If you've read our FRU review, you'll know it's a charming puzzle platformer that serves as the first - and perhaps last - truly great Kinect game on Xbox One. Developed by startup Through Games, we discussed the project's inception and evolution, the risks involved with Kinect development, and much, much more with Game Designer Mattia Traverso.
Except... the second dimension is actually inside your silhouette. This is a game changer, because altering the level is not about pressing a button, but about performing increasingly complex poses.
Furthermore, you are not switching the entire screen to a different dimension, but rather controlling what areas are 'dimension 1' and what areas are 'dimension 2' by positioning yourself in certain ways.
This was quite a challenge to design properly: not just because of the mechanics, but also what it requires from the player. Most of these design thoughts on the game arose over the course of its two-year development, but it all started as a quick prototype that we developed in 48 hours for the Global Game Jam.
At the time we had no idea what this game even was, we just had an idea for a concept and started playing with it. We very much 'discovered' FRU by playing that prototype over and over, rather than having 'made' it!
A look at FRU's prototype.
What inspired you and the team during the development stage? What was it that prompted the project's change in direction following the prototype phase?
As I mentioned, the project got started at a game jam. The theme that year was "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
At first we actually couldn't come up with anything we deemed interesting, but during a break (we now call it 'THE smoking break') our programmer remembered he had a Kinect, and proposed we worked with it.
Ideas snowballed, and ultimately FRU was born.
For about a year, we prototyped ideas for a very narrative-focussed game with puzzle gameplay, something like Inside - to offer a recent comparison. That definitely proved to be impossible to realise, so we decided to focus on a very strong gameplay experience, which is what you can get on the Xbox Store today.
I wrote a bit more about that original vision here, and you can find more info on our story here.
Can you tell us about your team at Through Games? Who you are, how you got started, previous experience, where you're based, etc.
There's quite a lot of us, and you can see our beautiful faces on our site.
You can also see them right here! Mattia's top right.
Most of us were students when FRU started, either studying Game Design, Game Art or Programming!
We actually met at our school, the NHTV University of Breda, which later allowed us to set up office inside it (thank you guys!).
A few of us already had industry expertise (Chi from Age of Wonders 3 and I previously worked as an indie dev), but I can definitely say that this project formed us and was an incredible learning experience.
There were really tough challenges and moments where we weren't sure whether the game'd get done, so it was a good emotional gym for things to come.
The lack of big project expertise was certainly one of the leading factors for the game's long development, actually.
How big a risk was it releasing a Kinect game in the current climate?
The Kinect audience is a sub-set of the Xbox audience and have no clear gathering place. We can just show our game to Xbox players and hope that they have Kinect or that they'd talk about it to someone with one.
So yeah, not easy at all.
"How do you communicate to people with Kinect that a game is out? The Kinect audience is a sub-set of the Xbox audience and have no clear gathering place."
What are your thoughts on VR? Is it the future? We'd like to see what you could do in that space, having already mastered one peripheral.
I'd love to try making something for it, and I am sure the rest of the team would be interested in it too... We'll see!
Personally I think it's the future in the same way that 3D was the future over 2D. People were skeptic about it and developers took time to figure it out, but it eventually proved it offered new tools to game designers.
VR offers a new axis like 3D does to 2D, except this time it's not spatial, it's psychological.
The feeling of presence of a VR game is - in my experience - unprecedented. This doesn't mean that VR will substitute previous games, but rather coexist.
I think you can build experiences that can't be built in normal games, even though strictly mechanically it doesn't offer anything new.
What games have had the biggest impact on your life, and why?
What advice would you give to someone looking to break into the video games industry?
Don't make Kinect games?
Joking aside, I'd look into video game schools. I used to think they were not great - and most still aren't - but they are really advancing.
There's so many people looking to work that it's really important to take a few years to build skills, portfolio and behaviour before you throw yourself at the industry.
If you do go to game school, please do take some time off to work on personal projects too, or attend game jams: they are extremely important.
What's next for you and Through Games? Any chance we can coax something out of you on the mysterious unannounced title you're teasing on Twitter?
It's hard to say at this point!
We certainly plan to keep supporting FRU, and there might be some research going into possible porting avenues (not confirming anything!).
That said, the company was originally founded to make this game and this game only, so we are a bit unprepared when it comes to future plans.
We certainly made a name for ourselves in the world of experimental tech, and VR is just around the corner... we'll see what the future brings!
You're stranded on a desert island that miraculously has a TV and power - you also have the incredible foresight to pack a single console - which do you choose, and why?
I just need a PlayStation One and Bugs Bunny: Lost in Time.
Fittingly, that's all folks!
You can follow Mattia @MattiaNotFound on Twitter to keep up to date.
Thanks to Mattia for taking the time out of his busy schedule to talk to us.
FRU is currently available to download from the Xbox Store and will set you back £11.99. By the sound of it, you may eventually be able to pick it up elsewhere. Whatever platform you might choose, we recommend picking it up.