Describing a new video game as ‘X meets Y’ is always a risk. For one, it’s usually a crutch for people who cannot articulate what makes a game interesting or unique. Moreover, if it’s your own game you’re discussing, you risk setting unrealistic expectations if your description is off-target.
Still, Pixel Molotov’s description of its new Xbox Indie title FromPulse as ‘Guitar Hero meets Mario meets Alan Wake’ is an awfully good pitch, not least because it sets the mind racing as to how this mash-up could possibly work.
“FromPulse came from a simple idea: open up the rhythmical genre to provide a concrete musical experience featuring historical setting, engaging storyline, endearing characters and top-notch graphics,” explains one of the game’s creators, 25-year-old Julian Maroda, who settled on the idea for FromPulse when considering how one might render a rhythm action game as a platformer.
“I don’t exactly recall how it all started, but I remember thinking one day: wouldn’t a rhythmical game be more engaging if the player controlled an avatar in a world that was real and tangible?,” he explains. “And with that, another question I had: why do side-crollers always scroll right? Merging the two ideas together, I began working on a prototype made with Blender to really nail the concept. That’s how FromPulse was born.”
Maroda came to Montreal from Belgium in 2010 to study game design at Campus Ubisoft. After graduating he landed a job at ODD1 Inc, a small independent Canadian studio where he met Arnaud Contri, Régis Cajet and Jean-René Alain. The four co-workers teamed up to form Pixel Molotov and began working on FromPulse in their spare time.
“We’ve been working on the game for about 18 months now,” says Maroda. “We had zero experience in making real time 3D games, so we learned the hard way! The reason we chose the XBLIG over other platforms was because we had a limited budget and were longing to make a console game. XBLIG was faring well so it was the logical choice.”
In FromPulse you play as Vegah, a child made from music whose planet is under attack and who travels back in time to find save it. Played to an incessant soundtrack from electro composer Cirius, your task is to press the correct buttons at the correct moments in order to help Vegah jump, shrink, vault and swell through obstacles, sort of like if PaRappa the Rapper had been a triathlete instead of a tiny rapper. Your performance even affects how the story unfolds.
“We focused on the gameplay and visuals right from the start,” says Maroda, “The latter presented the greatest challenge. The whole story with Vegah, the Ollopas and the characters you meet along the way came about half way through development, even though we knew we always wanted to implement some kind of narrative in order to deepen the experience.
The team has created FromPulse while working full-time in their day jobs. “It was so hard to complete the project with such limited time!,” says Maroda. “There were many sacrifices. We had to stay up late at night after work to try to push the game forward. Our social lives took quite a toll frankly. But being an indie, it gave us the freedom to create the very game that we intended to make, without having anybody telling us what to do. We don’t have to worry about making it profitable, which has proved to be a liberating feeling.”
For Pixel Molotov, this sense of liberation has already inspired them to jump into their next project: “We’ve already started working on our next game, taking into account all the experience we’ve acquired by developing FromPulse. This time, we intend to release our next project within a 9 months frame, which is about half the time it took us to create our first game. And the platform will be different too, since we wish to try our hands at the mobile development. We’ll see where this will carry us from there.”
It’s refreshing to hear a team of developers so energised at the end of a long project. Maroda is keen to encourage others to make their game ideas reality, and to press on to completion. “Do not wait to start a project if you’ve got ideas,” he says. “No matter what you end up doing, or how you end up doing it, it is the best experience you can ever dream of. And most importantly, give it all you have to finish it. It is so easy to grow tired on a project sometimes and get demotivated, but you have to pull yourself together and press to the end, for the result is always worth it.”
FromPulse is out Thursday 25th October, priced at 80 MSP on the Xbox Indie Game channel.