Interview: Tequila Works Talks RiME

Posted on by Ryan

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To say that Rime is one of the most anticipated Indie games of 2017 would be an understatement. Like so many, we had this feeling of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus when we first saw the trailer. After sitting down and playing the game at PAX South, we felt something completely different. RiME isn’t meant to be a copycat of those games, it’s meant to be its own game and brings its own unique style. Something that a trailer just can’t capture.

We spoke with Tequila Works CEO and Creative Director Raúl Rubio to learn more about Rime.

Gaming Conviction: What inspired the cell-shaded art style?
Raúl Rubio: The Master of Light Joaquín Sorolla was a huge inspiration. He an early 20th century painter. He was able to draw the movement of light. So you could feel the breeze and even the shadows in the game are blueish. We also grew up in the Mediterranean. Tequila Works is based in Spain and of course we have a lot of sand. At first it was a practical reason because we wanted to create childhood memories we grew up with. For example, when you’re exploring a cave or climbing a tree you never feel tired or break your neck.

Another inspiration was Giorgio de Chirico who was a major Italian artist. He also inspired other games such as Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, and Ico. He was famous for his elevated towers.

The biggest inspiration cell-shading wise was Hayeo Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli. We wanted to create the feeling of motion, but also make it feel the volume of something that is paint. Studio Ghibli and Miyazaki are the best in the world at that. For example if you look at Porco Rosso, you know that it’s blue paint, but it just feels natural. The same can be said with Princess Mononoke. It’s just how you represent this nature. They make it seem very natural and very easy, even though it’s not.

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Tequila Works is 18 people from 12 different nationalities. We have many orientations and beliefs that it makes us create a common message. For us it was ‘OK, what do we have in common as humans?’ not what makes us different. That answer already existed with the Ghibli movies. We all love them. A Ghibli movie isn’t all about what the Japanese postman looks like, but how you treat your elder or how you feel as a father. That was probably the best lesson we’ve learned from RiME. We just wanted to make you feel like a child or just being able to see the world through the eyes of a kid.

In the end we made a story that feels upside down. Instead of telling you who you are and what this place is, it represents you and what you have inside.

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GC: Who is the protagonist we will be playing as?
RR: His named in Ino. We took inspiration from people who are from Spain, Italy, Maritana, and Jordan. He’s a mix of them all in different ways.

GC: Will this game be released digital only?
RR: No! The game will release on PC, Xbox One, and Playstation 4. We have confirmed a physical release on both Playstation 4 and Xbox One. We don’t have a set price in place, but it will be available physically.

GC: Has the comparison with other games like The Last Guardian and Ico effected development?
RR: The moment when we released the first trailer and people were like “Oh! It’s like Windwaker.” We were like “No! No! No! No!” At first we thought those were big words, but then we wondered if they thought this was a Zelda game. Was this like the biggest action RPG ever conceived by man? We had to be very specific on the message because we didn’t want to create any kind of over hype or overreaction to that. I can see the comparison to Ico since it is a child and having a protagonist that feels fragile, but doesn’t lack determination. Everything is well and based on a relationship. For us it was like “What makes Rime Rime? What makes it unique? How can we explain to people that this is more like an Indie game about free-roaming exploration?” When we saw the comparisons the first thing we did was freak out a lot. For weeks we were depressed. We kept thinking to ourselves “What have we done?” People were basically expecting The Witcher, and it’s not The Witcher. So we spent one full year on the game and we released the second trailer which was basically gameplay. Now we got to show everyone what the game was. People then still compared it to Windwaker and we went back to the drawing board. We spent the next 2-3 years making sure that the next time people would see the game, they would be playing the game. No trailer could change that mentality.

So it was a compliment, but in the end the result was we ended up wasted to our vision. In the sense that like ” We changed it. If we make it what people expect it, we are going to screw it up.” We cannot make an Ico game because we are not Ico. It just needs to be a perfect implication of our vision. If they don’t like it, then we know that they didn’t like our game. If we tried to do a Zelda or Skyrim, it’s going to like it was wasted. We didn’t want it to be a ripoff. We wanted to bring something original.

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GC: When Rime was announced it was originally a Playstation 4 exclusive. Now it will release on PC, Xbox One, and Switch as well. What lead to that decision?
RR: When we originally announced Rime it was meant to be a Playstation 4 exclusive. In the middle of development we decided to take back the IP rights. Right now all the property belongs to Tequila Works. Not being a first-party anymore opened us the door to all platforms. As gamers we pay for exclusivities. There’s only one reason games are exclusive and that is because it was built with that hardware in mind. Rime is not that case. Since it uses 4 buttons, there was not reason why it couldn’t be on PC or any other system. We are very happy to have done that.

GC: Was there a reason why Rime skipped the Wii U and went straight for the Switch?
RR: Well it was really because Nintendo was closing production of Wii U and it allowed us to jump into the next generation.

GC: Will the controls on the Switch version be different compared to the other versions?
RR: Since RiME only uses 4 button it won’t be that much of a difference. We’re still working on the Switch version so it’s to soon if we will know if we can take advantage of the unique features such as the Rumble HD or the Joy-Con. Only time will tell.

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GC: What kinds of emotions do you hope players take away from RiME?
RR: RiME is all about transmitting emotions. Those emotions are very primary emotions like, for example, the joy of exploring. The more you progress in the game the more you forget what you have in your heart and in your character. They’re not specific or have one meaning. People interpret the way they want. There’s a different interpretation for everyone. When they reach the end all the explanations for the ending that we found were totally different, which is great because that means we achieved our goal. We’re not telling a story. You are telling us a story.

GC: What is your favorite part about the game?
RR: As far as visuals we are very proud of language below the art style. In the sense that when you’re playing, you don’t get lost or you can climb something that you can’t. That design work has been more than 1 1/2 years of work from an entire team of designers. When you are creating something, you’re vision needs to be transmitted to everything. When you are driving a vision, you need to stay true to that vision. When that vision is created by a thing that means you cannot play the guru card. You cannot change the rules. Having that set of rules and visual language that you find in that experience has helped us a lot. That makes me feel very proud of my team because they are not just one guru on top of a pyramid.

To everyone I can just say thank you. Thank you for having all the patience for this game. Our employees for taking so long. We wanted something that people could play. No trailer is going to change the perception that you achieve when you play it. Thanks for the passion and hope. We found our light at the end of the tunnel.