Elysian Shadows Interview

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Posted December 15, 2014 by Kevin Pourmostofi in Video Games

If you have read my previous interviews, you will know I am a fan of “retro gaming” and I have a soft spot in particular for the Dreamcast. As such, whenever I learn that even the smallest game is in development, I can’t help but to start getting a little bit excited. A few months back, a new game was announced that gained almost overnight fame. It’s called “Elysian Shadows” – a game currently in development for the Dreamcast as well as PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android and even the Ouya.
Recently I got to speak with Falco Girgis and the Elysian Shadows Development Team in hopes to find out more about the upcoming game.

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We The Nerdy: So, let’s start with you telling us a little bit about Elysian Shadows as a game. What are the main features? What is it about? What platforms
is it coming to? Any more details you could spare?
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Elysian Shadows: Elysian Shadows is the ultimate marriage between oldschool and modern gaming. We’re taking the oldschool 16-bit RPG formula and are endowing it with modern lighting engines, 3D perspectives, physics, and particles, in an attempt to reinvent the genre for the next generation. The gameplay and style has been heavily influenced by titles from the 16-bit era like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and A Link to the Past, but we have are also including a slew of non-RPG mechanics and influences from other genres such as platforming and survival horror.
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The land of Elysian Shadows is caught in constant conflict between magic and science. Magic is something reserved exclusively for the religious in the world of Elysian Shadows; whereas science is embraced by scholars and adventurers in their day-to-day lives. The player assumes control of Julien, the son of two famous archealogists, as he and the party embark on a journey across the land, excavating a series of ancient ruins. The party happens upon an artifact during one of their expeditions that threatens the delicate balance between magic and technology, and they find themselves flung head-first into this conflict. The player must uncover the mysteries of the ancient ruins in order to save their own civilization.
Elysian Shadows is being released on the Sega Dreamcast, OUYA, Steam (Windows, Mac, Linux), iOS, and Android.
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WTN: I know you achieved funding through Kickstarter. A lot of people are against this method of “crowd-sourcing”. However, what were your experiences with it? 
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ES: I think crowdfunding is something this industry has been in desperate need of, especially with the cost of modern video game production being as outrageous as it is. It costs development studios millions of dollars and thousands of man-hours to develop a title, which means it’s especially important for these titles to turn a profit. As a direct result, we’re seeing fewer innovative games these days and more sequels, spin-offs, and rehashes of old formulas and mechanics that are guaranteed to sell well. Innovation is quite dangerous to them, as there is no guarantee it will return the same level of profit as something like Call of Duty would. Stagnation is the only thing that can result from this…
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This is where crowdfunding comes into play. Independent game developers are now the ones assuming the role of innovators in the industry. We’re the ones with nothing to lose who are free to create the games we want to play, regardless of profit margins. Kickstarter allows ordinary people like us to create video games based solely on the merit of our own experience and creative vision, rather than requiring us to be a part of a huge corporation or have a million dollars lying around. It’s a powerful force for innovation, and while there certainly are “bad” Kickstarters out there, it’s the fault of the development teams, not the fault of the platform. Kickstarter to us is something pure and beautiful.
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WTN: What made you think of starting to develop the game for the Dreamcast? I am a personal fan of the Dreamcast, so I thank you for helping keep the console alive, but do you think there will be as much demand for it than there would be if you were to, for example, release it on current gen consoles like the PS4, Xbox One or even the Wii U?
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ES: It was actually the first console Elysian Shadows originated on. It was a Dreamcast exclusive. I was absolutely obsessed with the console in my youth, and I found out there was an entire community of homebrewers and hackers reverse engineering the console to create their own indie games. In the year 2004, this was absolutely unheard of. There was no app store, Xbox Live Arcade, or indie channel. Console development was something exclusively reserved for large studios, forever out of the reach of kids like me… So a 14 year-old me decided to embark on a journey to learn C in order to create a game for the Dreamcast.
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So here I am now. As we became more popular, we ported the engine over to a variety of platforms, but I have always insisted on maintaining the Dreamcast build, as it was a childhood dream of mine to release a game on the platform.
