Pulse interview

Pulse Interview with Team Pixel Pi

Something I’ve learned quickly while working within the indie gaming space is that indie devs honestly have the coolest ideas. They come up with gameplay mechanics that are as innovative as they are entertaining.  Team Pixel Pi has done exactly that with their game, Pulse! We had the opportunity to speak with Maxwell Hannaman about Pixel Pi, the game, and its inspiration. Enjoy!

Team Pixel Pi
Team Pixel Pi

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us about Pulse, Maxwell! ‘Team Pixel Pi’ is a really interesting studio name. Please tell us about your team and how you guys came together to form the studio!

Maxwell: Originally, Pulse was our student project at Vancouver Film School’s Game Design program. That’s where we met and formed the team to make the game. The team was created out of a mutual desire to do something different and experimental with our project– being friends helped too.

The name itself took a while for us to land on. We went through a bunch of random names, but we knew we wanted something friendly and cute. We make pixels, pie is delicious, and math is cool, so it worked out pretty well!

Tell us about Pulse!Pulse Interview

Maxwell: Pulse is a first person survival game in which you play as a blind girl. You ‘see’ through a process similar to echolocation or sonar– anything that makes a sound reveals the environment around it. There are cute little creatures called Mokos who act as an extension of your control over this mechanic: you throw them at walls, they make noise, and you can see!

That’s the high level concept, moving forward with the full game we’re looking to take the best parts of the prototype and make a full game out of it. It’s not just expanding, we have some pretty cool new stuff in the works too.

The concept is absolutely fantastic. In the prototype, it is truly incredible to watch environments fade in and out as sounds are generated. As people who do not suffer from visual impairments, is it challenging to create environments from the perspective of someone who would be blind?

Maxwell: Yes and no… We create the levels with “the lights turned on” if you will; everything is revealed, so that’s more of the ‘developer perspective.’ However making those levels actually playable, navigable, and completable in any decent amount of time is the tough part. There’s a lot of back and forth and a lot of playtesting. Once we get a level to the state of “ok I can make it through”, we have to focus on making it actually interesting, which is of course even harder. So really, mostly yes. Haha.

While simply uncovering the environments using echolocation is fascinating, how one perceives their environments is also front-and-center in Pulse. How does the emotional state of the player affect their perceived surroundings?

Maxwell: We played with this a decent amount in the prototype. Probably the most interesting thing we did is make the character ‘paint’ the environment with what she’s feeling. If you attract the attention of one of the big beasties in the forest, he’ll give out a roar and come chasing after you. Everything in the world turns red, causing things to blur together and instilling a sense of terror in the player.. or at least that’s the idea.

There’s a LOT more to explore in this concept, and it’s one of the areas we’re most interested in expanding on.

Pulse - Doorways

Is it challenging from a development perspective to create these ever-shifting environments? What challenges does your team face in building such an innovative and unique project?

Maxwell: It’s interesting that you say “ever-shifting”, as the environments are actually very static. Our revealing effect is what makes it seem so flowing and dynamic even when it’s not. That said the mechanic is very much in our minds when creating levels or designing mechanics.

One of our greatest challenges was keeping people oriented with some sense of where they are and where they were. We used a number of mechanisms to keep players moving in the right direction, and a lot of it had to do with the ever-shifting environment. Actually it had to do with cancelling that effect out– our solutions mostly provide landmarks (sometimes temporary) that allow players to better wrap their head around the world.

How did your team come up with the idea for Pulse? What inspired you to take on such an ambitious concept for your first game?

Maxwell: We wanted to do something experimental and potentially risky. We didn’t know if it would actually work. The nice thing about being in school is that you’re not trying to turn a profit. So we ran with that.

We had a period of brainstorming where we met several times a week to throw ideas around on a big whiteboard. Many of these ideas ended up being related to sound. The concept kind of came up naturally, we arrived at the core of Pulse pretty early on. Then we started researching into all kinds of other media– short stories, books, animation… until we really solidified the theme and concept.

How much do the Moko plushies love cuddling?

Pulse - Moko
How awesome are these little guys?

This much:



Why are Mokos so important in Pulse? What information do they give to the player?

Maxwell: I mentioned before that they’re an extension of your ability to control the main mechanic, which their main benefit. Being able to throw them ahead of you and see what’s there… be that stairs or a deadly cliff. As well, you can toss them away when running from a beast and he may just decide to go after the little fluffball instead of you. It’s a hard life for a Moko.

Also, they’re super cute. That’s pretty important.

Obviously, not everything in the world of pulse wants to hug. What threats exist and how can the player defend themselves from the unknown?

Maxwell: Indeed! Or perhaps they do want a hug– it just ends with them eating you.

There are big beasts that roam the forests you’re going through. These guys are also blind, so they’re attracted to any sound you make. There’s a bit of a balance between how much you see versus how much you’re attracting the beasts.

At the end of the prototype we hint at another type of beast. We’re not quite sure where the design will lead with these guys but I’m pretty confident it will be significantly more interesting than the barebones AI we have now!

Pulse - So mad
Someone’s grumpy.

Do you have a general timeline for the final release?

Maxwell: Right now we’re looking at a two year development cycle. That might even be a bit soon, but we want it to be as good as we can possibly make it. We know what it takes to push something even as short as a few hours out with high polish. It doesn’t help that we also have jobs in the industry to attend as well. That said, they DO help for keeping us alive to keep making Pulse!

TeamPixelPi Team PictureHow can gamers learn more about the game and support its development?

Maxwell: You can always find us at http://www.teampixelpi.com. At the moment that’s the best place to find out more and/or donate. We’ll continue posting updates on our Kickstarter, which will mostly be available to non-backers as well. We’re working on some more cool stuff for the community, so stay tuned!

Finally, if you have any questions or comments or just want to say hi, you can email us at teampixelpi@gmail.com.


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