As regular readers of our blog might have noticed, the majority of the guests in our “Interviews” column have been individuals. In a world where technology offers a wide array of options to artists it’s to be expected that a great many of them would prefer to work alone, completely in control of their product, instead of finding others with similar interests. Team Galanx, the people responsible behind the release of the Konstandin demo, are a great example of what is achievable with team work. It’s not an everyday occurence to come across an indie title that looks like a triple A production, especially in the RPG Horror genre. The game’s quality has grabbed the attention of the gamer community and we just couldn’t miss the opportunity to find out more details about this amazing title.
Neko-Chi (N): Introduce Team Galanx to us.
Albert (A): Galanx is a team which is currently made of 9 hardworking and passionate individuals. Our members include:
Nouin (No) – Artist, animator, idea pitcher and programmer
Alma (Al) – Writer, idea pitcher and lyricist
Albert (A) – Quality Manager and idea pitcher
Frank (Fr) – Composer, sound supervisor and idea pitcher
Pico (Pi) – Pixel artist, idea pitcher
Alina (Ali) – Singer and lyricist
Ashe (As) – Voice actor
SirHamnet (SH) – Voice actress
Manlybadasshero (M) – Voice actor
(N): How did you come up with the decision to develop Konstandin? What was it that inspired you to invest your time and effort on this project?
(A): To be honest, it was always a dream of ours to make the people aware of our rich Albanian folklore, we just never knew what kind of shape that dream would take. There are so many incredibly touching and mysterious tales that made it difficult to choose only one to work with, but in the end we went with the one which is the most prevalent, Konstandin. At first, we contemplated about turning our version of Konstandin into a novel or manga, but it wouldn’t have done it enough justice, since this story would need to be told in a more engaging manner. So in our case, the best option was turning it into a game. Of course making a game is not easy at all, particularly if you aim for a higher quality, but what motivated us the most to start this, was the idea that we would be spreading knowledge and curiosity about the Albanian culture amongst people from all around the world.
(N): Out of all the available software out there what made you pick up RPG Maker?
(A): Frankly, there was nothing specific that made us work with this software, except for the fact that we lacked enough budget to afford something more expensive.
(N): During February you released Konstandin’s demo. What has been the feedback so far and how important is it for you?
(A): We were really overwhelmed by all the positive feedback we received from our current demo! Knowing that there are so many people who genuinely support us and are excited for Konstandin makes our motivation rise so much more. Since the game is made by us FOR the people, feedback is the highest form of acknowledgement we can get.
(N): The first noticeable quality of Konstandin is its amazing CGs -I am referring to both the character/level design and the incredible animated cutscenes. Talk to us about the creative process behind them.
(A): Nouin is the one responsible for creating these beautiful graphics and Pico is behind the gorgeous pixel art which are mostly the end result of a brainstorming session within the team. Since the characters and locations are already put into paper as descriptions, we then need to spice it up with imagination. We usually begin with picturing the character/location/event like in the basic description and everyone tweaks around with it, adds or removes something in order to make it more authentic to the main atmosphere of the game. Then as soon as we think that we got what we want, we present our versions of that particular event or scene to each other and receive feedback. We never choose an idea if it doesn’t seem satisfactory to all of us, but usually we end up mixing our ideas and create a result to which we agree. This way, we basically use a simple description to get out as many artistic perspectives as possible, sometimes revealing new levels of wickedness amongst our members. In our case, wicked is something welcome, since Konstandin contains a lot of horror elements. After everything is settled, Nouin and Pico shape the final sketches into a presentable and clean product which is then implemented into the game.
(N): Konstandin’s OST is among the best I’ve heard lately and, judging from online comments, many seem to share the same thought. I’d like to ask Frank (Wypchol) three questions on his work:
What are the instruments and/or software you’ve used on Konstandin?
(Fr): First of all I want to thank you very much for the compliments; you are the people we are doing these things for! But coming now to your first question (with the hope of not getting TOO technical), I am using Avid´s Pro Tools 11 as host software and Vienna Instrument´s Vienna Ensemble Pro 5 for my virtual instrument templates. My software instruments actually contain a wide range of products I purchased from 14 different East West libraries to Project Sam´s Symphobia, some 8dio products and a couple other, smaller ones. In addition to this I am recording a lot of extra sound effects myself to add these to my compositions to make them more interesting.
