School and Program: Humber College- Game Programming
Game Title: Quench
Developer: Axon Interactive
Stage for Level Up: Complete Proof-of-Concept
Interviewees: Jeff Rose (Programmer), James Zinger (Programmer)
“Quench is a game where you use weather powers – wind, rain, lightning and earthquakes – to help animals reach safety. You play as the Shepherd, who ensures that the animal tribes can survive their great migration to escape their drought-parched homeland in search of greener pastures to the East. Quench’s story is inspired in part by George Orwell’s Animal Farm, as it follows the five leaders of the animal tribes as they struggle to survive and to overcome their differences.”
Q: If you can describe the game in three words:
A: ”Geometric weather puzzles.”
Q: Is there something unique about your game, if so what is it?
A: “Quench’s art style is unlike most games out there. We have only spotted a small collection of games (Secrets of Raetikon by Broken Rules and perhaps Shelter by Might and Delight) that take a similar artistic approach. Our game mechanic isn’t new but we haven’t seen this style of gameplay applied to a more strategic, hex-based terrain either."
Q: What are some of the inspirations for the game?
A: “Our many inspirations for Quench include game titles such as Okami, From Dust and Civilization V but further media that has shaped it includes Avatar: The Last Airbender, BBC’s Planet Earth and The Lion King. Not to go unmentioned, the initial game jam theme that spawned Quench was TOJam 7’s ‘The world is not ending.’
Quench is intended to be a game about prehistory and myth. About stories told before there were words. When all we had were the stories passed down by our forefathers of the great things the heroes of our people once did, to give us strength and conscience and a sense of community. Quench’s story is told through the lens of a parable spoken by an elder about the great trials of her youth that tested their people and taught them all a lesson to remember about coming together to protect the world they cherish.
The weather powers that let the player take action in Quench are a variant of Okami’s weather powers and ink-recharging system, but tailored to a Civ V styled overhead view and hexagonal grid.
The dynamic terrain built to accommodate the flow of water was designed not just to support the weather powers the player has, but to allow Quench to take on a unique lo-fi faceted artistic style. Okami again shines through as an inspiration here, but rather than pulling on Japanese wood carving, we are drawing our style from the cave paintings of humanity’s prehistoric past and reimagining it in a distinctly geometric style. We want to keep the game natural as much as possible while also presenting a new alternative lo-fi style to compete with the overused 8-bit styles that have dominated indie games for many years.”
Q: What has been your team’s largest issue during development?
A: ”Performance has been a difficult issue for us. Our game demands that we perform computations for thousands if not tens-of-thousands of hex cells per frame. This is no big job for a PC, but so far tablet devices (our eventual target) can’t handle running Quench as it stands. We have a lot of work ahead of us to optimize Quench so that it will run comfortably on at least newer tablet models.”
Q: What stage is the game in right now, and where do you plan on being for Level Up?
A:“Seeing as level up is in the past, Quench is a reasonably complete proof-of-concept now. Lots of work still needs to be done to make it into the game we imagine it can be – one that can make a name for Axon as our first published title – but we’re very proud of the work that has gone into Quench so far and how it’s turned out.”
Q: Talk generally about your school program and what has brought your team to entering into Level Up:
A: ”Humber Game Programming is a technical program that focuses on the programming and software design aspects of game development process. While we don’t focus on design, art, writing or any of the other disciplines central to game development, we spent a huge amount of time on math, physics, programming and software analysis and design.
Axon’s appearance at Level Up was a lucky break for us. At the time of submission, Quench didn’t look like much. Given Jeff and James’ backgrounds as programmers, Quench had not been given the graphical attention it deserved. In the month leading up to Level Up, we brought the whole team together (Axon consists of two fabulous artists as well as Jeff and James) and crunched to really bring up the quality of the art and level design, and boy did it pay off!”
Q: Any tips for other students working on their games?
A: “Don’t do what we did… Keep your scope small! Start out pushing for a prototype that shows off the essential mechanics. DO NOT let yourself get sidetracked until the prototype is done. The prototype isn’t done until people can play it and have fun – preferably without being frustrated. That means that the latter half of the work that goes into your prototype is playtesting, level design, UI, balancing, tutorials and lots of other stuff that seems like it probably comes later. That stuff is important!”
Q: How can people track your progress/ check out the game?
A: “Go to quenchgame.com to check on our progress and enroll to playtest for us!”
“We’re happy to learn more, but it has been a humbling experience to know we’re only just getting started.”