Interview: Team Flameless Ponder a Game About A Flame.

Why game shows such as Poznan Game Arena, and in particular their indie game showcase, are such great events is that the present opportunities to consume a vast amount of talent and ideas all on display in one place. A game about a flame presented that moment and what happened to be the first stop of the day, presented us with one the most beautiful game concepts of the show. Team Flameless, or otherwise known officially as Visionkeeper UG, hail from Berlin and were founded by Käthe Keller and Samir Riecke, and with their first outing at a games show under their belt and a vertical slice made for their first game we were excited to find out a bit more about their origins and plans for the future.

PK: What was the lightbulb moment that sent you down the path of game development? 

Käthe Keller: 

When I was younger, I never really realized that Game Development is a career option that I could choose. So, at that time I always aimed to become a painter, but when I was about to start an education, I didn’t want to study painting, because I was afraid that it would cut the creative freedom if you do it for a living. So, I researched other creative options and (re) discovered Game Development. Now I believe it is the best Medium to have an emotional impact on people.

Samir Riecke:

Back in 2009, I was in school and two classmates told me they created a room and outside of the room is nothing, just emptiness. I couldn’t imagine that, so I started to watch Youtube Tutorials for UDK 3 and since then I fell in love with game development.

PK: You’re working on “A Game about a Flame” now, what was the genesis of this idea?

We were sitting in a park. Back then we were both working on different projects, we weren’t really happy about. We decided to do something together because we could always create a great atmosphere when we worked on projects together before. Samir had the spontaneous

idea that it could be cool, if you have to carry a fire from left to right. Then Käthe quickly sketched down some ideas, and so the concept was born. So, it was a very spontaneous process. All of the story and lore was added later on. 

PK: Who is the artist and what is the inspiration behind the style?

We (Samir and Käthe) are both responsible for the art. The world is mostly designed to carry the story behind the game. The lore and story are defining many aspects of the style like totems, symbolics, architecture etc. The Artstyle is basically a mixture of both of our styles. 

When we had to list some games and films which gave us inspiration, that would be:

“Far: Lone Sails”, “Little Nightmares”, “Princess Mononoke” and “Hellblade”.

PK: What has been the most challenging part of getting the game to a vertical slice? 

Currently we’re not quite there yet…

But the most difficult part so far was to get the flow and feel right even though we are just showing a glimpse of the game. You have to shorten everything quite a bit but still create an atmosphere and tell a story.  Also, we had a tight budget so far. That’s why we couldn’t afford an animator or game designer yet, so we had to somehow do it ourselves and improvise a lot.

PK:  We came across the game at Poznan Game Arena and it looks fantastic, Is this the first time that you exhibited it publicly and what’s it like for you having strangers experience your work?

Yes, it was the first time that we exhibited “A Game about a Flame” publicly on a major event like the PGA. We have showcased it at “Talk and Play” in Berlin two times before, which is a small evening event with mostly other indie game developers attending, which is perfect to get some feedback before exhibiting it. We really enjoyed PGA because it was a very homely nice atmosphere. It is a wonderful feeling to see how all kinds of people are reacting positively to our game. When someone comes by to play the game a second time, it really motivates you to keep on going!

On the other hand, it was also hard, because we hadn’t tested the game on real players before the PGA. So, we were a little nervous about how the players would react to it. But those feelings soon disappeared.

PK:  Have you made any decisions about what platform you are designing the game for? – what’s your preference on platforms presently and how is that effecting your game design decisions?   

Pc first and then all major platforms. A lot is changing right now concerning consoles (next generation of PlayStation, XBox and Switch, Google Stadia etc.) so we will adapt depending on the situation when the game is closer to release. We are not basing our design decisions on that, but more on what design can carry the story and emotions of the game. But we are focusing on controllers as input device which we know will most likely be the input device for the major consoles in the near future and will work the best for our game too. 

PK:  Is Team Flameless a one project vehicle of is there a longer-term plan in the works when it comes to building the studio  

There is definitely a longer-term plan for the studio. We have a lot more dream games we want to realise. The perfect scenario for the future would be to have a small consistent team, which can continue developing many projects to come. It also is important for us to keep our artistic freedom, because we don’t just want to make any games but games that we believe in.

PK: What’s the challenges of being a start-up – the product or the business?

It is probably the fact that you have to take care of both things at the same time. Especially at the beginning, a huge part of your job is to apply for funding, go to events, talk to people, search for publishers etc. but at the same time you want to work on your game as much as possible. When you are an indie game developer, you usually have to fulfil so many roles at the same time. For us that meant to be an Artist, Producer, CEO, Marketing Person, Game Designer and many more. It is both exciting and tiring at the same time.

PK:  I ask everyone this: How do you browse games on Steam – how do you select a game to play on the weekends? 

Käthe:  By “Your list” if I don’t have something in mind already. I usually choose smaller indie games if it’s just for the weekend. They should be interesting and unique in some way. If I have some more time on my hands, I would also choose bigger open world games like fallout etc. 

Samir:  When I am searching games on Steam, I already know which games I am looking for. To discover new games i am always looking YouTube videos about the next upcoming games, both indie and AAA Games.

PK: What’s the next 12 months look like for Team Flameless?  

We will have some huge changes financially, because we got governmental funding for the next 10 months. Also, we will face the challenge to seal a deal with a publisher to fund the rest of the development in that timeframe. If we are lucky, we will even manage to expand our team a little bit. Of course, we will also continue working on “A Game about a Flame” and nail all the details design wise. 

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