Shadow Puppeteer is an upcoming indie title that is being released on the Wii U eShop on January 28, 2016 in both Europe and North America. Developed by Sarepta Studio and published by Snow Cannon Games, this adventure/platformer/puzzle hybrid has already won a few accolades, including the 2015 Indie Prize Director’s Choice Award for its unique art style, stunning music, and its cleverly thought-out puzzles.
We at Gamer Professionals had the pleasant opportunity to sit down with two of the talented minds behind the game at Sarepta Studio and speak to them about their inspiration for both breaking into the gaming industry and about their upcoming title, Shadow Puppeteer. With indie games bursting with creativity as of late, we were both honored and excited to get some first-hand insight from some of the incredibly bright, young minds who are shaping the gaming industry today as we know it.
Morgan: So first of all, on behalf of Gamer Professionals I’d like to thank you for taking the time out to talk to us about Shadow Puppeteer. We greatly appreciate it.
Catharina: Yeah, of course.
Morgan: If you could introduce yourselves, just briefly, and tell us what you do at Sarepta for the benefit of our readers.
Catharina: My name’s Catharina Bøhler. I’m the CEO of Sarepta Studio, so I work together with the team and together with Marianne to ensure that the vision of the game is followed, and of course work with, just generally, the team.
Marianne: Hi. My name is Marianne Lerdahl. It’s very nice to meet you Morgan!
Morgan: It’s nice to meet you as well, thank you.
Marianne: So, like Emmy said, I am Project Manager at Sarepta, so my main goal is to make sure that everyone on the team and everyone we’re working with outside of the team are pulling in the same direction. But, being an indie developer, we do have that thing where everyone does a bit of everything — so Catharina and I have been heavily involved, for instance, in designing the game, among other things. I’m not sure how to explain that well. Any ideas Catharina?
Catharina: No; just working on the story, working on the levels, working on brainstorming new ideas within the game.
Marianne: Making some 3D models [laughs].
Morgan: What first inspired you to get into game development, of all fields?
Catharina: I guess that varies a bit between the two of us, but not that much. For my sake, I’ve always been interested in creating stories and being part of something creative. In my childhood I’ve always played a lot of games and read a lot of books and watched a lot of movies, and I’ve just been dabbling within different kinds of creative things, and I realized that game development was where you could really explore different worlds and concepts. It’s been an ongoing thing.
Morgan: Yeah, there’s so much you can do creatively in games, especially now with today’s technology that simply wasn’t possible before.
Marianne: Well, when I was little I would play Super Mario Bros. with my brothers, and I remember after we played, me and one of my brothers, who’s called Henrik — we would draw levels. Like, we would have these sketchbooks and would draw these platforms, and of course it would always be lava, and there would be these complete levels, and we would tell each other, “oh, and then you have to go here and you have to jump up to this place, and then this platform will fall down or crumble and you would have to . . .” . . . so that’s the start for me as a game designer. Since then I’ve been very into games, playing games all through my childhood, and of course I play today as well. I really love the potential in games of creating an engaging experience where you partake and you’re active.
Morgan: So the immersive side of gaming?
Marianne: Definitely. I’m very drawn to these virtual worlds. I mean, all the excitement, stuff you can’t do in real life that you can just do.
Morgan: What do you feel some of the — and both of you can answer this — what do you think some of the advantages are, working for an independent game developer as opposed to a huge studio.
Catharina: Well I definitely think you get a lot more freedom. You get to try a little bit of everything. You get to be creative and, you know, turn on a dime and just be as flexible as you want to be. And that also includes if you want to try and do something a bit crazy, like try to make a game that’s 2D and 3D at the same time as your first title. You just have more freedom to be a bit bold and try to do crazy stuff.
Marianne: With great power comes great responsibility [laughs]. The thing is, we can’t compare what it’s like to work as an indie developer because we haven’t worked at other established game studios. So to us, this is the only kind of game development existance that we know of. But I completely agree with Catharina and the fact that you get to try anything you want. I mean there’s no one there to stop you from trying to do something, and that’s a really cool experience.
Morgan: So moving on and talking about Shadow Puppeteer, how did the development of that game come about? What was the the inspiration for it?
Catharina: Well actually, it started with ‘Dare to be Digital’, an international contest that we . . . a couple of us from the same school started a long time ago. And we just sat down and tried to come up with some cool idea, and someone just started talking about shadows, and we just really latched on to that and we started playing around with the idea of what it would be like if your shadow was alive — what that kind of dynamic would be like. So, yeah, it actually just started with a crazy . . . you know we had a week to do an application for ‘Dare’ and then just suddenly someone said the right thing and that’s how it started.
Morgan: So the game has already come out on Windows, and it’s about to be released for the Wii U. Is there an ideal platform to play it on, and what are your reasons for choosing the Wii U as opposed to other current-generation consoles?
Marianne: So, as we started developing Shadow Puppeteer, we always had this thought that it would be a great console game. A lot of us developing it are console players, and we wanted to create this co-op couch experience. Now, with the Wii U, we are so fantastically happy to be working with Nintendo to get it out on the Wii U, because that console is so perfect for the shared experiences, whether it’s with your family member, or it starts with a significant other, with your children, friends; anything. And we feel like it really belongs there. Now, of course, you can play it on Windows with controllers of course, but not everyone is comfortable with that or not everyone has a controller with their PC. With the Wii U you always have the controller!
Catharina: And people usually have — when they play the Wii U — they’re usually more in the mindset with being social. So it really fits with our game.
Marianne: I mean consoles belong in the living room, and that’s where you meet and hang out and play games.
