The highly anticipated and gorgeous looking action adventure Ary and the Secret of Seasons that lets you toy with the power of the seasons is out today on pc, PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Launching a game simultaneously on pc and consoles always feels like a bit of a miracle, but pulling it off during a worldwide pandemic required clearing some additional challenges. We recently caught up with eXiin founder Sébastien Le Touze to hear more about Ary’s adventurous development journey and future plans. But first, let’s check out this magical launch trailer!
While main character Aryelle – Ary for short – learns to control the power of the seasons, the developers often felt like they were thrown around by circumstances out of their control. “Back at the beginning of March, we started to get really worried about the coronavirus. We had a team member whose wife was expecting, and an intern with a known heart condition, so we didn’t want to take any risks and started working remotely even before the government initiated the lockdown.”, explains Le Touze.
In terms of organisation this wasn’t a big problem. Game companies are well equipped to keep the lights on with teams working from home. On top of that eXiin was used to working with its US based publisher Modus Games and co-developer Fishing Cactus, who were mainly in charge of the console ports.
Still productivity on Ary started to dwindle. Le Touze: “One third of the team worked more than they would’ve at the office, one third did roughly the same, and one third fell a bit behind. Some people are less fit to work from home, and tasks that would’ve taken them half a day in the office, now sometimes took them three or four days.” With just the single stand-up meeting in the morning, developers that took a wrong turn somewhere often lost an entire day worth of work. “In the office that would’ve never happened.”
But it wasn’t just the people that caused production issues. “Everything gets slower”, sighs Le Touze. “Whenever you need somebody to test something, they have to download the latest version of the build. Depending on the platform, that’s between 8 to 20 gigs of data. From the local network this doesn’t take more than a minute. But when you’re at home with various connection speeds and stability, it may take you several hours. When it turns out there’s something wrong with the build, you have to download it again and you’ve lost another day.” When the team was working from home Ary was nearing the end of production and that’s precisely the stage when it’s all about testing and debugging. “We only were able to test one or two builds per day, instead of ten or twenty.”
Initially pegged for a June release, the team realised they weren’t going to make it, so the game was postponed to the end of July. However, the pandemic also left its mark on Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft. “Three days after announcing the new release date, we got word from the console manufacturers that they wouldn’t be able to get the physical version of the game ready by then. Technically, we could have released the game on time in July, but we didn’t want to spread out the release on various platforms.”
So is the driving creative force behind the game happy about where he’s at on September 1? “I’m never going to be happy with it.” He’s not even joking. “Let’s face it. We are a small team that made a very, very ambitious game. I created the type of game I love, knowing fully well a 3D action adventure is a hard genre to develop. Even an FPS is easier to do.” Bottom line: eXiin are aware there’s still some bugs and they will continue to fix them in the coming months.
Bugs or not, last week the game got nominated for Best Family Game at the gamescom awards, which they unfortunately didn’t win. The graphical style might lead some people to believe that the game is aimed at a younger or family audience, but Le Touze doesn’t completely agree with that. “The way I designed Ary was to make it feel like a game that you’ve played during the PS2 era. A lot of people say the game feels like a remaster of an earlier game and that was exactly what we were going for. Another thing we wanted to achieve was to make the world, story, and characters resemble a Disney movie. Disney scenarios aren’t all rainbow and flowers. They can get very dark, and the story of Ary goes to some dark places as well.
Speaking of Disney, Le Touze mentions he would love to turn Ary into an animated series. As animation and movie studios are quickly embracing powerful and versatile game engines like Unreal Engine and Unity, films and games have never been closer, so the time is right. Apart from that, he’d love to create a special PS5-version of the game. “That is of course up to Modus Games, and I guess they’ll wait to see what happens with the release. But those are things I would really like to do”, he concludes.