This is Part 1 of a two-part series about the design and development behind the game To Azimuth. Return to Tech Times Friday to learn more about the ideas and process game maker Zachery Sanford used in creating the game.
There might be extraterrestrials in the freshly greenlit adventure game called To Azimuth - just might - but creator Zachery Sanford, co-founder of [bracket]games, the studio producing the game, says it's more about the narrative surrounding the lives of three siblings than a life-changing event.
Playing out against the backdrop of Alabama in the 1970s, To Azimuth relates the tale of a brother and a sister, Nate and Susannah, searching for a sibling named Eli who may have been abducted by an alien.
Sanford says he chose Alabama as the location as it's where most of his family lives and is a state he knows well. To Azimuth is born of Sanford's fascination with science fiction, specifically the X-Files. The game maker says alien abductions have fascinated him since he was a kid and he believes the accounts have a "real emotional weight to them."
Inspiration was drawn from the game Kentucky Route Zero (KRZ), a magical realistic adventure game, as well as from Another World, says Sanford, who ultimately tossed the game's orignal format, a 2D presentation, for 3D in order to craft the dollhouse-style presentations To Azimuth now delivers.
For example, when a character walks into a room everything falls into place: bookshelves, beds, boxes and whatever items are meant to adorn the room. The inverse takes places when a character exits a room.
With regard to the game's controller, Sanford says the day-one decision to support the gamepad was made to encourage as deep a bond as possible between players and characters. Directional-pad guidance can engage players more than issue-movement orders via a cursor.
Tech Times talked with Sanford to get more insight as he preps the final version.
Tech Times: How was the narrative underneath To Azimuth conceived?
Sanford: Alien abduction tales often read much like any other abduction. The experience is incredibly traumatizing, and it's a perspective rarely explored with any real seriousness.
Tech Times: Why use Alabama as the location?
Sanford: There are some subjects -- addiction, depression, familial strife -- that I've pulled directly from my own life. And Alabama is also an area that has had its share of reported UFO-related events, some of which play a part in the game.
Tech Times: What are the game's art and gameplay influences? How does To Azimuth differ from KRZ and how are the two alike?
Sanford: There are a lot of other comparisons to be made between KRZ and To Azimuth, and I find all of them to be incredibly flattering. That said, To Azimuth is a very different game. Beyond the obvious differences in narrative, I also want To Azimuth to be a bit more of an active-feeling game.
I wanted to sort of emulate the low-poly art style of games from the PlayStation 1 era, but freed from the muddy textures that plagued most games back then. I've also always been partial to muted color palettes, so it was sort of in that roundabout way that a lot of the visual similarities between To Azimuth and KRZ ended up developing.
Tech Times: So what was behind the controller support decision?
Sanford: The best description may be as a combat-less Silent Hill with a heavier focus on dialogue. All that said, I hope I don't sound like I'm disparaging the point-and-click genre or KRZ in particular. I mean, To Azimuth will have the option to control via point-and-click.