With a combination of mind-bending puzzles and an intriguing cyber noir setting, Belgian developer Fishing Cactus’ second title Shift Quantum has been on our radar for a while. By transforming barriers into escape routes and manipulating negative space in the monochromatic environments, Shift Quantum will flex mental and physical muscles with user-generated content and a dystopian story.
We chatted to the team about the game before EGX Rezzed begins this weekend in London.
Nintendo Life: Could you introduce yourselves?
We're Sophie Schiaratura (PR/ business), David Bailly (game design), along with Pieter Vantorre and Michael Delva, who handled development on Switch.
So, how has development on the Switch been?
Much better than expected! We were expecting the need to optimize a lot of our game because the Switch looks like such a small piece or hardware. We were really amazed to see it running smooth at first try.
What was it like working with Nintendo?
The online documentation is really clear and straightforward. It’s not bloated and it has a good search functionality. It was a pleasure to use.
How was it using Unreal 4 in relation to development of the Switch version?
All features were working out of the box. Unreal Engine 4 provides a lot of options for the switch: different input configs depending on Joy-Con usage mode, battery saver option… It’s not perfect though. You can’t use all features of HD Rumble (yet), and there are some bugs. The good thing with Unreal Engine 4 is that it’s open source. So if you really need that functionality, you can just add it in!
Are there any games or works from popular culture that influenced Shift Quantum?
Not really. But people keep telling that the game reminds them a bit of the old Prince of Persia. The game wasn’t a reference at all, but why not.
What is the story of Shift Quantum?
We’ll try to not spoil you too much with the answer. There is a company called Axon Vertigo who promises to deliver happiness to everyone using their new Shift Quantum program in exchange for collecting data in your mind. As the player, you control someone connected to that program. In the beginning, you are nothing more than an ID number solving puzzles. Then the story starts to reveal itself, giving you clues of why your character asked Axon Vertigo for help.
We waited to do a next-gen version of the Shift series for years. After Epistory it felt like the right time to do it. Some people amongst our team were hyped about the project because they loved Shift and wanted to be part of our very first console game.
How important is the monochrome look and art style to the story and gameplay?
The black and white colors represent the basis of our core gameplay mechanic called SHIFT. When you use the SHIFT ability, your character can go from a black world to a white world, where air becomes solid and solid becomes air. You're playing in both the normal world and its negative counterpart.. Going from one world to another will help you to overcome obstacles and reach the exit.
Were there any design ideas that didn't make it into the final game for any reason?
We started with a lot of ideas, but we only kept what was the most suitable to build puzzles. Most games blocks were rejected because they did not combine well with the other. Also, some gameplay elements such as the Portal Block won’t be in the game for the release, but we hope to add them later with an update.
Is there a level creator? Are you excited to see what the community does with it?
Yes. Shift Quantum comes with a Level Editor allowing you to create your own deadly levels and share them with the whole community. We can’t wait to see what kind of crazy or arty levels players will make.
It also looks like there's also a bit of an action/ platforming element as well as the puzzles. What was the design process like?
We see the game more as a puzzle game than an action game. The action part like jumping, running, pushing block, activating buttons, and totally serves the puzzle elements. It's like using your fingers when you solve a Rubik's Cube.
Shift Quantum could not be more different from your previous title, Epistory. Was that a conscious decision or did it happen more organically? Do they share any themes or ideas?
It seems like they have nothing in common, but they both share our vision. At Fishing Cactus we don’t have a specific art style or game genre. We develop games that we would like to play and we are 18 people, so this could bring us to 18 different kinds of game.
How has the reception of the Nintendo Switch been in Belgium?
Good, I imagine. I can’t speak for the whole Belgium, but I can say that the Nintendo Switch was eagerly awaited amongst the Belgian bev community and day one purchase for a lot of people at Fishing Cactus.
What impresses the team about the system?
The ease of use, power of the hardware and flexibility of the system. The console is tiny, but it’s big on the inside!
Are there any features of the hardware used in Shift Quantum, or anything you're interested in for a future project?
We had some ideas of using the gyroscope to shift the world, or to use gestures with the Joy-Cons to so some actions in the game. As of now, these are all nice to haves. They’re not essential to finish the game, so let’s focus on that first.
When can we expect to see Shift Quantum on Nintendo Switch?
Spring, but look out for more information soon.
Shift Quantum will be playable at Rezzed this weekend in London. Go and check it out!