Examiner Exclusive: A look inside ‘In the Shadows’

In the Shadows looks to be a fun 2D puzzle platform game. With such a saturated indie market though, what makes In the Shadows stand out? LA Games Industry Examiner Nickolas Kusen got a chance to chat with Nicolas Temese over at Colorspace Studios and talk about the upcoming game’s theme, music, puzzles and more.

Colorspace Studio is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the development of the game. The campaign’s goal is almost met, but it only has a couple more days to go. Temese said that reaching the goal would help him keep his estimated release date for the game later this year. In the Shadows is scheduled to launch late 2016 for PC and sometime in 2017 for PS4.

Nickolas Kusen: In the Shadows is a 2D puzzle platformer, but it’s also a game that deals with life issues like confronting fears and how childhood experiences shape us. How does this game address those themes?

Nicolas Temese: The story is actually pretty deep. It’s about fighting your fears, not just physical fears, but a bunch of things that people struggle with. It could be when people have trouble talking with other people or they want to go on a trip, but don’t. People dream about that stuff, but they don’t do it. The game talks a lot about that, about fighting those fears and being able to live. We’re always between the fears and living.

I put as little text in the game as possible because I want people to feel what the player is going through. There’s a lot of symbolism in the game and I wish people will pick it up when they play it because it’s really subtle. Like I said, you’re not going to read the story, you’re just going to live it and see it in the world.

NK: What went in to creating the game’s unique art style?

NT: Since I have a 3D background my mind works in 3D. So for a long time I had this idea about re-lighting pixel art in 3D. The backgrounds in the game are textured as pixel art and modeled as voxels. Then they’re exported as a 3D mesh so all of the backgrounds are actually 3D. That’s the way I could re-light everything and have the real time shadows. All of the lighting is real time, all of the shadows are real time.

At the same time the game grew because I had this idea about the shadow creatures and the mechanic of the puzzles, when they transform and everything, and it was just perfect because it was a pixel art game, but it was lit in 3D with real shadows and it’s the title of the game so everything kind of fit. I had this moment. I was like ‘this is perfect.’ I wanted to make a game that stood out, I wanted to make something special.

NK: The music in the trailer has a very distinct sound, what was the inspiration for it?

NT: The music was made by Liam Davis, on twitter it’s Lombus Music. I had a very specific idea for the music, and what he’s made, some of his older stuff, was perfect. I didn’t want to have chiptune music, I wanted to have something more instrumental and smooth. I wanted to have this eerie vibe in the game. The game looks pretty, it looks non-threatening, but with the music there is a mood that you feel like you’re not sure, but something’s going on. It’s the kind of mood I want. And what he’s making is just perfect.

NK: Puzzles are a big part of this game. What was that process like, creating the puzzles?

NT: When I first started working on the puzzles, the first couple of puzzles I made in my head and on paper worked. Then I realized pretty quickly that it was really easy to break. That was the hardest part, I think, making puzzles. Making puzzles that are unbreakable and fun, but also balanced. Puzzles that are not too hard and not too easy. That was really hard, I didn’t expect that.

Braid really inspired the style of puzzles for me, difficulty wise and the fact that all the information is accessible right away. You don’t have to fetch anything to understand it, all the information is there. It’s for you to figure it out. I love that kind of game.

It’s a funny thing because at some point your brain starts working differently. Jonathan Blow talked about that with his latest game The Witness. At some point you see puzzles everywhere. I was really happy when I saw that because it’s true. You think about those mechanics a lot. The more you make puzzles the better you get.

And for the player too at some point when you learn a mechanic and you see and you analyze how that world works you just you have this moment where you’re ‘oh I get it’ and then you can solve that thing. And then soon after I introduce just one new thing and you’re totally lost again. I love that. It’s almost the same puzzle, but then this one detail just changes everything.

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