Greetings, dear readers of the Questtime portal. Today we have an interesting conversation with the authors and creators of the game "Lunar Axe". Launched on Steam in July of this year, this little adventure received "very positive" feedback from players. We wanted to know more about both the process of creating “Lunar Axe” and the culture of Brazil, because authors of the game lives there. So, let’s begin:
Questtime: Could you tell the readers of our portal about Ops Game Studio, please? What are your professional aspirations and hopes?
Ops Game Studio: OPS Game Studio is an independent studio based in São Luís - Brazil, formed in 2018 by 3 programmers who shared a common dream of developing games in our city. Our aspirations are of being among the greatest game studios in Brazil and spread our culture around the world!
Questtime: What were you doing before you created computer games development studio?
Ops Game Studio: Each of the founding members of the studio worked on their own game studios that didn't work out before, so we decided to join forces and try again together. Before that, we were all graduating from college and each one was working on different software development projects. But we always have joined game jams and other game development events.
Questtime: Why exactly the quest genre? What connects you with the adventure and quest area? What franchises/titles do you consider the best in this direction?
Ops Game Studio: We believe that this genre was the best choice for us to show our city, our legends and history with players with the time available and resources we had for development at the time. Also, one of our biggest strengths was our hand-drawn art and these types of games are amazing to explore. Regarding franchises, even if they are a little different, we cannot fail to mention Monkey Island and Machinarium. It is nice to mention The Last Nightmary and Maze: Subject 360, they're not very famous but we used them as case studies.
Questtime: The “Lunar Axe” received mostly “very positive” reviews in Steam and warmly received by quest-lovers, including gamers in Russia. Why did you not rely on professional publisher from the very beginning, but decided to act as one on your own?
Ops Game Studio: “Lunar Axe” is our first commercial game released on Steam so we decided to go all in and acquire as much experience from this process as we could. And we learned a lot indeed! We wish to port the game to other platforms besides Steam and for that we are looking for partnerships with publishers though.
Team (left-right): Artur Pinheiro, Nunes Neto and Kassio Sousa
Questtime: Besides the persons, who involved in creation of “Lunar Axe”, we can see our compatriot Vladimir Slovesnyy (Vovka Slovesnyy). Judging by the credits, he performed localization of the game into Russian. Tell us how do you met him? Is he an enthusiast or an employee of another game studio?
Ops Game Studio: We found Vladimir through a localization platform on the web. He made a great contribution to “Lunar Axe”, not only translated the texts but also played the whole game to ensure that the information was in the right place with the language, always helping us to improve!
Questtime: How do you, as the author of the game, imagine the protagonist of the "Lunar Axe" game? The one who involved in investigation of what happened and why? If somebody asked you to draw him – what would he look like?
Ops Game Studio: Our idea is that the player should imagine themself in the role of the protagonist, even if they have their own personality within the game through their lines. That's why we never created an image for the character, not even a name. We even tried our best to write their lines in such a way that it is not clear whether the protagonist is male or female, so that anyone can imagine themselves in that place (we hope this has remained in the translations, ha-ha-ha).
Questtime: Who decided to take an old legend as a base for a plot of the game? And who came up with puzzles and mechanics for the “Lunar Axe”?
Ops Game Studio: The initial plot was created by game director Artur and two of the artists, Pablo and Amanda. Artur later expanded on the early drafts and wrote the story. The puzzles and mechanics were also created by him and Kassio, the game's producer. They are the game's programmers too, ha-ha-ha. The goal was to imagine mechanics that fit the environment but weren't too strange for players, and for that we looked for a ton of references!
Questtime: Do you play computer games yourself? How do you classify them to a greater extent for now: art, entertainment, means of earning the living?
Ops Game Studio: We sure play video games! And I think the answer is all of the above, ha-ha-ha. At first glance, games look like just as entertainment, but it's not hard to see how they fit in as works of art as well, especially if you pay attention to the indie scene. And as a means of earning the living: we hope so!
Questtime: What are plans of Ops Game Studio for the future? Do you consider continuing creation of quest/adventure/puzzle games? Could you share some information for the gamers, please?
Ops Game Studio: We always have a lot of ideas for games of different genres, so you can expect us to experiment with other styles in the future, but always with a cool narrative and some cultural elements, as it's in our DNA. We will wait a little longer for more reactions from players about “Lunar Axe”, if the response is really good, we will think about making more games of the genre for sure!
Questtime: Could you tell us more about graphical part of the “Lunar Axe”? Are the locations hand-painted (initially), and then digitized? Against the background of static locations, the movement of light in the sky or water reflections on the inner walls of the fountain stand out very colorfully. How was it invented and implemented?
Ops Game Studio: The first step is to go to the real locations and take a lot of photos. The artists then use them as reference and make the digital art. The lighting of the scenes was a big concern of ours, so we tried to make it as good as possible, and that is why so many locations have light/dark interactions. The night sky was based on Van Gogh's works and was made as a single image. Later we used a software to animate different parts of the image and create that effect. The reflections on the fountain were created to work as a light source for the tunnels. But since it was the last area of the game, we wanted to have a magical feel to it as it would lead to the mystical encounter with the creature, almost as magical portal. We even wanted to add some sort of mirage effects on the walls to make the player have some cool visions, but it was discarded as it became too complex to make. Creating those reflections was a bit hard for the artists so we ended up recreating the fountain tunnels in 3D with 3D lighting and the caustic effects in the walls with shaders. Then the artists used that as a reference to make various drawings that we alternate to make the animations.
