A few weeks ago the small Indie developer Curiosity Studios announced 'FOG – The Story of Jacques Matthews'. In this story the fisherman Jacques Matthews finds himself washed up on a strange island, where dense fog keeps him disoriented. Soon he is forced to trust a mysterious girl to survive this place. This game is described as psychological adventure which made us curious. So we decided to dig deeper and interview the team on their mysterious project
Adventure Corner: First of all what motivated you to develop 'FOG - The Story of Jacques Matthews'?
Shaun Quaintance - Founder of Curiosity Studios
Curiosity Studios: We were working on a few concept titles but nothing seemed to work for everybody, for instance if Harry came up with an idea that Shaun could program, that Adam could write a script for and Shaun Lynch could create graphical content for there would be problems for our sound & music designer Ryan. A few weeks had gone past and we couldn’t come up with a solid title to begin development on, we had just finished recording our Press Play podcast and were sat down having a few beers whilst watch TV when Harry accidentally took a picture of a blank piece of paper with his phone. The flash from the camera created an eerie looking image that resembled fog, we immediately bounced a few ideas off of each other, drank a bit more and within a week the entire concept, including game mechanics, art direction and story development, for 'FOG: The Story of Jacques Matthews' was created. We knew this would be the game to go forward with as everybody was instantly thinking in the same direction. That’s the story of The Story of Jacques Matthews.
Adventure Corner: Is it your first commercial game?
Curiosity Studios: This is Curiosity Studios’ first commercial game although when Shaun was first learning to code he decided that the best way to learn was to create an educational parrot guide for Xbox Live Indie Games that can be found by searching for Parrot Paradise: Lorikeets. It currently has an average score of 0 on Gamespot with 0 player reviews, as of yet there are currently no plans for a sequel. (Please note – we really don’t like Parrot Paradise: Lorikeets, it was just a bit of coding practise that Shaun decided to stick onto XBLIG, please for your own sake DO NOT buy this game, it’s not a game)
AC: What inspired you to write this story?
CS: One of our main inspirations is psychological horror stories, as children we spent countless hours playing games like Silent Hill in between hiding behind a pillow, more than anything we loved how the stories challenged how we would think and make you second guess what you thought would come next. Stephen King novels and film adaptations were also a huge influence on the kind of story that we wanted to tell alongside 'The Sixth Sense' and more recently stories such as 'Alan Wake', 'Shutter Island' and 'Limbo' have really caught our attention. We wanted to create a story that could draw people in, would make the player think and that would leave you wanting to know ‘what lies beyond.’
AC: 'FOG' is a Psychological Adventure. Please do tell us, what's psychological about the game. How do you emphasize the psychological part?
CS: We are currently developing the FOG system. With the FOG system every play through is a unique experience, with randomly generated level placement, visuals, audio and story related events. For example, a ship you stumble upon in one play through could tell the story of a captain who sacrificed his life to save the crew’s, that story will be told to the player through audio logs and objects sprawled throughout the ship. Another play through could tell an entirely different story with the captain slowly sinking into insanity and killing his fellow crewman, just this simple change could alter the player’s interpretation of certain aspects of the story and their mind set when tackling the rest of the world that we’re creating. Top this off with levels that are played through in an entirely different order each time and you have a psychological story that confuses, surprises and entertains the player whilst making them question the existence of everything around them.
Another aspect we are focusing on when it comes to the psychological side of the game is with the art direction. We are aiming for simplicity whilst also complimenting the nature of the game, light and dark are a key feature of the artistic style of 'FOG' and will not only aid the story but will also be key in helping the player navigate the environment that they find themselves stranded in. We currently have three fantastic artists involved in the development of 'FOG', Shaun Quaintance and Shaun Lynch (our two in-house artists) and Caitlynn Pedersen, a Canadian art student. Their main focus is to utilise the psychological genre and incorporate it into the artistic direction of the game.
AC: How is the gameplay going to look like? Can you give us typical examples?
CS: The core gameplay of 'FOG' will see the player exploring various locations throughout the island that they find themselves 'lost within whilst solving puzzles in order to progress. Players will be required to investigate each location to unlock the secrets behind their journey and the clues that may ultimately decide their fate. With 'FOG' we wanted to create an adventure game that not only features classic adventure mechanics but also aims to expand the adventure genre to a wider audience with new mechanics such as FOG’s short ‘action moments’ that keep you on your toes and help define the eerie character of the island.
AC: There will be puzzles in 'FOG'. From your point of view what makes a good puzzle?
CS: A good puzzle should make the player think, it should also offer the player help if they require it in order to prevent frustration but not hold their hand. It is also important that immersion is kept intact throughout the puzzle and doesn’t pull the player out of the game. Mr. Rubik had quite a good idea a few years ago!
