Last year’s indie adventure title My Memory of Us may have slipped under the radar, but as anyone who’s played it will tell you, it is well worth your attention. Combining a beautiful visual pallet and a story rooted in Poland’s occupation during the Second World War, Juggler Games’ title focuses on the friendship of its central characters, using its historically inspired setting to tell a personal story. Recently, we sent across a few of our most burning questions about the game to developers Juggler Games- the following questions were answered by the game’s level designer and the studio’s founder Lukasz Janczukco.
"The story in My Memory of Us is inspired mostly by occupation of Poland. The story starts shortly before World War II and takes players on a journey through the fall of Warsaw, occupation, creation of ghetto, and ends with the fall of Ghetto Uprising."
Are there any particular events from World War 2 that the game’s premise and setting takes inspirations from? There are for example many thematic similarities with Auschwitz, which seems like an interesting concept to tackle, especially from such a personal perspective.
The story in My Memory of Us is inspired mostly by occupation of Poland. The story starts shortly before World War II and takes players on a journey through the fall of Warsaw, occupation, creation of ghetto, and ends with the fall of Ghetto Uprising.
Our team is based in Warsaw, so those events are a living history for us. In this city you can find a lot of monuments both big and small created in memory of those who fall fighting for the city or for those who were just victims of war crimes. Every one of us heard the family stories of what happened during World War II. Because all of this we had this need to try to tell this story.
My Memory of Us’ focus on telling stories based on actual wars seems interesting, particularly so because it doesn’t seem like it’s an exact recreation of anything, or an actual historical setting (at least not one that is blatantly apparent). What sort of a balance can we expect to see between these two sides in the game?
Story told in a game and main characters are fictional, but they are inspired by true events. The best way to explain the balance between the truth and fiction is to use a example. During our research we bumped onto a story told by a young girl who had to run away from the city. They had to use the sewers to do this, but it was dark and they were lost. The help came from a small boy with a lamp, who found them and helped them out. The girl didn’t even know his name. However the boy himself didn’t get out alive. He fell and drowned somewhere in the sewers. This story inspired us, and our Boy is using the lamp to guide the Girl through the dark places.
So as you can see we didn’t exactly recreate the events from history. We let ourselves be inspired by them.
How do you make sure as a storyteller that you do justice to a topic such as this one, and how do you find the right balance between the larger setting and backdrop, and the personal stories that My Memory of Us looks to be placing such an emphasis on?
As a creator you can never be sure the balance is right until you show your creation to the public. You have to take a risk and believe in your story.
There are some things that can help in achieving this goal. You have to show your game to people form outside the team. Listen to their feedback. See what works and fix stuff that doesn’t work. We, for example, dropped entire levels because they didn’t work within the story.
However there is no recipe that will guarantee your story will work. If there was, all the movies, books, and games would succeed if they follow this recipe.
"From the start we wanted to tell a universal story that can be understood everywhere in the world by people of all ages. That is why we wanted to avoid typical dialogue as much as we can."
On a related note, the game also uses a very minimalistic storytelling style, which is very interesting because at the same time, it’s trying to convey so much. That’s a very fine balance- how do you achieve it?
You can say that our storytelling is built on two layers. The first layer is within the gameplay, where most of the story takes place. We don’t have in-game dialogue. So we are telling the story with character animations and events that are clear without dialogue. On the second layer are the cutscenes with a narrator. We are using them to tell those parts of the story that require more explanation and a bigger picture to understand. This approach is proven to work best for our story, and it brings balance between character driven moments in gameplay and allegory that connects it all.
The fact that the game is narrated by Patrick Stewart is a huge deal, and had undoubtedly attracted a lot of attention. How was it working with him on this game?
I’m personally huge fan of Sir Patrick Stewart and it was a great pleasure to meet him in person in the recording studio. He is very skilled and experienced actor. When we met, he had a lot of questions about his character. After about 30 minutes of asking questions he started recording, and that was it. This was exactly what we were looking for. He also had a big impact on the final script. He had a lot of suggestions about what will sound better and more natural, and we implemented it. It was a great pleasure to work with him.
