Hello Gamezebo readers! I’m Brian, the programmer and studio head at Vellum Interactive. Vellum Interactive is a small studio with an ambitious project, and we wanted to share some of the goals and decisions we are making during the development of our mobile game Telekinesis Kyle.
Telekinesis Kyle is a 3D mobile puzzle platformer. Users play as Kyle, a smart but awkward kid with telekinetic powers. After his “gift” is discovered, Kyle is sent away to what purports to be a school for gifted children. Kyle quickly realizes that the school is just a front for a military experiment inside of a sinister mountain fortress, and he is held captive for testing. Using telekinetic powers, you must help Kyle escape the mountain fortress by solving puzzles along the way.
Our goal was to make the most immersive game possible on mobile devices. Our definition of immersion means creating a game with a strong story, natural controls and artistically engaging visuals. In order to accomplish this goal, we had to overcome a few limitations on the mobile platform.
Firstly, we had to make a great story that could be told over a mobile device. Story is much harder to deliver on mobile, as people will sometimes only play bits and pieces of the game as they wait in line, sit in meetings, or walk between classes. Because of the short time span of each play session, most users don’t care about story or don’t follow it. I am even guilty of impatiently tapping through cut-scenes, dialog and story pieces. We believe we have developed a system that will overcome these issues, but I will save those details for another entry.
Our second obstacle was the user interface and controls. We wanted to develop a UI and control scheme that was as intuitive and minimal as the devices it would be played on. The control scheme was the hardest to tackle, but our goal was to eliminate the frustration that platform games can cause when played on mobile devices. If you have every tried to play a game with an on-screen joystick, d-pad, or precision buttons, you have undoubtedly shared my frustration.
Touch screens cannot provide the tactile feedback needed for precision platformers. We solved this dilemma by developing a custom movement engine. You no longer have to worry about your finger slipping off a “button” as you time your jump just right, because Kyle will automatically jump for you (keep posted for more details on this system!).
The UI was a bit easier to solve: we removed it (well, most of it). Don’t worry, we still have game menus and pause screens, but we removed everything except the pause button and a Telekinesis Meter. You can even turn off the TK meter in the options. This leaves the user with a clear view of the problem at hand: solving the puzzle in front of you.
Our third goal was to create a rich environment that highlighted the themes of the story. One of the themes is how out-of-place and awkward Kyle’s character is. We ended up creating a realistic looking world, but a cel-shaded Kyle. This made Kyle really stand out around his surroundings. This is made especially clear as the story and the environment begin to get darker and scarier. We have much more artistic details to discuss, but as with other juicy details, I will save those for a later discussion.
About Vellum Interactive
Vellum Interactive was founded in July 2012 by Brian Reinhart and Daniel Luecke because of their life-long desire to create video games. We started the company with a few simple 2D games like the endless runner, DreamCat, but decided it was time to tackle a truly ambitious project. We hired Atlanta based sound designer Thomas Dalhberg, and we hired our first 3D artist, Delfin Diaz. We started work on Telekinesis Kyle in December 2012.