AC: What are you looking for in a game?
CS: It really depends on the genre and aim of the game. For example with a platformer, good controls will be one of the key things for us to be able to enjoy the game whereas an RPG may sacrifice control tightness in order to focus on developing the characters and storyline more. As long as a game contains immersion, emotion and fun and is made with passion then it will be a great game that we will love and enjoy, how the developer goes about creating them three things is entirely up to them. One thing we do love in every game is a bit of humour, we feel that humour has taken a back seat in the generation of games just gone in exchange for games that try to be dead serious even when it doesn’t suit the style or nature of the game. We’re hoping to bring back a bit of the humour from past generations that made characters and worlds so alive and loveable whilst providing a deep and intricate story.
AC: Recently you started a survey for your game. In what way will the informations from this survey affect 'FOG'?
CS: We believe that listening to the gamers is key to developing a great game, after all we are gamers ourselves and it is our love for games and the passion of gamers around the world that led us to become developers, we feel that distancing ourselves from what got us here and receding away from the ‘gamer’ label is what leads to the creation of generic games that don’t cater for what the gamer wants.
The survey that we recently held was to see if the current ideas and plans we had for 'FOG' took the interest of the gaming community, what tweaks and changes gamers would like to see and whether people wanted something new included to our game. The results of the survey are already being worked into the development of 'FOG', for example many people voiced their concerns over getting stuck in FOG’s action moments and having to replay the same moments over and over again. Due to this feedback we have now included an option to turn alternate endings off for the action moments allowing the player to experience the same fast paced, edge of your seat action moments as before but without the risk of failure. We are planning to do several more surveys for the gaming community later on in development to make sure we stay true to the direction of 'FOG' and continue to give our fellow gamers what they want.
AC: How far are you with the development of the game?
CS: We are in the very early stages of development and are currently working on a short concept demo to demonstrate how everything will work together to create an eerie and atmospheric world. Once we have completed the concept demo we will be opening it up to the public at a games store in Paignton called DaveStation and will also be releasing a gameplay video of the demo.
AC: Can we expect German subtitles?
CS: 'FOG' currently has no foreign subtitles but we plan to include both German and French subtitles for the final release.
AC: Even though that's usually tricky to answer: How long can we expect it to be?
CS: We have a target length of 3 – 5 hours for each playthrough but it will vary from player to player. We know that it will be difficult for us to create a long campaign in the timeframe we have due to the small size of our team and amount of assets required which is why we are focusing on providing plenty of bonus content and great replay ability. Players will find many easter eggs and collectibles to help increase playtime whilst the fog system will aid with replay ability with its randomly generated level placement, audio and visual elements to make each playthrough unique.
AC: How do you finance the game?
CS: Before Curiosity Studios was formed Shaun was studying Games Technology at university, he spent two years developing a business plan and structure for Curiosity Studios, due to this he was also able to save up and budget the finances required to start up the studio. As of now several of us are working other jobs to currently finance the game, one of our aims as a studio is to show that indie game development doesn’t have to require a huge budget in order to create a fun and immersive game, this is to encourage more gamers to follow their dreams and get involved in game development to further improve the quality and quantity of games and the industry as a whole.
AC: Since it's still a popular choice these days: Do you have plans to do a Kickstarter?
CS: We have plans for a Kickstarter later in development but it will all depend on the reaction we get once gameplay has been released. The thing we want to avoid with Kickstarter is promoting a game that isn’t quite to the vision of what we wanted to create, or what gamers want, and could possibly change after the Kickstarter campaign which is why if we do turn to Kickstarter then it will be much later in development when most of the mechanics and features have been refined and locked in. We will also be submitting the game to Steam Greenlight and are looking at the pros and cons of including early access.
AC: What are your next steps for the game?
CS: We are currently developing a short concept demo to show how the gameplay will feel and how all aspects of the game will work together. We are also working on the full game alongside the demo and once the demo is completed we will be 100% focused on the full game. We also plan to host some open play tests of the first level at some point in the future.
AC: Is there anything else you'd like to tell to our readers?
CS: Thanks for taking the time to read this interview and a big thanks for showing an interest in 'FOG: The Story of Jacques Matthews'! We really appreciate it and hope that the final game provides you with many hours of fun. If you would like to know all the latest on 'FOG: The Story of Jacques Matthews' and everything Curiosity then pay a visit to our website. Of course you can also find us on Facebook, Twitter and Google-Plus. Once again a big thank you and keep on gaming.
AC: Thank you a lot for taking the time for this interview!