Shorts: Cape Cosmic Interview Phoenotopia Awakening!

In our Patreon Page, we publish an Indie Dev Interview for our Patrons. The first one we published was from Cape Cosmic, the developer studio behind the lovely game Phoenotopia: Awakening! Emily reviewed the game for us (find her review here) and she said in her conclusion:

There is a lot to this game that is guaranteed to keep you entertained and pushing forward in the story, especially at its price point. Keep your eyes peeled for this game, because Phoenotopia: Awakening is not a game you want to miss!

We just couldn’t resist to find out more about how this game came, so we set up an interview for our Patrons (in Tier 2 and Tier 3).

The interview was such a fun read, that I just had to share a part of it with all of you. Meet programmer Quang Tran, lead artist Annamária Klimkovič and composer Will. Read how Phoenotopia was developed, how long it took and how this affected their work-life balance over the years!

Indie Dev Interview LadiesGamers
Chilling in Phoenotopia

The People Behind Cape Cosmic

Tell us about yourself and your studio, and what’s behind the name Cape Cosmic?

Q: I’m Quang Tran. I quit my job as a programmer, took what savings I had, moved back to my parents’ house, then spent 7 years doing game development. It’s been painful.

As for the name, Cape Cosmic, I like starry imagery, and I also like the name “Cape Cod”. I’ve never been there, but I think the name sounds cool. So combine the two, and voila. “Cape Cosmic”. Anna had the nice idea to make the A in “Cape Cosmic” a red triangle, to represent a mountain at the end of the universe.

A: I’m Annamária Klimkovič, and I was the lead artist for Phoenotopia – both the flash version, and PHO:A! I worked as an artist for several other indie games before, but PHO:A is the first one I worked on full-time.

W: I’m Will, aka sillythewilly, aka the composer!

What inspired you to make Phoenotopia: Awakening?

Quang: It started out as a flash tutorial project for myself. I had fairy tales and a much more humble thing in mind when it started. However, due to my inability to keep the scope creep in check, the project kept growing and growing, and that’s how the game got way oversized. The game is very unlike fairy tales now, since I let the story go where I felt natural. The finished game surprises me in a lot of ways.

The Passion That Lead to Phoenotopia

What was the biggest challenge in making Phoenotopia? How did you overcome it?

Quang: Depending on when you ask me, my answer will change since so much of it was hard. Right now, I’d say the scale of the game. There was a flash game before this that served as an “outline.” So this new Phoenotopia had to hit all the notes of the previous flash game, but scaled up and better in every way. What I thought would be little flourishes to enhance the game, like the traversable world map, ended up being huge time sinks. A small town that I cobbled together in a week in the flash game ended up being 2 months of work in the new once we fleshed it out fully, improved the graphics, added lighting, and so forth.

Annamária: I always welcome any and all challenges, and it’s my absolute pleasure to overcome them! So what ended up being tested the most during the development instead, was simply my patience. When I first started working on PHOA, I thought it would be just a couple of months tops – just polishing some of the Flash version’s graphics (back then most of the art was done by Quang!) here and there. But then the scope of work kept on growing, and all the deadlines kept just flying by us at ludicrous speed, with the finish line nowhere in sight… 

And just like that, several years passed, and here we are now, with a game that transcended the initial scopes manyfolds and that I can be sincerely proud of. Honestly, a big part of me still can’t believe it’s actually done and out!

Indie Dev Interview LadiesGamers
Image Comparison Flash and Switch

Will: I can’t deny thinking back then “Since this game is a remake of the original Flash game, I can just take the old songs and drop them in the new game, right? Easy peasy.” But one problem with the old soundtrack’s legacy was that back then I hadn’t really put much thought into things like having a unifying theme underlying everything. Trying to do that for the new soundtrack was tricky since the existing older songs already had their melodies set in stone. I ended up choosing to preserve the familiarity and nostalgia of the older songs while weaving the main theme into some of the newer songs.

Want to read more?

Want to see how long it took to make Phoenotopia Awakening and what main tools were used to develop it, like specifics on the making of the soundtrack. What brought the most joy to Quang, Annamária and Will when making the game. Was it possible to have a good work-life balance during the years it took to make the game? And what advice can they give everyone who wants to develop a game themselves?

You can, by becoming a Patron in Tier 2 or 3! 

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