Indie studio Faffinabout’s debut game From Light is a futuristic puzzle-platformer with mechanics inspired by photography. Starting today, it’s seeking $50,000 on the crowdfunding site Fig, and plans to launch on PC in late 2018.
From Light is set on the tourist planet Paradise 252-B, which Faffinabout producer Sherveen Uduwana describes as “Route 66 in space.” Protagonist Lumen arrives in search of their missing penpal, Phosphor, and must solve the mysteries of the planet to rescue their friend.
“At some point [the planet] was really bustling, full of people, and then at some point in the past something happened and tourism dried up,” said Uduwana in a phone call with GamesBeat. “By the time you get there, it’s a lot more empty, a lot more desolate. You’re trying to figure out what’s going on on this planet. Route 66 has that idea of being full of really interesting kooky people from small towns, Americana type stuff. That’s a lot of influence on the characters and the game.”
The core mechanic is Lumen’s ability to draw their own platforms using “long exposure,” which enables them to paint with light. They can also use “freeze frame” to pause what’s happening on one part of the screen as well as to phase through certain obstacles.
“Our two studio heads, [Alejandro Grossman] and [Steven Li]—this was originally a class project. They had an assignment, and they were debating over different games,” said Uduwana. “They saw a photo that they thought was a long exposure photo, and they said, OK, we should make a game about long exposure photography. I think it turned to just not be a long exposure photo at all, so it just happened on a misunderstanding of what they were looking at and turned into this really cool mechanic.”
Faffinabout is a small studio. Joining game directors Grossman and Li and producer Uduwana are designer Thomas Watson and sound designer and composer Benjamin Young. Many of the team members have backgrounds in film and have attended a formal games program like the one at University of Southern California.
“We’ve learned a lot of the specifics of making games,” said Uduwana. “But I think the thing that really translates for me in terms of film is just the fact that it’s a visual medium. That’s also the first thing you get with a game. I think the interactive part of games is kind of what takes it into the next level for me, personally. But everything starts with that first image, that first sound.”
From Light revolves heavily around its mechanic, and its puzzles come first. Though there is a story, it’s more about presenting its players with brainteasers that have open-ended solutions. This was a design challenge, since Lumen can create their own path through the space to reach their goal.
“We can’t think like, oh, this is the solution to this puzzle, because there are technically an infinite number of solutions,” said Uduwana. “It did affect the way we approached our design. We started thinking of it more as a possibility space, as opposed to a single solution. We still have our ideal solution, and we try to mold the environment to suggest that to the player.”
Faffinabout has spent around three years so far developing the game. In 2015, From Light was selected as one of PAX’s top 10 indie titles. And since then, several events including Dreamhack has showcased it, and it earned a nomination for Best Student Game at the 2017 The Game Awards. Uduwana says it decided to launch a crowdfunding campaign to ride that momentum.
“We’ve had this incredible year with a lot of great feedback, meeting a lot of great people, and a big concern for us is that if we wait too long to release the game, we won’t be able to make use of a lot of those amazing happenings,” said Uduwana. “That was a big factor in deciding to crowdfund, especially now.”
The studio has been talking to some publishers, but it’s also prepared to self-publish. The Fig campaign’s budget would enable them to comfortably do so. However, Uduwana says a publishing partnership would have definite benefits — for instance, they might be able to expand the team, add more to the game, and potentially bring it to consoles.
“It will have to be a deal that we feel comfortable with, that we feel we’re both benefiting from, and we’re not going to just sign with the first publisher that comes our way, for sure,” said Uduwana. “We really want to make sure we’re able to do something independently, but we’re also open to any opportunities that might happen with the crowdfunding campaign.”