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WTN: What have you done to promote your game? I know Falco’s quite active on Facebook and Twitter to your fans and supporters. How important do you think social media is in promoting smaller, upcoming games? Are you part of your local gaming scene?
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ES: We have done an insane amount of promotion for Elysian Shadows. That’s the only way any project stands any kind of chance at crowdfunding with the market as saturated as it is these days. Firstly, we are famous in the indie development scene on YouTube for our series called “Adventures in Game Development,” where we give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Elysian Shadows, complete with all-nighters, substance abuse, engine crashes, and bitching at our artists. We have 10k+ subscribers on YouTube with this series. We are also extremely active on social media, constantly providing updates on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Reddit, and Pinterest (lolz). As an independent developer, we really don’t have the luxury of a marketing budget, so we’ve had to assume this role ourselves. We’ve had to learn how to promote our product and engage with our viewers, which is extremely important for indie games.
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We’re also members of the local chapter of the IGDA (International Game Developers’ Association), where we give lectures on our engine and technology and provide updates on our project. I use Elysian Shadows and its subsystems as research topics for my masters’ degree in graduate studies, and I ever demo it off for freshmen orientation at our local univesity. In addition to this, we’ve done dozens of podcasts, interviews, magazine articles, and we even appeared in our local news twice during our Kickstarter campaign! We got to play the indie rock stars, haha.
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WTN:  What have you learned from working on this project? Also, despite the fact it’s incredibly tough, I’m sure creating a game is incredibly good fun and rewarding. What has been your favorite part of creating Elysian Shadows?
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ES: Basically everything I have become as an engineer and developer has been because of this game. For Elysian Shadows I developed my own multiplatform engine and toolkit from scratch along with subsystems like our physics engine and lighting engine. I have had to assembly optimize things, GPU optimize, read through the Dreamcast’s datasheets, and push myself to my engineering limits to create this game. I took the longest route possible to creating a game, rather than opting to use a prebuilt engine like Unity3D, but the knowledge and experience along the way has been invaluable to me, and has allowed me to make Elysian Shadows even better as a direct result. Not only that, but it has futhered my professional career as an engineer and my academic career as a graduate student… Basically it’s my life’s work, haha.
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WTN: The indie game market is, I would assume, a tough one to break into. Is there any advice you would give to new and aspiring game devs trying to emerge onto the scene?
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ES: Oh, it’s insanely hard to break into. I have two pieces of advice. The first and most obvious is to find something that sets your game apart from other games. Something that players can immediatley appreciate when they stumble upon your game in a Twitter feed or Reddit link. Fez, for example, was insanely popular on Twitter, because its 2D/3D perspective changing was easily demonstrated through animated GIFs. This leads me into my second point: create an emotional connection with your audience. This is basically what we’re doing with our AiGD series on YouTube and our social media pages. Get people involved. Give them a reason to care. Show them your passion, your commitment, your work. Show them that you’re willing to bleed for your dream. Make them believe in your creative vision, and they will be right there with you fighting to make it happen too.
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WTN: Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers? 
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ES: Thank you very much for taking the time to interview us. This entire experience has been insanely rewarding for us, as the Kickstarter has allowed us to go from normal 9-5 engineers to full-time game developers living the dream. If you are an indie developer reading this, don’t ever give up. It has taken us years and years to get here, and if I could go back and tell myself one thing, it would be: keep going.
Thanks for taking the time to read about Elysian Shadows. If you’re interested, please check out our website, our social media pages, and our “Adventures in Game Development” series on our YouTube channel!.Elysian Shadows should be released around December 2015. If you would like to learn more about Elysian Shadows, you can find more info and reserve your very own copy of Elysian Shadows on the game’s web-page here.


About the Author

Kevin Pourmostofi

A Canadian Film Buff, Kevin is in love with the works of Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard and Charlie Chaplin, amongst many others. He can usually be found reading books on the cinema or watching films. Oh yeah, he plays some video games and reads some comics too. He can be found on PSN or Twitter at Momoguy123.