I recently stumbled accross Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet a game being developed by Canadian film animator Michel Gagne and Joe Olson at Fuelcell. I thought the game looked amazing and decided to pose some questions to Michel and Joe. The results, well you can see them below!
The Reticule: Can you tell us a little about yourselves and what your roles are in the development of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet?
Michel Gagne: I started working in the animation industry in 1985 and have worked as an animator/animation supervisor/FX artist/visual stylist on over 20 feature films. While working for the studios, I’ve continued to create my own projects such as short films, illustrated books, comics, paintings, sculptures etc. In 2001, I made a decision to quit working full time for the studios and shift my focus to my independent projects while maintaining an income through freelance. I left Los Angeles and moved to Washington State where I converted the first floor of my house into a home studio.
I met Joe Olson at an FX workshop I was giving in Seattle. Sometime after, Joe emailed me to tell me he’d love to do a videogame project with me. We met for lunch and started brainstorming about some ideas. I told him I had virtually no experience working in games, and to my surprise, he replied that it was a good thing. His thought was that the game industry was in need of fresh ideas and an industry outsider, who has a strong artistic style, could bring something unique to the table.
Joe Olson: I’ve worked in the games industry as a special effects artist for almost 12 years now. Needless to say, Michel’s 2D FX work has long been a source of reference and inspiration in my video game FX work. I was given the responsibility of putting together a companywide FX Summit in 2007 and needed something relevant to fill some time. When it was discovered Michel lived relatively close by, I got in touch to see if he’d be interested in giving a workshop on one of the days. When Michel saw some of the work our team was creating, he was surprised at how powerful the current consoles had become. Having been a fan of 2D games for some time now, and seeing some of the great stuff coming out of companies like the Behemoth, the time seemed right to strike out on our own and try to do something different and unique. To my delight, Michel was very receptive to the idea of collaboration and very soon after we started building a prototype.
TR: If I may say, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet looks beautiful, what was the inspiration behind the artistic direction?
MG: The initial inspiration for the game was a series of interstitials called Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets I created back in 2005. That was the starting point, but it has evolved way beyond that. The style of the game is my own art style, really. I’ve been designing and creating these kinds of visuals for myself, for movie companies, books, comics, etc for years. It’s nice to have a project like Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet where I can explore and stretch the design style I’ve developed over the years in a new medium.
TR: What is Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet all about, the video shows off this UFO which seems to be shooting things and doing some exploration, what will the player be doing in the game?
JO: Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is a side scrolling action adventure game that puts the player in the role of the main character in an interactive feature quality animated film drawn by Michel Gagne. The game’s core mechanics are Action, Platform, and Puzzle with varied modes of gameplay added to break up the pace. Through exploration the main character learns more about the mysterious Shadow Planet’s motives and how it ties into the lore of his home world. Every level features upgrades for the UFO to discover that helps our Alien Scientist on his journey. The team here at Fuelcell are all big fans of classic arcade and console games, so we’re heavily influenced by the tight design of games like MegaMan and the upgrade and exploration aspects of games like Metroid. It’s great to see a resurgence of 2D games in the marketplace, and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet gives us the opportunity to explore some of these classic ideas in new exciting ways.
TR: From the video it looks like there is a lot happening in this planet, what is the background story to the game?
MG: When I started designing the visuals for the game, I focused on doing cool settings, general game concepts, and wicked creatures. But the team and I quickly realized that it wouldn’t be enough to maintain the interest of a sophisticated game player. Our Creative Director, John Scrapper kept asking, “Why would I want to do this? Why would I want to go there?” and so on. So we knew we had to have motivation behind the whole thing. After many weeks of brainstorming, a story started to evolve that we all love.
The story is essentially about an alien scientist who observed the disappearance of a mythical star. Soon after that, his home world suffers a shadow infestation. Could the two events be linked? Find out quickly, as your quest for knowledge and survival takes you across space and time to the Shadow Planet where poetic wonders and dark perils await you.
TR: There is a heavy metal soundtrack to one of your trailers, can we expect this to shine through in the full game?
MG: The music in the trailer representative of how I see the score for the game: orchestral with metal accents. My goal is that Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet will not only be a groundbreaking piece of animation gaming but also a cutting edge symphony of epic metal.
TR: Finally, when, and on what platforms, do you plan on releasing Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet?
JO: As of now we are still negotiating with financial partners, so it’s hard to answer this question at this time. With so many great platforms available to developers these days and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet’s unique but simple style, there’s no telling where it might end up. Stay tuned to the official blog at insanelytwisted.com. When we have info on platform(s) and release date you can be sure to find it there!