Toryanse, video game, box art, woman, commuters, cat, shopping bags

Interview: Toryansé

A game that stood out for Kim was lovely point-and-click adventure Toryansé, and creator Nick Preston has answered some of our questions about the title.


Title overview

Name: Toryansé
Developer: Nick Preston
Publisher: Nick Preston
Release date: To be announced
PEGI rating: Not listed
Platforms: To be announced
More information: Official website

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Kim says…

According to the official website, Toryansé is a graphic adventure game about a a woman in the midst of an existential crisis who follows a mysterious stranger she meets on the train home (we wouldn’t recommend you do this whilst on the tube in London – you might end up following Phil, and that’s just dangerous). Players are able to exert a gentle influence over the thoughts and actions of the protagonist, the characters she encounters and the environment that surrounds her and as with all good point-and-clicks there will be plenty of items to collect, puzzles to solve, conversations to have and numerous locations to explore.

We came across Toryansé in the Leftfield Collection at EGX, and decided to sit down to play the demo after… we admit it… we saw the cat in the promotional art! What we were presented with ended up being a lovely little adventure with gorgeous artwork that presented a nice challenge, and we can’t wait to see more as development progresses. Thank you to Nick Preston for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions about his first project.

Can you tell us a little about your background and what made you decide to start making Toryansé?

Nick: “I’m from Northern Ireland originally, I moved to Scotland in my twenties to do an animation degree. After that I moved down towards London to study sound effects (SFX) and visual effects (VFX) at the National Film and Television School. From there I moved to Dublin and got a job in a studio specializing in VFX and animation for advertising and stayed there for several years. After that I kind of fell into working freelance for studios in London and Amsterdam, again focussing mostly on advertising and broadcast. In the last few years I’ve been trying to split my time a much as possible between contracts and my own personal, creative work; it’s been tricky getting that balance right.

“Making a game is something I’ve wanted to do since I started playing them as a child, but it’s only recently though that it’s felt like an actual possibility and not just a silly fantasy. I was initially drawn to animation because I felt like it combined several of the subjects I was interested in without limiting my options (I figured I could be building houses or painting pictures without confining myself to an architecture or fine-art degree!) and I think games provide an even greater amount of scope as a medium. A point-and-click adventure seemed like a good place to start as they tend to be very art-focused, not to mention the fact I also really enjoy playing them.”

Are you a gamer yourself? If so, do you have any preferred genres or favourite titles?

Nick: “Hmm, I don’t think I’ve ever really described myself as a gamer. To be honest I hesitate to call myself anything that might imply an extensive knowledge of any subject! I love films, but the number of times I’ve mentioned that in a pub and then sat uncomfortably while everyone around me talks excitedly about famous ones I’ve never seen. Same goes for art, music and literature, all things I’m super passionate about, but I would never really describe myself as a ‘buff’ with regards to any of them.

“Having said all that, I have been playing games since I was three or four (Jet Set Willy and Dizzy on a ZX Spectrum+ and a black-and-white television!) and alongside the array of amazing kids TV we had in the UK at the time, games were a huge influence on me wanting to go to art college rather than university. The first one that really made a substantial impact on me was Another World by Eric Chahi; I can still vividly remember the first time I saw it, being played by a guy behind the counter in a really tiny games shop in my home town. It was a scene where you have to outrun a torrent of water by skipping over holes in a cave floor, and if the water caught up with you you were presented with a couple of seconds of a drowning cutscene. It was startlingly different to anything I was playing at the time – stylized graphics, muted palette, realistic, rotoscoped animation. I played it again when it was re-released for its twentieth anniversary and from the opening sequence to the end it is still completely flawless, and is a massive influence on Toryansé both in terms of style but also in its completely hands-off approach to puzzles.

“Point-and-click adventures are obviously a genre I love too, with Monkey Island and Sam & Max probably my favourites out of the classics, though I was also a big fan of Beneath a Steel Sky. It’s definitely a genre that has seen a resurgence in the last few years with people making great new games in the classic mould like the Blackwell series by Dave Gilbert but also plenty using the format as a jumping off point for something new, like Botanicula from Amanita Design or Cardboard Computer’s amazing Kentucky Route Zero.

