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Jonathan Mole (Johnny Galvatron), the lead vocalist of The Galvatrons, has a passion for video games. Most recently his small indie team announced their new game The Artful Escape, which was Greenlit on Steam and got a handsome $17k Unreal Dev Grant. In this exclusive interview for 80.lv Jonathan discussed the inspirations behind the game, the creative similarities of games and music and shared his thoughts on using Unreal Engine 4 for building incredible adventure titles.
Games and Music
I think it’s important to always keep moving. To place yourself in a position to expand yourself and your art. I actually studied 3D animation at university. My band got a record deal with Warner Brothers about a week after I graduated and I jetted off for five years. When I came back from that strange, hyper-reality of constant touring and shows and partying, I fell straight back into the world of gaming (actually I wrote a novel first because I wanted to work on something where I wouldn’t have to leave the house for a couple of years). Pop music seems bereft of glamor and exploration at this point in history, at least in whatever way I would personally want to approach it. The world of indie gaming feels like some vast, unfarmed landscape. It’s exciting. It feels limitless, and I love video games.
The Artful Escape‘s Story
I don’t want to give too much away, but the story revolves around a teenage musician called Francis Vendetti. He’s the nephew of a legendary dead folk singer, on the eve of his first performance. The expectations of his hometown rests heavily on Francis’s mind. The restaurants along the strip are anticipating big crowds. The bar owner threatens serious repercussions if Francis doesn’t return the bar to its glory days, when Johnson Vendetti enchanted full rooms of heavy drinking patrons. And Francis’s relatives, well, they’re expecting to see their dear, lost friend reborn on stage. The day before the show, Francis runs into Violetta, a Calypso alumni whose parents believe she works at in a laser research lab at a prominent college – but actually works as a lighting engineer in the California indie scene. She tells Francis of a man who can help him. Lightman. Proprietor of Lightman’s Telescope and Reptile Emporium. He’s a starmaker of sorts, a musical coach. His shop can only be found by breaking into an abandoned diner, playing “the High and the Mighty” by Victor Young on the jukebox, and returning the way you came. It is these people who inspire Francis Vendetti to become someone else entirely.
Gameplay and Music
The gameplay is based around dialogue trees, exploration, first-person spaceflight, and laser-light combat designed to replicate the synthesizer – mothership jam in the finale of Steven Spielberg’s “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”We’ll release more about this system in the coming weeks.
The combat, or communication, between your character and enemies is based on music and light. You can repeat the enemies melodies, dodge their attacks, counter their attacks, react to intercept their attacks. It makes crazy, electric, chaotic, wonderful music. As for soundtrack, A Melbourne artist called Luke Legs is playing the dead folk singer, Johnson Vendetti. It’s his music that haunts Calypso, Colorado (You can hear it on the wind). Symphonic, grandiose music traverses the space sections of the game. Electronic Music beats in the jungles of the multidimensional terrain.
Inspiration for Visuals
When I knew we were going to make a platformer, I wanted to look at it like a large tracking shot in a film. So who are the people who use really good tracking shots? Or oners? I think Spielberg and Wes Anderson. There’s also a long of tracking shots in crazy midnight Italian cinema. These were the cinematic inspirations of the game. E.T, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The meek, lovable protagonists of Anderson, his colour dynamic, the outlandish visuals of Midnight visionaries like Antonio Jodorowsky. We love games like Journey, Flow, Kentucky Route Zero, Gone Home so while our laser combat adds exciting and difficult gameplay we’re spending just as much time developing the story and, most importantly, the atmosphere.
Unreal Engine is just the best. I really mean that. It’s sprite system looks nice, the lighting is fantastic, the post-processing is the best I’ve seen in an engine and the blueprints system enables artists to quickly learn the coding systems of the engine. Our game is 2.5D with real-time lighting. We’re definitely using the software in a unique way but the features that make complex 3D scene look great in Unreal are the same features we’re using on our 2.5D scene.
Justin Blackwell and Sean Slevin fo all the technical stuff for our game. Both have been professional programmers for six years, working on everything from games to pharmaceutical programming to educational software. Both also work teaching programming/game development to kids with Asperger’s syndrome and high-functioning autism.
Epic Games’ Grant and Future Financing
The Dev Grant helps so much. One of the best emails I’ve ever got in my life. We’ll also be going to Kickstarter later in July. It’s not massively expensive. I dig the bulk of the work on the trailer and I can develop one of the those scenes in a couple of days now.