Morgan: So this might have been partially answered in the last question, but what are some of the gameplay opportunities that you think that the Wii U offers that maybe other platforms don’t?
Marianne: Well, are you thinking in relation to our title specifically or in general?
Morgan: I was thinking in terms of your title.
Marianne: Well, I completely agree with you. It’s kind of what we said, that the Wii U is such a good fit because of the position it has in people’s lives, that it encourages people to have these shared experiences. And also, we love playing with controllers. It’s a 3D platforming game to a certain extent — that works really well when you have an analogue stick.
Morgan: So does the Wii U GamePad offer any unique opportunities that you wouldn’t be able to do elsewhere on other consoles?
Catharina: Well the Pad, it doesn’t — we’re not adding any special features to it, but we do do a mirrored screen. So you can have . . . because you do . . . in the game you share the same screen, and some feel that it’s more comfortable to be able to have these two screens so that they can focus more on what they need to look at. So I guess that would be the only thing that we do.
Morgan: Okay. The game — I’ve read that it is both single player and co-op. What do you believe the ideal way to play the game is? Single player, or with a friend, significant other, or family member? And what are some of the advantages of playing either way?
Catharina: Well I definitely feel, or we definitely feel, that the game is really perfect — it has been optimized for local co-op, to play with someone else. And we’ve actually seen that where the game really, really shines is where you have a couple playing. Some people have been saying that this is a game that was perfect to play with their girlfriends [laughs], especially if they had a girlfriend who was a bit uncertain — wasn’t necessarily that into gaming — but then really loved to play together with their gaming boyfriend. Of course I’ve also seen some really some great dynamics with children and parents, and of course friends. But I really do think that, [laughs], it really is kind of a couples game.
Marianne: Although, I would argue that if you put two enemies in the same room that that could have some good effects. I’ve seen people at conventionis who come up, and they’re like, “I’m going to beat you”, and they’re like — you know — I kid you. But, it takes them five minutes and it changes, and after 10 minutes, they’re totally in synch and working together and being a team. And I think that’s really one of the strengths of the game, because you can, like Catharina said, if you have a couple where one is really into games and the other isn’t, a lot of co-op experiences can — or multiplayer experiences can — emphasize that you need to have great skill, or really show that one is so much better than the other, and that can be such a . . . what is it called . . .
Marianne: Yes, excursion, where here you’re helping each other, and the pacing is really well-suited for someone who isn’t really into games. I mean you’re doing a lot of thinking; important thinking.
Catharina: But if you’re a gamer that likes a challenge, then playing it on your own is also interesting, since you’re controlling both characters at the same time: one with your left hand, the other with the right. It does become really funny to really, really focus on your precision and to be able to control two things at once.
Marianne: I mean, if you’re really good at patting your head while stroking your tummy, it’s the perfect game for you, because it’s that kind of challenge, and I’ve heard some people say that they think it’s so much fun and they’re super proud when they beat it on their own.
Morgan: So, is it just strictly local co-op on the Wii U without online play, so it encourages people to get together in the same room while playing?
Catharina: Yeah, we definitely want people sit together and play, and we really optimized it for the local experience, because that’s when people really talk to each other and start nagging each other, or [inaudible] and that really makes the experience so much better.
Morgan: So there are no online options?
Catharina: No, there’s no online option at this moment.
Morgan: Okay, just clarifying. What do you hope that players get out of their experience while playing Shadow Puppeteer?
Catharina: We really hope that they have fun of course; that they get to twist their minds a little bit and try to look at this world in a different way and they go “wowwww”, “woooo”, “wowwww”, you know. It’s really fun to see when you have some kind of puzzles that people just haven’t experienced before, so a new experience together with someone else I would say. What would you say Marianne?
Marianne: No, I completely agree. But I also want people to go out afterwards together and then they see an interesting shadow on the ground and they’re just going to look at that, and then look at each other, and have this new perspective and share that.
Morgan: Yeah I’ve seen from a conceptual standpoint, the game looks really, really interesting, and very unique, and I think that that’s really cool.
Marianne: Thank you.
Catharina: That’s really great to hear.
Morgan: You’re welcome. Lastly, is there any advice that you’d like to impart to aspiring game developers, for our readers; some tips or inspiration?
Catharina: I have two things. One thing is to just make things. Go out and just make things right away; don’t wait, just do it. Join game jams and stuff like that, and don’t wait. Just start right away. And the second thing would be to talk to other developers and ask them for advice; new developers, old developers — just get help from each other.
Marianne: I have five words. The first two are be kind; it’s really important to just treat everyone you meet well. I mean, there’s this perception that there is rivalry in the industry, and studios are competing with each other, but meeting game developers, everyone is so nice and so supportive, and you can really learn a lot from each other. The three other words are don’t give up. I mean, there are going to be tough times, there are always going to be tough times, but just don’t give up; starting something is easy, finishing it is, well, a lot harder [laughs].
Morgan: Well, on behalf of Gamer Professionals, again, I would like to thank you for taking the time out to speak with us and to talk about your upcoming game, Shadow Puppeteer. We’re really excited about it and can’t wait to get our hands on it and give it a try! So thank you very much, we greatly appreciate it.
Catharina/Marianne: Thank you Morgan.
Marianne: It was a pleasure to talk with you.
Morgan: Yeah, it was a pleasure, likewise.
Once again, we would like to thank Emmy Jonassen of Snow Cannon Games and Catharina Bøhler and Marianne Lerdahl of Sarepta Studio for allowing us this opportunity to talk to them about their upcoming release. We are very excited for this game and look for our review of the title early next week!
While Shadow Puppeteer launches on the Wii U eShop on January 28, you can get a sneak peak and wet your appetite a bit by watching the trailer below!