Song of Farca is a narrative driven detective game that was recently showcased at Fellow Traveller’s annual indie narrative digital event, LudaNarraCon, alongside over 40 released and upcoming indie games. It takes a lot to try and separate oneself from the sea of increasingly creative indie games that are coming out near daily now, but Song of Farca may be able to steal the show with a cool look of blending 3d and 2d with simple mechanics that leaves players able to focus on characters and the story.
Song of Farca puts players in the, metaphorical, shoes of Isabella Song – a hacker PI. Players will have to hack cameras, phones, and computers, as well as question suspects, analyze evidence and draw conclusions to solve a case. Not everything plays out as expected, as even some of the criminals can end up becoming victims.
I got a chance to speak with Oleg and Yuliya, the producer and associate producer respectively, for the futuristic case solving snooper.
BagoGames: First off, thank you both for taking the time from your busy schedule to speak with me.
Oleg: Likewise, thank you for the opportunity!
BG: I hope you both found success during LudoNarraCon, there so many interesting games to see and try.
OL: Definitely one of the main events for narrative games that we are looking forward to every year
hopefully LudoNarraCon won’t ever stop.
Yuliya: Yeah, sure, It’s a great opportunity for narrative indie games to gain a well-deserved attention.
BG: Do either of you have a personal favorite from the event?
YU: For me it’s Unpacking and Cozy Grove. I have been playing Cozy Grove a lot recently. It’s a nice bit of peace and quiet.
OL: Does Song of Farca count? I’ve been enjoying Cozy Grove quite a bit lately, although it’s not like it was some sort of a hidden gem until LudoNarraCon. As for the upcoming games, I wanted to mention Unpacking as well, but since Yulia beat me to it, I’d say Mind Scanners looks interesting from the demo I’ve played, but yeah, hard to pick a favorite, a lot of great games this year, as usual.
BG: Unpacking was a surprise for me, I really enjoyed it, Song of Fraca also has my attention, I’m a sucker for detective/mystery games.
OL: Glad you liked it! I hope that the full game will pull you as well, we tried to intertwine the case-by-case episodic nature of a detective procedural with the overarching story of the main character as well as the world around her.
BG: So before we get too deep into our love for indie stuff, please, introduce yourself and tell us your role.
OL: My name’s Oleg, I am producer here at Alawar, publisher of Song of Farca
YU: My name is Yuliya, I am an associate producer of Song of Farca at Alawar.
BG: Right off the bat, why a prologue for a demo?
YU: It was an experiment for us as we’ve never released prologues before. It’s a great decision if you want to receive a feedback from the players right to the Steam page before the full game’s release.
OL: We felt that the episodic nature of the game allows us to give players a sneak peek into the game not by some arbitrary amount of time, but at an exactly one detective case and since that has it’s own story and a satisfying end, it felt natural to release it is as an separate free title, giving the players an ability to share their thoughts directly in Steam
BG: So the prologue is just for a demo and won’t be present in the full release?
OL: It is the very first detective case which will be included in the full game (after a short tutorial case)
but since the Prologue was released 4 months before the planned full game release, it allowed us to gather players feedback and implement some changes accordingly as a part of the full game, it will also obviously be more polished in terms of art, narration and gameplay mechanics. As I mentioned earlier, the game is split into detective cases, each of which has it’s own story and conclusion, but there’s also an overarching story that makes the events of each case very important.
BG: There are some cool little details in the demo, such as the ankle monitor on the main character. Not much was said about that in the demo, besides an email from a friend, it looks like the game will be filled with small details that tell a bigger story.
OL: Absolutely, as you’ve noticed by seeing an ankle monitor on the main character, an upper part of the screen will be used to show and tell you the story as well, not just dialogues.
BG: The top screen definitely had a lot going on, although I couldn’t personally stop looking at the sleeping pup, although there’s nothing for the player to interact with, or was that just because of this being a demo? Will there be anytime when the player will need to focus on the top screen, gameplay wise?
OL: It is intended to be mainly non-interactive, with the lower part of the screen being the main gameplay hub, and the upper part showing you the story between the cases and adding variety while you are playing, with the pup doing its thing, drones showing ads by projecting it on your window, and the changing weather as well as day/night cycle adding to the atmosphere, As you correctly assessed, there was not much going on in the demo simply because this varied functionality was still in development at the time of Prologue release
BG: I can’t wait to see what the team has planned. SoF is a point and click detective game with a focus on characters. Players have multiple ways of getting clues and info, from searching with facial recognition to even seeing a character’s heart rate, every piece of information has a purpose. What inspired so many different mechanics?
OL: We wanted to try and experiment with the familiar point-n-click mechanics by making them feel original and fitting in this cyberpunk/hacking atmosphere of the future, given that [the] full game will take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to complete without rushing through, one of our priorities was making these mechanics varied so the player is not tired of completing the same puzzle over and over again. If we are talking about inspiration references, there are quite a lot of games that we enjoy and love, as well as movies/series/books
incomplete list of what we’ve been inspired by would probably be: the technological advances and the way it changes our lives in the real world; Black Mirror, Love Death + Robots, the Red Strings Club, Orwell, Ace Attorney, Sherlock games, the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, True Detective, Devs, Upload…and many others.
BG: I was hoping Ace Attorney was an inspiration, it’s one of my favorite game series, the puzzles are a huge part of the game. Finding drones and cameras to look around an area and find the next clue was fun. How do you balance narrative pacing with a game like this, players can get stuck and become frustrated when questioning suspects but they’re missing a single clue.
OL: It’s definitely been a challenge, as we wanted to avoid both linear clicking through the dialogues, as well as the player being overwhelmed by the amount of useless clues and red herrings, so we tried our best to experiment with the pace throughout the cases. With some of them being more narrative-heavy, and others having focus on mini-games and interactive puzzles, as well as trying to maintain balance between the game feeling interesting and not too overwhelming at the same time.