My Memory of Us’ visual style seems particularly interesting, especially because it seems to contrast with the game’s narrative aspects. Why did you decide to go for this combination?
The game is a fairy tale. It is being told by an old men to a child. He is telling the story of his childhood and a great friend he had back then. He however knows that those were very dark times. He doesn’t want to talk about all the violence and death, so he finds a different way to tackle the subject. So the visual style represents that we are in the fairy tale, but with enough elements for players to understand that this world is inspired by true events.
My Memory of Us makes use of a pretty interesting dialog system that seems a bit more abstract in its concept than what one would usually see. Can you talk to us a little bit about this? How was it conceptualized?
From the start we wanted to tell a universal story that can be understood everywhere in the world by people of all ages. That is why we wanted to avoid typical dialogue as much as we can. We decided to borrow our solution from comic books and use their dialogue clouds. Instated of using text, we used symbols that represent what characters are talking about. This approach has proven to be a great tool in helping players navigate through the puzzles and understand what is required of them.
"We had limited resources and we had decide what we can deliver within those limitation. Co-op was too big of a challenge at the point, so we had to drop it."
Given the game’s central premise of having two playable characters at the same time, was co-op ever on the table during development? Are there any plans for maybe adding it in in the future?
Yes, we considered co-op mode for the game. However we had to be realistic. This is the first game of our studio. We had limited resources and we had decide what we can deliver within those limitation. Co-op was too big of a challenge at the point, so we had to drop it.
At this moment I cannot confirm that we will add co-op, but we will see what future will bring.
Can you talk to us a bit about the puzzle design in My Memory of Us?
We have 3 types of puzzles in the game.
First one are classical puzzle from point and click games. You have to get an item and use it in the right place.
Second one are all sort of logical puzzles. They are more abstract and usually connected with evil robot technology. At first we didn’t plan to include many of them, but after showing the game on many events we found out that players really like them, so we added many more of them throughout the game.
Last ones are stealth segments. It may not look like this, but all of those segments are in fact puzzles. Players have to observe the patterns of enemy movements and find the right moment to move forward.
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? What can players expect if they are playing the game on Xbox One X? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
My Memory of Us is 2D indie game. Our strongest side is a emotional story and great art style. We don’t have any platform specific technological enchantments. Just good old hand made art that we made sure looks great on all platforms.
Xbox One X version supports 4K and works in 60fps.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
PS4 Pro version offers support for FHD and also runs with 60fps.
From a development perspective, how do you find the Xbox One X to be and how do you compare it with the PS4 Pro?
The console version weren’t created on site in Juggler Games. To create those versions we asked our friends from Crouching Koalas. They have a lot of experience with porting games to various consoles. With their help we didn’t really encountered any serious problems. Sure, there were some bumps along the way, but nothing that is really worth a story.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Resolution-wise it’s FHD. Mostly it also runs with 60fps. On some of bigger and more asset heavy levels we sometimes drop to 30fps.
What is the resolution and frame rate of the Switch version in docked and undocked modes?
Docked version is 1080p and undocked is 720p. Our test shows that in both cases we have steady 30fps.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
We hope that both Sony and Microsoft will continue the support for indie game developers, because we still have a lot of stories to tell and we would like to share them also with console players.
Do you think cross platform will be one of the defining features of next-gen consoles?
For sure there are games and genres that will benefit from this solution. It will make easier for communities to share fun experiences. However cross platform in my opinion won’t work universally for all the games, so it’s hard for me to believe that it will be defining feature.
"Luckily this year , titles like God of War, Spider-Man, or Red Dead Redemption 2 showed that you can make a single player game with great story and high quality art and earn a lot of money even without the microtransactions."
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
In my opinion it is sad that we see so many games designed with the idea that maximizing profit from microtransactions coming first. I think we are loosing opportunities for some games, and we are harming some of the iconic games series this way.
Luckily this year , titles like God of War, Spider-Man, or Red Dead Redemption 2 showed that you can make a single player game with great story and high quality art and earn a lot of money even without the microtransactions.