Amidst all of the news coming out of Gamescom last week, we also saw the release of Ary and the Secret of Seasons. We reviewed the game earlier, but also had the opportunity to catch up with Sebastien Le Touze, CEO & Game Designer for the game at eXiin Games, which is based out of Belgium and helped develop the game for publisher Modus Games.
How did you come up with Ary and the Secret of Seasons?
With Ary and the Secret of Seasons, we are trying to bring back the spirit of gaming classics from the 90’s and early 2000’s. The challenge is to give the game a feeling that is strangely familiar but at the same time different enough that players don’t feel like they’ve played the game 100 times already.
I recalled a small project I had as a kid toying around with RPG Maker 95. I ended up with a small seasons shifting RPG, nothing fancy, just a nice idea. 20 years later, I wasn’t the first nor the last one bringing the idea of seasons as a gameplay mechanic – lots of other games did it before, but none of them I saw took advantage of the concept in 3D!
The first big question was how to bring a concept that worked well in 2D to a 3D world, which is how we arrived at the idea of localized seasons, displayed in a sphere. It was a good starting point – shifting seasons to reveal 4 different worlds. As a fan of Soul Reaver, it was hard to resist the idea!
What sets Ary apart from other 3D action adventure titles?
The most obvious feature is the season gameplay but our biggest concern was making it too much of a gimmick. To avoid that, we focused on three core concepts in our game: Exploration, puzzles and combat. We made sure the player had no other option than to use the seasons’ powers to complete these quests – but as a trade off, we gave them unlimited use of their powers.
The perfect example of the integration of this idea is the jelly enemies. They can be frozen into ice cubes and used as a platform to reach high up places, or transformed into a box to replace Ary’s weight on a pressure plate.
What inspired the visual style for the game?
The current art style actually just evolved through the process. We started knowing we wanted to have stylized graphics in the game so we stuck to it and improved upon it through development.
What can you tell us about the team (and its partners) that have been working on the game?
Our team is pretty small; we had between 5 and 10 people working full-time on Ary, including Fishing Cactus that is in charge of the port for consoles. At eXiin, with such a small team, we end up having people that do a bit of everything. One day you can be working on level design, the day after do some cutscenes and the next day some shaders.
Thankfully we also got a lot of help from our producer (Bruce Hayles) at Modus. From what I’ve heard from other fellow indie developers, it’s something quite rare to have a producer that lifts up the team, so that’s something we are very grateful for.
Did you have to include working remotely in your development process?
Belgium is in the top impacted countries of COVID-19. We didn’t want to risk anyone’s health so we had some of our team members going into lockdown ahead of the government decision.
It was hard for everybody. No management book has a chapter about “what to do in case of a global pandemic.” Up to this day, we still pay a heavy cost from the COVID outbreak.
The impact seems harmless at first, but when you are finishing a game and realize that every employee has various internet speeds, it starts to get complicated. The general productivity decreases and when you’re shipping a game, slow internet is never good.
Now that the game has been released, how do you hope players will take to it?
We want players to love Ary as a relatable and memorable character. At the release, we are excited for players to experience the characters, the story, and the puzzles. We hope the fans will continue to support Ary on her adventure!