We’ll be working on a review for Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale, so I got in touch with GrimTalin to talk a bit about the game and its development. Come check it out!
PS4Blog: Hi! How is everything on your end?
Hi! I have to say right off the bat that this has been quite a strange year for me – and for most people, I’m sure. But in terms of making games, it was definitely the weirdest time. First of all, there was this pandemic which changed a lot in our lives and our habits. Then the stress associated with all of it. Which all added to my predisposition for anxiety episodes, exacerbated by my feeling that I was progressing too slowly with development. And the isolation, mandated or self-imposed one later on surely didn’t help with all of that. I’m not much of a socialite, but I do enjoy having a cup of coffee with friends once in a while or visiting family. So all these changes alone were things I never had to experience before while working on a game.
But then last summer, I found out I had to have gallbladder removal surgery as soon as possible – so I went ahead and did that in September, with all the dieting and post-recovery. And to top the year off, as much as I tried to avoid it, I did end up catching the damn virus at the end of February and later got hospitalized for ten days. I was coughing so bad when I was standing that I couldn’t breathe, and I’d pass out if I didn’t lie down to try to take tiny breaths very rapidly to stabilize myself.
The first couple of days were quite scary, to be honest. But then I started recovering quite fast from the treatment – which messed up my liver, but that’s still an ongoing affair that I’ll sort out too, eventually. So this game was by far my weirdest one in terms of development. This makes me all the happier to see I’m so close to its release, despite all the difficulties!
PS4B: It’s certainly been a year to remember, huh? But you’re now currently putting the final touches on Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale. How would you describe this one?
Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale is a relaxing puzzle game with beautiful music, colorful visuals, and a fully voiced tale told in rhyme about a Princess striving for independence and adventure. It has 80 levels, 30 of which are story puzzles that can also be replayed in different variations. There are five chapters, each with its own visual theme, music, and unique mechanics.
In terms of gameplay, it’s very simple and classic: you control a ball on a grid board, choose the direction you want to roll the ball in, and it moves while interacting with elements on the board until something stops its movement. Then you choose a direction again and so on, until you collect all the feathers or coins, depending on the level type, or you run out of moves. Its familiar gameplay is spiced up with a lot of interesting mechanics you keep discovering as you play, in a very relaxing mood created by the lighthearted tavern music and the nature-inspired scenery.
I put a lot of care into the details. My goal was to make a classic puzzle game with sort of a AAA feel – as inappropriate as the use of that term may be coming from a solo indie dev. But with the five different visual themes, which include both menu and in-game scenery, a soundtrack of up to 15 tracks that you unlock as new chapters become available, five licensed songs as rewards for finishing the story levels in each chapter, the story told in rhyme (I had a blast writing it) and fully voiced by some amazing actors (such a dream come true for me hear my story acted out by professionals), 15 looks for the ball that you can unlock with the coins you collect in the optional levels, 26 achievements whose progress you can check in their dedicated screen in the game, an optional hints system which ensures you never get stuck for too long, showing you either a few moves or even entire solutions if you prefer, even a help section completely written in rhyme too, all these things and more make me incredibly happy with how the game turned out and I feel like I came as close as I possibly could as a solo indie dev to that AAA puzzle game I set out to make.
PS4B: How long have you been working on Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale?
I first started working on the game in August 2019. But after about three months, I paused it to port and publish Cake Laboratory and Rollin’ Eggz on Nintendo Switch, then to port The Adventures of Elena Temple to Xbox One, and finally to make the Definitive Edition for Elena Temple, which launched around Christmas 2019. I resumed work on Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale in January 2020. So it would add up to a little over a year and a half. If you would’ve told me before I started working on this game that I’d spent this much time on it, I would’ve called you crazy, or I wouldn’t have started it at all. I said I’d have it done in six months or so. But I loved what I was making so much that I couldn’t hold myself back from putting a lot of love and care into every aspect of the game. Only I know how much time I spent animating all those tiny leaves in the menu dialogs – almost nobody will notice those growing vines and leaves, but I wanted the game to have that level of care put into it. I felt it deserved it. Time will tell if it was worth it. Looking back at the project now and all that I’ve added into it, a year and a half doesn’t seem that much. And there’s a nice bonus for me that I’ve set up a lot of groundwork to get a good headstart for making future games.
PS4B: Are there any differences between the Steam and the Nintendo Switch versions of the game?
No, the content is exactly the same. One thing the Steam and Xbox One versions of the game have is higher resolution textures to support 4K. And some extra options for the Steam version to customize your display and graphics settings, like resolution, anti-aliasing, or shadow quality.
Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale will launch at the same time on all three platforms, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Steam, in June 2021. I can’t say the day exactly yet, because it depends on approval times on the consoles versions. But I hope it will be sometime in the first or second week of the month.
PS4B: And now it’s time for us to go. Would you like to add anything else before we end this one?
First of all, sorry for the long answers. I’ve been through too much isolation, and when given a chance to talk, I’ve found myself overdoing it. Second, I hope you’ll give Long Ago: A Puzzle Tale a try, especially if you’re a puzzle games fan. Lastly, I’m also working on finishing, porting, and then publishing Last Days of Lazarus, a game by Darkania Works, which will also come to Steam, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One sometime this year, so maybe keep an eye on this one too, it’s super interesting and so different from my usual games! Thank you for all your support these past years!