Interview with Blowfish Studios - Storm Boy: The Game / JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword / Qinoto / Projection: First Light
Day one of PAX Australia was a hectic day, and we were lucky enough to get an opportunity to speak to some fantastic indie developers. One that we’d like to highlight is Sam and Michael from Blowfish Studios, as we discussed four new games coming to Switch, including:
- Storm Boy: The Game
- JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword
- Projection: First Light
Check out the two videos below for the interviews, or if you’re unable to watch them, you can read the transcript further down…
Storm Boy: The Game
Alex: Hey, Alex from Switchaboo here and I’m at Blowfish Studio’s booth here with Sam and we’re going to go over a few of their games. So first off we have Storm Boy, tell us a little bit about Storm Boy, it’s inspired by an old book, I heard.
Sam: Storm Boy is inspire by Colin Thiele’s 1960s book, I don’t have the exact year there, but it’s about Storm Boy and his pet pelican Mr Percival growing up in South Australian koorong and exploring the land. It was a movie in the 80s and they’re making a new movie coming out next year, so we were contacted to make a game of it. So easy for us, we did it and it’s more exploratory, go at your own pace like seeing hub worlds and mini-games.
Alex: Cool! I did actually wanted to touch upon that because I noticed that there was a movie coming out next year. Was it difficult for an indie studio to get those rights?
Sam: Not necessarily. The book publisher has the IP. They wanted a movie so they got the movie made and they had the game rights as well. The only thing that we did have to do was talk to the movie studio to make sure that were all on the same page with what’s happening. That got cleared very early on so there was no real issue.
Alex: That’s good! Is there any tie-in with the movie?
Sam: The only tie-in with the movie is that we plan on doing a day-one update when the movie drops. So the game does come out on November 20th on all consoles and from there we’ll have a day-one update when the movie drops with a new icon and stuff so people can see that it’s brand new.
Alex: So what inspired the developer to make a game of a book that was published approximately 50 years ago?
Sam: So the movie was planned first and they felt that they wanted a bit more media tie-in, something for kids to really get behind. Storm Boy is a required reading for some school curriculums. I never did.
Alex: Yeah I never did, either.
Alex & Sam: (Laughs)
Sam: So aside from that, it makes the story more accessible, easy for kids to play. If they like it, then they can go read the books. By all means, they’ll love the book but games are an interactive media.
Alex: Exactly, it’s a good way to experience it. Just a little bit of a comment, I’m actually from South Australia myself and it’s actually really good to see South Australia and what we have back at home represented in any form of medium. Did the developer had to visit South Australia and have a look at the beaches?
Sam: We had someone who went there recently and they used their experience. A few of our developers are from Western Australia so they kind of used that. We did a lot of going to Google maps and just Streetviewing all around –
Alex: How good is Google!?
Sam: Oh, I love it!
Sam: So it was just a matter of getting a sense as to what it is like, at least around the areas as to where the book is set.
Alex: Absolutely! So what are some of the gameplay elements? I noticed that there was a lot of story-based gameplay going on but is there any like – I don’t think so, but – is there any combat or any kind of puzzle solving in Storm Boy?
Sam: (Laughs) No, so there’s not really any of that. I do get asked if there’s combat a lot. It’s more exploratory, you’re playing as this person, you’re getting to know him and you’re living your life as Storm Boy on the beach. So it’s more drawing in the sand, playing fetch with Mr Percival, swimming, sailing.
Alex: So it’s a very relaxing game, I gather?
Alex: Cool! And November 20th you said was the release date?
Sam: Yeah, November 20th.
Alex: So that’s day and date with Switch as well?
Sam: Day and date with Switch as well! We’ve got certification on all platforms at the moment so we’re looking good.
Alex: That’s very exciting!
JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword
Alex: I think I want to move on to the next game, JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword. Tell us a bit about that.
Sam: JackQuest is more your metroidvania dungeon-crawler style of game. It’s hard. In the office, we enabled god mode as a cheat because we can’t really test it if we keep dying (laughs). It starts out very hand-holdy and you get to know the game a bit more but after that, it just gets brutal – at least in my opinion. I’ve only recently started playing that style of game and there’s a big learning curve, but if you have any fans of metroidvanias, you’ll love it.
Alex: Absolutely! We noticed that there’s a big sword.
Sam: Yeah, so it’s a big talking sword!
Alex: Yeah I was going to say, what’s the spill about it?
Sam: So the story is that your girlfriend has been kidnapped by the evil lord of the land and he’s also turned your friend Kuro into a sword. So finding the evil lord and defeating him will turn Kuro back and save your girlfriend. So I guess you could say it’s kind of a double-edge sword.
Alex: (Laughs) Ah good, I see what you did here. That was good! I noticed you also get some other weapons as well, along with different abilities.
Sam: So much like other metroidvanias, after each boss you’re going to get more abilities, you’ll need to backtrack and there’s a few other weapons that makes it a bit easier. We have some ranged weaponry in there so you don’t have to get up close and personal. Still, that brings its own challenges as well what with the constant swapping and the limited time you get to react to situations.
Alex: I find a lot of indie games that have the retro pixel art style inspired by a lot of classic 8 and 16 bit games. Was there any specific old era games that JackQuest was inspired by?
Sam: From what I understand, so we’re publishing the game, the developer is a South American gentleman. I think I heard that he mentioned Metroid itself as an inspiration but apart from that, I can’t really say what his motivations were.
Alex: Fair enough. And lastly on this one, when can we expect to play JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword on Nintendo Switch?
Sam: So this game should be out some time early next year – within the first six months of next year.
Alex: Really cool!
Alex: Last one, Qinoto. Am I pronouncing that correctly (kee-no-to)?
Sam: You are!
Alex: OK, cool! So give us a rundown, please.
