Q&A: Fuzzyeyes Talks UE3 Steampunk Title Edge Of Twilight
One of the highest-budget titles you perhaps aren't aware of, Australia-headquartered developer Fuzzyeyes is now self-funding $10 million steampunk Unreal Engine 3 title Edge of Twilight using 200 staff - Gamasutra talks to CEO Wei-Yao Lu about the
April 10, 2008
Previously the developer of games including PC-based tongue-in-cheek fast food management sim Hot Dog King, Australian-headquartered developer Fuzzyeyes is now developing a new (and self-funded) cross-platform steampunk title with Edge of Twilight for Xbox 360 and PS3.
Fuzzyeyes’ Wei-Yao Lu has confirmed with Gamasutra that Edge of Twilight, a self-funded $7.5 million project that's believed to be due out in 2009, will increase significantly to as much as $10 million after the decision to add a PlayStation 3 SKU of the title.
In this in-depth interview, Gamasutra talks to CEO Lu about the decision, project funding, and working with its publisher Southpeak Interactive.
What prompted the move from smaller titles like Hot Dog King to full-on next-gen projects?
Wei-Yao Lu: We've always known we have a pretty amazing team at Fuzzyeyes, so after Hot Dog King we really wanted to let go of the reins and let the team demonstrate its full potential.
We asked everyone here to submit their best design documents and from that Edge of Twilight was chosen due to the endless possibilities it opened up regarding art and game play (as well as its commercial viability of course!). So we really wanted to move on from Hot Dog King and show off the skill of everyone at Fuzzyeyes by tackling a really challenging art direction.
How was the project funded?
WL: It's really difficult to find a financial institution that supports game development almost anywhere around the world.
We were lucky to get seed funding nearly seven years ago when we first started and with that we were able to release several titles including Hot Dog King. Now we've got a stable income from the sales revenue from those games but, like every other developer, we still have to use our resources wisely.
How has the transition from your previous engine to Unreal Engine 3 been?
WL: Both engines are great and it was a tough call to make. SouthPeak Interactive has a publishers' license for Unreal Engine 3 and they're publishing Edge of Twilight so that's really the main reason why we switched engines. The transition was as smooth as it could be, really.
But at the end of the day an engine is only as good as the team using it, and we've been producing some beautiful art regardless of what engine we're using.
What other tools are you licensing?
WL: Pretty much just Unreal Engine 3 and a few custom tools that we built internally. Oh, and some other industry standard modeling/texturing software.
The game is in the “steampunk” style -- what did you use for reference?
W:: Well both the good and bad thing about steampunk is that it's so open to interpretation. That said, we did a lot of research into the framework of steampunk, its cultural and artistic roots, the philosophy behind it and how it's been presented over the years; which representations of steampunk were preferred over others, and so on.
A lot of time was spent studying the art, architecture and fashion of late 19th century England and the Industrial Revolution, including the work of many artists of the time (such as Luke Fildes). I think all in all about a year was spent in preproduction just developing and trialling how Edge of Twilight would look.
Our ultimate goal was always to create a new, believable and comprehensive world while also encapsulating the essence of steampunk.
We want you to be able to take one glance at any part of the game and know it's Edge of Twilight. So we've really gone to painstaking efforts to make sure that our unique steam-punk style is consistent throughout the entire game world. You could look into the darkest corner of the slums or the royal quarters or a wilderness outpost and still know that it's all from the same universe.
The animation looks really nice! How character-driven is this game?
WL: Edge of Twilight is very much a character-driven story. Like with our art, we put a lot of effort into the background and planning of the people in our game. We really got to know our characters inside out, their life stories, their secrets and demons, their fears and desires.
We're really aiming to dissociate ourselves from puerile and superficial characters and storytelling that you see all too often. There's no evil-for-the-sake-of-evil Dark Lord, nor is there a valiant Sir Knight. That's just silly. No one is like that.
The story that the characters are being swept along with in Edge of Twilight is quite a mature one and deals with a lot of issues that other games shy away from. We really have no good reason to do that, so we don't. Our characters deal with themes such as abandonment, genocide, martyrdom, entropy, greed and oppression to name a few.
As with real people, it's all too easy to look at them and judge them at face value but as the game unfolds you'll really begin to understand who these people really are, why they made the choices they made and how nothing is really as simple as the old Good vs Evil cliché.
For Lex, our protagonist, we really wanted him to personify “struggle”. He deals with social struggle, being a half-cast of two races who will never be accepted within society, and also emotional struggle with the people close to him and how he deals with their own stories, prejudices, goals and emotions. Even the very physical struggle of combat, which is less your typical gymnastics performance and more a gritty struggle for survival; a struggle to kill, a struggle to live.
How large is Fuzzyeyes now in terms of employees… How many games are you working on concurrently?
WL: Fuzzyeyes has three studios open so far. Our headquarters are in Brisbane, Australia and the other offices are in Taipei, Taiwan and Beijing, China. We've got about 200 people currently working on Edge of Twilight.
Will you do any downloadable games in the future?
WL: We'd be stupid not to look into that market, but for now all our effort is really just focused on making Edge of Twilight a great title.
How does the relationship with Southpeak work -- are they simply distributing and marketing, since you're self-funded?
WL: SouthPeak Interactive are great. Yep, like you said they handle our marketing and distribution for the North American and European markets as well as offering their support with various other things throughout development. But Fuzzyeyes is very much an independent company so we still have full creative control over Edge of Twilight.