Anodyne is a fantastic game that really immersed me in its landscape and gameplay. To this day when I listen to the score on my iPhone I am immediately transported back into the game and its a really magical experience. When I read on Twitter that Sean and Jon of Analgesic Productions were working on a new game and it was taking shape I contacted them.... Read All I heard about Analgesic Production's first game Anodyne when it hit the Pirate Bay. When it made it to the popular Torrent site they dropped the price of the game to help promote it and the story of what happened broke in the gaming community. I picked up the Anodyne game+score bundle during the Pirate Bay promotion.
Anodyne is a fantastic game that really immersed me in its landscape and gameplay. To this day when I listen to the score on my iPhone I am immediately transported back into the game and its a really magical experience. When I read on Twitter that Sean and Jon of Analgesic Productions were working on a new game and it was taking shape I contacted them. Even The Ocean is looking to be a really interesting game and I look forward to checking it out at PAX.
This interview contains a spoiler to Star Trek Into Darkness.
jdodson: I wonder if you could explain a bit about Even The Ocean. How is turning out?
Sean: I think it's coming along nicely. We've had this core mechanic of managing energy (rather than insta-death or health) ready pretty early on, and recently we've been figuring out the best ways to sort of express that through the worlds in EtO...how best to pace the game, etc. The past 5 months, when I get time to work on EtO, has been a mix of level design, infrastructure programming (to handle a game of EtO's scale), planning out world/story/game design with Jon, and music. And I guess a little bit of marketing. I expect work to go faster after PAX - this summer I've been doing things with Anodyne iOS and Japanese Anodyne, plus I've been travelling a bit so it's been harder to hit a good workflow. Jon was able to start working in July, so things have been more motivating since there's been art! Overall, creating EtO is a very challenging thing from a design standpoint - while it does retain platformer traits, there's a lot of open questions as to how we design the rest. So hopefully things turn out okay!
jdodson: Anodyne is an awesome game that features a very ethereal story that wasn’t entirely straightforward. Will Even The Ocean follow suit or will it approach things differently?
Jon: We're still figuring out how the narrative will be structured. What we do know is that it will follow two separate characters, Even and Aliph. Even is a person living in a modern-day city (not fantasy, but fictitious). Aliph is a sort of dream avatar of Even who exists in a fantasy world that is more focused on strange natural terrain. The story will have a bit more of a plot than Anodyne, but that will still probably be pretty loose. There will hopefully be more context for being able to interpret the storylines based on the parallels between the two main characters.
Sean: I think something we are interested in doing is trying to step the coherence of the narrative up one level...there's a unique set of challenges to designing a world with little explicit narrative interference (like Anodyne), and there's another set of challenges when designing interacting worlds with a moderate amount of narrative interference.
jdodson: It looks like Even the Ocean will take the player between a dream world and an urban setting. Anodyne had these elements too and I am curious if these games are spiritually linked together in some way?
Sean: I think they are linked in that they are both looking at characteristics of a person in an abstracted way. Like you can observe what someone is feeling or thinking by giving them dialogue or interactions with other things, in some fictional reality. But you can also try to do something similar by giving a character some set of game mechanics and letting them go into a designed world, and see what you can learn about a character through that, which is what Anodyne tried to do. EtO is trying a similar thing, but we are using the world of Even and world of Aliph as a contrast.
jdodson: Will Young or any other character from Anodyne make an appearance?
Jon: Hmm, we haven't really talked about this! Knowing us, almost definitely yes, but who knows how or in what context!
jdodson: One element of Even The Ocean is that the dream world and real world will be visually different. This is a very unique idea and I am curious if these differences will relate to the gameplay itself?
Jon: Yes, Even's world will not really have platforming/actiony gameplay in the way that Aliph's world does (it won't be a parkour game!). Those areas will be more RPG-esque in that they will mostly consist of walking around and talking to people. I'm still working out the visual styles though, so I've yet to see even how those will interact.
jdodson: Can you explain a bit about the main character Aliph and how she fits in with the world you are building?