Sam: So Qinoto. It’s kind of Origami-like, folding paper and creating things. I kind of liken it to the old Mad Max magazines, that back page where you’d fold it to make an image. That’s what you’re doing, you’re solving puzzles doing that and there’s a lot of cutting, twisting and turning paper and we literally had developers sitting at their desks folding it and saying, “Hmm, that’s not how paper works,” and just designing puzzles around that.
Alex: And is there a story connected to it?
Sam: There is a story. So Qinoto is one of the main characters, she’s a fox and it’s set in a witch village. So that currently is on iOS and we’re looking at the possibility of getting that onto consoles as well.
Alex: So Switch being first?
Sam: Switch will be one of the first ones. Switch is very easy to develop for and we love it.
Alex: Well I was actually thinking about that. I can see touch screen obviously with the iOS version, can you swap between both control styles on Switch?
Sam: You will be able to swap between both control styles. A lot of our games that do support touch, there’s no limitations with what you’re doing and that’s very much the same with Qinoto if we do decide to take it to Switch.
Alex: Awesome! I guess one more thing – when I was watching the trailer for Qinoto, the music sounded a little eerie. I don’t know if that’s the kind of vibe that they’re going for here.
Sam: As far as I know, it’s still pretty heavily in development. So, we’ve just got some placeholder stuff in at the moment. So that’s something to change, as always.
Alex: And is this one a bit far away, when can we expect it on Switch?
Sam: This one is still coming next year. Probably mid to late next year.
Alex: Thank you very much!
Sam: Thank you!
Projection: First Light
Alex: Hey everyone! Alex from Switchaboo and I’m joined here by Michael from Shadowplay Studios and published by Blowfish Studios, we’re here to talk about Projection: First Light. Michael is the original creator of the game, so tell us a bit about Projection: First Light.
Michael: So Projection is a game set in a shadow puppet theater and you’re controlling a little girl called Greta. She is on a journey of understanding culture and learning a lot of respect as well. So the main mechanic of the game is using a light to manipulate shadows and you have to use these shadows to traverse the world because we’re treating shadows as physical objects. So that’s the main mechanic of the game.
Alex: I actually wanted to touch upon that a little later, but I’ll get to it now. Was it difficult working with the lighting of the game to actually affect the gameplay?
Michael: I guess once I started adding physics into it, that was the hardest part, but we had a clear idea how it would work that you could actually walk on shadows, once we got that running, like there were a lot of tweaks just to make sure it felt right, but people could tell straight away how to play from the outset. Once they would see the person walking on shadows, it would just kind of click straight away. So it wasn’t difficult in the aspect of teaching players how to work with the shadow mechanics but there’s a lot of rules that we’re making up as we go along the way. For instance, we don’t have light going on forever, we just keep it within a radius, so we come up with some defined rules with how this works so that we can create puzzles.
Alex: I noticed a bit of inspiration from Wayang puppetry from Indonesia. What other cultures have you been inspired from?
Michael: Well, it’s all shadow puppetry. But we’re looking at four cultures here: Indonesian Wayang, China, Turkey and 19th century Europe. So those are the main cultures that we’re looking at. And in all cases, they’re just various forms of shadow puppetry. This is because those places used a lot of shadow puppetry in their culture as well. Basically, we went to a shadow puppeteer, Richard Bradshaw, and then he suggested that we look at all these places and that’s where we started drawing inspiration. We just started looking at all of the puppets that he was recommending to us.
Alex: I imagine you would have had some difficulties and road blocks during development. Was there any specific difficulties that came up during development?
Michael: Well originally it was made in Game Maker and that was much easier because I was only using blocks and working with squares. But what we really wanted was to be able to have the player walk on anything. So furniture, you can cast shadows on those. And so we rebuild Projection from Game Maker to Unity, so that took up a whole year. And then we had to start learning how to use Unity because there is so much to learn there.
Alex: Does that make it easier to port it to other consoles?
Michael: Yeah, so it became a whole lot easier on that front as well. But now it means that we are able to do a lot more with shadows as well so you can climb on anything.
Alex: Cool! I noticed a lot of platforming elements. Is there any action or combat in the game?
Michael: No combat.
Alex: No combat at all?
Michael: No, no no no. It’s not a violent game. We’re trying to move away from empowerment. So you’re actually just this little girl, and the most power you have is just from using the light. There are enemies, and in a way there is like combat, but you’re not fighting them. It’s using the light to try and make your way around them and hide yourself in shadows to escape them and things like that. Or, you can redirect enemies to create a path for them to go somewhere else and things like that.
Alex: Was there any game that you’ve played that inspired this creation?
Michael: Games that inspired this creation… I like looking at Journey as an example for how we created dramatic art. Once we knew that we were looking at shadow puppets, we were also looking at Limbo because that one is sort of similar to our backgrounds. So we only try to take little bits of influence.
Alex: Of course, I mean Projection certainly has its own unique flavour to it, especially with the puppetry.
Michael: Thank you (laughs)!
Alex: You’re welcome! Last of all, when can we expect to play it on Switch?
Michael: As in when will it be released on Switch? We haven’t got a set release date yet, apologies for that! Please don’t come at me with pitchforks. We’re terrible at making estimates (laughs).
Alex: We can only hold off so many, but we’ll do our best (laughs).
Michael: We were trying to finish Projection for this year, but it’s going to be pushed for early next year. I’ll definitely announce it once it’s very solid, but at this moment we haven’t got a set date.
Alex: Awesome, we really look forward to it, thank you very much!
Michael: Thank you very much as well!
What do you think of Storm Boy: The Game, JackQuest: The Tale of the Sword, Qinoto and Projection: First Light? Will you be playing them on Nintendo Switch? Let us know in the Comments section below.
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