Marco Guardia discusses his experience in making a game with a strong soundtrack.
Octahedron is a game from Demimonde Studios which is basically a one man studio, compromising of musician Marco Guardia. The game mixes pulsing electronic music with platforming. Music ties into every aspect of the game and the many obstacles in the game move along to the rhythm of the music. One of the unique twists of the game is how players can create a platform simply by pressing a button.
This is certainly an interesting game and to learn more about it, Gamingbolt reached out to Marco Guardia who discussed inspirations behind the game, the story component, the lore, and much more.
"I’ve also worked in design and programming, and video games have always meant a lot to me. It somehow felt like a logical evolution to try and combine those skills."
Coming from a musical background, what made you delve into making video games?
I’ve also worked in design and programming, and video games have always meant a lot to me. It somehow felt like a logical evolution to try and combine those skills. I wanted something that would really challenge me and where I could learn a lot too. I definitely got that!
Are there any particular psychedelic works of art that you drew on for this game’s inspiration?
I grew up during the rave and trance craze in Europe, so between the ages of 14 and 17 I was really big into that lifestyle and the whole party and underground scene. Obviously, the fascination with laser lights and neon colors sort of came from that, but then both the Goa trance and psytrance subcultures were especially full of crazy psychedelic art and fashion, much of that drew from the hippie counterculture of the 1960s.
The visual style of the game is immediately eye-catching. What were the inspirations behind the visual style of the game?
Some of it I mentioned above. But there are also specific games that inspired the visual style. Among them Pac-Man C.E. and Geometry Wars.
Music seems to be a very important component of the game. The whole world in the game seems to go along to the rhythm of the music. What is your approach to music in video games?
The music itself here was done fairly traditionally, so there are no layers or procedural elements. The level themes are simply looping tracks between 110 and 130BPM. The level timer then basically runs on that tempo, and there’s an entire layer for that in the game that lets me run movement, sounds, animations etc. tied to specific time windows that can go from several bars or measures all the way down to sixteenth notes.
The music in the game was done by Andre Sobota, Chipzel, Derek Howell and me – also known as Monomirror.
Can you tell us a little about how the platform creation mechanic works in the game?
I like to think of it as being very simple. You jump, then you press a button in mid-air to spawn a platform right below your feet. If you keep the button pressed, you can move left or right and surf on this platform horizontally for a limited amount of time.
"Yeah, as abstract and as weird as this world is, there is an internal logic behind all of it. The world, the shapes, the names, the enemies, the story – it goes a bit deeper than what it might look like on the surface."
The game seems to have its own lore about the world of Veetragoul. Can you tell us a bit more about this and how it’s integrated into the game?
Yeah, as abstract and as weird as this world is, there is an internal logic behind all of it. The world, the shapes, the names, the enemies, the story – it goes a bit deeper than what it might look like on the surface. However, I decided it was best not to over-explain it or spoon-feed the lore to the player. It definitely is an arcade-y action game first, with everything else second. So, what I’m essentially saying to the player is, feel free to ignore story and lore and just absorb it all without thinking too hard about it. There are some mysteries to be found here, but much of it is left ambiguous on purpose too.
How does progression in the game work? Do you unlock items and abilities as you progress through the levels?
You progress on an overworld map through several worlds, each with a set amount of levels. Sometimes this is quite linear, sometimes you get to pick one from a set of levels to play next. At the end of each world you get a new upgrade for your platform. Collecting a certain amount of diamonds or diamond flowers is required to unlock the bridge to the next world. Collecting the optional tetrahedrons will grant you access to bonus levels and optional upgrades. There are some surprises along the way, but that’s the basic structure.
Where did the idea of DIY platforming come from?
I had toyed with several ideas for a platformer – some of them were more complex, but the idea for Octahedron was written out as a single sentence in a notebook: “a platformer about making platforms”. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant at the time, but it was the first idea that I ended up prototyping, and the gameplay immediately clicked with me.
Is there a basic story component to this game? If so, what can you tell us about it?
Yes, there is a story cutscene at the beginning that shows where the protagonist came from and how he ended up in Veetragoul. There are also a few story events throughout, as well as an ending cutscene. There is no text or narration, however. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but it will be interesting to see how people interpret certain story elements.
"Yes, I’ve very much enjoyed the process, even though it’s been quite difficult at times. In fact, it’s easily the hardest creative project I’ve worked on in my life."
Is making video games something you enjoy doing? Can we expect to see more games from you in the future?
Yes, I’ve very much enjoyed the process, even though it’s been quite difficult at times. In fact, it’s easily the hardest creative project I’ve worked on in my life. I do hope to be able to make more games. Some of that depends on the success of Octahedron. I’m no stranger to radically switching gears and starting an entirely new career, however. That’s basically the story of my life. So, who knows!
The game is now confirmed for the PS4 and Xbox One, which also means it will support the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X. Can you please let us know the resolution and frame rate it will run at on the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X? And the resolution and frame rate on the base PS4 and Xbox One versions?
To both of these questions: The internal resolution of the game is 720p. It’s essentially a pixel art game, and most of the assets are even lower res (640×360). But movement, rotation, scaling, particles and lights are calculated at 720p. The final output is 1080p on both PS4 and Xbox One. Some shaders are applied to the final 1080p frame buffer, which creates the intended look of smooth, detailed scanlines and brighter colors bleeding into them. The game runs at 60 fps. There is no difference between the base and PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions of the game.
Is there anything more you’d like to tell our readers about the game?
There is a demo available on Steam that lets you jump straight into the game and test five of its levels. You should definitely try that out! I’ve found that a lot of people who aren’t sure whether they will like the game based on trailers and screenshots get hooked the moment they pick up a controller and play it for themselves.
We’re also launching a special edition on Steam. It includes the game’s full soundtrack as well as nine playable development and prototype builds with lots of scrapped features and old levels. And there’s a 12-page document that details the design evolution of the game via these builds and explains many of the changes and differences to the final version.