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Calamari is the next original interactive movie from Flavourworks, the studio that created Erica and Hush with immersive touch technology on mobile devices.
The game, if you want to call it that, will debut on iOS and Android on April 27. Verizon Wireless endorsed the development and partnered with Flavorworks on the project to show off 5G networks on mobile devices, Flavorworks CEO Zack Slatter said in an exclusive interview with GamesBeat.
“We’ve continued to refine our features for our underlying technology, streaming video, launching on Android — all things we’ve done in the last 18 months,” Slatter said.
He said the company struck a deal with Verizon 18 months ago and Erica has continued to feature on subscription services and storefronts like the iOS App Store. This title will also launch later on Steam and the Epic Games Store.
“We’re just thrilled to be able to launch our live-action title,” Slatter said. “We have spent a lot of time continuously improving the technology. We have a compelling story and we are still trying to create a new genre between film and games. And that really around compelling stories and gameplay.
Based in the UK, Flavourworks likes to get the most out of mobile device control. To perform actions, such as making a choice in the story, for example, swipe your finger across the screen to simulate touching a loved one’s skin or cracking a safe.
It combines these interactive mechanics with live action movie of actors playing roles in stories. While Verizon supported the title, it will also be available to non-Verizon customers. Verizon will help market the game through direct text messages and through the app.
While the TouchVideo technology works in real time on mobile, the experiences can also happen on PC and consoles. Gestures allow users to guide the path of stories from beginning to end, as they see fit, through “branching” and tactile storytelling methods.
With TouchVideo, Flavorworks makes movie and TV stories playable, giving players true choice and immersion, but without the need for costly ramifications often required in production.
A robbery drama
Cuttlefish is a fresh take on the heist genre: A fun, full-throttle capper, the interactive movie uniquely combines movie and game media, Slatter said.
Combining high-fidelity cinema, cutting-edge gameplay, and a branching storyline, players directly participate in the story of Sammy (played by Catherine Garton), a once prominent thief, who must do her utmost to save her family from destruction.
Sammy, aka The Cuttlefish, must use her deceit to save her mother from a predatory and sinister pyramid scheme. But this job is personal. Teddy Belmont, a member of Sammy’s former crew, has turned on those who raised him. Lately, he’s been working on scamming the entire community.
Their debts fund his burgeoning empire. The intent is to hit Teddy where it hurts – his finances and reputation – so Sammy and her team plan to dismantle “Frive” at a new product launch before it grows into an untouchable behemoth.
Users must make choices that affect the outcome of the story, making each playthrough unique. With multiple paths and endings, users can experience the movie in different ways, keeping things fresh and exciting every time. The experience lasts approximately 45 minutes.
Cuttlefish’s design philosophy focuses on three main areas. One is planning robberies.
Flavourworks wanted to design an experience where the audience has freedom of choice and feels part of the planning phase of a robbery. This was accomplished through a classic robbery trope: the flashback. The planning phase is interspersed with dramatic sequences, which keep the pace high while being controlled by the player. The player uses a tactile, interactive table map to plan a route through the building, integrated with the action.
The title offers accessible interactions that are naturally intuitive, as well as more complex ideas through the gameplay, which require some tutorial. In some cases, the player is presented with simple actions, such as tapping an object to investigate, which are then repeated with added complexity as the story progresses. Interaction, cinematography and VFX all combine to enhance characterization and create a unique experience.
In Cuttlefish, the player is often invited to look around a scene as the drama unfolds. The player is presented with a single action area, from which one or more characters will then move around the boundaries of the scene. From this point on, the action splits: characters separate or new points of interest may emerge. It’s up to the player what to focus on – this is where movie direction and game design become one and the same.
“We also have a feature called Cuttle Vision, which allows you to embody the main character’s super strength, and you can zoom in and choose certain items. And that might help you escape a room,” Slatter said.
In this experience, Slatter said the team wanted it to go faster. While Erica was more of an interactive mystery thriller, this is more of a fast-paced interactive story game, where you have to plot and work your way through to save the day, Slatter said.
The heist genre is different, but the company still relies on touch technology and tactile interactions.
“You’re basically an extension of the main character,” he said. “The player embodies the protagonist and becomes an extension of her.”
Taste works was co-founded by Attridge and Pavle Mihajlovic in 2015. Their first game, Erica, debuted at Gamescom in August 2019. Erica has had millions of players across all platforms. It takes about 90 minutes to play and the median playing time is one hour and 54 minutes. The company raised $3.8 million in 2019. The company has about 12 people.
Slatter said touch technology has come a long way in mobile. Over time, the company plans to pioneer more technologies, such as combining 3D animation and movies.
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