Back in September of 2018, experimental cult-classic “LSD Dream Emulator” was nearing its 20th anniversary. Not content with leaving the game’s legacy as a mere bump in the night, @atime_loop decided to host a game jam in its honor titled Emulated Dreams.
I recently had a sit-down with the creators for a quick chat about their experiences and inspirations. Today’s feature is “A Game With A TV In It” by shane yach. Tomorrow, we will be posting the second interview with Modus Interactive.
A Game With A TV In It – shane yach
Watching old movies in an unfamiliar but inviting home is a relatable experience to almost anyone. “A Game With A TV In It” plays off of such childhood memories, hunting for VHS tapes in the titular house to offer to a surreal nearly shrine-like TV. The first striking aspect of the game is the innovative art style that writhes with scribbly-wiggly pixels making the whole world feel alive. The residents you meet as you explore the building are a collection of quirky, mute monsters that highlight and garnish the VHS tape locations peppered throughout. The weirdness doesn’t stop there, the entire game leverages a fish eye lens perspective along with an isometric viewing angle into an unconventional and imaginative world. Through these unique approaches shane gives us a glimpse into his fresh whimsical style.
[NOTE: As of this interview, the creator has removed his entry from the jam to further develop it for a full release. Until launch, tentatively slated within the year, you can still get your hands on his newer title: “No One Is Here“]
REBIND: What’s your background?
shane: I started game development in a rush to figure out what to do with my life after high school. I started out learning to program games, but fell in love with the worlds and level design of video games. Games like Dark Souls, Ico, Proteus, and Psychonauts are among some of my favorites and I realized a lot of the reason for that was their intricately crafted levels/worlds.
It’s the reason why Ghost of a Tale really resonated with me last year because of its open level design with branching and looping paths, something Dark Souls does really well. I really love that type of level design. It’s something I explored in a small game I recently developed called No One is Here. Development for A Game with a TV in it started before this, so it doesn’t have as many of the principles associated with that type of design in it, but I’m not done with that game yet, so who knows.
REBIND: What evoked the wiggly animation style for you and the decision to extend it to the entire environment?
shane: I really wanted to combine 2D sprites with 3D environments because I love that aesthetic and I think it’s underutilized, at least in a non-corner-cutting/optimization way (because they totally use that technique with background stuff in 3D games all the time).
However, I wanted things to seem a bit more lively, so I just added a few variations to each sprite in the game so that they were always changing. It just makes things seem less static, which is usually a good thing in an interactive experience, even if the reason for stuff moving isn’t the player’s actions.
Imagine you’re in a forest. If everything is still, you’d think you’re in some simulated world. But everything in a forest moves, at least subtly. It’s that movement that really sells something as authentic and alive. Audio, too. That brings stuff to life. Also, something about a house being alive is cool to me and I think it feeds into the metanarrative of the game, but I’m not sure yet. Still figuring things out.
REBIND: How do you approach narrative in your titles?
shane: I adore narrative told through gameplay and I think it’s really how games can best tell stories. However, that can be really hard to do, especially if you want the player to experience a more specific story rather than some strange incoherent mess that the player ended up with through their trials and tribulations and the randomness of the game (for rogue-lites, as an example).
The next best thing in my mind is visual storytelling or telling the lore and story through the world because it means that the player doesn’t necessarily have to be interrupted from playing the game to experience it and it’s part of the game itself. So I’d definitely call myself a proponent for environmental storytelling. Dark Souls probably had the biggest role in influencing this in my mind because it almost always puts gameplay first and lets the player figure out the story at their own pace. Ultimately, I don’t generally enjoy being interrupted with story while playing games, even if it’s good story.
There’s definitely merit to more cinematic movie-like experiences and I enjoy them, but I’d always prefer to play something with less scripted events and cut scenes. I’m kind of talking about all of this from the perspective of playing games, but it all applies, then, to what I want out of my own games.
REBIND: What’d you think of participating in the jam?
shane: Submitting my game to the jam has definitely garnered a lot more attention for the project, which is always cool.
I’m still largely figuring out the game and what I want out of it, so I don’t entirely know what makes it special aside from the visuals right now. I heard about the jam from Twitter and learned that I could submit an existing project, so I thought I’d give it a go to encourage myself to develop it more over the month. I thought the theme sort-of fit with my game. However, now I wish I had developed No One is Here for this jam, because that’s more in line with it (I had submitted No One is Here to an FPSJam actually).
I suppose, go check out my game, No One is Here. It’s a small first person exploration game, if that tickles your boat. The only thing I know for sure that I’ll be developing is A Game with a TV in it, which hopefully will finalize this year.
REBIND: You mentioned audio, you’re also a musician! One of the most memorable parts of the game is the little music room with the synths. Tell us about your albums.
shane: I also have a crappy website that has more of the games that I’ve worked on as well as 2 music albums published under my alias. http://tipsheda.com
Some favorite tracks of mine include Newton, Ahunrednone, Supersonic, A Dude @ 5 am, and Spacewrecked. I’ve been experimenting with music making for quite a while now. My initial inspirations were artists like deadmau5, Skrillex, and a ton of indie electronic artists on SoundCloud and Youtube.
Now my inspirations are changing all the time because I’ve been getting into so much new music and my tastes are always changing. I’m not sure what I would want out of any solo music projects anymore. However, a few years ago I got into doing game soundtracks because I was frequently game jamming with some friends of mine and I thought I’d try it out instead of just programming. I also ended up doing a lot of sound effect and foley work for those game jams, too, which gave me a good spectrum of experience.
Some of the best experiences for doing audio for game jams was on the Train Jam, a 52 hour game jam that takes place on a train from Chicago to San Francisco in anticipation for the yearly Game Developers Conference. It’s a train entirely full of game developers and I offered my audio skills to multiple projects both times I attended and met a lot of cool people. (Kinda a quick plug for the Train Jam, ha).
My time with game audio developed into a love for ambience, the music genre. This goes well with a lot of the games I’ve worked on. The audio in a game gives it life as well as extends the world beyond just what you see. Largely, I don’t have too much to say about audio in games because I’m still exploring that avenue, including with my current game project. I still feel like a newbie with all this kinda stuff, but I’m super excited to explore it more.
However, during the development of No One is Here, I had put in temp music tracks that played whenever I playtested, which ended up shaping how the game looks and feels. Also, while developing A Game with a TV in it, I like to listen to a lot of dark ambience, which kinda immerses me into mood of the game, which I feel can enhance whatever I’m working on and make it more cohesive.
It was like that for A Game with a TV in it for a while. I would get some motivation to open up the project for a couple days and work on it only to be disappointed or just lost motivation for whatever reason. It’s been a little easier to develop it recently, though, because it’s starting to come together to be something I’m proud of and love to work on. But who knows, maybe I’ll find more aspects to hate about my game that’ll discourage me from working on it.
Emily Rose is an indie developer who writes for rebind.io and resides in the pacific northwest. She’s often seen in the local VR arcade and developer community participating in pushing the medium’s horizons. You can find her on twitter @caravanmalice