Toronto-based Ravenlok developer on the workforce’s progress and shaking issues up with every sport

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Toronto-based Cococucumber is a reasonably prolific impartial sport developer.

Within the span of eight years, he is created 4 remarkably totally different titles: 2013’s whack-a-mole expertise loopy bunny, the platform sport of 2015 eye planetthe 2017 dungeon crawler sport with co-op assist Riverbond and the retro-inspired turn-based RPG of 2019 Echo Era. And for his subsequent trick, Cococucumber is able to roll ravenlocka fantasy motion RPG, in 2023. It is an impressively diversified portfolio, particularly for a small workforce, and a key purpose for that success comes right down to Vanessa Chia, studio co-founder, director, and producer.

chatting with cellular syrup Over e-mail, Chia says that Cococucumber has been an effective way to mix her design background with the inspiration she present in all of the indie video games that began popping out within the early 2010s.

“I fell in love with the immersion you get from getting misplaced in a sport and all the brand new inventive avenues that had been being explored,” he explains. “One thing in regards to the long-form nature of video games appeals to me: It leaves extra room for issues to breathe and discover concepts in additional depth.”

4 video games and eight years later, Cococucumber is approaching its tenth anniversary in 2024, which Chia says is “thoughts blowing.” Reflecting on all this, she acknowledges that the studio initially didn’t count on to realize such a constant outcome.

“Coming from a inventive background, it’s understood that creating imaginative worlds takes time. It requires quite a lot of persistence and quite a lot of belief within the course of. With a view to do all of the inventive stuff successfully, there’s the executive and organizational aspect that should occur, which for me has been an enormous studying curve,” he says.

“With every sport, we prefer to experiment with a couple of issues and provides ourselves new inventive challenges. Whereas not the whole lot went as anticipated, it is vital to have the ability to change and adapt to maintain issues attention-grabbing and enhance our probabilities of success in an business constructed on successes.”

He additionally provides a “huge message” to Martin Gauvreau, his co-founder and co-director of Cococucumber. “He is liable for so many concepts which can be difficult, however in a great way.”

Clearly, it has been working. Every of the studio’s video games has garnered constructive reception, with echo eranotably, it was honored a number of instances on the Canadian Sport Awards and Canadian Indie Sport Awards earlier this 12 months and even acquired a number of accolades from each Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer and Sarah Bond, Xbox Corporate Vice President.

When requested in regards to the workforce’s response to all this reward for echo eraspecifically, Chia responds with deep gratitude, noting that it is “very helpful to the workforce and means so much after we’re engaged on one thing for years to attach with gamers” after launch.

“If you concentrate on the final tone for echo era — it is an journey sport with turn-based fight and a retro journey sport vibe — it may appear area of interest, so we’re stunned by its success and actually recognize all of the love.”

In fact, it isn’t every single day that Xbox brass highlights your sport by identify, and Chia says it gave the workforce “an unimaginable increase” in morale. “In a wierd approach, he made us see the work we did in echo era in one other mild Whereas it is thrilling and validating, on the similar time we’re feeling the strain of expectations now, which we hope to fulfill. ravenlock.”

Alice in Wonderland satisfies made to vanish

Cococucumber introduced for the primary time ravenlock earlier this summer season through the Xbox & Bethesda Video games Showcase and, in line with the flexibility of the workforce, it seems to be fairly totally different from earlier works. Within the sport, gamers tackle the position of the eponymous teenager who falls by a magical mirror right into a improbable however corrupted land, which she should free from the evil Caterpillar Queen.

Along with the style change to action-RPG, ravenlockThe premise of is kind of totally different from earlier Cococucumber titles. Climate echo era it had supernatural parts, it was rooted in a small city; to suppose Unusual issues with a fictional Canadian setting. ravenlock, nonetheless, takes the alternative method and takes a standard woman right into a surreal world. In keeping with Chia, the idea of the brand new sport went by “many, many iterations”, with the present model being “closest to the unique tone”, to create “a film”.Alice in Wonderland satisfies made to vanish‘sport with real-time fight’.

Chia says the workforce “needed to make an motion RPG as a result of it builds on a few of the issues we labored on with turn-based fight in echo era.” she provides that by Riverbond Dungeon crawl and arcade gadgets may also seem in ravenlockalbeit with an “added complexity” as a result of new third-person perspective.

Within the authentic Xbox Wire announcement publish for ravenlockChia additionally mentioned that the sport is a “heartwarming” story “of empowerment, overcoming challenges, and studying the arrogance to stroll your personal future.” When she is requested to clarify, Chia factors out that the sport’s coming-of-age story touches the workforce very intently.