(N): What was your main goal when you were composing the soundtrack?
(Fr): Wow. This is a tough one. I think there is not enough time to write an answer to such a question but I will try my best. I studied music composition at a conservatory in the Netherlands for four years and I am not only used to, but also trained to write music for media such as movies and games. Also my specialization lies in dramatic/melancholic music scores, and the video game industry in general. My main goal in working for Konstandin was to support not only this beautifully designed story of the game, but also to picture the passion the developers at Galanx put in this whole project! Because in the essence it´s not always the project itself or the money you get from it that drives you to great inspiration, but also the drive of your team members you are working with. I want to create something that is a part of a bigger goal, something that can express the emotions we had, developing a product, to our audience.
(N): Could you name us your musical influences that helped you on this project?
(Fr): As a commercial working composer you always need your own voice, something that can give you a unique position on the market. And as a matter of fact a lot of my colleagues can already tell by reading my orchestral scores whether I wrote a particular soundtrack or not. But you are right. And I would lie to you giving you this as a final answer because every one of us has their own favorite composers/arrangers they listen to. And when you are working on a project it is really important to get you in a certain mood; especially when working on different jobs at the same time. For the Konstandin OST I listened to a lot of Garry Schyman´s pieces for Bioshock 1 and Dante´s Inferno and read scores from Edvard Grieg´s Peer Gynt. Just to name the most important ones.
(N): Frank, another question. On May 23rd you presented Konstandin’s soundtrack in a live orchestral performance. Could you share your thoughts on this experience?
(Fr): It was overwhelming. From the first sketches to the final evening it was more work than most of my studio projects, but conducting an orchestra, letting it play every note I´ve written, filling the whole theater hall with pure emotions created by both auditive an optical impulses, is an experience you cannot easily describe. The new score to portray the legend behind Konstandin is one of the most emotional and dramatic scores I have ever written. And at the end of the evening on May 23rd some people of the audience actually came to tell me that they had tears in their eyes seeing and listening to this piece of art.
(N): Alina’s performance in Overture is fantastic. Will there be more of her in the game and where else can we hear her singing?
(A): We all agree, her singing is truly incredible. Yes, we plan on making other songs for Konstandin with Alina as our singer. The general feeling that these future songs are going to emit will of course compliment the darker nature of the game. You are able to hear her wonderful songs on her youtube channel, named Alina Lesnik, where she performs covers and collaborative pieces she did with our composer Frank. Alina and Frank are members of the band ONCE, who also have their own channel on youtube. The band’s songs are breathtaking!
(N): Among Konstandin’s features that are unique in comparison to other RPG Horror games is the voice acting. Albert, what led you to the decision of adding such a feature in the game?
(A) Oh, the decision was easy from the start. I play lots of RPGs myself, and I dislike reading big chunks of text. I think voice acting helps to keep things simple and entertaining, without having to chew all that long (boring) text that Alma wrote… I’d rather listen to the character’s voice. It gives more life to the character and to the story itself.
(Ha): It was difficult, when checking over my work, to determine whether I was doing a believable job because no matter what, I still sound like myself to myself. It’s hard to hear it as someone else!
(As): The biggest challenge I faced during the voice acting process was finding a sweet spot during the day to scream my lungs up without inciting worried phone calls from my neighbors.
(N): Are you satisfied with the result you’ve achieved?
(Ha): Maybe not 100%, but I am happy with my progress! I’ve become much more comfortable with getting into the acting and letting my voice do whatever it wants to do.
(As): Seeing the demo in completion has revealed some things I’ll need to work on for characterization, but everyone’s combined effort really shone through here.
(N): Albert, you’re the team’s quality supervisor. Give us a brief of this role, name the most demanding aspects of your work and what makes it enjoyable.
(A): Quality review is not so easy as one might think. You have to be really careful to not hurt the other team member’s ego, while also being able to maintain acceptable quality. Artists are really sensitive regarding critics, and sometimes feedback may be taken as an offense, but luckily our team has developed a common language and we have fun doing what we do. We all contribute to quality, because we all put our hearts in it. Oh, and I have fun because I get to say “You shall not pass!” 😀
(N): Let’s turn our attention to the story. Konstandin seems to have a diverse group of characters. We have people of different ages and contrasting personalities. How important will the differences between them prove to be as the plot unfolds?
