Breakthrough Gaming Interview: Evolutis

Fernando Cruz is a passionate anime lover and devoted independent games developer and producer.  Having this deep admiration for Cyberpunk themed worlds he and his small team are creating a 2D story driven adventure game with a stylish free flow combat system. Breakthrough Gaming talks to Fernando about the stunning work he and his team are putting into Evolutis. 

Fernando with the creator of the Shenmue series, Yu Suzuki

How would you describe Evolutis to an uninformed player? 

I’d describe Evolutis as a playable anime, that’s how we like to call it. We always dreamt about having a game where you could instead of watching an anime you could be playing it. So our main inspirations were Akira for animations and Ghost in the Shell for backgrounds. The game is divided into chapters but there is a lot of freedom so as you can see in the trailers the character is walking in the city so you can go and enter the arcade. We’re still thinking of having some playable arcades in the arcade area. You can go to other places and buy some food and things like that. The main goal in the game is to have good exploration to get the player engaged into it so they get more connected with the characters and the Cyberpunk world. You’ll be playing as 3 main characters and they’re facing hard times in their life. Our goal is to really make the player attached to these characters. 

We also have diversity in our gameplay so hand to hand combat, exploration in some parts it’ll be up to the player whether your character talks or draws the gun. You won’t be facing the same enemies over and over again. There is a purpose in everything you are doing and it’s up to the players to make up what is going on in the world. It’s like a thriller and suspense type of game. 

This sounds very ambitious having a variety of gameplay styles. Is that a challenge for you in development?

Wow a lot. Especially for the animations in order to make it look like a playable anime because we cannot cut the transitions. If you play normal 2D games you don’t see the transitions, you don’t see the character move his arms to hit and coming back to a neutral stance. In Evolutis it’s different we have all the transitions and it takes a lot of time and effort to make it look good. One of the publishers that tested our demo went ‘wow’ when you press the button it looks so beautiful like an anime. I think we’re making pretty great progress. It’s challenging but developers need to take risks or you’ll just be creating a common game. I’m not sure if you saw that David Cage, the creator of Heavy Rain and Detroit Become Human tweeted about us. I‘ve never met him before however I’m a huge fan of his and wow man, I was speechless. It was pretty awesome to be recognised by a such a person.

Evolutis has award winning Games Designer David Cage intrigued.

Yes, I was going to ask you about how that felt. How did the game catch his attention?

He mentioned a person called Alisa. I think she saw one of out tweets and she tweeted him and then I checked on her she follows us and David Cage

What’s the significance of the name Evolutis?

I’m not sure if you’re familiar with transhumanism and homoevolutis. So we are homosapiens and and we will become homoevolutis in the future. So that’s why the game is called Evolutis.

Is a Cyberpunk themed game something you always wanted to do?

Yeah but we’re not focused too much on the cyberpunk world that their is a government killing everyone. I think this is too generic. We’re more focused on the characters and what they’re going through in their lives, you know.

What are the differences between the characters?

Chelsea is a famous wrestler but in her life she’s a lonely person. The only thing she has in her life is her cat. Despite the fact that she makes a lot of money her life isn’t very happy. People may see her as a strong, awesome person because she is a wrestler and everyone wants to be like her but deep inside her life it’s totally different. It’s something that I believe happens to people who thinks a famous person’s life is perfect but it’s not like that at all.

Damon, he has just lost his wife, he’s in a deep depression. He’s thinking about killing himself in the beginning because he doesn’t see how to move on without his family. Throughout the game he’ll find out that maybe his family is still alive but the player will have to decide whether he’s going crazy or it’s really true what is going on

And finally Derrick he’s a drug addict, he’s really emotional so he doesn’t consider a lot before taking action. He just does the first thing that comes into his mind. Damon has more control over himself as his is a CEO of a company. Damon is more manipulative though and Derrick is a good person but he lets his emotions take control of himself.

What I found really impressive are the little snippets of combat that you post on Twitter. It looks very fluid; it looks very stylish. How do players pull off those moves?

It’s basically the same mechanic as the Batman Arkham games but in a 2d way of playing. In the trailer you can’t see the indicator above the enemies’ head for you to dodge enemies’ attacks and pull off combos. It’ll be quite similar. As Chelsea is a wrestler her body is her weapon. It’s different from the others Damon is more skilful with a gun while Derrick is not as skilled.

