Marc & Felice are the leadership team of Panic Games, an indie company with 20 members working on their newest title, Worlds of REM: Tien’s Nightmare. Marc handles the programming and musical side of the company, while Felice schedules art production and is learning Python to help out with the mobile side. Felice is the Art Producer for Worlds of REM. She has been playing video games for as long as she can remember—her all-time favorite is Legend of Dragoon. It is her love of video games that inspires her to do what she can for the team, so they can help share their own love of games to both current and future gamers.
Name: Felice Name: Marc Occupation: Art Producer Project Lead & Music Composer Company: Panic Games Panic Games Education: Self-taught Self-taught Twitter: @talyhawk @MarcStraight Websites: https://twitter.com/WorldsOfREM/
“Being able to say that ‘I helped make this’ is just a huge feeling as a gamer. I can add to the community, and introduce potentially new gamers to what we’ve made.” -Felice
So, let’s dig in to Worlds of REM. What kind of game is it? What’s the main character?
Marc: The main character is a rabbit-shaped spirit named Tien. I made a Game Jam game over a weekend where you played as a ball of light. It was an infinite runner based on speed. That’s what Worlds of REM started as. Then it somehow morphed into this HUGE story. It’s no longer an infinite runner all. *laugh*
We changed it to be a platformer, and that was a great decision. It’s an action platformer, but we kept the feeling of speed being a priority by making one of the power ups called “Light Form.” Based on your speed, you deal more damage.
S: Is that why she’s a rabbit? Because rabbits run fast?
M: She’s a rabbit because we didn’t want to put humans in the game. *laugh* We wanted to keep it as far fantasy as possible and just have a world of only spirits.
“Now the player is getting a completely different type of platformer instead of the same-old-same-old. It has the potential to be an amazing speed runner.” -Marc
What are some games that inspired the creation of Worlds of REM in some way?
M: Mine was mainly the “Nightmare Before Christmas” film, actually. A lot of the art direction for REM came from a Tim Burton-esque feel.
A game I’ve played recently that I just fell in love with is called Contrast. It’s this puzzle game and it’s AMAZING.
M: You get to play as this shadow-person, running around in 3D, and then you can jump into the wall, and suddenly it becomes a 2D game and you’re running on the shadows. That’s one of the puzzle mechanics of the second game in the REM series — figuring out how to run in the shadows and position these shadows correctly.
Felice: In my case, it actually ended up being Super Smash Brothers. That was for a lot of animation references because of how over-exaggerated some of the attacks are. There’s a lot of punching and kicking melee attacks.
M: Tien’s combat mechanics include a three-punch combo that we tie in with the dash mechanic. Even her ranged attack doesn’t really do a lot of damage, but it supplements the melee attacks. We didn’t want her to just hide in the bushes and shoot from a distance, so once you hit someone with a ranged attack, all your melee attacks do more damage.
M: You are very much going to get up in the faces of a bunch of dream monsters and beat them up.
What makes your game stand out and be different?
M: One of the mechanics for REM is that enemies can steal your power ups. What I mean by that is, if you’re walking around just minding your own business, and you see a power up on screen with an enemy nearby, if the enemy hits that power up first, it will turn into a mini boss. How many other games can you think of that do that?
The point is to add depth to the game. It changes the way people play every time. A lot of people’s first instinct when wandering into this world is to take it all in and explore everything. (That’s why I’ll probably end up putting power ups in those explorative areas.) But adding that enemy power up mechanic suddenly manifests a sense of urgency within the exploration.
Now the player is getting a completely different type of platformer instead of the same-old-same-old. It has the potential to be an amazing speed runner. The way that I’ve designed the levels contains lots of shortcuts and boosts to shave seconds off. BUT, there are also ways you can explore and just have a good time seeing the world.
How would you involve women with the gaming community, who otherwise might not become involved on their own?
M: Is this not a cultural and national issue? This isn’t an amorphous blob of just games as representation; this is media representation, this is equality representation. So that’s where I’m finding difficulty answering this. I want women to know that their ideas are VALID, and appreciated, and are equal in every way to a man’s.
F: Everybody on the team has been brought on for their talent. Not for their gender, sexual orientation, or the color of their skin. What they bring to the team is what matters.
What can big companies like Microsoft do to bring more women into gaming?