“Outside of adventures I tend to go for games I have to switch my conscious brain off while playing. Recently that’s mostly been Spelunky, with occasional bouts of Luftrausers and Broforce.”

We first came across Toryansé at this year’s EGX, where we spent an enjoyable half-hour playing the demo. How did you find the event and are you hoping to attend Rezzed in March?

Nick: “So glad you enjoyed it! The event was pretty amazing! I had a bad start with a couple of major technical hitches, but everyone was really understanding. It was the first time I’d ever attended anything even resembling a convention and I was slightly concerned with how I’d fit in. I think most creative folk suffer to some extent with imposter syndrome; I’m still not completely comfortable calling myself a developer, I don’t code at all so I have nightmare visions of people quizzing me on maths or something. But everyone I met was super lovely and they all had their own, different approaches to making what they were making.

“I got so much out of watching so many people play through the demo too. It was amazing to be able to go back to the hotel in the evening and make some small changes, then come back the next day and see the difference! I can’t imagine another set-up that would provide that kind of insight and access. I’d love to attend more events next year if possible, got my eye on Rezzed certainly and also the Tokyo Game Show if I can scrape together the funds!”

All information within Toryansé is conveyed through illustrated thought and speech bubbles. What made you decide to go in this direction?

Nick: “I think the idea came from a few different places. Bad voice-overs are a huge problem for an adventure game; hearing a poorly delivered line once is enough to wrench a player out of the most engrossing scene and hearing the same, awful line repeatedly while trying to solve a tricky puzzle is just torturous. It’s also something I’m not really used to as none of the adventures I played growing up had voice acting. The first time I encountered it was probably Simon the Sorcerer and I have to admit I turned it off immediately. Just using text didn’t really appeal either. I’m not much of a writer and I feared that my descriptions would be too ‘on-the-nose’; awkward dialogue is another sure-fire way to destroy the atmosphere of a scene. I really loved the way Amanita handled the little cutscenes and flashbacks in Machinarium as they conveyed so much, quickly and without taking you away from the game. As I mentioned before, Another World, though not a traditional adventure game, has tons of great examples of puzzles with solutions that suggest themselves through context and trial and error rather than clear instructions. I think finding your way through a game with as few signposts as possible makes the times when your thought process matches up with the designer’s all the more exciting!”

Something we liked was how the player could complete actions ‘outside’ of the protagonist, such as the shaking of a plant to release pollen. Will we see this mechanic used further throughout the game?

Nick: “This is very much a core mechanic for the game! The concept is basically that the player assumes the role of the cursor rather than the main character, kind of a guiding spirit in a way. I think that direct, tactile interaction is something that’s very often missing from adventure games; ideally I want every room to be interesting to explore in and of itself. Sometimes the little reactions will just be for fun while others, like the flower in the demo, will be necessary to complete puzzles. Pixel-hunting is something that a lot of people complain about in adventure games, but I’m hoping it can be turned into something enjoyable!”

Toryansé is currently being made for PC, Mac and Linux, but touch control would really suit its gameplay. Will you be considering this in the future?

Nick: “Definitely, I’ve already started testing touch and controller support but a full implementation won’t be finished until after the desktop release. At the moment I’m the sole developer and not a particularly technical one at that! Each new platform comes with its own learning curve and I just don’t have the time or resources to support everything simultaneously. (Also I noticed you did a little article on eye-tracking recently? I didn’t realize they were at EGX unfortunately but that’s another control system I’d love to investigate when I have the time!)”

The visual style is gorgeous, and and the use of light and shade is excellent. Were any influences behind this?

Nick: “Thank you! Being a 3D-artist first and foremost, I pretty much start with the visuals and work from there. I have ideas for environments and characters and the story and puzzles spring mostly from there. In terms of other games, I have to say Another World yet again! I also love the look of early 3D games like Frontier and Trex Warrior too. More recent games lurking in my inspiration folder include Journey, Sword & Sworcery and Capy’s upcoming Below which looks incredible!

