Breathe in, Breathe Out with The Working Parts: An Interview
You may not know who they are, but their title “They Breathe” had caught my attention really quick. The charisma of this game in initial trailer pulled my straight in to the most haunting gameplay. I had time to send John from The Working Parts Indie Game Studio some questions. We also had someone from the community Ben from XBLIG.co ask the developer some questions. We think it went really well. Do you have a question for the developer? If So, tweet them now The Working Parts
John: Hi Ryan. No problems, it’s a pleasure to do so.
VVGtv: As always I would love to hear about the background of developers and their team, what type of gaming background does your team have?
John: Sure! I guess we’ve all been into gaming since we were kids, and some of us also started to make games in an early age using tools like Gamemaker and Click & Play. While we all have kind of different tastes in games, we all enjoy games that bring something new to the table and bring interesting stories to life. Almost all of us agree that the Shenmue games are among the best ever made, for example. We’re also huge fans of indie games, both the small, more unknown productions and the ones who have become very successful.
VVGtv: It is always great to support other developers and smaller studios you share the same elbow room with on the interwebs. What other projects were in mind before starting development on “They Breathe”?
John: A lot actually, and we keep coming up with new ideas all the time. “They Breathe” itself is actually built upon a student project Hugo (our game designer) and Viktor (one of our two graphics artists) were part of during their university years. I guess that is mostly how we work, one or a few of us come up with what may seem like a crazy idea for a game at first, but then we develop it over time and in the end it becomes something we feel like we really want to make a full game out of. The same goes for “Eyes“, the free flash game we just released on our website. Hugo came up with the idea for “Eyes” almost 3 years ago, but it wasn’t until now we actually picked it up and made a game release out of it.
John: Well, first of all our programmers are very familiar with the .NET platform, which made the decision to use XNA quite easy. Also, we felt like it was a good place to start. Our plan was never to simply stick with XBLIG, the PC release of “They Breathe” has always been sort of our main goal for the game. But we wanted to give the platform a go, since cross-development between Windows and XBLIG is quite easy. Of course, it’s also cool to play your own game on a console.
VVGtv: Ben asks again. I’m curious what you expected from They Breathe, (eg..reception and sales). It’s a “high” price game that’s rather short.
John: I guess that depends on how you look at it. We never expected “They Breathe” to sell millions of copies on XBLIG, given the current state of the platform, and in that sense we’re mostly focused on (and excited about) the feedback we’ve got from people who have actually played it. So far it’s been a great learning experience, as well as really enjoyable to see such great feedback from the community. We hope that people feel like a purchase of “They Breathe” is worthwhile due to more factors than the actual length of the game, the fact that they get to unravel the mystery of the sunken forest, and that they get to discover the game’s eco system in its entirety. And so far, it looks like most players feel that way, which is really exciting.
VVGtv: What was the main inspiration for the game?
John: Well, it’s sort of a secret actually, one that we will tell you everything about in our art gallery “Beneath the Surface” that you unlock when you complete the game. Let’s just say that the idea for “They Breathe” was born out of a sketch on a napkin, and that a lot of the game’s setting, mood and gameplay came to us along the way when we started developing that idea into a full game. A lot of trial and error, really.
VVGtv: Does the little frog have a name?
John: He does. He shares his name with another famous frog, as well as practially everyone in our home city of Gothenburg.
VVGtv: Can we expect more games like “They Breathe” in the future?
John: You can. First up we have our grand platform adventure “Residue”, which will debut on Windows PCs this summer. It’s similar to “They Breathe” in that it is all about discovery, however this time around you will actually get to do a lot of environmental exploration (and if you’re lucky, find a couple of secrets). The game is set on the dry banks of the Aral Sea, and the player will get to follow 4 different (fully voiced) characters, as they explore the past and present of this environmental disaster. They all have their different aims and motivations, and through the game’s different chapters you will see their different stories twist and turn in many ways. Other than “Residue” we also have another project that we’re working on, but we’re not ready to share any specific details about it yet, other than it is by far our most ambitious project yet.
Ulf: Answered by Ulf (one of our two programmers): It’s a good environment for experimenting and trying out different ways of structuring games, programmatically speaking. What the framework gives you isn’t super much, but it does manage some of the more tedious bits. We’ve also learned a lot about cross-platform development through using it, even though it’s made most of it really easy. Overall, I’m personally a bit of a fan of the C# language and I think XNA is great for everything 2D, but we’ll probably never make a 3D game with it since there’s so much more to gain from using actual 3D engines that takes such an enormous amount of time to recreate yourself. Still, kudos to those who do!
VVGtv: In your free time, what activities do you like to do besides developing games and playing them?
John: Personally, I’m passionate about the web, sitting up way past bedtime making websites and trying out cool new web technologies. Hugo is involved in theatre and drama; currently taking a course in all things about it. Magnus & Viktor makes sculptures of things they love, like Owl boy and Crono. Ulf reads literature classics and game industry analyses. Johan studies stuff at about 200% speed, currently in Japan.
VVGtv: It’s great to see such a wide variety of great minds coming together and making great games. Again I would like to thank you again John for your time, it has been an absolute pleasure!
John: Thank you Ryan!