F: I’m going to stay out of this one, because I absolutely do not like the Xbox.
That’s exactly why I need to hear your feedback, so that I know what needs changing.
F: *chuckle* A lot of the reason why I don’t like the Xbox is that it does not have the types of games that I’m looking for. I still turn to Sony over Microsoft, just because it has a wider variety of my favorite game type, which is the JRPG. That, and PlayStation Network has a lot of the classic games that I want to see and play again that I either never got to, or I lost the disc for.
M: As for what they can do? I think they should publish more indie titles. There are games being built that help represent diversity. If we’re trying to better the platform, then helping people that are trying to showcase diversity is a good way to start. There are a lot of games on the indie scene with diverse protagonists, but a lot of indie game devs don’t have funding. Signal boost them.
What can I do locally to bring more women into gaming?
M: Find what they like, and how you can represent it in a game.
F: Common interest builds on what people care about.
What do you want women considering a career in tech to know?
M: If I may say something about this one? Don’t ever let another person make you think that what you make isn’t valid. I don’t care if it’s the CEO of Blizzard. Your content is valid because you exist, and the entire point of existing is to benefit the world. You’re benefitting the world in your own way by giving your perspective on it. Everything you do is valid, so treat it that way. Understand that your worth is there. You just need to own it and keep making things and don’t give up.
Felice, how long have you been playing games?
F: I’ve been playing games for at least 25 years. My very first system was an Atari 2600.
So, when did it strike you that you wanted to be a part of making and building?
F: I’ve always enjoyed playing video games, and it wasn’t until about a year ago that I was more interested in learning about the coding side and what went into making a video game. Things happened to play out that I met Marc and got brought into the project. I’ve been learning more and more about the process as we’ve been making the demo. I’m very happy that I’m working on a game now, and I’m really glad that Marc brought me on.
F: I’ve met some really amazing people and very talented artists. That, and being able to say that ‘I helped make this’ is just a huge feeling as a gamer. I can add to the community, and introduce potentially new gamers to what we’ve made.
What is the one most important aspect of a game that you think elevates the good titles above the rest?
F: For Role-Playing Games, I would say the story is the most important. For a lot of other games, like platformers, I would say the mechanics are definitely more important. Making sure that the game flows well and just feels like a good play.
Do you have any advice for how you deal with the roadblocks and keep progressing with your game?
F: Communication. That is the biggest thing. Everybody needs to communicate with each other.
What’s the best method of communication that you’ve found?
F: Schedule meetings over Skype.
M: DO NOT EVER BREAK the habit of those meetings. I am SUPER strict on people being present at the meetings.
F: The only times we make exceptions are around the major holidays. Then we reschedule the meeting.
How do you think people with diverse backgrounds impact the development community?
M: We have had people from four different countries, including ours, working on REM at different points.
One of my favorite concept artists, Katrine, from Norway, does incredible work. She made the raven, which is one of my favorite monsters in the demo. It looked amazing, it was hyper realistic and it was terrifying. It was completely different from what everything that we had. She added something the we didn’t even process that we needed. That’s why I’m throwing boss monsters at her for her to do now.
Then there’s Natalie, in Canada, and she does great work on smaller models. She did the spiders and they were very different than how Liz, our character modeler, does them, but in a positive way. They were cuter than normal, while still being spiders. It’s exactly what they needed to be.
Lisa, from England, was our first character artist and designed Tien. With that, she designed the entire art direction of the game, because I loved what she did so much. Without her, the game wouldn’t look the way it does. She was the foundation; when we brought on Max to be the lead artist and gravitate towards one art style, we constantly referenced Lisa’s work to shape the art direction, and he developed on top of that.
Having these people from different cultures brought out perspectives that were really fun and really awesome and helped out a lot.
Are all of the assets in your game 100% original?
F: Yep. Everybody’s been super talented and has come up with really creative designs.
M: So going back to the original question — I want a greater representation of people in games. I want new representation, like what that Alaskan indigenous culture game, Never Alone, provides. That is awesome. I want more of that. There’s not enough of it.
Is it worth it for women to join the game industry?
M: It’s 100% worth it. This is so rewarding. It’s stressful, nerve-wracking, and you get so busy that you don’t think you can do something — and then you do it.