The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game about friendship, what it means to grow up, what must be let go what should never be left behind. Best friends Arina, a headstrong girl, and Frendt, a boy wise beyond his years, fall into a lush world of mysterious gardens. The vibrant world grows around objects from their past to form curious combinations of time and imagination. Together they traverse a bittersweet story of friendship where the forwards and backwards traversal of time makes cause and effect malleable. Memories surface as the duo stargaze, illuminating the meaning and depth of their friendship.
STDB: Can you tell us something about The Voxel Agents?
The Voxel Agents (TVA): The Voxel Agents is an independent studio, hailing from Melbourne, Australia. We create delightful games that unravel in surprising ways. Matt, Tom and I founded the studio in 2009 to create games that kindle curiosity with highly focused gameplay. Since then our creations have since received more than forty international industry awards and accolades, and garnered more than twenty million downloads. We have been blessed by many tailwinds behind us, including the rise of indie, mobile and now new opportunities like Stadia.
STDB: And what will encounter gamers when they play The Gardens Between?
TVA: The Gardens Between is an adventure puzzle game where you guide two best friends through a surreal world of mysterious garden islands, but you don't control the characters, you control time. Arina, a headstrong girl, and Frendt, a boy wise beyond his years, fall into a series of vibrant, dreamlike island gardens peppered with everyday objects that hold a special significance to the duo. Together they embark on an emotional journey that examines the significance of their friendship: the memories they’ve built, what must be let go, and what should never be left behind. Designed as an homage to the enduring power of friendship, The Gardens Between places you in control of not the characters themselves, but the force which will change and shape their relationship: time. In the mysterious realm they find themselves transported to, cause and effect are malleable and time flows in all directions. As the duo explore the gardens they tinker with memories gone by and negotiate how they are remembered. Solve puzzles to reach the apex of each isle and light up constellations of memories, illuminating threads of a bittersweet narrative.
STDB: How many time took the development of the game? And how much of that time was invested in level design?
TVA: The Gardens Between was in full-time development for four years. It was initially planned as a much smaller six month project, but with each milestone we loved it more and more, so we kept going deeper, bigger and more ambitious with it at each turn. About halfway after having come to understand so much better what we were building, we realised it would be faster, and come out better if we were to start over. So we planned out the full story, characters, plot points, memories and connective tissue between the story and gameplay and basically started again. It was much better for it. As you point out, level design contributes a lot to the final experience. We probably kept about a tenth of the all the content that was produced for this game. One particularly challenging aspect is that story and gameplay are so deeply intertwined, and as such required a highly iterative approach. Each island passed thru more iterations than any other game than we’ve ever made, and would bounce back and forth between designer, artist, animator and back many times.
STDB: From where comes the idea to bring the game to Stadia Platform? And was there any fear on the team about the streaming thing?
TVA: We love that Stadia makes it trivially easy to go from watching gameplay footage to jumping in and playing right away. We are fully behind their goal to remove barriers wherever possible.
STDB: How is working with a new player on the game industry, is hard to work with Google?
TVA: We’ve had a great experience with them. The Stadia team are dedicated, enthusiastic and so very cluey. They helped and accommodated us throughout the process as best as anyone could imagine. The biggest drag on our development was waiting on Unity to keep up with the pace of Stadia’s SDK.
STDB: That now that the game is on Stadia. Are you planning to bring future games to the platform?
TVA: We have so many ideas for new games - which one we finally build is anyone’s guess at this point. If the next game fits, yeah for sure, we’d love to come to Stadia.
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