We’re happy to be sharing news about Soul Passage for our last interview of the year in Silen Audio’s Developer Interview Series! Founder, writer, game designer and artist Ozbay Emrah shared his inspiring background story and next steps for this mystifying adventure-exploration game.
Get notified by Kickstarter for Soul Passage’s launch!
S: We love seeing the beautiful Soul Passage universe develop. What inspired you to make this captivating indie game and how did your development journey start?
E: Soul Passage is the story of one unknown warrior. Souls of the Family of the warrior captured by one entity. And the entity gives a mission to the warrior to save his family in a return. Capture souls from all the Universe and bring them to the Soul Keeper. From that day on, the unknown warrior’s name becomes Obligor, obligated to hunt for souls. This is the start of the Soul Passage story. From this part on players will write their own story until the end.
I was writing short stories for myself my whole life. Some of them were 1 page, some of them 100, but didn’t have a chance to share them with anyone. At one point I became an experienced designer and game designer. It was my dream to bring one of my stories alive. In 2019 during Corona time I was at home like everyone, but I focused on creating one cool story from some of my ideas and started to work on the synopsis. After that, I really connected with the story and decided to develop the game. I found one freelance developer to help me build the base and draw all the characters and environment. It is still a learning and improvement process. I believe Soul Passage is really unique in story and style.
S: You’ve created a lot of interesting and dynamic elements! What kind of game is Soul Passage and what features are you excited for players to enjoy?
E: We are in a really early phase of Soul Passage, everything that you have seen is from MVP. That means we have lots on the way. As you can see from the main story, Obligor has a chance to travel to different worlds. When I plan those worlds, I design and create them uniquely and 50%, 80% different from each other. It means you can have different physical conditions, enemy styles, and mechanics for each planet. Like gravity, upside-down worlds, etc. In MVP I focused mostly on the style of the game, cause I want people to see what kind of visual experience they can expect from my hand. Soul Passage is the game where players will have all the classic Metroidvania elements plus character development, side quests, abilities, and even nicely planned crafting for their own gameplay style. I don’t want to raise the limit for Soul Passage, but we will deliver our best in the release for every player.
S: There’s so much mysterious pull and attraction into the Soul Universe. How did you build the exciting, heroic storyline behind One Soul – Obligor’s explorations and all the interesting game characters and planets?
E: When I wrote the first synopsis, I directly jumped on the character concept and created one warrior, but there were lots of gaps back then. After creating Obligor, I started to share the short story with some writers and game designers I know from the work environment. I got lots of bad, also lots of good feedback. From every bad feedback, I went back to the start of the story to fill the gap they mention. And it becomes a habit, “make the storyline perfect as much as I can”. At that moment lots of side characters, new areas, and challenges come up to balance the Soul Universe. It was my hobby, but it became more and more serious. I started to read game design and writing books that I found in university curriculums to learn and solve my own problems in the storyline. It takes lots of time, but worth more than 10000%. Now I have 4 main planets in the story to explore until their core and the characters with really good backgrounds. Every NPC and enemy has a story. Not just coming from a point, but their own story. I plan to make an encyclopedia about it after the launch.
S: Soul Passage has a very magical, appealing atmosphere and intricate graphic visuals that really enhance the adventurous experience, how did you execute this?
E: In 2007 I graduated from the Art Faculty in Turkey. I was in love with games from my childhood. Mario, Bomberman, and Pacman created a better approach to me in my life. I was a guy who jumped through different colored stones in the walking path to get more points, but still, I am. In university time, it was all classic art. Traditional sculpture, traditional painting – how to see, how to draw, how to bring your creation to life like Michelangelo, Bernini, Rodin, and more. But I was interested in something digital, and none of my teachers approved. But imagination is not something you can stop, I learn what they teach and learn with passion. Honestly, I believe if artists do not pass the journey from the classic to modern, they cannot shape their creations, it is not possible in my opinion. Anyway, everything I learned has improved by years and years of experience until now and I’m still learning. I’m working as an Interface Expert for a AAA company, did lot’s of good work for the industry and created lots of nice visions. All those experiences, learning, and imagination came together with good focus and here we are. Even in the early phase of Soul Passage, people feel my design perspective. I hope I will deliver an amazing adventure for all players.
S: The trailer is truly amazing! The music and sound effects have a nice level of anticipation for the epic journey to come. How did you create these sounds?
E: The 3D Announcement trailer is not what I expected honestly. My focus was creating 2D hand-drawn classic animation, but didn’t have a chance back then. Everything is connected with the budget and limitations you have. But after a few edits, we brought something good to the table. I worked for TV companies after university and have a really long list of producers, composers, and musicians in my hand. They are not from the Game industry but they helped me to build a trailer, not directly from a Game perspective but from an advertisement perspective. I selected all of the sounds for the effects and we sat at the table to compose the music together with the composers. As you can hear from the announcement trailer, in the section on planets there is different music in the background. All the planets have their cultural background and we managed to bring that alive with sound and color.
S: You’ve been sharing some of the exciting changes made so far to bring your artistic vision to life. What challenges have you overcome and what are your future goals for Soul Passage?
E: My whole life, I designed advertisement event graphics after university. Also working on the interface makes you a bit more of a mathematician than a designer. When I started the concept of Soul Passage, I realized I needed to relearn everything I forgot. It was hard, sometimes really frustrating, but I managed to bring Obligor alive. And when Obligor came to life in a few months of work, I got my vision back together in the process. How to create, how to plan, and how to apply because not every creation is applicable. Also in the environment, I started with a tile system, similar to Hollowknight, but there was something missing. After 5-6 months of development, and an implementation period maybe even 8 months after, I decided to return back and draw everything from scratch. And we recreated all the worlds. This was the most perfect decision I made back then because I learned a lot about implementation and proved my skills in level creation. Now our working speed is faster and decision making about the challenges we are facing is more clear.
S: We’re looking forward to playing and encouraging this beautiful project. How can fans continue to support and be a part of Soul Passage’s development towards the release? What do you hope to bring to them?
E: Right now the most important challenge for me is Kickstarter and growing on Twitter. If you like our work so far, please follow us on Twitter and also follow us on Kickstarter. We will launch our Kickstarter in March 2023 and if everything goes well we will deliver Soul Passage in late 2024, or early 2025. In the first launch on PC and Nintendo and after a few months or a year we will release the game on PS and Xbox. Before the release on PS and Xbox, we also plan to share a demo for Soul Passage 2.
S: What key advice do you wish you knew before starting your journey that you can now share for upcoming independent game developers?
E: If you want to develop a game, first check your knowledge of what you are capable of. What can you deliver without any other support? Focus on creating MVP with your knowledge and please learn in the process to be open to every bad and good feedback. These days, you can find all the knowledge about technical development on YouTube. Even drawing skills can be improved with time, but focus to do it. Make a plan for your day, every day for 2 hours, or every weekend for 4 hr, and don’t miss it. If you follow that basic mentality, you will succeed. And I wish you good luck.