interest in music, and get some insight into the hidden meanings behind some of the songs that have captivated many. Jesse Tannous: Can you tell me a little bit about how each of you got into music? Darren Korb: I started signing when I was really young. Starting around maybe 5 years old I started doing musical theater and did a bunch of that pretty much through high school. I took some piano lessons when I was really young and didn’t like it. I started learning guitar when I was 11 or 12 and started really getting into music. I would play guitar, and started playing in bands, writing songs, and stuff like that. I did that for a long time. I started getting into recording in high school, and that’s when I decided that this is something that was really fun for me and I wanted to keep doing this. Ashley Barrett: My experience has kinda the same beginning as Darren, which makes sense because we kind of grew up in the same area and pursued the same sort of path. I started doing musical theater when I was around 6 and had my first show. I fell in love with signing and performing and kind of continued that through high school. Then in college I was in some a capella groups which really helped my harmonies and my love for that kind of music making. Then when I moved to New York I was in a few bands and did a few little side projects and hooked up with Darren and started doing this. JT: Darren, how did you get Ashley involved with Supergiant initially? DK: We had worked together on a project before Bastion. I worked on a musical with my brother, and was making a demo album. I had personally never met Ashley at that point, but Dan, my brother, had met Ashley, and we had a bunch of mutual friends because we both did musical theater at the same place. I don’t think we were in any of the same shows though. We had kind of missed each other growing up. I had heard through our mutual friends that Ashley was very good at singing so I contacted her and I worked with her on that project. Then when we were making Bastion I thought, ‘Oh I know somebody who has the kind of voice who would be great for this’, so I contacted Ashley and we started working together. JT: Ashley, Did you ever imagine you’d be doing vocal work for video games and that your songs would be so loved? AB: No! I mean I first started back when I was really young I actually did a series of voice-over stuff for English as a second language tapes. So I had a little experience from the voice-over world, but never really thought video games was something I would go to, but I think it’s such an interesting industry and its growing super-fast and it is really exciting to be a part of it. JT: Would you say Bastion and Transistor are what you are most known for? AB: Yeah definitely. I mean I’ve done some other smaller recordings and I’ve written some of my own music, but I’ve never really had the guts to put it out and really give it a go. So this has kind of been my first foray into it, which is really exciting because I’ve always wanted to do is something with my voice, and make that kind of my sole purpose (laughs). Hopefully it won’t be the only thing I’ll be known for (laughs), but it is definitely the beginning for sure. JT: Has your work with Supergiant thrust you outside of your comfort zone creatively? DK: To some degree, for sure. When I started working on Bastion I hadn’t really done any sound design or much direction of actors or anything. In addition to the music I also did all that stuff. There was a big learning curve for me on Bastion in terms of figuring out how I wanted to approach sound design, and how to approach the voice-over stuff from a technical standpoint and also from a creative directorial standpoint. On Transistor there were other challenges, we tried to do some more technically complex things with the music implementation and things like that. It’s always nice to be just beyond what you already known, to do things beyond the scope of what you currently understand because that is certainly a way to improve and learn things as you go. That’s really fun for me. A fun part of the process has always been to learn new things and get better at what I do. AB: Yeah for me I think it was really interesting having Darren give me notes throughout and give me some direction. For me since I was kind of doing my own thing in New York for so long I didn’t have people guiding me. I think at first it was kind of like, ‘Oh gosh I can hope do this right!’ I know a lot of times we had several takes and I was trying to get it perfect and make sure that Darren liked what was going on. I think that really pushed me to become a better vocalist and I love the way that it ended up sounding even if there were areas when I can tell I would’ve been louder or I wouldn’t have belted that, or whatever it may be. JT: How major of a factor do you believe that played in the success and overall quality of the soundtracks? DK: I mean that’s hard to say. I’m just amazed still by how well people have responded to the soundtrack and the fact that people have been so enthusiastic about them. I’ve worked on stuff before that I thought was great and I pushed myself on it, and nobody seemed to be that interested at the time (laughs). So, I didn’t even expect the response that happened, and I didn’t expect it a second time. So, I really don’t know what has gone into that or what has caused people to respond so well. I think what it comes back to for me, is that I really am trying to just do things that are compelling to me, that I find interesting and that I have fun doing. I feel like that is something that people can perceive. If you are doing something honestly and passionately that is going to come across, for whatever that’s worth. So, for me, part of that is pushing myself, and doing stuff outside of my comfort zone a little bit makes it a little more exciting and more fun. So at least indirectly, maybe it has an effect. AB: I think there was an element of confidence that we had going into Transistor having the support of everyone from Bastion, at least on my end. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh people think that this is good and like the sound of my voice!’ It helped me feel excited to do some more stuff to see what peoples reaction would be. JT: Darren, all of the songs, especially the ones with vocals, were designed to fit into the overall narrative of the game and seemed to provide clues as to Red’s personality. What was the collaboration like with the other members of the development team to ensure that everything meshed together so well? Did the songs come first or was your direction provided before writing them? DK: It sort of was similar to how I worked on the songs for Bastion. Greg Kasavin, our creative director and writer, does a lot of work on making a pretty thorough game world document that really had a lot of rich backstory about the characters and the world that is not included in the game necessarily. We all had access to that while creating for the game. I think that is something I utilized while writing the lyrics. I tried to write the songs from Red’s point of view as best I could and tried to make music that would have meaning where we planned to put them in the game, in terms of what is happening at that moment dramatically, while also giving some context to Red’s personality and her character. JT: Your lyrical work in Transistor had some obvious narrative tie-ins to the game. For Bastion though, songs like “Build That Wall,” “Mother, I'm Here,” and “Setting Sail, Coming Home,” seem to have a little bit more of a loose connection to the games narratives. Could you talk a little bit about the motivations behind those songs? DK: For Bastion, I approached the songs as if they were traditional folk songs in the game world, as opposed to Transistor, where I saw them as songs Red had written herself. It made sense to me that the songs in Transistor would be more closely related to the story, lyrically speaking, since they are from Red's point of view. For “ ,” I thought of it as a sort of wartime song that the Ura might have sung in the conflict with Caelondia, maybe something Zia would have heard her father sing when she was younger. “ ,” I imagined as a song that would be sung at funerals. JT: My interviews with Greg Kasavin and Logan Cunningham paint a pretty unique picture of the development process at Supergiant Games. While Bastion and Transistor are your only games, can you describe some of the differences in you and your studios approach to sound design that might be considered a-typical? DK: I think for the voice over and the music we certainly have a unique approach as far as I know, in that we work very closely with Logan and he is a big part of our creative process. We spend a long time getting at the character with him, and we would go back and forth a do a lot of experiments. For me writing the music, I’m working on it from the very beginning of the project which I think is a rarity in the industry. Not a lot of composers get to be a part of the creative process defining the tone of the game right from the start. JT: Ashley, considering the fact that the most we ever hear Red’s voice is during your vocalizations, do you consider yourself the voice of Red herself? AB: Yeah, it’s pretty cool when you play to hear the humming and obviously the singing as well, and since that is such a big part of her character I would say I identify with Red. JT: Fans have described Red as perhaps the most well developed female character in video games today, how do you feel about that? AB: That is awesome. I think it’s very unique. I’ve never seen a game that does what Transistor does with the character development. I think using the lack of speaking and using more of the singing elements does a lot for the imagination. She is definitely pretty rad and kicks a lot of butt. JT: How did you get inside the characters heads in order to bring them to life through song? AB: I think for both Bastion and Transistor Darren and I sat down kind of before we started anything and I think I had seen some of that document Darren mentioned. We went through some of the backstory and the character development which helped me get into the mind frame of who they were supposed to be. JT: You obviously have a career outside of the soundtracks you've done for Supergiant, can you tell me a bit about that? AB: Yes - I am a publicist by day! I work at a PR agency called Access PR and have for the past 7 years. We have offices in San Francisco and New York - so I've been jumping back and forth from coast to coast for a while now. JT: Where could locals see your live performances? Do you have anything available outside of your game work that non-locals could enjoy? AB: I recently re-located to the West coast so I'm in the process of getting together a new band. I perform with a lot of my musician friends from time to time in California, but nothing is on-going at the moment. Definitely working on that! We just played a really fun show in San Juan Batista at a little music festival called Ranchstock that my friends put on. Next year will be even better! You can check out some fun videos from my old songwriting partner, Dustin Cohen and I on YouTube - there are some real gems in there! I am also in the process of putting together an album from some of my songs that I wrote a few years back. Darren and I have also talked about working on some non-game related songs, I love working with him so hopefully we can make that happen at some point! Stay tuned for updates - you can check out my website for new details. JT: If and when Supergiant releases information about their next game project can fans hope to see you both return for another soundtrack? If so, what new styles of music or vocals would you each hope to explore on that project? DK: My main interest is making something compelling based on the material of the project. What is going to serve that and how am I going to make that as interesting to me as possible? I had a lot of fun doing more vocals in this last game, continuing to push on that I would be fascinated by. I stepped a little bit further out of my comfort zone with Transistor than I did with Bastion and I’d be curious to do that as well in different ways. AB: I think I agree with Darren for sure, I would be excited just to hear what he could envision for me. A lot of times he has ideas for me and my voice that I wouldn’t necessarily have for myself. JT: Darren, Many fans have concluded that most of Red’s songs in Transistor seem to characterize her as strong, independent, and unwilling to follow the path laid out to her by her environment. How do the lyrics to “ ” fit into that analysis? DK: I don’t want to talk too much about things that are in the world doc stuff, because I don’t want to pull back the curtain too much here. I saw the Spine as a metaphor of her feeling like she understands how the worlds works. ‘I see the spine of the world’, I saw that as someone who could look inside the clock and see all the gears. That was sort of the approach I was using for that metaphor. It characterizes that extra bit of perception that not everybody has, that a lot of artists have, that allow them to write interesting things that are compelling to people because they are tapped into the pulse of everything a little bit more than everybody else. JT: In this particular song how is Red identifying her connection to the rest of this world in your mind? DK: I think in the context of that song the angle I was trying to take was, I see how things work as an observer, yet I’m part of it, we’re all part of it. Supergiant Games is a very interesting studio to see develop as all of the key creative members have remained and helped create their two titles. So far doing things differently appears to be working out very well for Supergiant Games and their development teams. It seems as though if Korb and Barrett have anything to say about it they’ll be adding their names to the audio credits of a future soundtrack. Until then, fans will simply have to be hopeful, and patient.