Interview with the developer of Into A Dream

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Into A Dream is a Portuguese indie game being developed by Filipe Thomaz. This is another national project that I believe has some potential to be successful. The game is scheduled to come out this year and a demo will be available for download tomorrow (31 st Jan 2020). If you are interested in what you are going to read or with the trailer, then don’t hesitate to play it and give feedback to the developer.

Before I start, I want to thank Filipe for taking the time to answer a few questions. I hope this will be the first project in a successful future as a developer.

Without further delay, here we go.

 

– Can you explain what Into A Dream is and how the idea for the project came about?

First of all I would like to thank Pedro Simões and The Pixel Glitch for the opportunity to write a little about the project “Into A Dream” and its development!

Into A Dream is a 2D game focused on narrative, exploration, atmosphere and character development. The player is in the mind / dreams of a man in deep depression, and has as main goal to understand what happened in his life, understand him and if possible help him to take the first step to get a proper treatment. To this end, his dreams will be fulfilled, in which the future mixes with the past, the memories mix with the fantasy and symbolism, and through them, conversations with himself, family and closest friends, will unveil the cause for his depression.

The game aims to tell a story with real characters, events and dialogues; that each dialogue does not have to be conditioned to contribute directly to the main narrative, but that it is something natural. Something we relate to, something that makes the characters richer, more complex and cohesive.

The idea of making a game is something that has been inside me for several years, but having always chosen an academic and professional path in the engineering area, such a project was never started. It was in a moment between jobs that in the beginning of 2019, without knowing which direction to take in my professional life, I decided to install Unity and start doing some simple tutorials. A week later my desire to make a game got the best of me and I began to convince myself that I could take between one and two years to try to develop it.

As I had experience in narrative writing (I wrote many short stories, poems and plays in my spare time) I decided to limit the scope of the game and focus less on gameplay and more on narrative, partly galvanized by the success of games like To The Moon. I’ve decided to take a break from work research and finish a prototype in two weeks to convince myself I was capable. Part of this prototype is now part of the tutorial level of Into A Dream.

 

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– How many years has the game been in development? Are you the only person working on it?

The game started being developed at the end of February 2019, so just under a year ago. At the moment, the game is in the final stages of development, and the demo version will be available for free at https://intoadream.itch.io/into-a-dream. A beta version will be released internally in the next few weeks and the release is expected for Q2 of 2020, for PC and Mac (Steam and VoxPop Games platforms at the moment).

I am working alone on the project, full-time, being responsible for all aspects of it so far. However, this wouldn’t have been at all possible without the help of many people in the most diverse areas, from my friends and family in the programming area (although not connected to gamedev), recording and mixing voice, design, animation … It was many people who were punctually contributing to the project with much knowledge transmitted. Of course, the various online communities were also indispensable for the completion of this project, because everything I learned – in some cases from scratch – was taught to me there, so I hope one day to be able to return future game developers in the same way!

 

 

– What can we expect in terms of gameplay?

The game works like a 2D sidescroller, where the player will mainly have to explore the scenario and interact with different objects and characters so that the narrative, the main focus of the game, is developed. Besides exploration and dialogue, there are small ‘puzzles’ with different interaction modes and simple gameplay, such as picking up and using/throwing objects, simple platforms (climbing, ropes, …), among others. The are also are also associated with a relevant narrative element, because my intention is that the player never deviate too much from what is the story and emotion of the moment.

The player also has options of choice in the dialogues. Although these choices have no major influence on the story, the perception and information that the player has about it varies according to the choice made.

There are also some ‘special’ objects – not needed to be found to end the game – relevant to the events or characters in the game, which can be observed closer and in more detail.

 

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– From what I’ve seen of the game, it seems to me there’s a message to be conveyed. If I’m right, can you talk about it a little bit?

To be honest, there’s no focus or ‘inner will’ to convey a message. It’s true that the game focuses on a character with a very common mental illness nowadays (depression), and it’s even the player’s mission to understand it and help that character. From this point of view, I hope that the game can make another small contribution to a greater visibility, acceptance and understanding of these diseases and situations. However, the story itself is thought and written to be ‘just that’, a story, a sequence of events, and the consequence of those events in the life of the main character and those close to him.

I do not aim to pass on any other message or even expose my vision or solution to these cases, but simply to be an external narrator and as far as possible impartial. I hope that people can take an interest in and relate to the characters and what they have gone through. Perhaps even be able to see other points of view for their own personal experiences and that with this, they will somehow be able to ‘grow’ or be able to see the world or certain situations with other eyes.

 

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– In terms of hours of play, how long are we talking about?

The game will take somewhere between 4 to 6 hours, depending on the amount of exploration carried out and also how fast and used to solving the puzzles that exist in the game.

 

– There is a video on your channel where you are playing the main music of the game on the piano. Are you the one who is working on the soundtrack?

Yes. Music has always been a very important factor in my life, having studied piano since I was five years old. Even in the past I composed several non-commercial pieces (essentially for piano) and a musical, which I also wrote the narrative, which ended up going to a theatre in Lisbon. Therefore, taking into account essentially that the piano is an instrument whose sound fits Into A Dream’s style, I couldn’t help but compose the soundtrack itself!

 

 

– As a developer, what were the biggest difficulties you initially encountered?

In my case, being a solo developer, and working on my first project, with no previous experience of gamedev, the main difficulty was to maintain motivation and focus. It was the first time I worked on my own, without any external imposition, without a salary and, on top of that, in an area that was unknown to me. To believe that I would be able to make it, keep working the same or more than I had worked before, trusting that in a year or two I would get some return on the time invested, was complicated and sometimes made me strongly doubt whether or not I should continue with the project.

In my case it was also a very lonely job, where for a long time I didn’t connect to any online or offline community. It was essential to this the role of my family and friends, who understood my passion for the project, realizing that this was not just a momentary daydream, but that I had done a market research, a functional prototype, a time forecast and even financial, supported me more than 100%, and were clearly an incalculable force to maintain the motivation and belief in the project.

Recently I started to get closer to some communities, like the GameDev community in Portugal, or the IDWO community of Twitter and Discord, and although it’s still a lonely job, it helped me a lot to control that loneliness, especially when the community is so friendly, communicative and helpful.

Currently the difficulties are more related to marketing and PR, areas that are more unknown to me, and also in finding people to test the demo and beta version of the game that should come out in the coming weeks. If anyone is interested in testing, you can contact me at intoadreamgame@gmail.com!

 

– To finish, what are some of your favorite games? Is there a title planned for this year that you are interested in playing?

I could list so many games here! I have a special connection to Little Big Adventure 2 and the Monkey Island series, because they were among the first games I played alone in my childhood, and they shaped my passion for adventure games. Most recently I’ve enjoyed To The Moon – an inspiration for Into A Dream – Firewatch, What Remains of Edith Finch, Celeste, Cuphead, Horizon Zero Dawn and The Last of Us. This last one was played a month before I started my gamedev journey, so I believe it had a big impact on my decision. So, The Last of Us 2 is one of the games I’m most looking forward to, and I will certainly play it shortly after its release!

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