Developer Interview: Juggler Games

Meet Jakub Jablonski, the Creative & Art Director behind Juggler Games — the break-out indie studio developing My Memory of Us, a WWII-inspired story about love and friendship in the midst of trial and separation. Patrick Stewart is the narrative voice for this entry, and for that sheer fact alone, it’s worth a long and serious look.  But My Memory of Us rises so much further than merely having a star as its voice-over — its innovative art, thoughtful thematic elements, and love of history combine into what we fully expect to be a stupendously memorable and heart-wrenching experience. We had the absolute pleasure of speaking with Jakub Jablonski about his team, their process, and everything My Memory of Us, in anticipation for its upcoming release on October 9.

Juggler Games Logo

|| Can you tell us a little about your journey as a studio? We hear you’re located in Warsaw, Poland, and that you’re made up of industry experts. How did you come together as a team? What was your dream?

We created our studio specially for My Memory of Us. The city of Warsaw was the first inspiration for this one. There are three co-founders. Our CEO Mikolaj Pawlowski was a producer in City Interactive and in Vivid Games. He was responsible for titles like Sniper: Ghost Warrior I & II. He was working on Real Boxing and on Godfire: Rise of Prometheus. Our lead designer Lukasz Janczuk worked with Mikolaj in City also on the Sniper series but his portfolio contains also Art of Murder and Enemy Front. Together they created more than 25 games. I’m art & creative director of our company. My background is art & animation. I’m also art director and cinematic director in Platige Image and I was responsible for AAA game CGI trailers like Total War: Warhammer, Total War: Three Kingdoms and Frostpunk trailers as well as art direction for games like Godfire and Bound. We met one day and shared the same dream – creating a brave indie game with a meaningful aspect.

|| What lead you to create My Memory of Us? We imagine your previous experiences in the industry may have guided you to this gem, in some shape or form. We hear there may be personal family reasons, as well.

We all love different games. It’s the city and our past and idea of storytelling in games that made us dream about this one. When you visit Warsaw you can find history almost on every corner. Two huge uprisings took place here: the Ghetto uprising and Warsaw uprising. Our city was completely destroyed during WWII. Many people dream to tell stories about this through games based on combat. We decided that we are going to create a non violent fairy-tale. We are a small team and “history” is BIG. We decided that we will need a subtle way and very delicate approach. And there are real heroes in our game too. You can meet in our game Janusz Korczak and Irena Sendler and many more. During game-play you will be able to do some quests for them. We don’t show national symbols, flags and names during the core part of the game. We decided that historical part of the game is not mandatory. You can collect memory shards during game-play and use it to unlock our tiny encyclopedia with historical heroes. We leave it to the player. There are some personal reasons too. I have never met my grandpa – Jerzy Rabe. He was a bookbinder artist. He went to the Mauthausen concentration camp because he was printing anti-Nazi leaflets. He survived but I had no chance to talk with him. In order to honor him we created entire level of the game where you take part in secret printing of anti-robot posters.

|| Patrick Stewart, for real? Your recent trailer announcing the release date had a narrator that sounded suspiciously like our favorite Star Trek captain. How did you procure him for your trailer, and will we hear more of him in My Memory of Us?

Patrick Stewart is our narrator during all hand-drawn cut-scenes between levels. He is an antiquarian who is telling a story about friendship from his past. His voice is magical and powerful. We were speechless during recording. Mark Estdale from OMUK Production did it. We met him during the Game Industry Conference (GIC) in Poznan. He is the magical guy. His studio looks like an old pirate ship. Working with these two guys was like a dream. I wrote the script for the game but I’m not a native English speaker so we needed another star. Paul Magrs (“Doctor Who” novels for BBC) wrote the voice over for Patrick. He did an amazing job and I’m sure players will find this magical too.

|| In what way does World War II play a thematic element in My Memory of Us? Your indie makes use of an Evil King and robot soldiers in its story, but we hear WWII is lurking underneath the surface.

WWII and occupation of Poland is a background for our fairy-tale. We are trying to approach history in not literal way. We use it as inspiration, as an idea for more universal story. It’s just like in “Pan’s Labyrinth” where magic and fantasy tries to fight with historical reality. Every game show we hear various interpretations. Some people think it’s about Communism, some think that it refers to the huge wall idea in the US. Not everyone gets the idea of our original, historical context. I think that it’s ok because we are focused on telling the story of universal friendship

|| What inspired the macabre, yet strangely innocent, art style of My Memory of Us? It looks visually astounding, and we can’t wait for its release. Were there other forms of media, or other games, that planted the idea for this style?

I was dreaming about a hand painted art style inspired by naive art and old-school Disney art. A bit of a childish and innocent look. It evolved from the book Wroniec (by Jacek Dukaj) I illustrated few years ago.

We knew that because we don’t use symbols from history we will need something simple to replace them. We decided that the red color will be our main symbol. Game is gray-scale and the red paint serves as a symbol for exclusion and danger but it also marks interactive objects. Red color is also our tribute to the girl in a red dress from “Shindler’s List”.

|| Why a story of friendship in 2018? Does My Memory of Us’ focus on separation, cooperation, and love have any particular relation to today’s current events – or, rather, is it intended as a timeless tale applicable to any day and age?

I hope that players will feel that this is a universal story. Game is about holding hand of your friend and its working title was “Friends.” It’s not a huge, serious story. We have no political or historical ambitions. There is an important dedication hidden there. Play the game and find it :) My Memory of Us is PEGI 7 and ESRB 10 in US. That means that it’s suitable for almost everyone. Children can play it because we tried to minimize violence as much as we could. We used metaphor in art, language and story.

|| Your studio is trapped on a desert island, and you all must share one book, one movie, and one game for your only entertainment. What are they? Choosing only one, admittedly, might be an impossible task – so we’ll let you have a top three of each if you need.

That one is difficult :D We are really different personalities and we fight a lot about our tastes. I will choose something crazy here. I would take a fresh pile of paper, some pencils, dice, and imagination. One book is not enough and that’s why tools for creating few more is the best choice :P