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Road to the Student IGF: Gabe Cuzzillo's Ape Out

'The concept evolved from experiments with a top down stealth game. The way that enemies can become shields and weapons kind of just fell out of the verbs--grabbing and pushing.'
This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series. You can find the rest by clicking here.
 
Ape Out is aptly named. It's a game about a giant ape who desperately wants to escape confinement. From an overhead POV, we see the ape dodging captors, or grabbing them to use them as human shields, or as projectiles. It's mixture of stealth, violent action, a simple silhouetted visuals, and a cool and jazzy musical score, add up to create something distinctive.
 
The game was created by Gabe Cuzzillo, and it isn't the first title he's worked on that garnerered a nomination for an IGF Student award. Gabe filled us in on his game in an email interview.

What's your background in making games?

I started making games in 2013, and made a previously Student IGF-nominated game called Foiled. Around the time I started making it, I began taking a bunch of games classes at NYU and worked on it in an independent study with Bennett Foddy. I've been working on Ape Out since then.

What development tools did you use to build Ape Out?

I'm using Unity to build the game.

How do you describe the game to people who've never seen it?

This is the over-written description: "Ape Out is a top down action game about an Ape getting Out. You play a gorilla, smashing your way out of captivity, using your captors as weapons and shields, crushing everyone and everything in your way. Procedural levels and restricted visibility force you to react only to immediate threats, and a frenetic jazz soundtrack heightens the intensity." 
 
But honestly, I just say "It's an ape game. You're an ape, you get out. With jazz."

How much time have you spent working on the game?

I've been working on the game about two years. Which is scary to realize.

How did you come up with the concept? Was the overhead perspective something you eventually hit upon, or was it part of the game from the outset?

The concept evolved from experiments with a top down stealth game. I wanted to try to make a top down game that felt good to control. Everything else has kinda shaken out of that.

You've talked about how the ape's enemies can become shields and weapons. Can you tell us about how you conceived of and refined that element of the game?

The enemies becoming shields and weapons kind of just fell out of the verbs--grabbing and pushing. At a certain point, it became clear it was my favorite part of the game, so I've taken steps to emphasize it.

Ape Out: The Story of an Indie Game from Vic Millar on Vimeo.

The silhouette art style is very effective. Was that part of your vision for the game from the outset?

Again that's something that kinda evolved. I was playing with different looks, and I think Bennett suggested trying making the ape a one-colored sillhouette. It took a lot of time and experimentation to actually make it look ok (I had never done any art before).

Can you tell us about the musical score, and what you think it adds to the game?

The soundtrack is a series of jazz drum solos. I hope the music emphasizes the improvisational, animal feeling of the game, as well as fits aesthetically with the Saul Bass-inspired art. The song "You've Got To Have Freedom" by Pharoah Sanders inspired a lot of the feel of the game.

Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?

I was in the NYU Game Center Incubator with two of the other IGF Student finalists, Circa Infinity and Beglitched, both of which are great. Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and Infinifactory are fantastic as well.
 
Don't forget check out the rest of our Road to the IGF series right here.

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