In video games, it can sometimes feel like it’s tough to find something truly ambitious. That’s understandable, undertaking a bold design or gameplay mechanic without big money backing those ideas is a daunting process. That’s on top of the fact that the exploding indie scene is finding all kinds of new ways to use classical game design language and art styles.
But all of that just makes a game like Genesis Noir more eye-catching.
A gorgeous looking overlap of adventure game, Casablanca, and cosmic inspiration, Genesis Noir is a passion project of studio Feral Cat Den that’s recently launched a Kickstarter to try to fund the title’s full development. I spoke with creative lead Evan Anthony about how Genesis Noir came to be, the campaign, the music of the universe, and how actor Liev Schreiber inadvertently helped to inspire this gorgeous idea.
The Young Folks: For anyone who might not know, can you briefly describe what Genesis Noir is?
Evan Anthony: Genesis Noir is a poetic adventure game about stopping The Big Bang to save your love. A cosmic gunshot expands towards the heart of a god and the player must explore the universe, seeking clues on how creation might be undone. With an emphasis on exploration, simple interactions, and generative art, Genesis Noir seeks to create memorable moments and tactile gameplay.
TYF: You and your team have been working on this game for quite some time already, is that right?
Anthony: Yup! The initial idea for Genesis Noir came in 2013 after reading Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics. We were both freelancing at various studios at the time, and would spend weekends playing around with the idea.
In 2014 we took two weeks off to create a prototype and share it with the indie game community to assess if this was a doable or interesting idea. We got a strong response and decided to keep going! Throughout the rest of 2014 and 2015, we continued freelancing and taking time off to make progress on Genesis Noir.
Once we stockpiled some savings to go full time, we dove into the project in 2016.
Why did you choose Kickstarter to help fund Genesis Noir over other funding options?
Anthony: We love Kickstarter because it lets us share our process, build our audience, and identify what people respond to from the beginning of the project. Compared to other crowdfunding platforms, we feel it also has a broader audience and creator focus that suits our non-traditional small indie game.
The teaser online (Try it for yourself here) centers around both Genesis Noir’s art style and integrates music into the gameplay. You’re even offering a discoverable sheet of music created there as a reward tier. Should players expect many rhythm sections in the full game?
Anthony: We’re definitely very excited to make fun little musical toys with Skillbard, the musicians we’re creating Genesis Noir with.
The framing story sees the main character No Man entering the Big Bang in an attempt to stop it from destroying his love. Given the implication of the “noir” in the title, can we expect a larger mystery to solve beyond the Big Bang?
Anthony: Genesis Noir is a more of a study of characters as they deal with inevitable tragedy rather than a sly mystery. Think Casablanca more than The Maltese Falcon. There may be elements of mystery, but like in Casablanca, the story focuses on how characters deal with the approach of calamity.
On the flip side, the footage showcased showed some very diverse gameplay styles from event to event. Is the plan to make each interaction unique?
Anthony: Our ambition is to make each interaction meaningful and memorable. Sometimes that means a completely unique interaction, but often repetition can be a powerful tool. Our goal is to use repetition with intent so that repeated interactions create pacing, conceptually link scenes, or make surprising evolutions to an interaction over the course of the game.
You have highlighted Italio Calvino’s Comicomics (particularly The Distance of the Moon) as the catalyst for this game. What made you fall in love with this material enough to create a game like it?
Anthony: Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics is a wonderful collection of short stories that populates abstract science fiction with heartfelt characters. Calvino writes of characters that transcend space and time yet have all the same emotions as us here on Earth. It makes for tremendously beautiful storytelling. Check out this Radiolab episode to hear Liev Schreiber read one of our favorite stories.
What other influences drive the designs here?
Anthony: Our background in web interactions and motion graphic animation has influenced the design greatly. We’ve been a big fan of animation studios like Buck, Giant Ant, Golden Wolf, and many others. We’re really drawn to the way the animations they create combine clever transitions, metaphorical imagery, and abstracted design. We haven’t seen too many games explore these techniques. The simple graphic drawings enable us to combine 2D and 3D assets, produce [those] assets nimbly, and are also well suited to the black and white look of film noir.
In addition, we’ve pulled from comics that experiment with graphic representations of time and space like Kevin Huizenga’s Gloriana and the work of Marc-Antoine Michel. We are attempting to utilize the kinds of paneling layout and unreal space you might find in graphic novels to create interesting interactive environments.
What brought the people who make up Feral Cat Den together?
Anthony: Jeremy [Abel, technical lead] and I studied New Media Design at Rochester Institute of Technology together and have wanted to make a game ever since. Together with other school pals and freelance buddies, we form a loose collective that teams up for commercial and artistic projects together.
Can you tell me more about the group contributing the music for Genesis Noir?
Anthony: Skillbard is a duo in London that have been scoring some of the most exciting independent and commercial animation. Whenever I see a particularly great piece of work pop up on Vimeo, there’s a good chance their name is in the credits.
Like us, they have a love for jazz, eclecticism and abstraction, and video games. We are terribly lucky to be collaborating with them!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to add about the Kickstarter or about Genesis Noir in general that the audience just needs to know?
Anthony: Thanks for all the support and interest! We’re having a lot of fun making this game!
Oh, also we’ll be sharing some new interactive and non interactive goodies in the near future.
Genesis Noir is currently in development for PC and Mac. For even more info, visit http://genesisnoirgame.com/ or click here to go to the Kickstarter campaign.