Exclusive Q&A with Creative Director and Co-Founder Simon Fellah who was told he was mad when he wanted to create a crystal AAA environment on a mobile platform.
How did you come up with the idea of Returner 77? (how did it all start)
David (Simon’s brother and co-founder) and I have had this idea to make a sci-fi story for years. We both grew up with the love for science fiction. And over the years we’ve been dreaming to create a comic book, a movie – it’s been a lot of things. Last year we realized there was an opportunity to do a sci-fi, mobile puzzle game. There was nothing alike on the market, and we figured we could fit in sci-fi puzzle game with a dose of mystery. And that it was doable without being a huge AAA title.
How did you create the environment in which Returner 77 take place?
We had a lot of talks about how we wanted Returner 77 to look like. The game as it is now, is quite different from the first ideas, and that is always the case when creating anything – I guess. The beginning is always extremely creative – you can do anything and everything, and then comes the time when you have to scale it down to figure out what is actually doable.
Returner 77 looks and feels somehow like the first ideas, but it has been changed by pragmatism and real life – time, budget, performance on mobile – all those factors influenced how Returner 77 changed shape from the early ideation days. We had to find a way to build the environments in a cheap way – that still looked expensive.
We decided to use a game engine early and decided on Unity, as that allowed us to create beautiful and engaging mobile content.
The final game is not that far from the beginning – it’s even better.
How do you decide what ideas get cut out?
We have super skilled team members, deciding what goes into the game, and what doesn’t is a matter of experience and testing. Some things, we know very quickly are not doable, and some things are worth testing.
We worked hard on pushing the limits and now we have extremely nice crystals and it really works well. But I have to say: it was not easy.
Every time we come up with a new idea, we have to think how to turn it into reality, and if we can’t get it exactly how we planned, we brainstorm, twist a little thing here and there, work around the problem, and test again, to make sure that the idea is just as good and interesting as initially.
The really difficult part is also realizing something cannot be done. I think it’s fair to say that only 20% of our ideas actually make it into the game. We’ve had so many ideas that would have been beautiful or intriguing but didn’t end up in the game. Not only because of resources, but also because of time, or maybe they didn’t make much sense because the narrative also has changed.
What is/was your favorite part of the process of designing Returner 77?
The feeling of people working together. That feeling of ideas giving birth, seeing that everything is possible and finding a way to do it. Seeing another person have a great idea because of what you just talked about or coming up with a great solution you would never think of on your own.