November 16, 2021
Games Lift: Symmetry Break on finding words and time
Making games is a team effort. Symmetry Break are our biggest team this year; they have thought a lot about what their game is, and how they want to make it as a group. “Prospector” seems to reflect that. Communication is a crucial part of the game. Talking, it turns out, is harder than picking the right option. Read more about them and their game project in this issue of our Games Lift Incubator Log!
One thing we at the Games Lift Incubator have learned is that help takes time. Workshops and advice are essential, but they have to fit into a schedule. Symmetry Break had a challenge on top of that: They are still a small group, but they grew their team size recently. Three people in the core team and two newly added contractors are working on “Prospector” right now.
„We’re getting into a good groove,” Jan smiles. Getting there took work, of course. Anca-Stefania Tutescu and Jan Barow met at HAW Hamburg university’s Games Master program, where they bonded over their shared passion. “We love games with stories, with relatable characters,” Jan explains. “And a beautiful art style,” Anca adds. She is responsible for Project Management and Sound Design; he is writing, directing, and designing the game.
Julian Heinken is part of the core team as a programmer and tech artist. “I sold him on the game idea,” Anca smiles. “It also helped that we are flatmates,” Julian laughs. Franziska Blinde and Cecilia Theophil join the team as contractors. Both are artists educated at HAW Hamburg; Franziska paints characters and environments, while Cecilia animates everything and creates visual effects. The freshly assembled team went on to produce the pitch deck for their game that got them on the Games Lift Incubator. But at first, they had to find a common language. “Everyone brings their own vision to the game,” Julian observes. It took some time getting to know each other before they could effectively work towards their common goal.
Right now, Symmetry Break are in full swing. Work keeps accelerating on their next big goal: “A demo to show people what the game is about,” Anca says. Understanding “Prospector” can be tricky at first, because it is not just another point & click adventure. Anca sees “Prospector” as part of a “wave of much more story driven games;” the team is inspired by “Night in the Woods,” “Oxenfree” and “Disco Elysium” among others.
In “Prospector,” talking to people is not just the usual multiple-choice affair. An indicator will always show how open the character is to someone else. Saying something difficult may mean that players literally have to squeeze the dialogue option in. “When you choose an option, it can come out differently,” Anca warns. This way, Jan adds, characterization happens “not just in the options, but also in the behavior of the options.”
What Symmetry Break are not keen on are typical adventure puzzles. In Jan’s experience, they can be “pretty arbitrary” and end up hindering what he really wants to do: “going on a journey with a character.” Anca agrees: “We don’t want to encumber the gameplay with puzzles.” Self-expression, communication and the discovery of the world and its story stand at the center of “Prospector.”
Symmetry Break have a clear idea of the story they want to tell. The setting sounds enticing: A city on the brim of a crater filled with poisonous fog. Players arrive as an outsider and engage with a world in which everyone wears a mask – and is defined by it. Off the record, he is eager to explain more. But we won’t spoil anything here. “The basic arcs are clear,” Jan says.
Producing a demo for the Graduation Pitch is a big task. The team have found motivation in the workshops. Steffen Rühl’s advice on pitching game ideas has led to “massive improvements” in their presentation, Anca finds. She is determined not to take any shortcuts – especially when it comes to a running issue in the games industry: “We really want to avoid crunch in general as a team.” On that note, Julian is keen to highlight a „super helpful” contribution from a senior producer in the incubator: “Heather Chandler basically gave us the blueprint on how to manage our project.” Guidance and practical examples from her workshop have already found their way into Symmetry Break’s workflow.
After their time in the Games Lift Incubator, Symmetry Break hope to have a convincing demo to show around. Of course, they want to use it to attract funding for development. But they are looking further ahead. “We are not just building a game, but a studio.” Anca explains. She is not losing sight of her bigger goals – even when time is tight.
Symmetry Break Games will present their project publicly at the Games Lift Graduation on December 2 - register now to join us live via stream or on-site at Factory Hammerbrooklyn in Hamburg for the final presentations of all five teams of the Games Lift Incubator 2021!