Teslagrad Interview

Teslagrad Interview with Rain Games

Ah, Teslagrad. How I love to look at thee. I remember when I first came across this game on Greenlight, I couldn’t believe how wonderfully artistic the environments were. I remember looking at a screenshot of the main character and wondering what his story was and where he would take us within this world. Thankfully, I have had my opportunity to speak to Rain Games about their fascinating first game, Teslagrad. I had the privilege of interviewing Peter Wingaard Meldahl, the game’s designer.

The team at Rain Games!
The team at Rain Games!

Tell us about yourself and your team!

We are Rain Games from Bergen, Norway. We are a small and young Indie team which started in 2010.  And I am Peter Wingaard Meldahl. I do game design, level design and management stuff.

Ole Ivar Rudi is our main artist. He does the character animation for Teslagrad, and gives the game a lot of it’s characteristic style.

Petter Amland does the backgrounds and terrains.

Aslak Helgesen does enemies and Bosses.

Magnus Holm is part-time, assisting me with levels and game design.

Eirik Lund, also part-time, does the scarce 3D modelling and animation jobs in the game, as well as a lot of bug fixing.

Fredrik Ludvigsen does the bulk of the programming.

Thomas Tyssøy, still a student, does the programming for the bosses.

Martin Kvale who also does the sound for Among the Sleep does the sound for us as well.

Jørn Lavvoll does the music. He is external, but feels like one of the gang.

Marte Haugsbø does writing and background for us. Sadly it’s hard to find enough work for a writer in a company like ours so she is here about once a week.

Aleksander Egeland does a lot of our paperwork. He also shows up about once a week.

Eduardo Garabito works with community contact. He sees to that our forum is updated and that all of you are updated on what is going on.

If you could describe Teslagrad to someone in one sentence, what would you say?

I would say “Teslagrad is a puzzle platformer with exploration, mood and magnets.” And hope hard for a followup queston.

Teslagrad - The game definitely has mood.
The game definitely has mood.

What inspired you to create Teslagrad? Where did the idea and concept come from?

Back in 2010 when we started Rain we had a plan for our first title. It was to be a casual four player title mainly for console. The core concept was that of a contest of dominance between four nations, each with their own steampunk inspired technology. The game was called Minute Mayhem.

There are a few people with a passion for storytelling on our team, and we sat down and created a rich background for the nations and the characters.

Like most Indie companies we started with very little funding, and we could just afford an office. It was a space in a local artist collective, and it wasn’t great with regards to isolation. The winter 2010-2011 happened to be the coldest one in Norway for a long time. Things seemed a bit bleak, me and Olli were in office in full outdoors clothing trying to make typing possible with tealight candles.

This was when we went back and read some of our own lore. We fell in love with the backstory of Electropia. Olli envisioned a platformer that could use the same sort of unique artstyle we were using for Minute Mayhem, and I contributed with imaginging magnetism and electricity as a central game- mechanical theme for the game.

The idea would stay shelved for a time, but we were getting neither attention or funding for Minute Mayhem. Luckily we sent around the concepts for Teslagrad a bit, and trough a stroke of luck we managed to get a grant for it by the Norwegian Film Institute. It wasn’t mutch, but it got us started.

Teslagrad had great wind in it’s sails from the very start. It has stayed pretty exactly like envisioned trough the entire process. Here is a concept design from before we had a singe line of code.

What can you tell us about the young boy protagonist?

Teslagrad - The Boy
The boy.

We have restricted ourselves in our storytelling in the game, and I won’t give away everything.

What everyone is probably wondering is: Is this Nikolai Tesla?

To answer that question i first have to say this: The world of Teslagrad is not the real world.

We have made a world inspired by old Europe, and Electropia is a blend of  Russia, the rest of Eastern Europe and the Nordic region infused with the electromagnetic power of Tesla.

In our world the genius associated with the Tesla name is not restricted to one man. Rather it follows the family name. The members of the Tesla bloodline and all their diciples are collectively known as “Teslamancers”. To the population at large the secrets of magnets and currents still seem like sorcery, and many see the Teslamancers as a secretive order with mystical powers.

The protagonist is a Tesla, like his father. But what Tesla? We are doing voiceless storytelling in this game, but we promise to revisit this world in more verbose games later, and that will be the best way to answer a question like that.

You have taken a very interesting approach to the storytelling within Teslagrad. Do you mind taking a moment to talk about what you’re doing and why you’ve chosen to approach storytelling in that way?

We are doing wordless storytelling in Teslagrad. This means that we deny ourselves the use of both voiceacting and text. As a platformer there is a long tradition of not doing mutch storytelling at all, but later games like Braid and Trine have tried to include more of a story.

