When Aaru’s Awakening started out as a school project at the University of Reykjavík, we wanted to create an original platformer. The genre is congested, so new ideas are essential. Inspired by the teleportation gun in Unreal Tournament, we came up with the idea of a teleportation themed platformer.
When the project moved from being a mere school project to winning the Icelandic Gaming Industry Game Creator competition — and thus giving us the funding to start a company around the game — we realized that we’d have to do something more than just rely on the teleportation mechanic. That’s when we decided to add the charging mechanic that would serve as a double jump and make certain objects breakable, as it would add fluidity to the game and allow for some intense in-air moments. We also knew that to really grab the attention of gamers we’d have to create an original art style, so the art director proposed we’d do it completely hand drawn.
When implementing the teleportation mechanic we were focused on having it deeply intertwined with the gameplay, not just having it as a gimmick. So we designed each level with the mechanic at heart. That’s why we create each level with puzzles and zones that can only be solved and reached with the help of the teleportation function.
The protagonist simply shoots his soul out of his body and then teleports to that destination. This is done with the trigger and shoulder buttons, though we do invite people to set up the control scheme as they please. An example would be that you shoot the soul out with R1 and when you see the soul reach a desirable destination you press R2 to teleport to that location.
The charging ability was not part of our original prototype, but added afterwards to have a faster-paced platformer. We wanted to force the player to make a lot of split-second decisions and keep him on the edge of his seat throughout the experience. The ability — which allows the protagonist to dash a few feet through the air — can help players get a double jump, buy time in the air, and break certain things like walls. One of the shoulder or trigger buttons are used for this ability as well.
With the traditional approach to visuals based heavily around line work, we were able to achieve a certain charm which gives the feeling that a real person was behind the art — especially since a lot of the line work allowed us to be quite rough and sketchy. 3D art work, for example, can become more mechanical (even though it looks awesome) and the connection between the viewer and the artist is often lost in translation.
Initially we wanted the whole game to be done on paper, but after our vertical slice we realized that with two artists we would be working 24/7 for the next decade. So in conclusion we wound up doing all the line work on paper and using watercolours for texture, but major coloring and touch ups were done digitally.
Our aim with Aaru’s Awakening was always to do something new, something original,and something intuitive. After all, that’s exactly what indie games are all about. We’re not competing against AAA games, we’re offering something different and taking chances that big budget companies with shareholders are not capable of doing.
After two years of sleepless nights, we’re anxious to see if the risk will be rewarded and if people will enjoy our game. Aaru’s Awakening is coming this Summer and will launch simultaneously on PS4 and PS3. We’d love to hear from you guys in the comments, so tell us what you think and shoot us questions — I’ll make sure to answer!