Indie developer Urnique Studio is nearing completion of their time-manipulation puzzle game, Timelie. It’s coming to PC via Steam.
Parimeth Wongsatayanon, the creative director at Urnique Studio, was kind enough to sit down for a Q&A to discuss the promising-looking title.
Timelie started as a student project. Tell us about your journey.
Timelie started off as a senior project back when we were computer engineering students. When I started the project, I got every friend in my major that I knew was interested in making video games. Since our project team ended up being bigger than other teams in the class, our professor challenged us to make a game and enter it into Thailand’s national software competition.
Our grade would be based on the result of the competition and the complexity of the game we made. So our game project not only had to be good enough to win an award but also complex enough to be considered a real computer engineering project. On top of all of that, we only had three months to work with.
So, we decided to rent a place and live together for three months to work on the game together. We were extremely excited to win first prize and also get an A in our class. Luckily, Microsoft Thailand saw our little project and chose it to be the representative title for Thailand in their Imagine Cup competition. Fortunately, we entered that and won the World Championship in the Games category.
After winning that award, we founded an outsourcing work to help fund our dream of making our own game. We’ve had interest from investors but have turned them all down because we don’t want to change the direction we have for Timelie.
In 2018, we officially and legally founded Urnique Studio with some old and new members. At the end of that year, we were lucky enough to be selected to participate in Google’s Indie Game Accelerator bootcamp program. And from that point, we’ve been hard at work on getting Timelie completed.
How much of the game has changed since you first started the project?
A lot! Even when you compared our student project to the actual first prototype of Timelie, it’s completely different.
When we created the prototype back when we were students, our main focus was to win the competition and please our professor. What we created was more of a concept aimed at making our gameplay mechanics complex enough to satisfy our professor and unique enough to stand out from the crowd in the competition.
Once we were done, we had a tech demo with the mechanics we wanted, but it wasn’t a game. There wasn’t a world, or characters, or visual style, or really any kind of gameplay loop or objective. We looked at a lot of different games to give us inspiration. Someone on the team thought something about time manipulation would be cool. Personally, I love stealth games. So, we took a lot of different inspirations and mixed them all up and ended up with a puzzle game that’s like Transistor meets Metal Gear Solid VR.
At the end of 2018, we decided to come back and finish the game. This time we had more experience in game development, as well as more knowledge about some important dos and don’ts. Moreover, we also now had an artist, which we didn’t have back when we were students.
His style, though, didn’t really fit that old concept we put together back when we were students. But, we knew we wanted Timelie to be as good as we could make it. The real-world game market isn’t a student competition. So, we ended up changing up the visual theme of the game to fit his art style.
In the past, the game’s development really focused on the story. That really served as the blueprint for everything in the game. But that also ended up creating some constraints and dead ends. This time, we wanted the gameplay to really be the star. I gave our artist and level designer creative freedom to do what they do best, then I rewrote the story around what they created. The result is, so far, a gorgeous looking cat with more new gameplay mechanics (like the cat!).
So far I’ve gathered that there is a girl, a cat, robots, and time manipulation. What more can you reveal about the story?
It’s a story about the journey of a lost girl and lost cat, and about helping them both get back home. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can reveal at this point. I will say that I took a lot of inspiration from the storylines of games like The Last Guardian, Journey, Inside, RiMe and even films like The Wizard of Oz. Even saying that makes me feel like I’ve revealed too much!
The gameplay trailer shows single-player co-op between the girl and the cat. Are there any plans to add support for a second player?
Right now, there’s no plan for co-op, as it ends up creating some technical impracticalities. We want to give players a unique single-player experience by letting them control both characters simultaneously. The puzzles in the game are designed with that parallel planning mechanic in mind, so adding in traditional co-op would negate that design.
Can you tell us more about the game’s soundtrack?
Two talented artists are working on Timelie. The first is Aun Jessada. Aun is a music producer, an artist, a singer and also an old member of the team when we were students. I asked him to write and produce “The Last Eternity,” which is featured in our teaser trailer and sung by the young talented NatBua.
I wanted a song that could really portray and embody the story of the game. Aun was the best choice because no musician in this world knows this game any better than him. I gave him a new story synopsis and we worked on the lyrics together and it became this beautiful song.
The second artist is the composer of the game, Pongsathorn Posayanonth. I want music to take on the role of the main storyteller because there’s no dialogue in the game. Even though he’s never worked on a video game before, he’s done a brilliant job in helping turn this dream into reality. You can hear some of his pieces in the gameplay video we released a bit ago.
He does beautiful work. We’ve been working together closely to make sure that the game’s score is really going to portray the emotion we want the players to feel and experience. I think players are really going to love what they hear.
Are there any plans to bring Timelie to consoles?
No plan at the moment. We want to focus on completing the PC version first, then we’ll see what the future holds for the game.