We wanted the city of Teslagrad to feel like a real place. It has a past and a future, and isn’t just home to the game and the gameplay mechanics. We wanted to communicate this, while not breaking gameplay by forcing the player to read a lot of text.

The story in Teslagrad is laid out in 2 layers. The first layer is the present. The story of the present is told trough what happens in the game. This is meant to be the part of the story that is the most available, and you experience it trough just playing the game.

The second layer of storytelling is the past. The past is still with us in the present in Teslagrad. This part of the story is told in part by murals, statues and painted glass windows,in part by secrets in the game, in part by Tesla Tower mechanized theatre, and in part by the scenes where what happened in the past is still possible to discern. This layer of storytelling is there for those that want to look for it.

Catering for this kind of storytelling has been challenging. We have had to think about each element of the story, and how we could possibly convey it. Even now we never get to “Tell” the player anything, but we are happy with how this storytelling part is turning out.

Teslagrad - The environments in Teslagrad are beautiful.
The environments in Teslagrad are beautiful.

On that note, the visuals in the game are absolutely beautiful. How do you create and develop the art for the game?

We are pretty art focused. Our small team has 3 dedicated artists. In my opinion each one is a genius in his own right.

Olli is really good at classical animation, and he has a real passion for communication in games. He is also a madman capable of churning out things like the 4000 drawings that make up the frames of the main character. He also does a lot of the concept art for the game, and a lot of “Spot” details for several scenes.

Aslak is really good at making things look really pollished. He is great at things like User Interface and making our teaser videos. He also has a strong mastery of classical animation and concept design.

Petter is really strong at making textures. He can produce game assets and tilesets really fast. He is also very accustomed to using the game engine and implements most of his own art. Just imagine me or Magnus leaving a mechanically functional level bare of almost all graphics, and then Petter comming inn filling it all up with stuff that he either has or draws on the spot. Later Olli probably goes trough the same scene and adds the one really noticable object, like a statue that catches the light just so, or perhaps a mural. Olli is also the one that tweaks the scene lights until a scene blends together just perfectly.

You’ve described the puzzles in Teslagrad as being potentially “keyboard-smashing” and “controller-chewing” on your Greenlight page. I know you said that there’s easy puzzles too, but damn, how tough are the hard ones!?

Hehe. We did a lot of testing for Teslagrad. We try to have a good difficulty curve, so that when you get to a really hard part you are supposed to already be familiar with the mechanics you will need. That said there were levels that our testers really struggled with. Rather than taking them out of the game, we have hidden them away and given them the task of guarding the hardest of our secrets. The hope is that if you are tenacious enough to find them, you are tenacious enough to solve them.

We do trust the player to be able to tolerate a few tough challenges trough the game, and in the bosses especially we feel that if you arent challenged, then there really is no point.

Teslagrad - The puzzles may not be easy, but they look really cool!
The puzzles may not be easy, but they look really cool!

What do you think makes Teslagrad special in the world of platforming? What does it do that you believe makes it unique?

The mood of Teslagrad is very mutch it’s own. Together with the storytelling and the magnetic gameplay we hope people will see more than just another puzzle platformer.

We also try to vary the challenges in the game. In Teslagrad we change things up between puzzles, reflex based platforming and exploration. We feel that a game with a single note to play can get a bit monotonous, so we try to keep it interesting.

When you’re not working on Teslagrad, what games are you playing right now?

I love Turn Based games, so I really loved the last UFO game.

We have also been playing some League of Legends and Team Fortress lately as an office team.

We had the pleasure of beating the guys and gals over at Henchman & Goon in a game dev to game dev challenge recently, and late shall we let them forget.

Other than that I recently played Portal 2, Total War Kingdoms 2, Little Inferno, Magicka and Orcs must Die 2.

Teslagrad - This looks dangerous.
This looks dangerous.

When can gamers get their mitts on the game?!

Mitts may become attached to game this fall! For mitt-based aquisition through Steam we still need to get trough Greenlight, so your vote would be greatly appreciated. Other than that the game will be out on Good old Games, Desura, Gamersgate and the Playstation Store for PlayStation 3.

The game is Built in Unity, so we may also try for other platforms. So stay tuned.

Where can gamers go to learn more about the game, and how can they support you in its development?

Our homepage is www.rain-games.com. We are also on twitter as @rain_games, and on facebook.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with us!

Thanks for having us.

  1. This is a truly incredible piece of work, tip of the hat to Rain Games – what you are doing is nothing short of wizardry, the kind that Tesla would be proud of.

    Really looking forward to the WiiU release, will definitely pick it up on eShop!

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