Fans of classic adventure games may be excited to check out Animator Alek Wasilewski’s Kickstarter project, Tsioque. The family friendly game promises a fun and engaging experience appropriate for children, but with a story personal enough to be enjoyed by adults looking for something a little deeper. With only a little over a week before the campaign expires, the game still has several thousand to go before reaching the funding goal, but Wasilewski remains confident in the distinctiveness of his game.
Inspired by his young daughter, Wasilewski created the story of Tsioque, a young princess who is held captive by an evil wizard after her warrior queen mother departed in defense of the kingdom. Seizing on the opportunity, the wizard and his henchmen took control of the unprotected throne, and imprisoned the resourceful princess. Potentially interested players can even download a free demo from the campaign page to test out how they enjoy the 2D point and click adventure. We sat down with Wasilewski to hear about his transition from animated films to game development, and discuss what may happen to Tsioque if the crowd-funding campaign is not successful.
Jesse Tannous: Your career has mostly been spent making animated films, why was now the time you chose to try and develop a video game?
Alek Wasilewski: It was the time who chose me and not the other way around. It was a matter of chance. While I did dedicate most of my professional life to animation, I always saw myself more a storyteller in general rather than animator, or even filmmaker. Ever since I was a small kid, I’ve been coming up with all kinds of stories and trying to express them through writing, comics, photography…games, too!
Animation stuck with me eventually because the first animated short I did in 2003 (“Aura”) was received very enthusiastically, and I began to think this amazing medium – able to form such an immediate strong relationship with the viewer – might actually be accessible to me as a creator. Still, having spent a good deal of my childhood playing games, the idea of making a game myself has always stuck with me somewhere…but as time passed and life decisions were made, the prospect of making my own game was becoming more and more distant…until it appeared right in front of me.
JT: How did your partnership with OhNoo Studios begin? What drove you to select their team as the developers behind Tsioque?
AW: OhNoo Studio emailed me asking about some minor issue related to Flash – we both worked in Flash a lot. We talked a bit, they seemed like nice guys, both professional and with the right kind of attitude towards creative work, and I offhandedly suggested making a game together. They said “ok”, and that was that. I happened to have at the time a concept for a story that I thought could work for a game, but I would never try to make it in this medium should the guys from OhNoo not come along. Here, I had a chance for creative freedom AND to rely on skills and experience of people who actually released games – there was nothing for me to not like here.
JT: What is the likelihood that Tsioque will still be released if the Kickstarter funding goal is not met?
AW: I will strive to make Tsioque happen regardless of the Kickstarter campaign’s success, but depending on its outcome, it may be a different game. If the campaign fails, our search for funds will still not be over, we will explore other ways to funding our game. If this happens to fail as well, we will be forced to return to the no-budget model of development, working on Tsioque in our spare time. This is not an entirely terrible scenario, I have extensive experience in low-to no-budget productions, this was how Tsioque began its development and it can be finished using this model as well. Some corners are bound to be cut so the game can be made by a skeleton crew, but it can be done.
Still, Tsioque is no ordinary project – my first thought when I started work on it was that it’s going to be a present for my daughter when it’s done. In a no-budget model, the deadlines are completely unpredictable, and we already spent two years working on Tsioque. I’d hate to give her this present when she’s all grown up…
JT: Were the designs and personalities of the good queen and Princess Tsioque inspired by your daughter, or were they meant to inspire your daughter?
AW: Let me just say that my daughter’s presence can be felt everywhere throughout this project, often quite directly. It’s definitely safe to say the game is inspired by her – I do really hope she’ll be inspired by it as well, but all the designs and personalities in the game have their solid foundations in the real world. In fact I may be telling more than I should, but the fantasy fairytale of a cursed kingdom, a princess and a wizard, is but a surface of a story more down-to-earth than it may seem at first sight.
JT: Your Kickstarter campaign explains that the story of Tsioque is meant to appeal to both young audiences, and older ones with higher expectations. What messages would you hope your daughter take from this game both now, and when she gets older?
AW: The way I see this, they will be both separate experiences. Now, I mostly want her to enjoy herself – to live through an adventure, get sucked into an exciting story, have some laughs, be afraid a little, and then talk with her dad or mom about everything that happened in the game.
When she gets older, I hope she’ll appreciate the story that lies beneath the giggles and pretty drawings. It should be interesting to her because in a lot of ways it’s also about her – it can be a time capsule to a period of her life when this game was being made, and perhaps it can help her shed new light on some things she was too little to understand.
Having said all that, I don’t want to leave an impression I’m making this game just to make my daughter happy. Sure, it’s one of the reasons, but I never forget I’m making this for the players as well. When Tsioque is done, the younger players should get an engaging adventure, and the older ones a multi-layered tale with enough references to induce a sense of nostalgia – the point and click formula comes from somewhere, after all – but enough original content and balanced gameplay to keep an adult, demanding player enthralled and wanting more.
Those interested in some of OhNoo! Studio’s previous projects should check out their official website. Players impressed with Tsioque’s animation style can also watch some of Wasilewski’s previous short films on his website, or YouTube page.