A couple of days ago we wrote about Rainswept, an adventure focusing on a cop investigating a murder suicide. After trying the fantastic demo we got in touch with Aarman Sandhu, its developer, to ask him a series of questions on the game and other topics.
Before getting into the heart of the matter be sure to take a look at Rainswept on Indiegogo. The campaign is in its final days and a final push would be of help. The demo shows what the game will be like and it looks great.
Cliqist: You’re an architect who became a film-maker and a game designer now. Was that transition complicated?
Aarman Sandhu: Not as much as I would’ve expected! I guess that’s partly because I’ve always been deeply interested in games, and have kept up with industry trends, news and opinions because the topic interests me so much. When I moved into games as a designer, I immediately felt comfortable – like I was finally in the right place.
As for how the transition affected my life, there were a couple of confused years for sure. I’d spent my Architecture school years planning to become a film maker. But two months in the film business after graduation immediately showed me that I didn’t like the process at all. That was quite disorienting, to not have a goal all of a sudden. After that I came back to architecture and decided to work a 9-5 while trying to figure my next step out. Thankfully, that was when a friend of mine suggested game development, and everything after that kind of fell into place.
Do your previous disciplines make you approach game design in a certain way?
Kind of. Architecture is a very broad subject that includes a lot of diverse topics and is a great foundation for design. It teaches one to think specifically as a designer, and helps in visualising spaces – something very important in video games. It’s helped, but I’m not sure if it’s affected the way I’ve approached game design for Rainswept.
But films, definitely. Creating a cinematic experience has been given priority, and the design of the game has grown around that priority. So, this basically fits in neatly with a game that involves walking around scenic locations and uncovering bits and pieces of the story through observation, conversations and exploration. The story that is uncovered through these mechanics is then presented in a cinematic manner by using camera movements, framing and music.
As a self-taught game designer how do you find Unity as your engine of choice? Do you use any plugins like Fungus or Gamemaker?
I’ve loved working with Unity so far. It was much easier to learn than I’d originally expected, and in about 4 months or so I was pretty confident using the engine. This has been helped in large part by an asset that I use in conjunction with Unity called Adventure Creator. AC takes out the need for coding and lets you create an adventure game through visual scripting.
I tried out Gamemaker for a bit, but I didn’t give it enough time as around that time I learned about AC, and seeing how perfect it was for the kind of game I was trying to make, I immediately switched. To be honest, I found that AC + Unity was much simpler to get started with than Gamemaker.
You’re a lone dev, except when it comes to the music. How did the collaboration with micamic came to be?
I found Micamic on the Adventure Creator forums, and he was looking for a new project to make music for. I contacted him, and he asked me to sell him my idea for the game (at this time, it was only an idea) I shared the plot that I had in mind with him, described the gameplay mechanics and whipped up some concept art to go with it. He liked the idea and decided to make music for Rainswept!
Rainswept and its Influences
How did the idea of Rainswept come to you?
When a friend of mine suggested I create a video game, I started bouncing ideas off him and discussing what the game could be. I knew it had to be story driven, while the scope and mechanics had to be something that were practical for a first-time solo developer.
This was going to be the first real story that I was going to write, and it needed to have all the elements and tropes that I love – rain, a murder mystery, a detective with a dark past etc. So, in a way it was me asking myself – what do I love in other games or movies?
Murder mysteries were one of them. Ever since I watched Twin Peaks and played Deadly Premonition, I’ve been obsessed with the genre. This is helped by the fact that I’m also a big fan of Korean crime thrillers and police procedurals.
Also, I was interested in writing a story that followed course of a relationship – the highs, lows, how things change etc. That idea had been sitting in my mind from a couple of years, and I’d always assumed I’d be writing it for a film instead.
I’ve also always been attracted to foggy, rainy locations. Those are the kind of places I enjoy travelling to, exploring and taking photographs of, and I’m immediately attracted to films and games set in such locations too.
These three major things came together to become a murder mystery about the deaths of a couple set in a small, rainy town!
The influence of Twin Peaks can be seen but you mention South Korean dramas as a particular. Which dramas have influenced your story and aesthetic? And what else has influenced the game?
Yep, Twin Peaks was one of the reasons I fell in love with this genre, and it’s influence on Rainswept is quite obvious. As for the South Korean influences, Memories of Murder is probably my favorite film of all time – it’s a Korean crime thriller about a series of murders that had happened in a small Korean town in 1986, and the movie is quite similar to Zodiac. There are other Korean crime thrillers such as The Chaser, A Dirt Carnival and The Wailing that I have really loved watching. I’m not sure if the inspiration from these films is directly visible in the game, but I have watched a ton of them during the course of development. Some aspects might have crept through, such as inept local cops, dingy interiors, rainy atmosphere and at times, some melodramatic moments.
Scandi noir TV shows have also affected the aesthetic and style of the game, one of their staples being settings including dramatic locations, and detectives that carry a large emotional burden of their own during the investigations.
I’ve also loved watching shows like Vera, Broadchurch, Happy Valley, Luther mainly to understand how to tell an emotional story that gives equal weight to both the police procedural aspects, and the story of the victims.
Choosing to portray the victim’s lives in the game as a parallel story was an interesting choice. What made you take it? And are those flashbacks set in stone?
As I mentioned, I’d always wanted to write a story that followed the course of a romantic relationship over its lifetime. I think it’s very interesting how people’s perception and roles in a relationship can often change over time, and the reasons why these changes happen. It’s a fascinating way to see how people’s experiences and insecurities make them act differently towards the ones they love.
Since I’d already decided the story was to be a murder mystery, I felt learning about the couple’s relationship through a homicide investigation was an interesting way tell two stories at once. It also allows for some poignant moments of conflicting emotions where you get to watch two characters fall in love knowing how its all gonna eventually end.
The flashbacks do have only one overall story, though there are some choices in that can be made for the purpose of adding flavour and interactivity to the experience.
You’re based in India, is there much of a video game industry there?
From my experience, about a decade back there was pretty much nothing. That was one of the reasons I’d given up on the dream of working on video games. This was, of course, before the growth of the indie games scene.
As of now, apart from the rise of the mobile gaming industry which has probably picked up here at the same time as the rest of the world, there’s very little in terms of “non-casual” PC/ console games. No AAA studios that I’m aware of apart from those that are involved in outsourced work.
In terms of indies, we’re seeing a slow start with upcoming games like Raji: An Ancient Epic and Alter Army that are in development right now. It’s still very early days, though!
What made you choose Indiegogo to finish getting funds for Rainswept?
I started approaching publishers a couple of months back, but that hasn’t really worked out yet. Crowdfunding was the next option, and as Kickstarter is unfortunately not available in India (or at least not for Indian bank accounts) I had to turn to the next best option instead – which happened to be Indiegogo.
Finally, what are your plans after Rainswept? Will you continue making other adventure games or will you branch out into other genres?
Plan for the immediate future after releasing Rainswept is to support the game and try to bring it over to consoles, and this might take me a year or so. After that, depending on the response to this game, I might decide to continue the story – I’ve got a few interesting ideas about where it could go!
I plan to make adventure games for the foreseeable future, as I try to get the hang of the game development and attempt to make better games of this genre. Adventure games are also perfect for me as they’re known for being story driven and atmospheric, so I can see myself sticking to the genre for another handful of titles.
But once I’ve got a foothold, and maybe some more people working with me, I’d love to work on an RPG. The ultimate dream probably, is to make a whimsical, nostalgic fantasy RPG, something like Fable. Hopefully I can do that someday!
Our thanks to Armaan for taking some time to answer our questions.