So they all play completely differently?

Yeah totally

Do you play these characters individually or do you jump between characters?

So it’s like you play as Damon in a chapter and then it changes to Derrick and then it changes to Chelsea. You start playing little segments with each of them and then there is a part in the game when they’ll all be connected. Of course I can’t say too much about it right now.

So in terms of development how big is your team is it only a couple of you?

We have 3 members 

And what’s the pros and cons of working in such a small little group?

The pros are that you can have a lot of ideas and work closer. I think it’s easier to manage. The cons would be you don’t have a lot of people for marketing which means I have to spend a lot of time out of development so I can do this, which sucks. We’re in talks with some publishers, some of them are really interested. I believe when we sign our contract with a publisher it will be better for us regarding these circumstances. Right now it’s a challenge to manage all these things.

The voice actors have also been very helpful all of them worked on Dragonball Z and Gundam. They help us a lot through Marketing on there Twitter pages 

What stage in development are you in?

I’d say 10% 

Have you got a release date in sight? 

It’ll probably be in 2020 

That’s quite a futuristic date, very fitting. Where can people pick up Evolutis when it comes out? I know it is very early days but would you like Evolutis to appear on consoles?

I’d love for Evolutis to appear on consoles at the same time it’s being released on Steam. It’s very early to say right now but we aim for it to be on all consoles.

It’s so common now to see indie games appear on Steam and a year later they appear on consoles and I love playing indie games on the Switch they’re perfect playing it on the commute to work.

I have a Switch too. I prefer playing indie games on Switch then other platforms. I love Playstation and Xbox as well and of course Vita. I think it’s pretty cool to play on Vita too.

Undertale Review

Reading this well thought out review of Undertale fills you with determination.

Undertale is a weird yet wonderful RPG all created from the singular vision of Toby Fox. His creation became immensely popular after securing 10 times the budget he was aiming for on indie gogo. It starts out like a standard adventure game in which you inadvertently arrive in a world full of monsters.  After the initial cutscene it subverts the RPG genre. It then keeps on subverting the genre in such an absurd way it’s the reason you keep on playing.

Its kooky characters and basic presentation provides some of the games charm while the battle system allowing you to either kill your enemies, or spare them by tapping into what makes them tick by selecting a dialogue option.  If you act in a way that an enemy doesn’t like the enemies attacks will be harder to avoid, you’ll have to navigate this little heart shaped icon which appears when facing an enemy, with more skill and accuracy. Simply put the fights are puzzles which is why there’ll be no examples of enemy encounters in this review to avoid spoiling the puzzles.

One RPG cliche that should probably have been ditched or reimagined is random encounters especially early on in the game where little thought goes into enemies if you try to spare them. This game doesn’t require any grinding either especially if you choose to become a pacifist due to your level not increasing when you spare enemies. Sparing enemies reminds me a lot of the ‘choose your own path’ storybooks that I used to be able to read in my library when I was at school. Other RPG’s with million dollar budgets have done this branching story path before but the games simple graphics really allowed me to use my imagination making it feel like reading a book.

The lack of emphasis on presentation allows Undertale to tell it’s truly unique story which has so many potential outcomes its possible some haven’t been discovered yet and the game has been out for a few years now. This amount of story depth was also not expected from a game with a seemingly basic art style.Toby Fox has crammed so many kooky and creepy secrets in this game which I shan’t spoil because the game blackmails you into not sharing what they are. These little story beats are what makes Undertale a game that has become so memorable in both it’s humour, and to some trauma, which soared it into the mainstream.

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Fox is a very skilled writer creating these crazy and likeable characters from the get go. Characters such as Sans and Papyrus are so well loved now you can get plush toys of them on Undertale’s website. Pretty soon they’ll be an Undertale theme park. The thing I find most amusing with Undertale is that there is so much weirdness going on around you but the design of the protagonist just has this expressionless face throughout the entire the game. Something that really struck accord with me was the music. I’m a sucker for great video game soundtracks and this renaissance man Toby Fox also composed the entire soundtrack too. It really ignited a strange sense of nostalgia for me despite this being the first time playing. Overall your mileage will vary with Undertale depending on how much time you want to sink into the endless amount of multiple outcomes.

