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Behind the Scenes of "Beyond the Backyard"

Since coming together towards the end of May, the FableVision Summer 2017 interns have been hard at work on an exciting joint independent project. After meeting each other and discussing our shared interests in nature, wildlife, space whales, exploration, and adventure we knew we’d love working together.

After a few brainstorming sessions, we decided to create an interactive adventure game that captures the feeling of being a child exploring your backyard. You can read our Meet the Interns post from a couple months ago to learn more about our strong memories as kids exploring the outdoors.

Beyond the Backyard has five beautifully crafted scenes for players to explore. As the player goes through the game and ventures deeper into the digital backyard, they learn about the local fauna and flora of New England. To help along the way, players are equipped with a handy journal that displays adorable animations and illustrations as well as educational information about their surroundings and tips to progress the story.

Stay tuned for the exclusive game release coming next week! In the meantime, here’s a preview of our very own adventure embarking on game development at FableVision Studios.

The game officially releases next week! What are you most excited for people to experience?
Devon: Ideally, I want players to feel like they’re finding surprising secrets that have never been uncovered; to feel like they’re finding the little places in every wilderness that have a natural magic about them, like they’re peeking into another world.

Ellie: The biggest thing we wanted to convey when making this game was that sense of nostalgia you get when thinking back on your childhood, how everything was new and exciting, and that even your backyard has something new to explore and learn. For adults playing the game, I hope that nostalgia is apparent for them. For children, I hope it makes them feel as though they are actually out there in the wild exploring, especially for those living in the city.

Dan: I hope that all the scenery and the animals enthrall players and that it encourages them to explore every bit of content we’ve created. A hidden perk of the the development process has been learning a lot about New England wildlife, and I hope players will enjoy that discovery process as much as we did. Overall, it’s been an amazing experience working with two incredibly talented artists and I’m really excited for people to start exploring the beautiful world we’ve created together!

What’s your role on the project?
Devon: I get to wear many hats; contributing to the game design, animation, and writing, though my primary role is as the illustrator for the game. I created the backgrounds and still illustrations that can be found in each scene and in the journal entries. I am presently working on a series of illustrations that will be shown during the beginning and ending of the game as a sort of story introduction and epilogue.

Ellie: I get things moving! My primary job on the project is to make animations for the game. There are little animated critters in each scene and a click from the player prompts a journal to pop up displaying another animation with a little more personality. Aside from animations, I work with Devon and Dan to develop the written journal entries, and I help choose where/what species will make an appearance.

Dan: I’m the wrangler and developer for this project! My role is to take all of the beautiful art that Devon and Ellie make, assemble it in Unity, and then write code for all the various interactions and systems of the game. I’m also leading the marketing behind the project, and helping out with game design and writing.

How has this project allowed you to shine? What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced?
Devon: The things that I’m most comfortable with are backgrounds and still illustrations. The biggest challenge I had to face was the harvestmen daddy long legs I had to animate for the lake scene. I discovered that keeping track of eight legs is not an easy task when animating. Although it was a small challenge, I think in the beginning, paring down the ideas we had for the game into a manageable and cohesive whole was an intellectual challenge in and of itself. We have a whole handful of ideas that will probably not make it into the final game.

Ellie: When I first started my internship, I didn’t really know what to expect from the experience as a whole, let alone what to expect from my fellow interns. What I didn’t expect was for us all to become this totally rad three-man studio dream team.

I really got a chance to improve on my time management skills. One day I’m animating some Bambi-esque deer doing their beautiful nature pose, the next, I’m animating a raccoon eating garbage. Through this process, I learned how long certain things are actually going to take me – and luckily, we gave ourselves a little wiggle room so I didn’t get too far behind schedule. Making sure everything works with Unity has also been a challenge, but those problems are always solved pretty quickly and flawlessly – and usually not by me. (Thanks, Dan!)

Dan: I think this project has allowed me to show off my ability to collaborate effectively with others and use my programming/writing skills to supplement and enhance the fantastic work of my teammates. I’ve always felt that I shine brightest when my job is to do whatever I can to support others and allow them to showcase their strengths while covering for any of the team’s weaknesses. The biggest challenge for me has been incorporating all the incredible art into the game while keeping the file size low, which isn’t something I had done much of before coming to the studio.

What would you consider a lasting takeaway from this experience?
You can do amazing things when you’re working with amazing people! The best part of this game comes from the combination of all three of our collective skills and interests. Ellie and Dan have been lovely to work with and all the support and advice from the team at FableVision has been very influential.

Ellie: We’ve all been completely invested in the project, worked really hard, and maybe most importantly, we all genuinely like each other. This experience has given me insight on what it means to be a team, and the incredible things you can achieve when you work with other people.

Dan: Working on this project has helped to reassure me that making games is definitely what I want to do and that it’s something I actually can do. Working as part of this team has been so much fun and I’m learning a ton about their creative processes and how I can best support them. The most important thing that I’ll take away from this is that collaborating can lead to results that are far beyond what any one person can do individually. I’ve really loved working with Devon and Ellie and I hope to persuade them to work with me again in the future! [Editor’s note: In fact, we love working together so much that Dan and Ellie already collaborated on a game jam featuring a space whale!]