Meet Melbourne-based Harmonious Games and their very own Putty Pals, in this Developer Interview!
Putty Pals is an adorable, feel-good adventure of squishy teamwork!
Team up with a pal these holidays to solve quirky, colour-based puzzles – out now in Nintendo Switch eShop*.
Melbourne-based indie developers, Harmonious Games, joined us at the Nintendo AUNZ booth during PAX 2017, presenting Putty Pals as part of our local Australian Nindies Showcase.
We chatted with this young and dynamic team about friendship, studying game development, and their adorable couch co-op game for Nintendo Switch…
Tell us a little bit about the team behind Putty Pals.
Laura Voss (Creative Director): We’re a good combo of serious people, and loud and boisterous people!
Five out of the six of us met at uni and we were a good fit right from the start. We are all really different people but we balance each other out. I think that’s why we work so well together! A lot of different ideas are brought to the table every day. We also just laugh a lot, so it makes work fun to do!
How did Putty Pals come into existence? What inspired the game?
Tyson Brown (Animator): The need for something different, more positive. So many games are dark, dreary and full of conflict.
Putty Pals was created to be uplifting, cute, and to be a colourful burst of fresh air that you can just smile at with your friend.
Laura: We were fuelled by the desire to play couch co-op games again! Very quickly, the online gaming movement took over and couch co-op became a thing of the past. So when we came up with the idea of a proper local co-op game, we thought of many different ways to create the characters.
But it was ultimately that bouncy putty stuff you get from Scienceworks that inspired the characters and the mechanics!
Who are these adorable, squishy protagonists of Putty Pals?
How did they first meet each other and do they have different personalities?
Laura: We always imagined that these putty pals have a world and life of their own; a ridiculously cheery and fun home where they play all day long with each other.
We designed the characters to be really expressive, but we didn’t want to give them too many defining features, they don’t have genders... they’re just little cute balls of colourful putty! Our putty pals have enough quirk and expression that players can interpret and create their own personalities for them.
Elise Zinna (Level Designer): Our adorable characters have the most positive outlook on life. No matter how often they fail to succeed in a challenge, they are always giggling, ready to give it another go!
They’re all the greatest of friends who support each other no matter what. Their silly laughs and facial expressions is what evokes our players to laugh along and not take the game too seriously!
Single-player mode offers a fun hand-eye coordination challenge, but Putty Pals can also be played with your pals.
How do you think multiplayer adds to the game’s experience?
Elise: Putty Pals has been built to be a cooperative experience!
There’s nothing more satisfying than completing a puzzle with your pal and giving each other a thumbs-up at the end to celebrate!
Simon Pederick (Technical Director): Putty Pals at its core is a game about building a relationship. Playing with others lets players experience this, not just with the Putties but with
each other. The most rewarding aspect of the game for us is watching two new players become friends before our eyes as they play through the game.
Laura: There is nothing better than sharing a cinematic moment with someone when playing a couch co-op game.
Those high-fives after just managing to survive, the laughter when someone makes a mistake... these moments add to the experience of Putty Pals, and enhances their connection to each other and our characters!
How do you find the video development scene in Australia/New Zealand?
Joe Park (Studio Director): I don’t know too much about the industry in New Zealand, but the industry in Australia seems to be going through a really good period. You just have to look at the finalists of the AGDA (Australia Game Developer Awards) to see just how many good games are coming out of Australia right now.
On top of that, the South Australian government just announced a new gaming hub in Adelaide that will help support and expand the local industry, so it seems like the other state governments are starting to catch up with Victoria.
The game’s music is as delightfully cheerful and soothing as the sensation of squishing colourful putty in your hands as a child (oh, the nostalgia!)
Tell us about the composition of the soundtrack.
Jeremy Burns (Sound Design Contractor): The music evolved from this sense of nostalgia, playfulness and excitement. I started by crafting a simple, cute melody which gave a sense of adventure and wonder, and weaved that throughout every track in some form or another.
I drew inspiration from a sense of unplaceable familiarity; many of the tracks remind you of other moments or joys you’ve had in play whilst younger, yet at the same time I always tried to do little twists or surprises with where they went.
Tyson: When I play with a friend and hear the music for the first time I feel like I’m going on an adventure.
The music makes us feel like the main characters in the world: blissfully unaware of the dangers ahead, yet we’re together, we’re curious, and ready for fun.
What makes the experience of playing Putty Pals on Nintendo Switch unique?
Elise: The Nintendo Switch is such a portable device it allows you to play with your pals on the go. What’s extra awesome about the Nintendo Switch is that it has two Joy-Con ready to go so players can instantly play side-by-side anywhere and put their teamwork to the test!
Simon: When we first saw the Nintendo Switch we knew it was the perfect console for Putty Pals. With the philosophy of local co-op built right into the console, we feel players can have a much more natural and intimate experience playing the game together.
Laura: HD Rumble was so much fun to work with and players have really responded to that, especially if it’s their first time using a Nintendo Switch! It’s an unexpected but awesome surprise.
Harmonious Games is based in Melbourne, Australia.
What’s the best part about being able to create video games in “the world’s most liveable city”?
