Earlier this year, we chatted with Egg Ball, the indie team behind A Moon For The Sky and Patchworld, about their company’s style and background. We thought it was time to check in with them for an update on Jazz, a unique platformer with music/rhythm elements set in 1920s New Orleans and co-developed by Bulkypix. Here’s what Egg Ball CEO Julien Victor, directors Nicolas Badoux and Louis Lim, and designer Simon Abitan had to say about Jazz.
How has Jazz progressed since we last asked you about it in February?
Nicolas/ Julien: To begin with, we’ve narrowed our focus in to on a single main character, that of Trump, and we’ve imbued him with a special power (the ability stop time by playing music). Rather than having multiple characters out of the gate, we wanted to flesh out Trump.
The level design has turned out to be far more elaborate than we had originally thought that it would be, and with the richness of texture that Jazz and New Orleans has given us, we needed to take our time with it to make sure we could really do it justice. Ultimately, we have realized that Jazz is definitely our most ambitious game yet in terms of gameplay, level design, graphics, and the scenarios.
Were you able to include all the important elements you wanted into the game? Last time, you mentioned the “Silly Symphony” art style, dream-like atmosphere, and music/platforming gameplay. Did these make the cut?
Louis: The short answer is yes. The graphic environment is based on a cartoon style (think along the lines of Disney’s ‘Silly Symphony’). The simplicity of this style allowed us to create a range of animations and to maintain a fun atmosphere throughout the game, even when dealing at times with more serious subjects.
Another objective was to create engaging characters, ones that the players can relate to and connect with.
Some of the in-game graphic elements are definitely based on real world people, places, and events, but we tried to keep an open mind on things that would allow us to remain creative and innovative with the storyline.
What is the story of Jazz? Does the game have you interacting with real-world historical figures?
Nicolas/ Simon: You play Trump, a young Jazzman passionate about music and desperately in love with a rising young singing star named Lady Coquelicot. Trump is not Louis Armstrong exactly, but his story is directly inspired by the real Armstrong’s life. We read several biographies of Louis Armstrong as well as many other histories of Jazz and New Orleans to have as much source material as possible to draw from.
To conquer the heart of the lovely Lady Coquelicot and to achieve his dream to lead his own band and to become a legendary Jazzman, Trump has to overcome social prejudices embodied by ‘Mr. R’ and to fight against the establishment (in our case, policemen).
‘Mr. R’ is not demonized and he is not simply a level boss. Our approach wasn’t to preach that ‘racism is bad’ (Which it is, btw). We just wanted the player to have to struggle against the same difficulties that existed for a Jazzman of the era. It’s not a game against racism; it’s about Jazz and the daily life of a Jazzman and the society that surrounded him.
How does the setting of New Orleans impact gameplay? How were you able to involve the city of New Orleans in the game’s development?
Simon: We used the real map of New Orleans to organize the levels. All of the locations in the game are places that actually existed. We’ve just created the atmosphere of these places in coherence with the game’s particular animation style. The reflection of history can be found more in the scenarios and situations than in the specific gameplay.
For example, in the jail the challenges that the player faces are more severe than had existed in the actual historic New Orleans jail (the jailers were more tolerant in reality – they accepted that music would be played by the prisoners). That’s why you can play music in the jail.
Can you tell us more about how the game combines platforming with music?
Nicolas: It does so in two ways: The music evolves with the Trump’s progression through the game. As more people join your jazz band, the richer the music becomes. It gives the impression of an evolution of your music. In the end, you achieve your life’s goal: to create a jazz band and the music truly comes together.
Trump also plays a trumpet to stop time. Depending on when and where you stop time, it will allow the player to perform additional actions to influence the scene.
Do you think there is a place on the App Store for more adventurous, unconventional types of games like Jazz?
Julien: Games are becoming more and more elaborate; and we want to explore where new creative styles are headed by trying to merge history, education, and fun in new and interesting ways.
Jazz is typical the type of game that we want to create in the future. We’ve loved working on Jazz because for us it’s our most expressive game yet and has let us really use our imagination and to be creative in a way that we haven’t been able to previously.
It’s also a way to be at least a little bit involved on social commentary and reminding players of history. We did lots of research: the story of New Orleans, of Louis Armstrong, and of the challenges faced by musician of the era.