It’s not everyday that you get to speak with an indie developer, let alone, one from Istanbul, Turkey. I happen to have been fortunate enough to have that opportunity and was able to chat with the Executive Producer of Nowhere Studios, Burak Tezateşer  about the developer’s upcoming game, Monochroma. Some interviewers have perceived the game as an Ico, the Playstation 2 classic, meets Limbo, the popular arcade game. What Monochroma actually is; is something entirely different altogether.

Me: Burak, you guys at Nowhere Studios currently have a demo and a trailer out now on Kickstarter and your own website for your game, Monochroma. For those of us who haven’t played or seen the game give us a short rundown of what we can expect?

[quote_left]“The contrast of red is very dramatic; it just doesn’t fit there and gives you the feeling that something is wrong.”[/quote_left]Burak: I believe the strongest part of Monochroma is its storytelling. We’re telling a silent story of two brothers against a system. The whole story is set in alternate history, where there is a robot company and they are selling robots to everyone.What we tried to do was to criticize the consumer society in our own way, something rarely done by games. It’s about the players who find out our message and our critique to our current world. If ignored, you can just play it as it is, a nice story. We’re not asking everyone to pay this [story] attention, but the ones who do will find many references and symbols in it.

 

mono-3

Me: Luckily I did get some time with Monochroma with the demo and it is a puzzle platforming game with simple mechanics, a powerful narrative that takes a controversial approach to consumerism and a visual style that seems minimalistic but is actually deeply detailed and tied to the story. How did you guys come up with this idea?

Burak: Well it all started 2,5 half years ago when I met my current partner Orcun. I was doing some PhD studies on game theory and he was making freelance games.We started to talk to each other and our feeling for storytelling in games was like anger to current games. We both believed that games are a medium to tell stories but this is something rarely done in a good way.

You have to get a similar feeling of having read a good book or watched a beautiful movie after having played a game. Then we started to work on the story of Monochroma, then the setting came and then we evolved the gameplay after the rest of the team joined us.

The game mechanics won't make you scratch your head but the puzzles will.

The game mechanics won’t make you scratch your head but the puzzles will.

Me: Wow, I really dig your approach to gaming as a medium that deserves to be respected and should provide that same satisfaction as a good book/movie. How are you trying to capture that same sense of satisfaction?

Burak: I’m not suggesting that we’re making art. Games have a long way to [go] to be considered art as it took a lot of time for movies to be considered art. But so far every art form has their unique language. Movies began with some music and photography and then cinematography became unique for movies. Sound is unique to music, and forms are unique to sculpture.

Games have used other art forms to build a beautiful piece. Such as, sculpture in modeling, cinematography in gameplay, or literature in storytelling. We started with cutting out the literature part out of the equation. We’re still using cinematography and music and sculpture but a game itself can help you tell a story. I believe interaction is a thing unique to games so you can tell people things through interaction and of course with the help of other mediums I stated.

Me: The use of lighting and color is obviously one of the most noticeable facets of the art style your development team utilizes. How have you played with the lighting and use of color to help direct the player and convey your story?

Burak: I’m assuming you want me to explain the usage of red in Monochroma. You might think of it as a reference to “Schindler’s List”, there was red wearing little girl when all the rest of the movie was black and white. I think black and white and German expressionism is a great tool when you’re telling a silent and dystopian story. The contrast of red is very dramatic; it just doesn’t fit there and gives you the feeling that something is wrong. Other than that, red has some other symbolic meanings as well that I don’t want to spoil much.

I can’t really tell the use of lighting and color has a direct effect on gameplay except the fact that your brother is afraid of the dark and you can only put him down under light.

Dark, eerie, and down right pretty.

Dark, eerie, and down right pretty.

MeMonochroma’s story is told silently, has it been challenging getting the story across to players? Or have there been greater challenges so far in your development process?

Burak: There have been lots of challenges. First in puzzle designs: We have several rules, if you’re not dead, there is always a way out. This was really challenging to implement in every puzzle. But the second challenge was even harder: to create a natural environment for puzzles. We didn’t want to have platforms floating in the air or objects illogically placed around just to make the puzzle harder. We wanted to make everything look natural, realistic.

[quote_right]“…there are more and more people everyday looking for some more depth in games.” [/quote_right]That was a challenge in the first two chapters especially, outskirts of the city and the ghetto. The third chapter was rather easier when everything is acceptable in a fantastic robot factory. Our last difficulty was with the animations, we’re receiving negative feedbacks about our animations, we never thought it was that important, but it is, now we threw our old animations and started making them from scratch, I hope they will satisfy the players next time.

Me: If you are allowed to tell me, how long can we expect Monochroma to be? Or how many puzzles can we expect throughout the entire game?

Burak: It’s planned to be 6 hours for an average player. If you’re an expert you can finish it in around 4 hours at best. I can’t tell you the numbers of puzzles because we have a very complicated difficulty curve, we’re putting some filler action scenes here and there and it’s up to you to consider them real puzzles or not. We tried to balance the game with puzzles, actions and ambience/story.

Brotherly love.

Brotherly love.

Me: Indie titles are expanding in the video game world with Sony’s PS4 having a noteworthy amount of new indie launch titles, and Microsoft’s Xbox One allowing for self publishing where do you think the indie scene is going? And what/how do you hope to contribute to that with Monochroma?

Burak:I’m not clairvoyant or a futurist but I can tell there are more and more people everyday looking for some more depth in games. Games have been a good sell to male teenagers for a long time. Orcun (my partner) was saying that a lot of games are referring to male’s orgasm: you’re trying to stay alive for a long time and once you’re dead you are being congratulated with high-score scenes even if you die early.

Now the industry is changing and even the publishers and investors are looking to bring in more people to the industry with casual and mobile games. Indie games are doing their own thing, making games for grown ups (in some cases grown up with older games, like our generation: [I'm born in 1981] and people looking for an intellectual satisfaction of games. They can break the forms and prejudices and they will find the true meaning of interactivity soon. I think it’s a good think that we have a very large spectrum of game types right now.

To learn more about Monochroma, download the demo or view the trailer head over to their main site. You’ll also find information on how you can support them through Kickstarter.

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  • Todd Black

    Great job on this David! I really like the premise behind this game, might have to check it out!