RiME: Tequila Works / 19th of September 2014
Having developed the zombie themed platform-puzzler, Deadlight, exclusively for Microsoft’s Xbox 360 (though it was also released on PC, of course), the team returned to the drawing board to dream up a concept so far removed from their first game, that one might be mistaken for believing it to have an entirely different developer. Having taken this project to Microsoft to develop exclusively on Xbox One, they were turned down, leaving Sony to enter the fray and secure Tequila Works’ new venture, RiME, as a PS4 exclusive. Having been impressed with its visual style, and its artistic leanings, few would be surprised by this, or by Phil Spencer’s own admission that Microsoft Games Studios were wrong to let this rather intriguing title slip by them. Knowing only that the game is a gorgeous and fascinating puzzle based experience, we sent James to speak to Raúl Rubio, the team’s Creative Director and CEO, to find out a little more about it…
HRG: Could you tell us a little about the studio itself? How did you come to be one of the best independent developers in the industry today?
RR: Woah, thanks for the kind words! Even if we don’t see ourselves that way, what I can tell you is that the goal when we founded Tequila Works was just creating with gusto, applying all our experience in AAA projects to make something we could feel proud of, no matter how tiny or humble it may be. Deadlight was our first attempt at that, and we learnt a lot of lessons.
HRG: Deadlight was the team’s debut, and a successful one at that, but what did you learn from the many processes involved in its development-from the initial stages of its design, up until its eventual release?
RR: Many, especially how not to do a lot of things! (laughs). Above all environmental narrative, and how to find the fragile balance between design, art and code. Controls were supposed to be a homage to the digital interface from the early 90s and we learnt the hard way that some things should remain in the past. Puzzles didn’t transmit that feeling of survival and basically broke the pacing. And narrative didn’t dance with gameplay as it should. It was a beautiful dead world but sometimes our obsession with visual detail was just a frustration for the player. Also the importance of composition in a 2.5D title! Oh, and how to be more agile and efficient than the behemoths we were used to in AAA development.
HRG: Deadlight was a rather atmospheric, and highly stylised game that garnered its fair share of fans, is it a universe that the team would like to return to at a later date?
RR: Absolutely, Deadlight was created as a world, not Randall’s story. If we return we’d want to focus on fragility and isolation in community, how different people adapt to survive. On gameplay now we know how to improve the overall design on a Metroidvania structure (that we had to remove from the original together with the dynamic lighting system and 3D aiming&targeting) and above all, expand the narrative and put it at the service of gameplay while keeping the beauty of this cursed universe. Some day…
HRG: Deadlight was released as an Xbox 360 exclusive, how is it that your new game, Rime, has seen your studio now create an exclusive release for Sony and their PlayStation 4 console? And is it true that Microsoft actually turned down the opportunity to claim your beautiful looking new project as an Xbox One only title?
RR: We obviously love exclusives (laughs). Ideally every project should be a unique creation suited for an specific platform(s). Some can be adapted easily while others not. If our next project is a Nintendo exclusive we’ll unlock the Triple Combo achievement.
HRG: What excites you most about working with the powerful PS4 hardware? What have you been able to achieve that you would have been previously unable to? Also, what engine is the new game running on?
RR: The hardware is amazing and the tools are great but the best of all is the freedom to ingeniously pursue a vision based on terms of art and design instead of tech raw power (which is there to make our life easier).
RR: Limitations are good, constraints encourage creativity. Our focus is in experiences, emotions. We need to offer the players something unique that deserves being made.
HRG: What can you tell us about RiME, without giving too much away?
RR: Just in a sentence, RiME is an evocative experience about loss and acceptance. In two sentences (laughs), an ending ensures a new beginning; we want the player to see the world again through the eyes of a child. And stay tuned for more!
HRG: RiME looks to be something of a radical departure from your first game, what are the main inspirations behind it?
RR: Not at all! Deadlight was about the light in darkness and RiME is the opposite. We are positioned ourselves as creators of visually unique universes, we don’t think in terms of genres. The inspiration for RiME is light itself. The light of the Mediterranean and its master, Joaquín Sorolla. His paintings were the main reference for the world of RiME. Salvador Dali’s negative space and the architecture of Giorgio de Chirico would be next, as well as 1963’s classic Jason and the Argonauts (for very different reasons).
HRG: What is your expected release window?
RR: It is up to Sony to announce the release date. Thus, we can’t comment about it at this moment. Sorry! Thanks on behalf of the Tequila Works Team!
Special thanks to everyone at Tequila Works for taking the time out to chat with us