Developer Interview: From Heart We Make

Almost Games Studio’s undergoing a transformation. In celebration of the new and brilliant partnership between the unquestionably talented Clément and Stéphane, Almost Games Studio’s becoming From Heart We Make — and From Heart We Make’s first title? The effervescently animated and delightfully combat-oriented Orion – Shadow of Jeroba. When staggeringly good pixel art meets clever game design and production, you get something a little like what we saw from Orion‘s pre-alpha teaser trailer. We had the pleasure of speaking with Clément himself, one-half of the men behind the magic, to learn more about this upcoming masterpiece and the process of creating it.

From Heart We Make Logo

|| Can you tell us about the partnership that’s the driving force behind Orion – Shadow of Jeroba? We know a pair of gentlemen named Clément and Stéphane might just be involved in the explanation.

Well, my name is Clément, I’m 31 years old, and I created my video game company in 2016 in Paris to create my first game. One year later I had the idea of Orion, but I didn’t have the money or talent in drawing to start the project, so I kept it in my mind, waiting for the right time to make it.

I moved then to Nantes where I joined a video game cluster gathering the indie studios of the region. I spoke about Orion on the cluster Slack, and no one was available to start a new project with me, but one guy told me that a French comic illustrator was looking for a new start in video games.

So I contacted him and this guy was Stéphane, my associate now. We met for the first time at a bar in Nantes and we started to discuss our lives, skills, and of course Orion and video games. It was like we were made to meet each other — our personalities fit perfectly, we loved the same video games (even the lesser-known ones), and our skills were different but complementary.

So we decided together to start Orion around September 2017, Stéphane as Art Director and Main Artist, and me as Game Designer and Producer of the game. In reality we are doing everything, I mean Stéphane also does game design, and I advise often on the art direction of the game.

|| What was, and is, Ana The Game? Did this previous entry from Almost Games Studio serve as a precursor to Orion, and if so, how? We hear it might be available on Steam this year?

Ana was my first game. Before Lifeline I thought that it could be really interesting to play inside a smartphone environment and play only by speaking to people and making some choices. It seemed to me simple to do (technically for a first game), so I spoke about the game to my friend Nicolas at this time, and he loved the idea, so we founded Almost Games Studio together. So Ana is an interactive thriller where you have to speak with people via your phone, sending them messages and making important choices. Like in a real smartphone, you have a gallery, notes, phone calls, etc. At the beginning of the adventure, it’s trivial and basic: you discover people, you speak to your friends, and so on, but after a moment… an unknown number calls you…and you will have to discover what is happening and how to solve the situation. Ana was only for iOS and we are making the game for Android and Steam, yes.

Now we have a little experience in making games, and it will really be helpful for Orion. Actually it’s already helpful ^^

|| How was Orion originally conceived? Were there other pixel art RPGs that inspired Orion’s unique look and style, and is this some sort of a long-held dream finally coming to fruition?

Well, my biggest dream would be to make a metroidvania/Castlevania game! Orion took this form (top down view) because of the game design and game mechanics. This view fit perfectly with our concept. Regarding the games we love and which inspired us, we can say that there are a lot!

Rogue Legacy, Flint Hook, Owlboy, Dark Souls, Dead Cells, Fez, Castlevania, Hotline Miami, etc.

Each of those games has something interesting to offer. And for the art, Hyper Light Drifter had a big impact on us. Regarding our choice of pixel art, we love games in pixel art, and I think it’s because we are nostalgic about the SNES and Megadrive (GENESIS), which remind us of our best moments of gaming. Pixel art is really beautiful from our point of view and not easy to do, contrary to what many people think.

|| What can players expect from Orion, in a nutshell? We know we’ll be able to enjoy its stunning eye-candy art, at the very least.

Orion is a rogue-like game, so there will be a lot combat, epic bosses, secrets to find, and of course, a lot of death. We can compare the construction of Orion with Rogue Legacy‘s construction in a way, without the legacy characters and adding a dungeon management mechanic… In Orion you choose the next room you will cross, as it’s not determined by the game.

|| How does the union of Clément’s game design and Stéphane’s illustrator experience come together in Orion? Do the two disciplines complement one another? Do you ever have trouble convincing one another of your ideas?

We are on the same page! Often we have the same ideas at the same time, and when we have divergent viewpoints, we simply talk, try to think about the impact on the game, and then we choose the best decision. Stéphane and I are involved at each level of the game (art, music, game design, story, gameplay, etc), but yes we are complementary!

|| What’s the plan moving forward for Orion? The pre-alpha trailer just dropped, and the timeline suggests a full release in 2019. Is that still accurate?

Yes, that’s the plan! But you know how it is… in video game development, you can have a lot of misadventures. We also certainly change the game during the development, adding some features, canceling others, and it’s difficult to be sure about when the game will be released. In addition to that we don’t want to rush the game, we want to make the best game we can. We will have a first playable build in September and with that we will have some first feedback from players.

|| If you could’ve been a part of the development process for any game of your choice (aside from Orion, naturally), what would it be? Is there any studio or title you particularly admire? Why?

I would like to be with FromSoftware when they were creating the Dark Souls series. That game changed something in me, and I spent more than 1,000 hours on Dark Souls 1, 2 and 3. It’s simply the best Castlevania-like in 3D ever made (I know it’s not a Castlevania-like, but I like to think it is). They created something new, totally amazing and brilliant.

|| We hear you might be fans of Overwatch. Who do you main? It’s critical that we know.

Well, I like competitive games. I started with Counter-Strike 1.4 and then Team Fortress 2 with more than 1,000 hours on it, too. Overwatch takes a lot of things from TF2, that’s why I play it, but I don’t enjoy it the same way. So I play it sometimes, but I’m not a big fan, I like it that’s all ^^.

My two mains are Pharah and Junkrat. But I like other DPS like Tracer, or Genji. I can play healer with Zen or Lucio, but I’m definitely bad with tanks…