Sean: Aliph is a repairperson for these power plants in their fictional world - and Aliph's role evolves a bit throughout the game...not to a hero, but more of an observer/investigator to their world and why it is the way it is and why it is changing. Aliph's events roughly kind of explore a similar idea to what Even experiences in the looks into Even's life, though I don't have any direct interactions planned, where like - Even gets really mad or something, and then there's a fire in Aliph's world, or whatever.
jdodson: Anodyne used Adobe Air as the language and framework you used to knit the game together. Are you using this stack for Even The Ocean or are you using something different this time?
Sean: The things that have changed are the language, framework, and level editor. I'm coding in HaXe 3 now, using a HaXeFlixel + OpenFL stack, and the level editor is in-game, though we still use DAME for almost-final tiling passes. I changed because I liked the open-ness of HaXe a lot more, and I think it is going nice places, and it also compiles down to CPP, so perhaps that makes something like porting EtO to PS4 or whatever more feasible.
jdodson: Even The Ocean is still in its early stages but I am curious if you guys have a rough timeline for a beta and launch?
Sean: None at all! Well, I'd like to finish things up before GDC next year. We might do a public (or press/friends-only) demo sometime after PAX, and we'll probably have a set of testers before launch. I'm not sure when that would be. I feel like things are going to progress faster than they have after PAX, since I won't have Anodyne stuff to do, and I'll be more settled in to where I did most of the Anodyne dev. There are narrative things to figure out and some design things, but I think things will progress faster once we figure those out. I have a sense of scale for the game, it is slightly larger than Anodyne, but we did most of Anodyne's content in a 6 month period with work and full-time school. So I think we will be able to finish more now that we are doing games full time. Or maybe not!
!!The following question contains Star Trek into Darkness spoilers!!
jdodson: In the new film Star Trek Into Darkness we find out that the Khan’s blood has magical powers that can bring people back to life. This is used to bring back Captain Kirk and a Tribble. I am curious if a universe where one can magically inject oneself with “bring me back to life juice” is one where the threat of death is real. In the end doesn’t this drop any kind of tension because now and in the future any major character can simply be revived?
Jon: Yeah there were a lot of things that felt sort of narratively broken about that film. Magic revive blood definitely breaks the universe. Plus, weren't Khan and his family engineered? That means someone basically already invented the stuff. Also the female characters in that movie were pretty poorly written. There were fun parts to it though, I suppose.
Sean: I haven't seen it, but I feel like humans (or sentient beings) would figure out something to get all pissy about even if we couldn't die. Like life partners, or varying quality of lives, choosing whether or not to revive yourself...etc.
jdodson: Many Indie games use Kickstarter to help fund their next games, including some bigger studios like Double Fine. Is this something you have considered for Even The Ocean?
Jon: No, we are fortunate enough to not really need the money right now. And I wouldn't like the stress of all the backers and rewards. There's enough stress as it is, just getting stuff done day-to-day without thousands of people already having paid for what you're making.
Sean: It would be a pain in the ass. I guess if something horrible happened and we were REALLY close to finishing but running out of money then I might do it as a way to get "pre-order" money. But I wouldn't offer rewards or anything. Dunno.
jdodson: After school are you considering doing game development full time?
Jon: We both just graduated this past spring and we are now doing game dev full time :D
Sean: Yeah, for the near future it is going to be what I do most of the time, though of course, who knows what will be happening in a year or two.. No school also opens up time to pursue other hobbies, so that will be interesting as well!
jdodson: You guys will be at PAX Prime at the Indie Mega Booth. Anything we can look forward to when we stop by to check it out?
Jon: We'll be giving away buttons that I made featuring Young, Miao Xiao Tuan Er, and the protagonists of Even the Ocean. Also we're shooting to have some playable demo of Even the Ocean to show.
Sean: We'll also be showing Anodyne, mentioning the upcoming Japan release on Sep 4th. And our awesome localizers, Kakehashi Games - http://www.kakehashigames.com/ .
jdodson: I wanted to thank you guys for talking to me about your new game and I wish you well. Is there anything you want to say before we finish up?
Jon: Thanks for your interest! Keep on spreading positive energy in the internet video game community!
Sean: Thanks for the interview!!! Looking forward to see you.