Teslagrad — a look at the alpha with a bit of added developer insight

Indie games are becoming more and more fleshed out and unique these days. Talent is obvious in some examples, and Teslagrad is certainly one of them.

Luckily, we had the chance to play over the current Alpha version of the game, even managing to ask the developers from Rain Games a bunch of questions about their game, so get ready to be introduced to the core of Teslagrad!

Set in a world that embodies the charisma of old Europe, this platformer immediately grabbed me with its unique steam-punk visual art style and the way its charming story is laid out. From the very beginning the first thing you notice is the way the game looks. Almost everything is hand-drawn, as you can notice the vibrant artistic backgrounds and especially the wonderfully animated main character, with his movement, how raindrops fall from his hair and so on.

Here’s exactly how the visuals are made, straight from the source:

“The backgrounds and animations are made in Photoshop and Toonboom using digital pens. There are no computer generated “Tween” frames or textures. This does take a while, but it is not too far away from doing 3D animation like you see in a lot of other games. The method was chosen because it plays well to the strengths of the team. Olli is a great classical animator, and as he formed the look of the world doing it this way was only natural.”

We were specifically curious as to what were the inspirations for Teslagrad’s setting, how the world was created.

“In our world we have condensed Europe down to 4 nations. The nation that Teslagrad takes place in is Electropia. Electropia embodies the east of Europe and the Nordics. We have taken lots of inspiration from arcitecture, folklore and mood from these nations. Most of the names in Teslagrad are russian sounding, We also made a Rune alphabet based loosely on the old nordic Futhark rune alphabet to write some of the background signs and similar in the world.
The main sites in the game are inspired by Russia. Tesla Tower itself is partly based on “Stalins palace to knowledge and science”, and the kings Storm Palace is based on the Winter palace. The name Tesla itself is of couse a Serbian inspiration. There is no America yet in our world, so the science of Tesla stayed in the old country.”

Teslagrad is very reliant on complex puzzles involving some rather interesting mechanics, represented mainly by electromagnetism and mechanics. From what we’ve seen during the alpha a major component of the game evolves around the attraction between opposite poles, with the main character’s ability to magnetize certain platforms or even enemies in order to overcome obstacles.

As a result, making your way through the various traps and machinery at display is equal amounts challenging and fun. I was even somewhat surprised to see that gameplay doesn’t become annoying and tedious after countless consecutive repetitions, despite how hard certain areas can get. We were particularly keen to know whether or not the game will be focused more on logical puzzles or mechanically challenging sections, here’s what we got as an answer:

“We have deliberately done both. We feel it helps change the feel of the game and keep it fresh trough varying the sort of challenge you face. To make sure that the difficulty curve of both aspects ramps up somewhat smoothly we do a lot of testing. We like to keep it as hard as we can, while not loosing too many players to frustration or simple inability to pass a certain point.”

The stuff that was deemed too challenging for the main part of the game has been hidden away, creating part of the “Extended” gameplay experience for those who like to explore a little.

With that being said, one of the most striking features of Teslagrad for me was the distinct lack of UI and dialogue, things that are known to be deliberate design choices by Rain. The act of telling a story was clearly done in a way that lets you experience it by yourself, and although I got a short taste of what’s to come the goal of the game became rather clear. Here are a few more words on what the developers want players to experience in Teslagrad:

“We want people to experience the world of Teslagrad as it is presented trough Ollis art style. We do not tell the player much about the place he is in, but Teslagrad is still a place with a concrete past that can be seen in it`s present. We also like people to be proud of their accomplishments. Whether finding something hidden, solving a puzzle or managing a particularly tough platforming session we like to try to make it challenging enough that when you accomplish it you feel great.”

In the end we decided to be a little nosy, asking if we can expect a mobile version of the game sometimes in the future after knowing about the recently announced PS3 release. Here’s the answer we got:

“Yes. We get asked this quite a bit, and the problem is that Teslagrad has a lot of really big textures, as well as a modern physics engine. There are also things like the fact that the main character has over 4000 animation frames. This has to all fit into memory.
But luckily we work on the Unity engine. This means that the porting itself is a breeze. We will do some tests and see what we can do, but perhaps the mobile phone that can run Teslagrad smoothly is yet to be invented.”

So there you have it. Teslagrad is currently in the process of going through Greenlight, so you can head there and give the developers a thumbs up. The game is set to release on the 29th of November this year for PC, Mac and PS3.

Original article posted on the 07th of June 2013 for Gameora.com (website currently inactive)