BG: Is that why players can’t typically fail a mission? The game allows players to mess up questions and go back to correct themselves, is it actually possible to get a game over in SoF?
OL: While perhaps not feeling too real-worldy, we didn’t feel that game-over mechanic fits our gameplay mechanics and narrative, instead we opted for different routes being open to players in each of the cases with different results and consequences depending on the player’s choices throughout the game, as well as different endings for the whole game.
BG: You mentioned that the game has an episodic narrative, does the game have one plot told over multiple missions, or are they all standalone stories?
OL: It’s a mix of both really, you are presented with new characters with each new cases and have a conclusion within each of the cases, but all the events and player’s choices within a single case affects the whole story.
YU: Yeah, the main theme of the game runs through all the episodes. But each episode has its own set and characters.
OL: So you could say that these episodes, while having their own stories to tell, are used as an instrument to tell the bigger story.
BG: Does it all revolve around our house arrest?
OL: I wouldn’t say so, house arrest is one of the main narrative tools that forces us to solve cases without leaving the house, but it’s not at the center of the story. The main point is of a much bigger scale than one person’s inability to leave her apartment.
YU: House arrest is intended to convey the character of Izy and her ability to solve cases, even without being able to be present physically at crime scenes.
BG: The player has an AI ‘helper’ they can call in the game, what in the world is that thing all about?
OL: From the narrative side of things, it’s an AI sidekick that our character developed by herself
since our character is at her home, the choice was to either have a Dr. Watson type of character running around town between crime scenes and morgues or to come up with something interesting, like a powerful AI capable of tracking people down, analyzing internet history in one second and being able to diagnose the method of killing by looking at the picture of a corpse. So it helped us with both filling this need of a sidekick but doing so in an interesting way, as well as using it as a sort of deus ex machina when needed.
YU: Maurice is an AI that Izy created herself. It can track down people and vehicles, help her find clues, and much more. It’s learning how to make jokes and interact with humans and has its own role in the narrative of the game.
BG: So Maurice is a character in their own unique rights.
OL: Absolutely, since it’s not human, it was quite a challenge to write its dialogue we experimented a lot and hope that players will love the way it evolves as a computer-person trying to understand humans and act like one.
BG: The art style is pretty funky, in a good way, there are three different art styles going on, the top screen is 3D, with the bottom being 2D and limited animation.
OL: We are in love with the work of Alberto Mielgo, with the main source of inspiration being his work on ‘The Witness’, an episode of Love Death + Robots. So we tried to come up with the art inspired by his work, while having our own style, we were experimenting with the 2D-animation of the top screen a lot, but in the end we were always coming back to 3D, as it just worked better for our needs. I also feel that this contrast helps players differentiate two parts of the screen even more.
BG: What kind of experiments were being tested?
OL: We were trying to go for the 2D-look at the top, but since we have quite a bit of stuff going on there, it just didn’t work out the way we wanted – it either blended with the bottom, or simply failed on all levels
so we went back to 3D and are quite happy with the way it turned out.
YU: This is what the game looked like as a prototype. As you can see we’ve reworked all the art-style since then.
BG: Oh my, that’s a big difference between the prototype and the public demo, what made the team go with 3D in the end?
OL: I’d say it was both the ability to portray what we needed there storywise, as well as the way it added contrast between the upper and bottom parts of the screen, solving the issue of the player mixing up what’s interactive and what’s not.
BG: So what’s the story with our pup? They do nothing in the demo but it’s also the loading icon, what role do they play in the story?
OL: Well, it’s just Izy’s pet, made to showcase that she has someone to care about, as well as being another medium of showing technological advances of the time.
BG: Now the biggest question, can we pet the electronic doggy?
YU: Sometimes Izy will interact with the dog, yes. But players cannot interact with the dog directly as the upper part of the flat isn’t interactive, as we’ve mentioned earlier.
BG: The internet may let that pass, but there are going to be a lot of sad detectives now. What exactly does Song of Farca mean?
YU: The name of the main character is Isabella Song, and Farca is the city in which the game takes place.
BG: And here I was searching for a hidden plot secret.
OL: Well I’d argue that there is a double meaning there, with the main character named Song being located in city of Farca and one of the plot points being the story of said city.
BG: Intriguing. When can players expect to play Song of Farca?
OL: We plan to release the game in June 2021.
BG: Which means there’s still time to wishlist the game. Before we end our talk, let’s do a fun question, what game inspired you to get into the industry?
YU: It may sound weird, but for me it was Toonstruck by Burst studios, and also Escape from Monkey Island by LucasArts.
BG: Now that’s obscure, I never heard of Toonstruck, but I can definitely see the inspiration.
OL: Wow, that’s hard to narrow it down to just one game. When I was a kid, it was definitely Nintendo classics [and] LucasArts games of the 90s (Full Throttle is probably my favorite of the bunch), but if I had to pick my favorite game of all time it would probably be Half-Life.
BG: The FPS that raised the bar for shooters in gameplay and story telling.
OL: Absolutely groundbreaking for its time, Black Mesa (2020) managed to let me relive the feelings, highly recommend this remake.
BG: Last question, if you could develop a remake/remaster/reboot to any past game/franchise, what would it be?
OL: I’d love to work on Portal 3 in a parallel universe where it’s being developed
BG: Not Half-Life 3?
OL: Even though it was a hypothetical question let’s be real here.
BG: Haha, fair. Thank you both for your time and I look forward to seeing more Song of Farca soon.
YU: Michael, thanks for your questions, it was fun!
Check out the teaser trailer for Song of Farca below, players can wishlist the game and download and play the prologue via steam now.