INTERVIEW: Storymind Entertainment Talks About Upcoming ‘My Eyes On You’
My Eyes On You is an upcoming 3D mystery action adventure game with a neon-noir backdrop set in an alternate Chicago with a strong carnival culture.
The masterminds behind this neon-noir adventure is Ukraine-based game development company Storymind Entertainment. While the scene in Ukraine for game development is not prominent this indie studio has a rather decently sized 20 people team who has worked on some bigger titles. My Eyes on You is their debut title as a studio. Joining us today are the game director Val Daniels and writer Matthew Moffitt to share about their upcoming game.
Announcement Teaser Trailer:
What is the history of Storymind Entertainment?
Val Daniels (Game Director): I founded Storymind in March of 2015 with Tony Skeor, the Art Director on the project. I wanted to start a game development studio back in 2013 when I graduated from college, but after that didn’t work out, I worked as an account manager at the Film.UA motion picture studio. So I went to one of the directors on the studio to show what I had in mind for the game I wanted to develop. I hired an artist to draw artwork and I wrote a small synopsis for the director. The director was fascinated and in a couple of months I was given a motion capture.
I needed visuals for the game, so I called Tony, whom I met in 2013 when I tried to get started in game development. Tony is a 2D artist by trade, and he agreed to help me with the art direction, first for another game he proposed we should do. It was a neo-noir detective for which we later reshaped the story and set in Chicago and its suburbs. We called this project MY EYES ON YOU and started Storymind together.
Tell us about My Eyes On You. What is the story behind My Eyes on You?
Matthew Moffitt (Writer): My Eyes On You is a third-person action-adventure neon-noir psychological thriller video game that follows framed FBI analyst Jordan Adalien through the frigid streets of Chicago on the hunt for the serial killer known only as Carnival Man. The setting is an alternate version of Chicago where Carnevale culture permeates much of the city, as people wrestle with the man or woman they are underneath the masks that they wear.
Our game takes place five years after Carnival man claimed his last victim. The city has finally started to rest and Carnival Man has begun to fade from the forefront of the citizens’ minds… that is until a body is found two months before the Carnevale celebration with the Modus Operandi striking similar. Everyone fears the worst. And on the cusp of this fear comes Jordan Adalien, gifted but troubled analyst for the Bureau, whose fresh eyes lead to him to places and parts of himself he cannot hope to come back from.
What are the features of the game?
Val: The setting is pretty unique. The events in My Eyes On You take place in an alternative version of Chicago and its suburbs, where people wearing carnival costumes in the street is common and people live a carnival culture all year round. You will see the masks everywhere in the city. Those masks create a phenomenon of double-life in the city. A lot of decent people in the city actually do some of the most wicked things when they wear a carnival mask.
In that world, murder is seen as both a disaster and a commercial opportunity that promotes the culture of Carnival in the city. This is that ambiguity which causes a regular citizen in the city to have a compromising view on all the drama of violence that is going on in the city.
Jordan explores various locations of the city of Chicago and its suburbs. He has to deal with masked thugs known as myrmidons, with fighting mechanics like shooting, clumsy melee fights with environmental takedowns, and stealth mechanics. Jordan suffers from heightened sensory perception and it enables him to visualise more information, but makes him easily overwhelmed, prone to anxiety and disorientation when it’s too much.
Deducing the nature of the evidence found on each level is key to the game. The clues players find and choose to process will impact whether the story takes a grounded or mystical direction, as well as the resulting ending.
How long has it been in development?
Val: We founded the company in 2015; after we found the right team, we started actual production in the summer of 2016.
What is the vision of My Eyes On You?
Val: My Eyes On You’s story is a drama/tragedy. It revolves around the characters and their personal stories. Our key characters in the story will learn things totally antagonistic to their values; and pay a high price for trying to live differently.
We want to take players through the emotional experience of the characters that act like real people, to encourage them to look at such things as cause and effect, justice, and personal struggle differently. We wanna speak to people about things they feel and know, and cannot talk about and we are sure that revelations in the game will strike the players’ stance on their own values as individuals.
Has it changed from its initial idea? If so, how?
Val: From the inception of My Eyes On You we wanted to create an immersive action-adventure experience that would be based on a story that touches real-life issues in interpersonal relationships between people, and a real-life price for the choices people make. It’s hard to find stories that hand the audience the keys for them to go through struggles of life. We as a team always wanted to challenge that status quo. This agenda of ours never changed since our start.
What inspired the setting of an alternate Chicago and especially the carnival culture?
Val: Carnival culture is an interesting phenomenon. It lets people do socially unacceptable deeds without paying reputational consequences for them.
As for choosing Chicago, it’s been overgrown by legends and facts in its criminal history part. Even a recent spike in crime is another indicator for it. Second of all, Chicago is the capital of noir films, and had a series of Italian immigration waves which brought some mafia groups along with the normal folks into the city. This is the basis of our alternative version of Chicago. In the universe of My Eyes On You, Italian carnival culture has a bigger impact on the local culture than in the real place.
What are the challenges of designing a story with different endings that adapt to the player’s choices?
Val: The coding of extensive grids for choices and their outcomes has lead to ludicrous results in gameplay, especially when it comes to predicting the result of investigation based on the amount of clues and evidence found. But there’s more to it. Large narrative branching leads to an almost infinite amount of storylines. The “right” amount of storylines is hard to manage, and we have to work hard to make a game with diverse choices, enough storylines, and not to go to extremes with that. This is a serious challenge.
Matthew: As the writer, I think the major concern with narrative branching is navigating the choices — which embraces and advocates for player choice — while retaining the core elements of the story that convey our themes and character development consistently. Narrative branching can often lead to character choices that contradict the nature of the individual making that choice. It is imperative that each choice enhances the nature of the character rather than hinder it.
What have been the challenging / advantages of using motion capture during the games development?
Val: Motion capture is one of those tools that make drama look believable. Drama doesn’t work without believability. But believability means that production will be one big challenge due to the many factors to stick to, in order to make game appealing to the player on a personal level. That means a simple run to the wall to take cover will require from the actor to make 70 different moves that we’re gonna record. That’s a lot of moves!
Are you targeting any specific audience with My Eyes On You?
Val: Millennials and their parents are our audience. Especially the first group. Millennials devour stories like crazy today, and we want to deliver a story that will appeal to them.
Do you feel that there is a larger audience for indie games than there has been previously and how do you feel about the recent rise of the AAA-Indie scene?
Val: The surge in indie projects these days is possible due to the multiple ways to simplify the development. For example, the fact in recent years that engines are more accessible to small studios, gives larger indie studios a way to focus on developing a quality IP. The indie development scene today is making its first steps to challenge the status quo of who can make a quality product – that people will go and vote for with their money, and it’s really exciting to see.
With the development team being based in Ukraine, would you say that the rise of the indie game scene has now eliminated the previous geographical restrictions of where games were being produced previously?
Val: The only real obstacle to start an indie team today is a person’s inability to communicate clearly the vision of his/her project and sell it to other people who may help with production, product management and PR. That’s it. Serious.
When do you expect to release My Eyes On You?
We are aiming for a 2019 release, but of course it may not be only up to us to decide such a matter, depending on future partnerships.