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Developer Chat: Turn On | Xbox One

1. First things first, where did the studio name originate from?

From the very beginning we decided to name our studio with two words where the second word has to be Studio. We began to choose the adjectives from the letter A: Active Studio, Ancient Studio, Awesome Studio and etc. When we got to Brainy Studio we were already exhausted. But this naming got our attention, and it became instantly clear how our logo could looks like.

2. How long has the studio been in existence now? 
From the beginning of the studio’s existence, has it always been composed of the team of four guys that presently work here?

Brainy Studio was founded in January 2013 by students of Perm National Research Polytechnic University by web-developer Evgenii Romin, programmer Anton Baranov and digital artist Ilya Antonov.In the beginning of 2014 company joined Unity-developer Alexander Frolov (but he left in summer of 2015) and marketeer Dmitri Ogorodnikov (he is still with us).

As an official registered company, Brainy Studio LLC, we are working from October 2014. And it took almost 2 years to gain the skills and expertise in gamedev before we took the full responsibility for our undertaking.

And now we almost done with our debut game for Xbox One and Steam.

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3. TurnOn was inspired by the WWF’s Earth Hour but how did you go about translating that concept to an actual game?

Everything is very simple. A little over 2 years ago our game designer Ilia Antonov told us about a global environmental movementEarthHour‬, which is held by WWF. To be honest we were really hooked and inspired by the main idea of this event – to use your power to ‪#‎ChangeClimateChange‬. And then we thought: can we create a game with a similar setting? Suddenly we tried to imagine sudden tripping the light. Electrical devices don’t work, there is no light on the streets, no internet and mobile connection, and people go out into the street to see what was happening. Can you conceive it? In such a simple manner TurnOn was born.

And then we come up with a character with ability to return the electricity in try to show the contrast between when you have electricity and when not.

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4. The story-telling in TurnOn relies purely on visuals. Can you provide certain examples for how this works and the challenges that come with no dialogues?

Each level puts you in certain situations related to the lack of electricity.Thus, in one of them you need to stop the furious rotation of Ferris Wheel and help the people on it. Only by performing the certain actions it becomes clear what to do next, somewhere the game tells you something by moving the camera, somewhere by cutscenes, info bubbles or cartoons it helps you. So the entire story is told through what you see (and sometimes what you don’t). TurnOn has short one-sentence descriptions for every level, but we made it only to meet the player with the given circumstances.

5. TurnOn is a game that is trying to both enlighten the player’s understanding of the world around them as well as get them to have fun while doing so -like such games as “Never Alone” before it. Are there any design pitfalls that you worked hard toward avoiding with making a game that strives to achieve such a dynamic goal?

The most important task for us was to withstand the game atmosphere together with attempt to make the game enjoyable and full of challenges all the gameplay, we wanted the players not be tired of the process and were excited from the game. That’s why we were tried to surprise with every new level. You can just explore the areas in the levels, some of them are musical, in some you should beat an unexpected bosses. At some point the player realizes that he can move not only from left to right, but also into the depth of the location, then jump between the power lines, which seem far, but in the same moment are close.

Inspired by the desire to tell such story as you can find in a great book or in an incredible movie, we paid a lot of attention to the story and the way it should be told.

TurnOn itself is about how strong the world depends on electricity and what can happen if it suddenly disappears. So we hope that players will like TurnOn.

6. TurnOn has an episodic approach to its story. Does that mean it will be split up into five different episodes and sold separately or will it one entire story?

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Absolutely not. The game is the complete adventure, consisting of 5 chapters. The division into episodes is due to the fact that we wanted to show the different parts of the city, which have a different atmosphere and style of an action. Thus we have Power Station, Suburb, Residential District and others, but all events in every chapter are combined in one story. Besides step by step we were adding another gameplay types such as moving into the depth of the locations or only up, looking for different object under the ground or leaps of faith.

7. Are there any interesting story details that players may miss on their first playthrough? Perhaps lore or collectibles providing more details?

Actually our tests showed that about a half of all achievements could be got after the first walkthrough, by the way TurnOn has 82 achievements. And players may miss lots of interesting details as for sure. So it can be good motivation to replay the game once again and to find all.

8. How does exploration and level progression work in TurnOn? What kind of objectives will players face in missions?

Basically you need to understand how to get to the end of the level, and it is often not obvious, but a variety of targets await the player at the levels. You should help the little girl to get rid of the dog and bring her back home, find someone loudly chomping in the nearest supermarket, light up the party, repair the wiring in the private house… And all of these goals are to address one global – restore electricity to the entire city.

9. What kind of puzzles can players expect during missions?

The most interesting kind of puzzle is how to get to specific place. Sometimes what seems far and unachievable often is very close. Thus somewhere you should make a leap of faith or to look for a such path that at first glance is not possible. Try to complete the “Unusual Date” level and you’ll see.

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10. How do the Music levels work and what are the key differences between Music levels and exploration levels in terms of objectives?

Music levels are like a bonus (but that doesn’t mean they are easier), represent the finite runners where your goal is not to fall down from the power line. And sometimes music can help you to play, moreover after completing this levels the electricity gets back to the city’s districts.

11. When designing the music levels, what was the thought process for the composer? What kind of collaboration was required to find the right music for the level in question?

We’re small studio of 4 developers, don’t have our own composer or money to pay for the high-quality sound design, and this time we have done so: we found and bought royalty free music, which was suitable on the every level’s mood. Of course we would like to work with great composer or full orchestra like other big titles, but TurnOn is or debut project on these platforms, and we hope all is still to come. Anyway we’re ready for the counter offers, because we’re not going to stop on one project and only with these platforms.

12. TurnOn actually arrives on Windows Phone before Steam with its demo. What motivated the desire to start on Windows Phone and how has development on the overall concept changed with the shift to Xbox One and Steam?

In the summer of 2014 we were able to win and get the grant for development in the “Games” category of international competition Imagine Cup which is held by Microsoft, in that moment we had only prototype with 2 levels for WP. Six months later, under the terms of getting another grant by AppCampus we have released 1st demo episode on Windows Phone, but by that time had already hit the [email protected], a program that allows indie developers to release their games on this console. It became clear that this goal is much more complex and interesting, so we should do it. Greenlit on Steam we got in April of 2015 as well.

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13. Will there be any challenges or other modes for players to engage in when the story has wrapped up?

It can be connected with Achievement system. We tried to make it in such way, when the player can’t get all achievements and find all secrets by the first walkthrough. Our advice: try to activate all electrical objects and collect all the items, and you’ll be happy 🙂 TurnOn has not arcade mods.

14. Is there any specific reason why the game is not coming on the PS4?

TurnOn story has evolved consistently. Imagine Cup, AppCampus, Windows Phone, [email protected] and Steam. Next we plan to go to PS4 and Nintendo. We already showed TurnOn to guys from Sony and Nintendo, and they liked the game.

15. Is there anything else you want to tell us before we let you go?

Most of developers think that they are making a masterpiece. Now we just have to hope that you’ll enjoy our debut game on Xbox One, PC and Macand appreciate it.

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