Today’s Developer Spotlight is on AwkwardNaut, a 2-person team based out of Belgium, currently working on the space roguelike Far Ago.
Thanks for chatting with me, guys! Can you talk for a minute about who you are, and what Far Ago is all about?
Thibaud Gayraud: I’m a Unity game developer, and I started AwkwardNaut one year ago. On the way I encountered Marcus Drake. He was interested in my work and I fell in love with his musical talent. We are now working together on this big project.
Marcus Drake: I’m an eccentric composer from Chicago. I’ve been running a DIY Chicago label called Grandpa Bay and performing in bands for many years, but I recently started to refocus more on composing for games and film. When I stumbled upon AwkwardNaut, I was so impressed that I reached out to Thibaud. We made a pact signed in blood and the rest is history!
Far Ago is an FTL-like kind of game. The game has a huge tactical aspect due to the different type of modules you can equip your ship with, and the destruction system that can strip apart important pieces of your build. With Far Ago, it’s all about choices. Some situations can be handled peacefully while some will require a less subtle approach. Another important part of the game is that every new level is a step back in time, meaning that you can cause ludicrous paradoxes. These paradoxes will be important, but in what way? This we will keep a secret.
As Far Ago is a roguelike, what are your primary considerations when it comes to developing your algorithms for procedurally generated content? How do you keep the content feeling fresh and purposeful when you don’t have complete control over every last pixel?
TG: This is the most challenging part, as keeping every bit of the scenario in line with every quest can quickly become a real mess. Add paradoxical events to that, and now you have your very own 42x42x42 Rubik’s cube! To achieve this, you have to carefully choose the conditions that will drive the creation of every level. Keep everything in easily reusable little boxes. If this is done correctly, you just have to make sure that those boxes are fun to play with and that they can mix together to create interesting challenges for players to overcome.
How long have the two of you been in game development? And when did you decide that you wanted to work in the industry in this capacity?
TG: It was always a dream of mine. I started creating some small Flash games inspired by what I found on websites like Newgrounds when I was 13. I later went into art school and graduated in infographic design with a specialization in video games.
MD: I’ve been a musician for a while, always very inspired by video game soundtracks and have always wanted to create them myself! It took me a while to build a decent portfolio, but through being very active in the Chicago music scene, it all eventually started to come together. Recently, I decided to pursue composing as a career. And I’m very honored to be working with someone as innovative and talented as Thibaud!
Far Ago looks really sharp! Could the two of you talk for a bit about your biggest visual and musical influences for the game?
TG: I’m a fan of the Youtube channel Kurzegesagt – In a Nutshell. I’m a big fan of the minimalist aspects in their videos. The visual universe of Edmund McMillen (The Binding of Isaac, Super Meat Boy) is also a big inspiration.
MD: I’m not the biggest aficionado of dubstep, but recently I have been very intrigued by the production and the futuristic/apocalyptic tone brought on by artists who dabble in that genre. So, while there will be a lot of different elements going on, some things I want to emulate are the emotions and production techniques of what one might call dubstep, but I will be using a wide variety of mostly live, nonsynthetic instruments to make it unique. Two soundtracks I am taking inspiration from are the Earthbound OST by Keiichi Suzuki and Machinarium OST by Tomáš Dvořák.
You’ve previously released a sports minigame called Tippin’ Ball. Can you talk about the most important lessons you learned from your previous release, and how you’re looking to improve for Far Ago?
TG: Tippin’ Ball was a way for me to start making some noise around the AwkwardNaut persona I created. It’s no more than a fun project I did for people to enjoy. The biggest mistake I’ve made was to think that I would be able to do everything by myself; making a game is one thing, but the marketing around it is as important as the game itself! Now that we’ve teamed up with Marcus, we have all the skills we need to create and promote Far Ago.
MD: Tippin’ Ball was the first OST I made for Awkwardnaut and it was one of the most enjoyable writing / recording processes. While the music was a hoot to make, we also learned a lot about how to market our games better. It was a great project that led to productive discussions between Thibaud and I about indie development in general, audience interactions and the importance of transparency.
As an avid iOS gamer, when a great-looking game shows up on Steam, I cross my fingers, hoping that it will eventually be ported to mobile. Any plans to port Far Ago to iOS?
TG: Far Ago is not the kind of project that would work on mobile devices, but I’m very interested in connections between an app and a game; if the game goes well, we may be able to add some mobile connectivity for someone with a smartphone to mess with the player or to rearrange modules on the fly.
Favorite snack while developing?
TG: Pecan nuts.
MD: Steak tartare.
Most-used software during development work?
Favorite game of all time?
TG: Enter the Gungeon.
MD: Ikaruga tied with Katamari Damacy.
Favorite game console of all time?
TG: My Potatoe.
If you were trapped in the game world of Far Ago, what would be your preferred method of escape?
TG: Even if it’s a dystopian world, I wouldn’t want to leave it. I want to go to space so bad!
MD: Bending the code (like my homie, Keanu).
Before we finish this interview, are there any shout-outs you’d like to make? Other favorites in your own development community? Anyone I should follow on Twitter?
TG: @ElorynPartition They are working on a very gorgeous game. Lots of poetry and very unique gameplay.
@JailBreak3014 I met him on Facebook a few weeks ago. He is currently working on a game named Foot; if you like to spit whatever you’re drinking out of your nose, you should check out his work.
MD: @moblets This is a beautiful game about farming, creatures and adventure. It’s something like Harvest Moon meets Pokemon, but very unique. I’m overly excited for it!
@InnerSpaceGame A mesmerizing flight based game being developed by @PolyKnightGames. With a really great OST by Chris Miller.
If you’d like to help AwkwardNaut launch their game on Steam, visit Far Ago on Steam Greenlight and voice your support!