Rezzed 2012: Tengami Interview

[Tengami for the iPad was without a doubt one of Rezzed 2012’s hidden gems, so discover this little treasure for yourself through our interview with developer Phil Tossel!]

IGM: So Phil, give us the lowdown on Tengami! How you you describe it to someone who hadn’t seen it before?

Phil: So, we spent a lot of time trying to decide how we would describe Tengami in one sentence, because it’s got a quite a kinda ‘different’ concept. I’d define it as kind of a ‘relaxed adventure game’ that’s based completely around ‘pop-up’ mechanics. Basically everything in the gameworld folds and unfolds according to the player’s interaction with the touch screen.

IGM: Yeah, that japanese paper aesthetic is really beautiful! What made you guys go with that? Was it just divine inspiration or something more specific?

Phil: Well we all love Japan -and I specifically like traditional Japanese arts and crafts- so I’ve always been fascinated by ‘Washi’ paper and how they make it, and I always tough it would make a really kinda nice backdrop for the game. We’re really lucky actually, we have a fantastic Japanese artist called Rio who helps us a lot with the authenticity of the artwork. So yeah, I guess it’s a love of Japan that sparked the initial idea.

IGM: What kind of story are you trying to tell in Tengami?

Phil: There’s not much of a direct story, it’s all very kind of ‘experiential’; so there’s not really an explicit story we’re trying to tell. I guess we’re trying to make the player think about certain things, which doesn’t necessarily come across in the current build. But it’s mainly about the renewal of life and dreams after they’ve been sapped away.

IGM: So it’s a rather passive experience then, rather than something the player is directly involved with?

Phil: Absolutely. You don’t really know anything about your character, and that’s intentional. It’s so that the player puts their own spin on what they want Tengami to be about.

IGM: How far along are you guys with development at the moment?

Phil: We’ve spent about a year and a half so far working on Tengami. We started straight away after we quit our previous jobs [at Rare]. In the first year I think we were overly ambitious; we thought we’d have something ‘out’ in a year. But then a year went by and all we had was tech and ideas all in pieces! It’s only been in the last few months when things have finaly come together into a cohesive experience.

IGM: Ah, so you’re quite a while off being ‘finished’ then?

Phil: Yeah, we’ve been trying to get just one level that’s representative of the game -which is what we have here at Rezzed today- in terms of visual style, quality level and mechanics. The puzzles and that still need refinement based on watching people play though. Then it’s a case of “Ok we’ve got something that defines the game, now we have to expand on that”. So we’re still probably about another six to nine months off being ‘finished’ yet.

IGM: How has the transition been for you guys, going from Rare employees to being Indies I mean? Is it everything you wanted it to be?

Phil: And more! I loved working at Rare -it was a great place to work- but I got to the point In my career where I felt like I needed to expand what It is I do. I’m a programmer by trade, but I wanted to be more involved in other aspects of game development process than just that. However there’s just not that kind of scope at large studios anymore. So we had some ideas and though “lets just go for it!”. I’m lovin’ it so far; every day is just doing what you love doing really. Because we self-funded the game we don’t have any publisher or anything; all the creative decisions are ours and we can take our time over stuff. It’s been really good!

IGM: Can you tell us a bit more about the kind of puzzles and experiences you have in the current build of Tengami?

Phil: Yeah so the game starts with a little bit of visual storytelling, which kinda introduces the interaction with ‘pop-ups’ as we’ve found it’s quite new for people how you interact with the game initially. When you get past that, we then introduce the character and movement controls. The puzzles that follow aren’t really brain teasers, they kinda make you think a little bit but they aren’t meant to be really difficult. Tengami is meant to be something you can just enjoy at your own pace. Most of the ones we have implemented so far just revolve around opening and closing pop-ups and showing you things in a way that you may not expect at first.

IGM: What made you guys chose the iPad as the platform for Tengami? There’s not really anything like it on that system.

Phil: When we first started we were like “well, what shall we do?” and really the iPad was the catalyst for finally jumping in. For a while we’d be thinking we wanted to do our own games, but what platform will we do it on? Consoles cost too much and phones were too casual. So when the iPad came out we were like “Yes! This is it! This is the platform!”. We were kinda disappointed initially just to see so many iPhone games being ported to iPad and then thinking “but you can do so much more with it than that!”.

So we thought it would be perfect for what we wanted to do with player interaction in Tengami due to its tactical nature; we just hope there’s an audience for it there. It’s our belief that there IS one anyway; we basically made the kind of game we wanted to play, and I don’t think I’m THAT unusual! So there must be a certain percentage of people who want to play it too.

For more info on Tengami and NyamYam games, check out their official site.

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