A decade and a half after launching a highly successful career working as an animator and visual artist in the animation and film industry, Michel Gagné decided to quit his full-time work with the major studios and instead focus on independent projects. As a result, Gagné has spent the last year or so eating, breathing, and sleeping on an Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet. Despite having little prior experience working on videogames, he's found himself throwing the bulk of his creative time and energy into designing what will arguably be one of the strangest, most visually compelling, independently developed games around.
While he's worked on classic animated films like An American Tale, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Iron Giant, among others, ITSP is far darker and creepier in design. It follows the story of a saucer-piloting scientist from an alien world whose research gets him caught in a chain reaction. This leads him to the Shadow Plant, where he embarks on a quest for enlightenment - only he'll have to navigate a warped cornucopia of deadly shadow creatures and mechanical dangers to reach his goal.
The initial inspiration for the game came from a series of interstitials featuring "Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets" he produced in 2005 for Nickelodeon's Halloween Shriekin' Weekend, says Gagné, though the game has since grown and evolved far beyond those roots. "The style of the game is my own art style, really. I've been designing and creating these kinds of visuals for movie companies, books and comics for years," he says, adding it's great to have a project that lets him continue to explore this design style in a new medium.
Working with contributor Joe Olson and a small development team, Gagné focuses on producing the visual concepts and 2D animation for ITSP. From there, the team organizes everything within a game context, works it into 3D and adds play ideas of its own. The symbiotic, give-and-take relationship works very well, he says. The team respects Gagné's artistic vision, and he has complete trust in their ability to put a game together. It's wonderful working with a great group of people that are dedicated to seeing his vision through in a game format, says Gagné. Seeing his artwork and designs take shape in videogame form for the first time is a very different experience from his past efforts. "I like the immersive aspect of it," he says. "In film animation everything is predetermined for the viewer, but with a game, the viewer controls his destiny to a major extent. I've never experience this level of interactivity in my art before, so I find that truly exciting."