“One of many narrative targets in ravenlock is to inform a narrative like Alice in Wonderland however the place the feminine lead isn’t a passive character”, he explains. “She goes by an emotional arc to change into stronger in a coming-of-age story, as our protagonist is younger, round 15 years outdated. Nearly all of our present workforce identifies as feminine, so their story and the message of the sport are vital to us, however extraordinarily troublesome to get proper.”

Our younger heroine finds herself in a wierd and overseas land.

ravenlockThe narrative of Chia and the workforce resonates much more as a result of background of the titular character.

“Whereas not express, our protagonist comes from an Asian household, reflecting the background of many on our workforce. You can say we put quite a lot of ourselves into these characters, and it is one thing we encourage the workforce to do,” he says. “Personally, the theme of dwelling, what’s dwelling or the concept of ​​coming dwelling, is one thing that resonates with me and a theme that I hope to discover in ravenlock.”

In fact, the workforce additionally checked out “many” different works of fiction. “We reference basic fairy tales like Labyrinth, Lord of the Rings, The Neverending Story Y over the backyard wall,” she says. “For the story, we check out the Chronicles of Narnia Y The Wizard of Oz. The works of Studio Ghibli are an important inspiration, particularly made to vanish Y My neighbor Totoro.

Creating the look of ravenlock

What ravenlock Nonetheless, clearly what it has essentially the most in frequent with Cococucumber’s earlier works is its inventive type. Particularly, it is the ultimate entry in what the studio calls its “Voxel Trilogy,” which incorporates Riverbond Y echo era. Chia likes this artwork type, which “has its allure: it is retro and nostalgic,” she says. “Voxel artwork has its roots in pixel artwork taken to a 3D dimension. It has its quirks, like the best way sure characters can appear very loud as a result of blocky form of the asset. However I discover that there’s a lot of potential on this artwork type and I’m impressed by it.”

Having three video games in a row which have related aesthetics additionally helps illustrate how a lot Cococucumber has grown over time.

Riverbond, the primary sport in Cococucumber’s “Voxel Trilogy”.

“When you examine the voxel-ness of Riverbond, echo era Y ravenlock, there’s a gradual development in direction of extra stylized realism with 3D pixel textures,” says Chia. “The fashions are progressively extra advanced with increased decision. Some folks could discover this voxel artwork type a bit unusual or onerous to get used to, however we’re not voxel purists, this artwork type is supposed to be an expression of how we evolve by our video games. It additionally retains issues recent for us and works splendidly effectively within the the other way up world of ravenlock.”

One other merchandise that ravenlock has in frequent with echo era is his distinctive and diversified boss design. In echo eraYou would be preventing a bunch of raccoons or secret brokers in your neighborhood one minute after which venturing out and dealing with a large robotic or horrible ghost the subsequent. That set of enemies appears to have moved to ravenlockwhich, as seen within the reveal trailer, options the likes of a tall, sickly fungal creature, a winged automaton, and the aforementioned terrifying royal caterpillar.

Chia says the workforce’s aim with the bosses is to make them “dramatic and rewarding,” which requires “extra time and iteration” than a few of the different design parts.

ravenlock "weeping mushrooms" boss

Ravenlok’s “Weeping Mushrooms” boss.

“By way of course of, we begin with a normal dialogue about who they’re and what they need. We glance up references, then after we discover a course, it goes by modeling, texturing, rigging, animation, implementation, playtesting, and tweaking,” he says. “There have been fairly a couple of bosses in echo era Y ravenlock which have had an replace the place we added extra particulars to the mannequin and textures. This tends to occur largely after we’re close to the tip of manufacturing if we discover a while and wish the bosses to look extra terrifying or imposing.”

All in all, ravenlock is shaping as much as be one other charming and compelling RPG from Cococucumber. However earlier than ending, there was one query left to ask Chia: ravenlock have any of the Canadian Easter eggs and touchstones they helped make echo era such a delight?

“The true world dwelling of ravenlock is about in an unspecified location in rural Canada, does that rely? Chia sheepishly replies. “As for an Easter egg, I am going to say Bob the Frog [who was in Riverbond and Echo Generation] it would in all probability reappear. As for extra, you may need to play the sport to seek out out!


This interview has been edited for language and readability.

ravenlock It is going to be launched on Xbox consoles and PC in early 2023. It’s going to even be obtainable on Xbox Sport Go from day one.

Picture Credit score: Coconut Cucumber


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Toronto-based Ravenlok developer on the team’s growth and shaking things up with each game