I thought it best to start by discussing the origin of the game and our vision of it. We got the idea to make a game some time ago, but, like most people with dreams, didn’t do anything about it. Video games attracted us for many reasons. For one, we are from what is probably the first generation to have more exposure to games than TV or film. Whether it’s the death of a favourite character or that epic final boss fight, games have provided more memorable moments to us than other media. Furthermore, we wanted to do something creative, and with the resources and sales channels available today, the gaming industry is more accessible than nearly any other art form (though not any easier to succeed in).
At some point – and for some unknown reason – we took the crazy step of actually doing something about it. We agreed on a few things from the outset:
1.We wanted a story heavy game.
Since this is our first game, we wanted it to be memorable as well as fun. As mentioned above, we grew up with gaming moments rather than TV moments, and as indie devs we have a unique opportunity to do something a bit different while bigger studios must paint by numbers.
2. We wanted a certain level of absurdity to generate humour, but not at the expense of the epic story.
The solution: a story for a serious game, in a not so serious setting. In fact, the idea for the game came about during the very first discussion we had regarding that.
I had always found “The Ghost of Christmas Past” to be a strangely sinister title for a character in a feel-good children’s story, and as with all things (golden rule of absurdity coming up), if you add an animal or fruit to the title it reaches WTF level: Japan. Think about “Conan the Mongoose“, “Indiana Jones and the Red Banana“, or “The Lord of the Peach: The Two Squirrels” and you will see what I mean.
3. We wanted the game to be 3D.
This is a big move for a small studio on their maiden voyage, and we wondered if it was a bad idea. However, if you are going to make a memorable game, you need to be motivated every minute you are making it. There are some 2D games we love : Pokemon, the early Final Fantasy games, and more recently, Undertale – but we could not see ourselves making those, and you need to be able to envisage something before you can go do it. The only way we could really get behind this is if we went for what we really wanted.
4. We wanted the game to be a truly audiovisual experience.
Go play a great game with the sound off. The Witcher 3 perhaps. Within about two minutes you will have given up on it. Sound effects alert the player to goings-on during gameplay, background ambiance sets a mood for an area, and music is vital for special moments in both gameplay and story (which is why the otherwise relatively silent Dark Souls series makes a point of playing big music during boss fights). Play a track from a famous game and any fan will immediately feel intense nostalgia. Kevin in particular is a zealot when it comes to the use of music in games, and I cannot say he is wrong in the least. We decided to make our whole game with the sound in mind as we went, rather than add it as an afterthought.
5. We wanted it to be third person.
Third person games are easier to tell stories around. A picture paints a thousand words, and seeing your playable character immediately adds to the setting. Not only the appearance, but the movement. Going back to the Witcher 3, we can tell so much about Geralt and his world just by watching him. Imagine you knew no background lore for a moment. His slick movements tell us he is a truly experienced swordsman, rather than a novice thrust into heroic action to save a loved one. His scars tell us that this is a dangerous world, where even the hero can get badly hurt. His unusual eyes tell us he isn’t quite human. And his hair colour indicates age, generally inconsistent with being the “chosen one” in the story. Without even playing we know this world does not revolve around him and he is simply there to do a job – but he is the best there is.
As mentioned above, movement is a big deal in third person, so we wanted to use as many motion captured animations as we could.
And so, in the space of a couple of conversations, we had come up with The Turkey of Christmas Past – a story heavy third person swordplay game, where you play as Tom, a mercenary cat, inadvertently tasked with stopping a powerful, evil foe. Stay tuned for more info!