At Gamescom this year, one of the indie games that stood out for me was Recompile. Blending Tron-like sci-fi visuals, and set inside the digital wasteland that is The Mainframe, Recompile tells the story of a rogue piece of code that is trapped inside of it. With the game being a mix of platforming, action, and the occasional hacking and puzzle solving, Recompile takes its inspiration from classic Metroidvania titles, and ensures to distill this formula against a 3D backdrop. I spoke to Richard Evans (Audio Designer) and got to ask him as to how the game changed once he got involved. Enjoy!
Let’s start from the beginning… What inspired the game and how long has the game been in development for?
Yeah so Phi, the lead developer, has been working on it. He worked on it, I think, maybe two years solo by himself, working on mechanics and I think he was also drawn to this aesthetic of sort of like simple shapes with bright lights… He’s a big fan of Metroidvania styled games and wanted to work on the Metroidvania style of level design where you progress, acquire skills, and have to backtrack to go through previous gates that were locked to you. From there it sort of grew into a thing where he was ready to pitch it, and so he acquired a team of three of us, an audio designer, VFX artist and then himself, and that’s…
So you started two years after the project started?
Yeah, about two years or so.
How long has the project been in development for now?
A year together, so…
So three years?
Three years total, yeah. But it was a very different game a year ago.
How do you think your involvement changed the game, because obviously you’ve just stated that it was a different game before. Since you two came onboard, how did the game morph into what it’s become now?
Yeah, so the game was very mechanical before. It was about the hacking and problem solving to progress through the game. Phi Dinh is the artist and his visuals are obviously extremely flashy. Lights, VFX everywhere…
It’s what attracted me, like a moth to the flame…
Yeah, yeah it attracts a lot of people and I think he brought a sort of energy to the game that gave the action much bigger impact. The idea of, like, movement or combat or hacking, and we sort of eventually formed the mechanics around how it felt visually. And of course the visuals influence the audio, which I do, and vice versa. I’ll make audio that influences visuals. But a bit further than that, being an audio designer, I’m pretty interested in music systems and musical elements in games. Some of the puzzles have been, we’ve been messing with the idea of puzzles that players have to solve based on sound, making the world very musical. So, we tend to build game mechanics around those qualities we have.
If you met an average gamer on the street, and you had 30 seconds to sell the game to them, how would you sell it?
I’d say that it’s a 3D puzzle platformer, sort of laid out in a Metroidvania style. You’re a computer program that infiltrates an AI computer system and throughout the course of the gameplay you’re manipulating the computer around you to make it more in your image. So, as you make decisions…
So you’re a god, basically?
Yeah, yeah essentially (laughs).
Have you played Populous?
No I have not played Populous, no. But there is that element of like, you’re a program, your actions change the world around you. If you play very violently with a lot of combat, the world becomes more hostile. If you play very peacefully, the world becomes more docile.
So there’s a lot of AI involved in terms of subroutines, that basically track your actions within the game and respond accordingly. Were they difficult to implement? I know that’s kind of almost like basic AI anyway, but I’m thinking at it more from the perspective of Left 4 Dead with its ‘AI Director’…
I can’t speak too much on the technical level. We’re still in the process of implementing a system where the world evolves to you. But I think it’s one of the challenges, but it’s not an overwhelming challenge within our development cycle.
So you haven’t had the kind of difficulties that other people had with AI?
No, Phi is quite clever when it comes to AI programming and things like that, so he’s handled that pretty well so far.
You are the audio designer, so that obviously is sound effects, but what about music?
So I’m currently finishing my PhD actually and building music systems, and I’m a composer as well. So, our approach to music as of now is sort of like where Dark Souls takes it. Where there is very little music, but when there is music, it’s in the most important parts, to get the most emotional impact from the player. So, we designed like a new custom music tool, to allow music to be more granular and more interactive with the player. So we want to emphasize special moments in the game that tell the story about what Recompile is.
There’s a lot of independent games out there that are fighting for attention, and you don’t get many big name sites like Eurogamer putting the spotlight on the game by saying, “hey, check out this little game!”. What sort of pressure has this increased exposure had on the development team in terms of ensuring that now that you’re in the spotlight, that you guys ultimately deliver a project that lives up to expectations?
Yeah, of course it’s something we’ve talked about often within the core team and, you know, whenever it comes down to it and this conversation comes up… the fact is we never have oversold the game. We’ve never necessarily over-pitched for the sake of attention, so we feel pretty secure in our current cycle and our current actions in development. It’s led us to where we are, and people seem interested, so our goal is just to continue on our plan and development cycle and we hope people like it.
Recompile is coming out on PC, but what about consoles?
Not at the moment, no.
The game is being published by Dear Villagers. Why them?
They offered us a great deal. They’re supportive and have good press around the world. They’re pretty well-networked through the other side of their business, which is Plug In Digital, which has traditionally been a distribution company for videogames. So we thought it’s a great opportunity, and they’re a relatively young publisher as well.
Thank you so much.