Our current project ‘Sumatra’ was originally made for a two-week game jam solely by Shaun under the title ‘Pendek’. Shaun wanted to tell the simple story of a lost logger deep within the Sumatran jungle who is trying to get back home. Quite what gave him the energy and drive to do this in the middle of a full time job and a huge project (Legend of Hand) bemused me at the time. I suspect it was the need to work on something quick and fresh that had an immediate end in sight – a form of therapy to combat the sprawling mess that LOH was becoming. With that being said, I was impressed with how much he achieved in such a short space of time.
As Shaun was busy piecing together his vision for the game, we would discuss various ideas to expand the game. When time allowed I would sketch random scenarios that came into my head and send them to Shaun. These seemed to work surprisingly well and we generated several puzzle ideas just from these initial sketches. It was good way to get me in tune with the project – quite different from anything theme wise that we done before.
We are very keen to keep the puzzles in this game fresh, unusual and entertaining- as its setting leaves it open to the pitfalls of classic adventure fetch quests. This will be a big challenge and I am looking forward to seeing it come together. In the mean time I have been tasked with creating what seems to be a never ending stream of backdrops!
Now that idea is being expanded into a much bigger fleshed out world. The animations, backgrounds and designs will be re-worked but hopefully maintain the charm of the original. At first our intention was to work within the original games very limited retro colour palette which had an almost C64 type quality. However as time went by and the project has grown, we have slowly moved further away from that – with backgrounds now displaying far more detail and colour variety. I think we started to feel that the nostalgia aesthetic was going to eventually wear thin. A huge amount of the game is set in a jungle and we didn’t want the player to get bored of walking around an expansive environment with very little variety.
By contrast the character designs have been kept largely untouched- with just a few set colours. The benefit of keeping them simple is that I have no excuse not to provide plenty of variety and fluidity in idle animations. I’ve tried to be as expressive as possible with the animations of these tiny sprites and I should be able to keep adding bits here and there right up until the games release.
Generally, Shaun provides me with an animal base sprite and a general idea of how the character will interact with the world. I’ll then watch a couple of YouTube vids to check if the animations I’ve imagined are possible in the real world. I.e. does a startled Tapir trot or gallop away? It’s actually quite a fascinating experience in research but I won’t do that for more than half an hour- time is precious!
So how are we feeling about it all so far?
Well, I think Shaun and myself are both using this project as a real form of escapism from the current trials of modern living (which seem to be increasing every day). Sometimes we both envy Yandi, lost in the jungle, free from the urban chaos and repetition of it all. This project is a more therapeutic experience so far when compared with some of other works. But who knows how we will feel about in a few months time.
Thanks for reading.
Cloak and Dagger Games