-Where did the concept for the Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti originate? It is clear there is a lot of experience in games and music behind it but what specifically caused it?
I’ve always had a passion for music and gaming. I think they share a lot of similarities. Both are, at least in their indie format, are created in bedrooms and studies, crafted with love and, in its better examples, display something unique about the people crafting them. They can convey great ideas on small, artful scopes. One thing that has always fascinated me about art is the world artists create around their core medium – everything that informs that art which is not that art. This includes stage personas, literature, film, rumors, publicity stunts, marketing, lore. It’s a combination of these loves that spawned the Artful Escape of Francis Vendetti.
-While you mention some musicians as inspiration did any video games inspire the creation of the Artful Escape?
Absolutely. I was inspired by the dialogue system of Kentucky Route Zero, where you choices informed not the narrative, but perception of the character in those gloomy, beautiful sets. I’d love to capture that sense of somewhat aimless adventure from Journey, one of my all time favorites. I was also inspired by the calm wonder of Sword and Sorcery and the somber hope of Valiant Hearts.
-Did any specific music/song/artist inspire the game?
David Bowie without a doubt. He seems to be the seminal example of world building within music. The blueprint. The idea of the game was originally pitched as a David Bowie type character going on a journey to inspire Ziggy Stardust. But other artists have informed the themes of word building. Andy Warhol and his cultural factories – The shroud of mystery and seclusion that follows authors like JD Salinger and Haruki Murakami – the over exaggerated bouts of 80s rock ‘n’ roll excess – the mystic charm of Tool and Led Zeppelin – and so on.
– the Artful Escape seems to wear a lot of hats as far as video games go; covering everything from action adventure to rhythm to even platforming. Is there any concern with trying to do so much at the same time?
Yep. But we’re confident with the rhythm of the game and it’s mechanics. They’re not overly complex but the serve the story, aim to be simple yet monumental, atmospheric yet satisfying. We’re working on something where gameplay is not separate to the story and pacing of the game, but something intertwined.
-You mention the game and main character change depending on the player’s actions. Does this mean the game has multiple paths and endings or are the differences cosmetic (i.e. changes to the suit)?
In Telltale games, which I love, the dialogue choices dictate the narrative – in the Artful Escape the dialogue choices dictate the character. It effects Francis’s image, his backstory, his charisma, his stage presence, his stage setup. It’s like a giant character creation.
-Does every being in the multiverse come with its own portable light show?
Most of them! That’s how the creatures of the multiverse communicate.
-It sounds like dialogue has a big impact on the game but how often does it actually occur?
There’s considerable dialogue in the game. You can speak to many of the locals in Francis’s hometown of Calypso, Colorado and nearly all of the creatures roaming the Multiverse, from Space Gods to insects. Francis also describes what he sees in the distance, beyond the confines of the 2.5D levels – sections inspired by the nVcel, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, where Marco Polo describes vast imaginary cities to the ruler of the Mongol Empire.
-What is it like to French kiss death?
It’s a rush, and then you’re dead.
-The game has such rich and diverse graphics but what inspired the world, multiverse and the creatures in them? Is there a few album covers in there?
Certainly inspired by the work of 60s 70s 80s album covers. Everything from psychedelic prog rock to thrash. Also inspired by my math’s text book in high school which was filled with impossible worlds and creatures and stage set ups instead of math’s. I wanted to capture the craziness of it, unbound by rules, unchained from reality.
-The description makes it sound like the game is more about creating a persona than the actual music, can you elaborate on this?
Music plays a big part of the game mechanics in the Artful escape but no, the story is not about Francis’s music. The ratio of dialogue, exploring, character creation vs musical gameplay is, in itself, a representation of the experience and toil off the stage.
-How does gameplay in music sections work? The description and sampling shows various examples of how the music will work but it isn’t clear how they work together. Is there preset songs like in Zelda or is this more about freestyle?
It generally, but not always, works like this: Francis is travelling an abandoned multidimensional roadway. Each station on the roadway is a monolithic beast that you need to jam with in order to move to the next station. Using your field recorder you sample the animalia of that particular section, creating a sample bank of music. You can then approach the Station Beast and, using a combination of creative sample playback, dictated by the player, and rhythm gaming through your holographic amplifier, and various dialogue choices, you charm these great biological wonders into giving you a lift. You put on a cosmic, deafening performance to move forward into the next segment of the Multidimensional Roadway.
-How large of a soundtrack would you say the game has? If possible a sample would be great.
Hard to say exactly at this point.
-Much of the game description seems to cover the same few parts; how large is the game?
We’re aiming for something between 3 ½ to 5 hours depending on funding.
-Is the Artful Escape close to completion or is there a lot to do yet?
We have a lot of our systems built and ready to go but there’s a large amount of content creation to come.
-If funded what do you hope to accomplish by releasing the Artful Escape?
Indie hit of the year.
-Any future games already in the works?