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An Uncanny Knack

CEO Romain Leprince explains the origins of award-winning indie game Uncanny Fish Hunt

Last month at Game Connection in Lyon, the inaugural Selected Projects event took place, supported by GamesIndustry.biz.

The winner of the GamesIndustry.biz Choice award was an open-world adventure title called Uncanny Fish Hunt, and here the CEO of the company behind it - Romain Leprince - explains where the idea came from and what the team of talented students are planning next.

GamesIndustry.biz First of all, how did the team come together - because, in fact, at this point you're not actually a company just yet?
Romain Leprince

Well, in fact it was a student project, that we developed last year during our school time - between October and June - but now we've decided to create our own company based on this game. The synergy within the team was great, and everybody had the same way of thinking about the game - so we decided to create Uncanny Games.

After June we decided to polish the prototype we developed for the school, to participate in various events and competitions, and as the CEO and production manager on the game, I'm in charge of the creation process of the company.

It's been a very long way since the end of our studies, but I hope that the company will open in January - I hope we make it.

Uncanny Fish Hunt is the student team's first game.
GamesIndustry.biz So Uncanny Fish Hunt is the game - tell us about where the ideas for the project came from.
Romain Leprince

At first it was the idea of one guy - the art director of the game. I can tell you a little bit about his personal life - he lived on an island, very close to Vancouver in Canada, when he was a child and saw the local fishermen exploiting the sea's resources in an abusive way. Over the years there were fewer and fewer fish, and people lost their jobs. There was no money, but the government was giving them subsidies - so they were still living there, but there was nothing to do and nobody had a job.

So during his childhood he saw the fishermen going out to sea, and then no activity any more - and the game comes from that feeling that you have to go to sea to feed your population. The other part of the game is based loneliness - the feeling that the sailor is all alone on the sea, and that on the island you feel like you're in a cocoon.

That's why on the island we use 2D textures - it's a very closed environment, and the inhabitants all know know, and count on you to bring back food. Then, on the ocean, we're using a 3D environment to enhance the sensation of feeling lost, and lonely - things like that. Those are the two sides of the game.

GamesIndustry.biz The art style is very distinctive - what were the inspirations for that?
Romain Leprince

Well, at Uncanny Games we want to make games as universal as possible - so kids, older people, my brother or sister, they can all play and enjoy them. We're trying to touch the emotional side of players by creating a naïve atmosphere, based on childhood symbolism.

We saw in the late Nineties an artistic movement born called Lowbrow - it's a pop art surrealist movement that uses childhood symbolism in an adult world. You have some cartoony graphics in very realistic situations, sometimes quite gory, or strange situations like incest. Something uncanny, in fact...

But that was the main inspiration - to have a naïve atmosphere, but present to the players some mature situations. You're on an island and everybody seems to be happy; but there are no fish, no food. In the cartoony way you feel like it's okay - although it's not.

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