I love Indie games and when I found out an old friend, Andy Deemer, was making his own adventure game in Bangalore, India called The Stormglass Protocol, I had to ply him with questions for my favorite gaming community, TAY. I met Andy in Beijing where he was running what he describes in the interview as “a propaganda magazine for China’s oldest publishing house.” He was part of the early staff for GameSpot, kickstarted a new religion, has a website dedicated to obscure stuff from Asia, was a producer on a Lloyd Kaufmann film (the same Kaufmann who is director of cult classics like the Toxic Avenger), and writes for the Huffington Post. Here’s a trailer for the game:
Tieryas: How did The Stormglass Protocol come about?
Andy Deemer: Like many of the amazing projects I've gotten to work on, including GameSpot and My God, this was actually my older brother's idea. He called me one night to talk about a top-secret spy agency for kids, called Stormglass, and as we started to discuss the mythology behind it, I got hooked. I was living in Beijing at the time, running a propaganda magazine for China's oldest publishing house, and looking for a way out. I figured this was it.
It's more than just an iPad adventure-puzzle game — there's also a young adult novel that just came out, The Stormglass Protocol, co-written by the award-winning author Tim Pratt and me. It's a good old action novel with great heroes, awful nemeses, and some terrific fun.
Tieryas: Why an adventure game versus any other genre?
AD: I've always loved the dark-humored, slightly off-beat, adventure games — you know, like Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide, Grim Fandango, GLaDOS and Portal, and wonderful new games coming out like The Room and Limbo. I really wanted to do something like that, and as the reviews mention, there are nods to all of these. (As well as one or two to Monty Python, and an entire level based on Terry Gilliam's Brazil.)
But as we did with Poultrygeist, and as Lloyd Kaufman has done at Troma ever since The Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'Em High, I wanted this game to work as political commentary as well. It's not exactly Occupy iPad — something that would be an interesting movement — but it is a 98% attack on the megaconglomerates.
At first it plays like a series of disconnected puzzles, but as you work through it — perhaps like a PunchDrunk production — the story will slowly emerge, and then eventually everything comes together like a 16-level jigsaw puzzle.
Tieryas: Why did you guys choose Bangalore, India and what is it like working there?
AD: My brother was already living and working in Bangalore, and I've always dreamed of living in India, so it made perfect sense. Inside the office, it's like working at any Silicon Valley start-up. Outside the office it's frantically-honking autorickshaws and wandering cows.
(Random Picture of Bangalore, India I found from Wiki)
Tieryas: Can you (in general terms) describe the day to day life in the studio?
AD: The team is small — only about 10 people — with a handful of developers, a handful of 3D guys, a designer, a QA chap, and me. With such a small team, we obviously work closely together, building out ideas and story-lines and puzzles. Normally we'll spend a few hours brainstorming out the next room, based on the existing storyline, and what puzzles can go into it. We do everything with agile methodology, generally working in two-week sprints, keeping the 3D team a sprint or two ahead of the developers.
Tieryas: You’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and you’ve also documented a lot of the weird sights in Asia on your site, AsiaObscura. How does that influence your creative approach to, well, everything?
AD: Ahhhh, AsiaObscura.com. It's funny — the site started out as an unnamed journal. I was traveling a lot in Asia, visiting abandoned amusement parks, obscure medical museums, cultural revolution reenactment dinners, and felt that I really needed to post the pictures somewhere other than Facebook. So I started posting to wordpress, just for fun, and then more and more people started linking in. All of a sudden my videos were on the (hack) Daily Mail site, BoingBoing and io9 were linking in, Cambodian and Chinese newspapers started picking up my stories.
So AsiaObscura — and Asia — didn't influence much at all. The site is just a reflection of my fascination with the eccentric, unfamiliar, and completely foreign. When I was living in Kentucky or North Carolina, had I been blogging at the time, it would be about my trips to rundown mystery houses and spelunking landmarks, or adventures in cooking whole pigs. As it is, it's more about my adventures going to rural Chinese taxidermy schools or training to be a Laotian mahout and tour guide.
Tieryas: Experimentation, particularly of human nature, seems to be one of the themes that you explore across all the different platforms. What have you learned and what do you hope to learn?
AD: I'm not sure if it's experimentation or exploration... but the line between the two is perhaps a wobbly one. I thrive, absolutely, on exploration, adventures, and fulfilling dreams. The number of dreams I have are huge, but I'm working to knock them off one-by-one. And — living in India, writing my first novel, building my first game — I'm doing my best!
Peter Tieryas blogs at tieryas.wordpress.com. I don't know what he blogs about though.