Interview with Phonomancer of AOne Games

I had the chance to sit down and talk with Phonomancer who was the combat, story & game designer for Omen of Sorrow which was developed by AOne Games and released late last year. In this interview we discuss: His history with the company, struggles that his team faced during development, how the game ended up on PS4, and more.

Q: First off, I just want to say thanks for taking the time to speak with me. I’m sure you’re a busy guy so I appreciate it immensely. Also excited to branch out into the world of game development. How are you doing today?

Pho: Things are going well! A bit tired from the week, but that’s to be expected.

Q: It’s almost Friday my man. We both just have to get through one more day haha. So for those that are unaware of who you are can you tell us a bit about yourself and what it is that you do.

Pho: My name is Felipe Muñoz, and I was Combat Director and Game Designer for Omen of Sorrow. I was also in charge of creating the scenario and story of the game, and took part in the character design process alongside Max, our game director, and Genzoman, our character artist. We’re a small team, so we have to wear a lot of hats!

Q: Now Omen of Sorrow was a game that flew under my radar and I’m sure quite a few other peoples’ as well. Could you explain what exactly Omen of Sorrow is?

Pho: Of course! Omen of Sorrow is a 2D fighting game where the characters are based on classic monsters from horror and literature. It’s currently available for PS4 both physically and digitally.

Q: Awesome! So tell me about AONE, the studio that you work for, how long have you been there and how did you come into your role for Omen of Sorrow?

Pho: AOne is a Chilean video game studio and this is our first game. The complete development process took about four years and I’ve been there for the last three. It’s a funny story how I came into my role. I intially was interviewed to do the scenario and the story of the game and a friend who was doing concept art at the company recommended me because he knew I was really into fighting games. When I joined the team was really small and they were still recruiting people for the project. As it turns out, even though they were nostalgic about fighting games, having played them as kids and such, they didn’t have much experience in the competitive side of them or were well versed in what playing fighting games seriously entailed. As such, as we got to know each other better, the team decided I was better suited for the role of combat and game designer. This would become my main role in the development. Even at our largest we were never a very big team. The size of the team has varied through time but at our largest we were about 25 people, which is large for an indie team, but not very large for a game like ours.

Q: That’s pretty impressive. You were sort of thrust into this new role that you had never done before. So obviously as a man who had man important roles in the development of the game why was sit that you guys went with the setting that you guys did? This battle of characters from different lores. Was that decision also made by you or was it decided before you got in there?

Pho: Thank you for the kind words. The idea was already in place by the time I got there, as well as a good number of the characters. After I got there we redesigned most of them, but some remained as they were.

Q: Of course! Interesting, so you were there to bring the idea to life. What do you think were some of the biggest obstacles you guys faced when creating the game? Can you share some examples?

Pho: The biggest obstacle was probably the budget to be entirely honest. When you’re a small company you are forced to pretty much hit the ground running. So that means not as much time as you’d like in many parts of the process. As such, you don’t have the luxury of more time and you have to make do. Also, since we were more or less a patch-work team there were many parts of the creative and production process that we had to figure out on the go.

Q: Keeping along with that thought it seems like you guys had a lot of issues to resolve. Do you feel like you did a good job resolving all of them or were there some things looking back that you wish you had done differently?

Pho: Oh, there are for sure many things that could have and should have been done differently. Even at the time of production we knew that. But revising the process midway through is not really a luxury we had. We were running against the clock. That being said, I think we solved a lot of them far better than we had any right to haha. Still, going forward I would say there is a lot of lessons to be learned from the whole process. It definitely helped that so many people on the team were as detail oriented and dedicated as they could be. We had a very talented team that is for sure.

Q: Sounds like it! So I’ll need you to indulge me a bit here as I know almost nothing about game development, how do you go about getting your game on Playstation? Was it something that you guys pitched? Did you just put stuff out for the public and it caught their attention? How did your game end up on PS4?

Pho: Oh, it is much less glamorous of a story than you would think. Sony has this thing called pubfunds which are basically just grants to small development teams that they want to give a leg up to in exchange for exclusivity. It’s a bet they take on you, while at the same time incentivizing entrepreneurship in video game development in certain areas of the world. Latin America doesn’t have much in terms of a video game industry, so the bet that they make is that if they offer funds and we use them and we grow then in the future we can make better games and be a better partner for them too. So we put ourselves up for that fund and we got it. This was obviously a huge help.

Q: For sure, although I assume that means we won’t see it on PC anytime soon which is a huge bummer because I like to play most of my games on PC now. Speaking of, what sort of plans do you guys have for the future? I know you have the exclusive deal with Sony but is there any chance we see a port of it elsewhere or do you think it will be a Sony game forever. I know some games launch at exclusives and than get PC ports a year or so down the line.

Pho: Oh no, exclusivity with Sony isn’t a lifelong thing. A PC port may well be on its way, possibly even soon. Nothing that I can confirm or deny at this stage. Let’s just say that I have been very busy this past month at the office and leave it at that haha.

Q: Haha, PC port? Never heard of it. Speaking of things to come for Omen of Sorrow in the future do you have any competitive plans for Omen of Sorrow? Obviously esports has been growing at a very rapid pace the last few years, do you hope the game will take on a competitive nature? Was that something you guys were hoping for during development or are you guys fine with it just being played casually and are just happy to have people playing your game. Maybe both?

Pho: At least since I have come on board the game was always designed with the competitive scene in mind. I come from a competitive background, modest as my scene may have been, so I was always aiming for that. I was also trying to capture the more casual players with the recognizable horror characters and scenario. Of course, a fighting game is a very delicate thing as you know and since we were never going to have as much time as I would have liked for things like straight up balance testing we just had to be very astute about the general direction we gave to the combat. On top of that we did the best we could with location testing. This is partly why we traveled as early and as much as we did during the development process. We needed feedback!

Q: Does AOne have anything planned for the future or are you still all hands on deck for Omen of Sorrows. If you are still planing on doing things for Omen of Sorrows what are some things people have to look forward to?

Pho: There’s a project in the works at the moment, but I can’t say for sure about the long term future. Omen of Sorrow will keep having support for at the very least this year, plus a bit of balance updates in the coming weeks!

Q: Well that is about all I have for you today. I appreciate you taking the time to do an interview with me. Before I let you go is there anyone you would like to give a shout out to and do you have any final words on Omen of Sorrow?

Pho: “Un saludo para mi mamá y para todos lo que me conocen” is a Chilean joke about shout outs, so I think that qualifies. Other than that, just a shout out to the team, and to everyone else: please check out Omen of Sorrow! It’s a fun time.

You can follow phonomancer @ThatGuyIMetOnce.

And as always you can follow me @itsfrail

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