November 11, 2022
Games Lift: Team ACAS get along with nuts and sledgehammers
Few games look as disarming from a distance: About Cannons & Sparrows is a metroidvania that starts with a small cannon hatching from an inconspicuous egg. The seasoned animation pros of Team ACAS may not have a finished game yet, but they do have a strong vision.
Unfinished games look the part. This is normal. When developing a gameplay prototype, people use placeholder assets. This may explain a widespread reaction upon seeing About Cannons & Sparrows for the first time: Many want to start playing it immediately. The game looks like it is ready to publish, with a richly detailed setting. Viewers see a cute cannon hatching and moving with character and purpose. And because the cutscene looks better than in many finished games, they tend to expect a project in an advanced state.
Niko Tziopanos hits the brakes laughing: "The game is still in its infancy!" When the incubator program started, nothing was in a playable state. But that is changing quickly. Team ACAS are a team of professionals on equal ground. Niko is responsible for animation, and is learning to code. Joining him as co-founders are Martin Hess, who does game design and story, and Daniel Balzer. He is handling concept art, touching up assets and "making everything 3D pretty," he explains.
As a team, company and studio, the three have come together for exactly this vision: About Cannons & Sparrows is the playful name of their game. It refers to a German figure of speech – cannons shooting at sparrows are akin to sledgehammers cracking nuts. The metaphor is turned on its head when a freshly hatched cannon tries to get over a useless conflict.
About Cannons & Sparrows does not just aim to be a joy to watch. It wants to be fun to play, too. Team ACAS envision a Metroidvania that combines varied fights, puzzles and storytelling, with a visual identity that stands out.
The beguiling look of About Cannons & Sparrows is no wonder. Daniel, Martin and Niko bring decades of professional experience, having produced content for film, television and advertising in various design roles. But they have their own vision. They finally want to tell their own stories. "Changing industries after 25 years is not an easy step to take," says Daniel. Before the incubator, the team still wrestled with uncertainties. What would await them in a program like the Games Lift Incubator?
The atmosphere in the incubator is "cuddly", like coming in from the cold, explains Martin. His colleagues laugh and nod. At Gamecity Hamburg, Niko has found people with an "extreme interest" in the game projects they support, people that are in it with all their hearts, he says. "This is not just any public funding program."
In the program, the team has also found many of their skills from design and media production to be compatible with game development. A capable programmer is also at hand: Maxi from Team Metacore, also involved in this year’s Incubator, (Games Lift Log about Team Metacore/) is helping and giving pointers. This kind of synergy between teams is one of the program’s strengths. The workshops made a difference, too. Here, the three of them got to discuss and refine their presentation, so that they now "really feel comfortable" pitching to publishers, Daniel says.
The incubator is well underway. Team ACAS aims to show something special at the finish line: a playable prototype that makes the game’s strengths not only visible, but tangible, too.
After the incubator, the project will go public. And the team is planning to grow. Programmers, Game Designer and Level Designers are wanted. The three media pros do not want to just build skills between themselves, but look forward to new input. "People should come in and bring their own ideas," Daniel says.
The expectation seems reasonable. The trio routinely gets "flooded with new ideas" from the audience after showing the game around, says Daniel. That’s a positive for him. Team ACAS have something to say; but they are here to listen.
This article is part of our Games Lift Log series, in which we share peeks behind the scenes of our Games Lift Incubator program and portrait the teams that joined the incubator program this year. Find more articles below the video.