Independent development in Australia has been going from strength to strength over the past few years and the PAX AUS Indie Showcase serves to highlight some of the fantastic work being put out by local developers. Player2.net.au caught up with developers awarded a spot in the PAX AUS 2017 Indie Showcase to get a sneak peek at what attendees can look forward to.
PAX AUS 2017 Indie Showcase – Projection
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Sometimes inspiration strikes from the most unexpected of places, as it did for developer Michael Chu of Shadowplay Studios and their debut title Projection. With positive word-of-mouth and a striking aesthetic, Projection is sure to catch the eye of many PAX AUS 2017 attendees. Player2 spoke with Michael to gain an insight in to the development of Projection, the inspiration behind it and what the future holds for Shadowplay Studios.
Stephen del Prado: Michael, can you tell us the story behind the inspiration for Projection?
Michael Chu: The concept behind Projection came from playing with a low ceiling light in my house. I thought it would be interesting to add physics to shadows. At the time I was always thinking about game ideas because I was making a game a week. During a Game Jam I made a prototype of the game and a second prototype at Global Game Jam 2015. After showing it to a few people, everyone got excited and so I decided this was the game to make.
SDP: How does it feel to have your work recognised by the Indie Showcase?
MC: Very validating. The feeling is amazing. I can’t wait to show it to people and see the interesting ways people solve puzzles. Working on the game for two years is an insular experience and we forget what it’s like to see the shadow mechanics for the first time. Being accepted into the showcase tells us people believe in what we’re making, and that’s always a good thing.
SDP: You mentioned that it’s great to see people experience playing Projection for the first time. Has watching new players influenced your puzzle design or led to any revisions?
MC: Yes and lots. At each stage people are learning something new about the game or are being tested on what they’ve learned. However, a lot of people breeze through the first few levels quickly because they’ve wrapped their head around the concept so fast, but others take 3 or 4 times as long. So on one side the feedback is that it’s very hard, while the same level can also be boring for another person. To achieve a compromise we’ve made core puzzles along the main path, and harder puzzles for those who go exploring a bit. And while the game is definitely a puzzle game, a key aesthetic for us was that the player could feel like they’re going on a journey through the shadow puppet world.
SDP: What can people look forward to at the Projection booth?
MC: There will be competitions and prizes being given away (some more expensive than others). The game will be playable at the Indie Showcase and at the Blowfish Studios booth. The demo will be around 5-20 minutes in length (depends how much exploring you want to do) of a few early Javanese levels which are aimed to highlight parts of the Ramayana.
SDP: There is a lot of culture built in to the design of Projection, as evidenced by the art style and your mentioning of the Ramayana. If people wanted to learn more about these elements, where would you suggest they start?
MC: We started by visiting a shadow puppeteer, Richard Bradshaw, and attending different shadow puppet shows. Our stories are based on the Ramayana, Journey to the West, Kharagoz & Hacivat, and Alexander the Great. We also drew heavy inspiration from Lotte Reiniger who was a prominent figure in the world of shadow puppetry. For us the quickest starting point was always Wikipedia.
SDP: After Projection is released, do you have any future plans involving this art style or gameplay mechanics? They seem like something that could be iterated on quite successfully.
MC: Shadowplay Studios brand experience revolves around two core ideas: Interesting mechanics and interesting settings. There are plans to make another game after Projection which again uses a unique mechanic (not shadows) and with an art style from a culturally significant context (not shadow puppets).
Projection can be experienced by attendees to PAXAUS 2017 in the Indie Showcase section of the Indie Pavilion from October 27th to 29th. It will release in Q1 of 2018 for all major platforms.
Stephen del Prado