What are you playing/reading/watching right now? I’m playing a lot of Octopath Traveler – the visual aesthetics of the game are blowing my mind, and I’m really not a graphics guy either. They took pixel art, like any JRPG would, and they added some gorgeous effects to show distance – blurring the background and really beautiful lighting in every shot. I haven’t seen anything like it, actually. That and Overwatch for some goofy fun.
I’m reading a really weird series, Island in the Sea of Time, which is a kind of thought experiment; it has the entire island of Nantucket, Massachusetts, USA transported back to ~1500 BC. It’s super weird but it makes you think.
I’m not really watching anything – I have a few series I need to get back into like Daredevil, Justified, Sherlock and The Newsroom but I have trouble just sitting and watching now – and those shows all demand your attention. I used to watch stuff while playing games but TV has evolved where you can’t really pick up the plot if you miss 5 minutes of it. I like and hate that, hahah.
I just saw Avengers: Infinity War, and it was really stellar. I have never been so stressed out, and I am so glad they made Thanos a little bit sympathetic. Sympathetic villains are the BEST.
What is Lost and Hound and your new game Legacies? Why is it important? My first game is called Lost and Hound. You play as a dog, out camping with your human and you’re thrust into the role of scent tracker.
It’s in 3D, and the levels are large, open spaces full of things to discover. Each level is a different scenario to find a victim. The thing that makes the game unique is that it’s built for complete blind accessibility. A dog’s ears and nose are their superpowers and the reason we have them do jobs that we cannot. The game world is very lush regarding audio. The scent trail you must follow is represented by a low hum, so you have to follow that invisible trail to the victims, kind of like a walless, invisible maze.
People with all levels of vision impairment can play the game with ease – I have a large playtesting community on the Audiogames.net forum, which is a forum for blind gamers. I also have taken on a writer from that community – he is blind and loved the game so much that he asked to contribute ideas for future levels, and his ideas were awesome so now we’re working together. He also helps me if I’m anticipating the wrong problem or accommodation/accessibility measures, which is very common when able people try to meet the needs of people with disabilities. I am working with a small audio team I’ve formed for some of the voice acting of this game, and there will be multiple levels set in Australia with some fine Occa accents!
I’m actually making another game alongside this one, it’s called Legacies and it’s a submarine narrative game. It’s also based around blind accessibility, because it features a real sonar system.
You press on the arrow buttons and it sends a sonar ping in that direction, and the time it takes for that ping to hit something and sound informs a blind player (or a sighted one, in a cave or cloudy water!) if they’re good to travel in that direction for a while. It works exactly like real sonar which I’m super proud of. There are so many things in modern day life that use sound as an informative mechanism that we just don’t think about!
This game actually strives to bring attention to the incredible work Australia is doing in science and research. I can’t find the statistic, but I recently read that Australia’s research output is exponentially larger than most other countries when compared with population sizes. I take great pride in the fact that I live in a place that is punching way above its weight, and is investing so heavily in scientific discovery and development.
I also read, though, that a lot of young STEM graduates are leaving for other countries within the past few years, and if this game gets any real traction down the road I plan to use the small voice I have to try to bring attention to that.
Apart from your game what should everyone be looking out for in local Australian Pop Culture? I’m a huge fan of Aunty Donna. I full on belly laugh during almost all of their videos. For video games, if you like spaceship combat, make sure you check out Battlestar Galactica: Deadlock which was produced in Perth. I’ve worked with these guys before at Black Lab Games, and they have really created an awesome battle system for spaceship combat.
Also I’m into Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles which is a really enchanting, cartoony fantasy game made over east.
Major prediction for Pop Culture 12 months from now? I think storytelling trends will move away from zombies and superheroes, and other genres/subjects that we’ve beaten to death. I love a good zombie game, and I love Daredevil and Infinity War, but you see this trend happening where stories in really unique, original worlds are being venerated, like Westworld, Game of Thrones, Stranger Things and Peaky Blinders.
To me, that says that people want stories that haven’t been told before in any other medium, they want original world-building and as a game developer, I find that very encouraging and hopeful. I think it’s damaging that we keep retelling old stories through adaptations or un-asked-for reboots, I think it limits us, globally, in our creativity.
Best last thing you ate? I cook a LOT at home so this is right up my alley. I made a really nice pasta last night actually, with a spicy, chunky tomato and onion sauce with pepperelli salami. It was the first time I made a pasta sauce that rivalled what you might find in a good restaurant so I felt pretty good about that.