Joe: The local community here in Melbourne is full of some of the most generous and kind people I’ve ever met. I’ve heard multiple people refer to Melbourne International Games Week as just a big family reunion, and I couldn’t agree more.
Ben Harmon (Artist): The Melbourne games scene is going through an exciting period. The industry here is incredibly supportive of young and innovative studios and creators. With a tonne of support from Film Victoria and institutions like The Arcade, these studios are creating games that really push the boundaries of the medium.
The Melbourne games scene is definitely a progressive industry that’s all about inclusivity.
Do you have a history of playing Nintendo games?
What were your feelings about making a game for a Nintendo console?
Simon: I have very fond memories of my Nintendo 64, the first console I ever owned. Since then it’s always been a distant dream to release a game on a Nintendo console. It still feels surreal even today.
Tyson: I loved my Game Boy! Pokémon Gold version was a big part of my childhood. I still have it to this day. Making a game for the younger brother of the console that I loved feels so out of this world. I’m hoping that one day, people can have that same feeling of nostalgia for our game like I did with my Game Boy and Pokémon.
Elise: Nintendo consoles are what introduced to me gaming as a little kid, and playing these games brought my family and friends closer together. To think that I helped develop a game that reflects Nintendo's values is incredibly fulfilling.
In Putty Pals, two smiling balls of putty link hands harmoniously to survive hazards and scale obstacles in a colourful cartoon world.
How do you think video games can bring families and friends closer together?
Laura: Putty Pals is the kind of title parents love, but the greatest thing about it is that it’s a game they can play with their kids, instead of watching them play! Kids can teach their parents to play with them, or vice versa.
Watching families play together and use manners like “could you please…” and “thanks!” has been one of the best and most unexpected triumphs of the game.
Elise: It gives families and friends the chance to communicate in a new and exciting way! You get the opportunity to create a strong emotional connection with someone, which encourages cooperative play. It’s amazing how two strangers with completely different interests can come together and play a game like Putty Pals, and suddenly they are laughing and enjoying themselves like they’ve known each other for yonks!
Simon: I think games give people the chance to communicate more honestly with each other as well as break down barriers. It’s been great seeing two strangers who would normally never talk to each other, but once they pick up the controllers and start playing Putty Pals, the conversation starts flowing.
Putty Pals initially began as a simple university project, drawing huge praise on its first demo at PAX 2015 as part of the Swinburne University of Technology’s Games and Interactivity booth.
What would be your advice to students heading into the game development world?
Laura: My main advice to students, especially if they are a group from uni, is to make sure you are completely honest with each other about what you want. Starting a company and releasing a game is no small gesture, it’s a lot more complicated and difficult than university. The more honest you can be with each other, the better off your game and potential company will be!
Joe: I’d echo what Laura said and to make sure you establish the expectations of what everyone wants out of the project very early. My other advice would be to make sure you have someone who is interested in the business/management side of running a company. Running a video game company is so much more than just developing games for a group project, and I don’t think graduates understand that. I know I didn’t!
We always enjoy good, clean pun(s) at Nintendo AUNZ HQ. From explosive “Mt Puttuvius” to frozen “Puttarctica”, tell us about developing the colourful locations of Putty Pals.
Ben: We really wanted to make the locations in Putty Pals look super-cute and non-threatening, even when there are hazards all over the place. Having an environment where there are dangers, while keeping the game lighthearted and colourful, is very unique, and definitely a strength of Putty Pals.
The Harmonious Games crew joined us at PAX 2017, showcasing Putty Pals as part of Nintendo AUNZ’s local Nindies lineup for Nintendo Switch.
What was your highlight of the PAX 2017 weekend?
Tyson: I met a little boy dressed as Link who really loved the game. So much so, the next day he came back with his dad and was teaching him how to play. It was absolutely adorable. I love how the game brings people together like that.
Ben: Seeing Putty Pals at the Nintendo booth was awesome! 7-year-old Ben would be gobsmacked that 27-year-old Ben made a game for Nintendo. In fact, 27-year-old Ben is also
Elise: Seeing Putty Pals at the Nintendo booth was such a surreal moment for me. Seeing everyone laugh and enjoy themselves then tell me they would purchase the game as soon as they got home because they enjoyed it so much was truly a heartwarming experience.
Laura: Walking up to the Nintendo booth and seeing Putty Pals there alongside other Aussie indie Nintendo Switch games with the huge Nintendo logo above was absolutely incredible! I’ll never forget that moment.
Joe: I was really surprised when these two young girls came by the booth on Saturday and absolutely breezed through the first level. Turns out they already owned Putty Pals and loved the game so much that they wanted to come by and play the game at PAX too.
Simon: I loved the chance to finally see people play and enjoy the game. You can sometimes get inside your own head when you’re deep in development, but it’s always great to finally see a finished product after all our hard work, which reminds us why we do this in the first place.
Check out Harmonious Games’ launch trailer for Putty Pals:
Putty Pals is out now in Nintendo eShop* on Nintendo Switch!
*To use Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch, you'll need a broadband internet connection and a Nintendo Account.