IWOCon Dev Talk: A Juggler's Tale
kaleidoscube is a game studio from Southern Germany focusing on games and transmedia formats with a strong focus on atmosphere and narration. The studio was newly founded during the team’s studies at the "Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg". After working on multiple internationally awarded animated shorts and contributing to other game projects and mobile games, "A Juggler's Tale" is kaleidoscube’s first own major video game project.
Q: What is a shortcut you love taking (any aspect of development)?
With our team’s more technical background, our art and level-art workflow has a more technical approach than usual. Instead of texturing we decided to generate color ID textures for all our assets with information saved in the meshes vertex colors as well as in every color channel of the texture. After bringing all the saved information together in our shaders, we were able to create a system that we internally call “color volumes”: Every asset uses the same color collection that we can modify with placeable volumes in the engine. Similar to the already existing post-process volumes we can place color volumes in our levels that gradually change the color of the environment based on the player position. To bring an example, we can always use the same tree, but change its leaf color based on the location of the main character in the level, enabling us to create great looking atmospheric changes and giving us the flexibility to change the whole look of a level at the very end of the design process.
Q: What is something that makes your game unique?
We found out about our true “unique gameplay” when we were already pretty far in development, while programming and designing puzzles for chapter 4. It is a chapter where the role of the player changes from passively running away to actively interacting with and challenging other string puppets. And because of the puppet strings, there is a lot of physical movement restriction in these kinds of puzzles - string puppets can’t hide under objects or can get stuck and the strings entangled. All these game mechanics sounded pretty interesting, but we had to change the way our puppet strings work so that they actually could do these things. We programmed our own version of a Cable Component in Unreal Engine, that could do things like being ripped or being attached to multiple points. Suddenly, we saw a lot of new possibilities for puzzles in the earlier chapters, so we had and still have to iterate over these chapters again. Where we used to try to build the levels in a way that the character never walks beneath objects, we now plan to add more of these objects, using this physical restriction for an interesting story and puzzle moments.
Q: What is your engine? Why did you choose that game engine for your project?
The game is being developed with Unreal Engine 4, which we actually used for the first time but really enjoyed working with. Coming from a Unity background we just wanted to learn something new during the project. And looking back we are quite happy that we did it, as a lot of Unreal exclusive features helped us during development - the animation system for instance is sick!
Q: What (indie?) games have acted as a source of inspiration for your project?
We really liked the thought of having a narrator in a game and what it changes in storytelling from a gameplay perspective. Influenced by games like “The Stanley Parable”, we also wanted to build a strong connection between the player and the narrator. After that, we decided very quickly to have the string puppets as a visual representation of that connection and the whole theatre setting as a surrounding. The theatre setting also fit nicely into the puzzle platformer genre, as you only see the stage from one camera perspective - so of course we were inspired by other atmospheric platformers out there like “INSIDE” or “Little Nightmares”.
Q: What advice would you share with other prospective indie developers looking to start their journey?
I would always say that with enough passion you can achieve almost everything. But - start with small projects and finish them, and you have something that you can be super proud of! This could be just one level or a whole small game, you will always be soo satisfied if you really get it done. Starting one project after another can get very frustrating - finish the job and let people play it!
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