“I also find a lot of my inspiration away from games, artists like Joanne Nam, Aurélie Neyret, Guillaume Ospital, Qin Leng… I could probably fill a whole page! If you’re interested, I keep a reasonably regular blog for inspiration here.

“A lot of films have had a major influence on me as well. Pretty much everything that’s come out of Studio Ghibli in the last thirty years, though I do have a particular fondness for My Neighbour Totoro. Three Colours: Blue and The Double Life of Véronique by Kieślowski are super inspiring both visually and thematically as are Chunking Express, In The Mood for Love and 2046 by Wong Kar Wai, Christopher Doyle’s cinematography standing out particularly in those.”

EGX was a pretty noisy event and we couldn’t really hear much of the game! Can you tell us about its soundtrack, if there is one?

Nick: “The soundtrack is still something I’m thinking about. At the moment there is just a sparse, ambient track and a few spot effects that I’ve cobbled together out of bits and pieces from Freesound.org. Music is a tricky thing to consider; it has such a huge impact on atmosphere and tone and yet is something I would have to almost entirely trust to somebody else! I have been talking to Jonas Kjellberg since last year, and so far he has written a couple of tracks that I’ll be using for trailers, etc. Still not one-hundred percent sure what I want in the game though. He did the amazing soundtrack for Unmechanical which is a really interesting blend of score and environmental sound. He’s also a dab hand with a wind orchestra! So I’m pretty confident he’ll be able to come up with something amazing whatever form we finally settle on!”

Can you tell us which component of Toryansé you’re currently working on? How are you feeling about its release?

Nick: “The last couple of months I’ve been focussed on getting the demo playable, getting the inventory, the user interface (UI), scene loading, etc to work, all the necessary technical bits and pieces. This week I’m really excited to get back to what I love doing, which is designing and modelling! So far all the artwork I’ve been sharing has been quite dark and moody; I’m currently working on a little garden, which will have a sunny lighting set-up as well as a night-time one, so I’m looking forward to getting some brighter colours into the mix!”

Is there any advice you’d give to someone thinking of making an indie game?

Nick: “Try and carve out as much time and space for yourself as is possible depending on your circumstances, then define a project that makes sense in terms of scale to fit into that. After that just jump right in! It is such an amazing time to be making things at the moment; the last few years especially have seen so many tools appearing that allow the less technically minded to produce amazing stuff. Start with what you know and love and see what’s already out there that lets you adapt that. If you’re a writer, check out Twine; if you’re an illustrator, you could be making visual novels with Ren’Py; if you’re a designer there are loads of options for getting your ideas across with premade assets – worry about custom artwork later, stick to what you can do on your own to begin with. If you come from any kind of digital-art background, 3D, motion graphics, etc you will have zero problems adapting to Unity, and if like me you’re code illiterate, check out one of the visual scripting plugins to go alongside it. I’m a huge fan of PlayMaker!

“As well as freeing you up to focus on what you actually enjoy doing, a lot of these tools have the added bonus of coming with supportive communities as well! Say hi, ask for advice, make friends!”

What does the future hold for both Toryansé and yourself?

Nick: “The next big milestone I’m aiming for is a more stable, more substantial demo. There are several mechanical issues that I’m aware of now after EGX that need sorting out. I also want to try and include a bit more of the variety of puzzles and environments that will be in the final game. I’m very tentatively aiming for early next year for the new demo, then after that I’ll hopefully be able to better estimate a final release for the full game. I will also have to look into the more business-y side of things in the next few months; it would be great to be able to focus full time on Toryansé next year and for that I’ll have to organize some funding, whether that takes the form of a Kickstarter, partnering with a publisher or something else I’m not quite sure yet!”

A big thank you to Nick for talking to us and sharing more about his title. It seems as if there is still a lot of work that needs to happen before we get a full game, but we love what we’ve seen of Toryansé so far – we’ll be the first backers if that Kickstarter campaign happens! This is definitely an adventure to keep an eye on and we’ll bring you more news as we receive it.

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