Last month’s EuroPlay contest was a lovely gathering of indie developers from all over Europe. But as with the EuroVision song contest, it also included a contestant all the way from Australia. Innchanted by DragonBear Studios represented ‘the land down under’ during the event, and even though it was the middle of the night for them we had a chance to talk to lead artist Susan Dang during the live event. We later followed up with Creative Director Paulina Samy to find out more about the game and how it’s being developed, which resulted in the following interview about this family-friendly genre-blender.
What’s the story of how Innchanted came about?
The game was based on a DND campaign I ran for my tabletop friends, about failed adventurers who decided to give up a life on the road and were tricked by a wizard into running a magical inn.
We wanted to make a restaurant / innkeeping game based in a fantasy world, but we thought a fun twist on a tabletop/RPG inspired setting would be that if instead of the main characters being the adventurers, the players would play the role that NPCs normally played! I don’t think there are many games where you play as the support characters helping the heroes.
What other titles have inspired the gameplay mechanics?
There were many games that have inspired Innchanted. Overcooked is a great example, but Moonhunters, Animal Crossing, Potion Punch, and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime are others that influenced us.
What sets Innchanted apart from those games you mentioned?
Most games in this genre are very mechanics based games without much story or ability for the player to impact the world. We are designing Innchanted with a story, unique and interesting customers, and a night time phase that lets the players make choices that impact the events of the next day.
I think one of our most unique features is potion powers! Players need to serve customers magic potions, and most of them can also be drunk to experience those special powers in the game – for example, speed potions make you run faster.
How did the creative process develop over time?
Our artstyle has evolved and changed with the different artists who joined the project. Our original concept art was a very chibi-esque 2D style, then once our first 3D artist Olivia Haines joined the project the style evolved to a soothing pastel palette, and we decided to step away from outlines. As always translating something from 2D to 3D isn’t an easy process, but we are happy with the softer, more magical direction we ended up with.
In terms of partners – we have been supported by the Victorian State government in Australia – Film Victoria is our biggest partner and our game would have not been possible without their support, as well as that of Creative Victoria and the City of Melbourne. Additionally we are sponsored by the Australian Centre of the Moving Image (ACMI) and love being a resident of ACMI X. As soon as lockdown ends we are excited to move back into their creative space.
How do you go about introducing indigenous culture into the game?
Balancing cultural sensitivities and appropriateness of depicting Indigenous Culture has been an interesting process, but we have really enjoyed working with Elders, community and our consultants, and I think it has made the game more interesting and meaningful.
Australia had an eventful year already – did that affect your development process?
From the bushfires to COVID, 2020’s events have definitely impacted our team, morale, and release dates, but we have tried to use it as a motivation to take our time, look after ourselves, and to support each other more despite the difficulties. At this point we are about 2 and half years into development, and we intend to release in 2021.
What can players look forward to when Innchanted releases?
I hope people will enjoy the writing, immerse themselves in the light hearted fantasy, and expand their conceptions of what and where fantasy can take place as a genre. I also hope on an individual level that it will evoke curiosity and a sense of kinship for Australia and Indigenous culture.
Ultimately I hope players have a wonderful and not too stressful time playing together, and that is the intention of the game.