Questtime: Are the internal part of the mansion, as well as temples and churches in the game, created to look more closely to the original buildings? Or it’s a mix of realistic architecture and author’s fantasy?
Ops Game Studio: The internal part of the manor is really different from the real one since it is not an abandoned building, ha-ha-ha. Their architecture is the same though, we just had to imagine how a 300-year abandoned building would look like. The churches are almost the same as we portrayed them, we just changed some parts to fit the story and add a somber tone. The tunnels below the churches are based on legends that they had underground passages in the past. The fountain really has inner tunnels, but they are not as long as in the game.
Questtime: Quest and adventure game player are always curious about details. At one of the locations, you can see inscription on the stonewall, and it’s started with “Você não vale nada Você vale tudo”. Searching for information on the Internet, it turned out that these are the words from the song of Brazilian musician Ednaldo Pereira. Why did these words were taken for inscription? Could you tell us more about that?
Ops Game Studio: That is an inner joke for the game developers of our city. Ednaldo Pereira is a relatively famous singer here and we share a lot of memes about him among ourselves. There are some other easter eggs referencing other games from local developer’s friends of ours as well.
Questtime: What do you consider to be the best side of “Lunar Axe”, and what would you like to refine and make even better if you had such an opportunity? Were there any elements of the game that the audience didn't respond to as expected?
Ops Game Studio: I think the best side is how we make use of art, gameplay, and audio to tell a story based on our culture. “Lunar Axe” is the first game that has our city as background released on Steam, so we are very proud of that. The majority of the critics were regarding some puzzle mechanics, level structure and lack of some features commonly found on games of the genre. So, if we had more time and resources, we would definitely improve that! Some people did not like the boss battle as well :(
Questtime: The legends and tales of Brazil, according to cultural sources, include European folklore, legends and beliefs of Indian tribes as well as peoples from the territory of Bahia. Do you know where and how the legend of the ancient dragon/snake of São Luís, slumbering underground, came from?
Ops Game Studio: Our city had underground galleries built at the end of the 18th century, used as a water supply system. The legend must have been created at that time; it was said that the serpent inhabited these tunnels. Many places in the country and even in the world have legends of underground giant serpents, so we imagine that they must have been used as a reference by the people of that time.
Questtime: There are places on our planet Earth, where one way or another, in different years and centuries, people noticed mysterious creatures that look like ancient water-lizards or giant water-snakes. For example, giant reptile from Loch Ness Lake (Scotland) or monster from peninsula Filey Brigg (England) or water-snake from Labynkyr Lake (republic of Yakutia, Russia). What do you think of these phenomena?
Ops Game Studio: They are very interesting! It is hard to think if they have anything in common, maybe not. Sometimes the collective knowledge of some story can influence the rise of new ones in other places, as we believe might have happened here.
Questtime: São Luís is also called “Island of Love” or “Brazilian Jamaica”. What’s the story underneath theses interesting informal names?
Ops Game Studio: The city center has a very romantic atmosphere with hundreds of colonial buildings and one of the most beautiful sunsets you can wish for! There are famous poems and songs that say nice things like "love was born here" so it the "Island of Love" name was easily accepted, ha-ha-ha. "Brazilian Jamaica" refers to the love our people have for reggae music and the high praise they have for Jamaica, the country of reggae.
Questtime: Every county on a planet has a set of places, maybe not so famous from the touristic point of view, but local people know that such places have their unique spirit, magic and soul. What similar places are there in Brazil?
Ops Game Studio: This is a tough question as Brazil is such a large country. I would say for you to visit the countryside and do not focus only on the big cities, especially if you're into nature. Every state here has its own hidden gems.
Questtime: Do you know that all books of your compatriot Paulo Coelho are translated into Russian language and read with pleasure by millions in our country? What is the most valuable key-messages in his books from your point of view? Also, are you familiar with the works of Russian authors? What do you think of them?
Ops Game Studio: Yes, Paulo Coelho is one of the most influential brazilian writers out there, really impressive! But we know Russia has lots of awesome writers too, like Dostoevsky that had a huge impact in the culture worldwide and influence all sorts of art forms until this day.
Questtime: This question is related to modern trends of game development industry. We are talking about remasters and remakes of famous adventure games, such as “Myst” or “Monkey Island”. To what extent do players/gamers need it in your opinion?
Ops Game Studio: For the adventure classics it looks pretty cool! A chance for new players to get to know the franchises and for the old ones to have a new experience with the new graphics. The problem is when some companies like the big AAA studios go overboard and make remakes of games from just a couple of generations ago, which seems unnecessary.
Questtime: Traditional question from Questtime. What would you like to wish to fans of quest games all over the world?
Ops Game Studio: We want to thank you all very much for your support and wish you enjoy “Lunar Axe” and maybe ignite a little spark of curiosity about our country's stories and legends!
We sincerely wish the Ops Game Studio Team to continue successfully in the game development, become more famous, while truly enjoying their work. And, of course, we are waiting for news and publications from them!