Tengami Interview With Designer Phil Tossell
We learn more about this beautifully crafted pop-up game.
Earlier today, we had a chance to play through an early section of Nyamyam's upcoming iPad game, Tengami. Created by a talented team of former Rare developers, the game takes its inspiration from the mechanics of pop-up books to create some truly unique puzzles set in ancient Japan. We just posted a preview, and we also spoke to programmer and designer Phil Tossell about the origins of the game, and the next stages of development.
Can you give us some background on your development history, how Nyamyam was formed and how you came to create Tengami?
We met while we were working at Rare on Kinect Sports, and then we all decided we wanted to do our own thing so we set up Nyamyam. Then we were just trying to think of what we were going to do for our first game and we all loved Japanese culture, the more traditional side of it, and I guess we just threw ideas around.
I personally liked pop-up books from when I was a kid, and I was fascinated by how they opened, how they closed, their mechanics. Somehow, we came up with this combination of Japanese styling with these pop-up kind of mechanics. It took us a long time to develop and build the technology.
How long did it take you to reach the point where you could say the concept really works?
A scarily long time! Probably over a year before we had something. We had to build these tools to work within the 3D modeling tools that we use. It's all custom stuff, and we were trying to work out the math of it, how does it work. It was scary sometimes, because we were thinking 'Is this going to work? How long will it take?' When we kind of got it together it was really exciting.
So have you funded this yourselves, or do you have external backing?
It's completely self-funded, and it's something that we strongly believe in. We didn't want any compromises to what we were making, or time pressures, or people saying you can't do this, you can't do that. We also felt that the concept would have been hard to sell up-front. It's quite unusual.
So you would've spent that year just to get something to show people anyway?
I don't think we could have shown anything to anyone before the first year. That's why we're self-funded.
You mentioned that the game was six-to-nine months away. What's left to do now? What are you focusing on at the moment?
We submitted a version to IndieCade, then we were doing a version for Rezzed. We've been trying to get the first level that was representative of what the game would be so we could show people, get some feedback, hopefully improve on what we have and then, essentially, just flesh it out with more content and different settings.
We're still kind of learning what's possible with the mechanics and what kind of things we can do. What we have now is significantly better than what we had for IndieCade about six weeks ago. So the rate of progress is really quick now.
We loved the section where you had to pull on tabs to make progress: of course they're in there, it's a popup book! Will there be more of these types of mechanics?
All the mechanics are based on real mechanisms you can build with paper or scissors, and we wanted the whole game to be authentic, both in the pop-up aspect and the Japanese culture. All the mechanics are based on opening and closing, pull-strips, and there are a few other ones we haven't shown, some rotational ones. Then there are combinations of those.
[B]Can you just talk a little bit about how you came to work with Ryo Agarie [game artist based in Japan]?[/B]
We all worked at Rare. I was there for 13 years and Ryo was there for about 10 years, something like that. Jennifer [Schneidereit] was a relative newcomer and she'd only been there for like two years. I'd been friends with Ryo for a long time, and we'd talked about doing something together. It just came together when Jennifer came along and we had the right mix of skills.
My background is as a programmer and Jennifer's a designer/programmer. And Ryo's a really good artist. So it just seemed to come together that it was the right mix of people.
Will Tengami be released for the iPhone as well or just iPad? Does the smaller screen do the game justice?
If we can get it on there we well. It's been specifically designed for iPad, because we believe the two markets are actually quite different, the kind of games people want. The bigger screen, the bigger area to interact with. If we can get it to work [on iPhone] then we will.
But it has a better chance to shine on the iPad?
Absolutely yes. iPad is the lead platform, and then we will look at other platforms that we feel can do the game justice. If we can get it on PC and Mac...
Yeah, we're not committing to that at the moment because it's a bit more of a fragmented market and we don't know enough about it. We're only three people, so we have to just take one step at a time. iPad, and then probably as soon as we've done that we'll look at PC and Mac and how much work that's going to be.