If there is one thing Undertale proves is that there is no need for a big budget to create an expansive world with lots of law. You don’t need to sell your soul to a massive game corporation to get your game ideas out there. Toby Fox’s personality is all over this game. There probably isn’t any other game out there that champions the indie game ideology like Undertale.

Undertale is available to download on Steam (PC or Mac) for £6.99 and for PS4 and PSVita for £11.99. Undertale is also coming out soon for the Nintendo Switch. 

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Undertale has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Refresh (7452)" provided by Jardson Araújo, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0) Badge icon "Clown (2624)" provided by Simon Child, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)

Journey Review

Is this a Journey worth taking?

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Image from Thatgamecompany

Upon witnessing the gorgeously rendered title screen you know you’re about to play something special. Journey is a unique game. It isn’t bound by genre much like thatgamecompany’s previous game, Flower but is a transcendental work of art.

Sony is a very lucky company to have this indie gem amongst its gallery of games. Experiencing Journey is quite different to other titles on the PlayStation.

Journey’s serene yet haunting musical score and glistening desert landscapes generate awe into those who relish a setting full of visual splendor. Thatgamecompany delivers a very tranquil experience with dialogue being replaced with chirps and whistles. This doesn’t take away but adds to the atmosphere of a truly memorable game.

The game starts with you being greeted with desolation, nothing but sand in every direction. You then immediately realize your goal, a mountain that is standing tall beyond the ruins of a civilization. It is gradually revealed to you through subtle cut scenes throughout the game of how this society fell. The lack of dialogue means that the player’s interpretation is required to figure out what happened to the landscape you traverse. It’s very enigmatic making this storytelling unparalleled to any game that has come before it.

When it comes to exploration, Journey allows you to beat off the straight and narrow path. Players find themselves questioning, “What will happen if I go over there?” It is evident that the developers of Journey encourage this; for this is the way you discover the shiny hieroglyphs hidden behind the remnants of old buildings that allow you to lengthen your scarf making you jump and glide higher.

This is when the controls come in and they are very simple to learn. The nameless hooded figure moves gracefully around with actions only consisting of X to jump and circle to interact with the environment. There are also no combat options just basic platforming and obstacle avoiding during the sand surfing segments, which provide the most elegant visuals in video game history.

It can be harked on for ages how Journey is sublime in its aesthetics however sound is also crucial. Most notably the stirring score that would even give casually invested players chills.

If you come to Journey looking for a challenging and lengthy game you will not find it. Challenge does not work within this games context of providing an artistic mood to relax the player and keep the pace flowing. It is easy to explore the landscape but it depends how you do it. It is slightly tantalizing however what a ten-hour experience of a game visually similar to Journey will provide. Quality has been favoured over quantity here, which is somewhat understandable with Journey only being an indie game after all.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Journey is the ability for players to enter seamlessly into your current play through. There is a deliberate communication barrier to these encounters with no voice or text chat with your fellow traveller to maintain the tranquil style of gameplay. There isn’t even a notification that another person has joined your game. As you explore the game you strangely find yourself being compelled to your new buddy and wonder where he or she has gone if you get separated adding even more emotional investment to the game. The disconnect very much benefits the aspect of multiplayer making it fascinating knowing that this person your sharing this journey with is human. This suits the mysterious world Journey has to offer.

Through the way Journey immerses the player into a dreamlike state, Thatgamecompany have created the most ethereal experience in video game history. Journey is pure elegance.

Journey is available now for download from the Playstation Store for £9.99

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Journey has been awarded the following badges:

Badge icon "Citizen (756)" provided by Phoebe Sexton, Vincent Zhang, Russell Lord, SimpleScott & Edward Boatman, from The Noun Project under The symbol is published under a Public Domain MarkBadge icon "Creation (2536)" provided by Jakob Vogel, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Actor (1547)" provided by Jonathan C. Dietrich, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)Badge icon "Bullhorn (1580)" provided by Travis Yunis, from The Noun Project under Creative Commons - Attribution (CC BY 3.0)