Once again on the lookout for new upcoming games, I came across yet another awesome-looking indie Metroidvania title currently under development. Twofold Tales, developed by indie outfit Parhelion rift based in Vienna, Austria, is a Metroidvania heavy on combat and exploration, as well as incorporating a strong RPG element in the form of character building and learning new abilities along the way. The story involves the main character named Pars, as she embarks on a journey across an entity known as the Iceberg in order to uncover the mysteries that are buried within. With a desire to learn more about the game, I got in touch with Michael and Evelyn, the couple currently working on the game, to ask a few questions I had about it in this early stage of development, to learn more about what can be expected from the finished title. Here’s what Michael and Evelyn had to say about Twofold Tales:
What were the influences behind Twofold Tales?
Michael: It probably all started when I played The Battle Of Olympus on the NES in 1991. From a gameplay perspective, we were mostly influenced by classic 2D Metroid games and Axiom Verge. One of our game-defining skills was inspired by an episode of Rick and Morty, called A Rickle in Time.
Evelyn: Aesthetically it’s difficult to pinpoint a single source of influence. We love hand-drawn animations like the movies The Secret of Kells, Song Of the Sea, Ghibli movies, but are also very fond of the Art Nouveau art style like Alphonse Mucha, I think it’s kind of a marriage between both meeting on an arctic island.
What has the developmental process been like?
Evelyn: It has been an interesting and challenging learning process so far, as developers and as a couple. In the beginning, we were only able to work on our game in the evenings after our day jobs. Also, it’s a learning process in itself how to work together with your partner, especially when you’re living together and the line between private life and job is blurring. It can be quite daunting sometimes, I have to admit, but on the other hand, it’s the most fantastic thing in the world to be so lucky to create something together with an excellent partner who understands you so well like no one else.
Michael: Currently, we’re fortunate to have personal savings to sustain ourselves for the near future and to channel our whole energy into developing Twofold Tales and raising our baby daughter who was born during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even when there are sometimes tough stretches, we love how liberating it is to have total creative freedom in designing the game we want to make and to be in the driver’s seat.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
Michael: We’re still in the middle of the development process, with no fixed date for the final release. A public alpha demo that includes the entire first area is planned for summer 2021 together with a Kickstarter campaign and we’re really excited to be able to get some additional gameplay feedback, to be able to further improve Twofold Tales.
Evelyn: Most of the underlying systems for the game are finished, the game mechanics are set, the whole world is playable in development mode. What remains is creating a lot of artwork.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
Michael: As with most Metroidvanias, certain parts of the world will be ability-gated. It was exciting to create branching exploration points where depending on what you discover, different areas open up to you first and you often can decide where you want to go next. For most of the game, we want to offer a very non-linear experience where players can explore the world very openly and arrive at different points of the game via a different route and with a different set of main upgrades. All areas had to be balanced around which abilities you might or might not have at that point.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
Michael: While Unity generally was good to prototype and develop in, we were quite unhappy with the physics system for certain aspects of the game, for example for player and enemy movement – especially with high-speed projectiles. We replaced that with a raycasting solution to make this aspect of the game feel more responsive and accurate. The same goes for rope physics, where the hinge- and distance-joints just didn’t look satisfying, so we switched over to Verlet integration.
Evelyn: Also as we’re only a two-person and three-cats team, there is quite a big workload we have to handle ourselves. Developing, creating graphics and audio, writing updates for social media. It sometimes feels a bit overwhelming, but it’s also very exciting and we’ve learned a lot along the way.
How well has the game been received so far?
Evelyn: We have only started to release information about the game last month and so far we have received very positive reactions to the aesthetics of our game. It’s exciting and encouraging to see what people think of it. Also mostly you’re living inside your head when you’re developing a game and to correct that possible tunnel view, it’s very helpful to get feedback.
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
Evelyn: Our launch platform will be PC, followed by Linux and probably Mac. We would love to port it for the Nintendo Switch. We actually got quite fond of the Switch mockup screens we made for ourselves.
What were the team’s prior developmental experiences before the formation of Parhelion Rift?
Michael: We both studied media informatics and in fact, this was also when we first met each other. Afterward, we both worked as full-time developers in medium-sized companies, creating desktop and mobile applications for telecommunication- and internet-service-providers.
Have there been any lessons brought into the development of Two Tales taken from the development of Cats Who Stare At Ghosts?
Evelyn: When we developed Cats Who Stare At Ghosts, we used the libGDX framework for development. It’s fine to do as much as possible yourself, but once you meet a comfortable game engine like Unity that takes over a lot of tasks, you never want to go back.
As a cat lover myself, I have to ask will there be cats in Twofold Tales as well?
Michael: There are a lot of secrets hidden in our iceberg, some of them fluffy 😉
Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that has since been scrapped or reworked?
Michael: As we’re more gamers and programmers than artists ourselves, we’ve re-iterated over certain parts of the graphics and animations several times already and will continue to do so.
If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?
Michael: At the moment, I actually like the freedom of not having to work for another company or being limited by an existing franchise.
Evelyn: I would so love to work on a Zelda title, especially if it follows in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Michael: Do what you really want to do, not what others deem good or what society thinks you should do. This does not mean that you should ignore feedback, feedback is extremely important and vital during the entire development process and other people spot flaws way better than you ever could. However, in the end, make it your game, the game that you would love to play, but hasn’t been invented yet – make it for yourself.
Evelyn: Start today! Don’t wait for that big idea, but start with something small and just keep learning.
Where on the Internet can people find you?
You can follow us on social media, we love to share the progress of our game and chat.
And there is also our website www.parhelionrift.com
Feel free to get in touch with us! 🙂
Do you have anything else to add?
Thank you very much ScouseGamer for the opportunity to give others insights into our game and a huge thank you to everyone interested in Twofold Tales. Your kind words of encouragement and comments mean the world to us and keep us going.
I’d also like to thank Michael and Evelyn for their unique insight into what players can expect to see from their game upon release, and also to congratulate the couple on the birth of their baby girl. Twofold Tales holds promise as an extremely standout Metroidvania title with a new and wonderfully cohesive concept, and I’m very much looking forward to what the final game has to offer. In the meantime, anyone wanting to keep up with Michael and Evelyn as development unfolds can do so by following their various social media pages and visiting their website, but I hope you guys enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed working with Michael and Evelyn.
Scouse Gamer 88