(Al): The diverse cast was made so that, if not with everything, the player could relate with some of the things that the character does or says. Since three of these characters will be playable, it would be quite monotonous for them to have the same vocabulary or thought pattern. But, we didn’t make the cast that way just for the sake of doing something else. Many of the characters and their behavior will not only influence the environment they are in, but they will also have quite the impact on one another, mainly because of their differences.
“Me: Makes OC just so she can kill said OC several times in different ways and not even be sorry.”
Does that mean we should worry about Rinor and Aulona? Also, what makes killing your OCs in a variety of ways so enjoyable?
(Al): If you worry about Rinor and Aulona, then this means that my purpose as a writer is fulfilled. I wrote that quote because it referred to the premature deaths in the game, which lead to the game over screen. How else could I kill Rinor a thousand times, with it still making sense, hahaha.
I have always been curious about the variety of ways that lead to death, even in real life. And since this is a game, why make it a boring death just by turning the screen black, when you are presented with the possibility to show what the process looks like. How would it be if the OC was to be poisoned, stabbed, drowned, squished, shot, burnt, eaten, skinned, suffocated, hanged, decapitated etc. There are so many possibilities. It may sound very sinister of me, but it’s always fascinating to see the outcome in the actual game.
(N): On what details do you focus the most when writing on Konstandin? Could you name your biggest writing influences?
(Al): That’s a tough one. I usually try to make everything normal. The characters should act according their described personalities. I am aware that I still have a long way to go for the conversations to seem perfectly natural, but I will keep improving myself and redoing the things that seem off after re-reading and hearing them several times. I love writing descriptions for the environment, because it will be examined by the player, so it should give extra information about the character and the conditions they are living in.
There are a lot of sources I draw inspiration from, but in the case of Konstandin I am mostly driven by the charming works of authors such as Gjergj Fishta and Jeronim De Rada, by movies such as The Others and Silence of the Lambs, soundtracks made by Akira Yamaoka and Marcin Przybyłowicz and by my own dreams aswell.
(N): One of the demo’s surprises was the amount of violence on display. Though it’s not emphasized, there are certain moments (i.e. Bardha’s corpse, Rinor’s shaken mentality) where the game holds no punches back. Should we expect that the rest of the game will have at least some equally gruesome moments?
(A): It is nice to hear that it came as a surprise. Since the demo is merely the beginning of the story, you can expect these moments to become even more gruesome than before.
(N): If you were to label each of the main characters (Rinor, Aulona, Mona, Tringa, Taulant, Shadow and Konstandin) under one word, which one would that be?
Rinor – dork
Aulona – worrywart
Mona – pancake
Tringa – thug
Taulant – nerd
Shadow – troll
Konstandin – insomniac
That’s it. That’s the story. A bunch of idiots meet each other under certain circumstances.
(N): What have been the most important challenges you have faced as a team while working on Konstandin?
(A): There has actually been only one challenge, which is each member’s location. Our team is scattered around the globe, members being from Kosovo, Germany, Philippines and America. The challenge was our time zone difference, since we also had our everyday lives to attend to. But sacrifices needed to be made, so we were willing to stay up a bit later for each other every now and then.
(A): Well, we were one of the nominated games to attend E3 this year and had to get into the Top 5 in order to qualify for E3. Which game goes was dependent on the support it got from the fans, and thankfully we had enough supporters who made it possible for us to be chosen. We will be forever thankful to every single one of them, because they have truly proven that they care about Konstandin and want it to get more exposure. Sadly we have to inform everyone that our plans to attend this event were cancelled, since our budget won’t be enough.
(N): If you were to name a (RPG Horror) title that Konstandin resembles, which one would that be?
(A): In our opinion, Konstandin doesn’t hold any resemblance to other horror RPGs. We tried being creative, but this also depends on the people to judge. We would love to know if Konstandin reminds you guys of any other game title of the same genre.
(N): A personal, somewhat silly, question; will we ever find out which was the online game Rinor was playing?
(A): Actually, we’ve been wondering ourselves. It sounded a lot like the Robot Pirate Island.
(N):Any last thing you wish to share with our readers?
(A): We hope you all stayed with us to the end and enjoyed this interview as much as we had fun answering these questions! Things we’d like to share… remember kids, eat your vegetables, floss your teeth, visit our tumblr and bathe twice a week in the tears of your enemies.