It’s been exciting speaking to some up-and-coming adventure game studios lately. Hot on the heels of the Hungarian folklore comedy genius of Behind the Beyond, Klara from Insanto Studios was kind enough to spend some time introducing A Trail of Ooze. One cow, one pollutive company, and one conspiracy to solve!
It’s a point and click adventure game with clear passion behind it, and some meaningful messages woven between the jokes and puzzles. Klara and the Insanto Studios team spoke to us about their inspirations, motivations and cheekily bovine machinations in bringing A Trail of Ooze to life.
How would you describe the history of Insanto Studios — and when did you know A Trail of Ooze was destined to be so much more than a side-project?
It started all the way back in 2018 when Johanna and I met through a local game dev community in Karlstad, Sweden. Johanna is from Germany, but she was here as an exchange student.
Quickly we realised we both shared a passion for point and click adventures — so I pitched this sprout of an idea about a sentient and genetically enhanced cow — and she was on board. Luckily!
For a long time we just met up every Wednesday for a few hours to talk about the story and fiddle around with Unity. We eventually tried out Adventure Creator, and it was about this time when Markus joined the team as a musician and sound engineer. When Johanna’s semester abroad ended, we decided to continue development digitally, collaborating remotely.
About a year later, the artists that had previously helped us with concept art had to leave for studies or other projects. But — perfect timing — we met our lead artist Maria through a point and click forum on Facebook, and all of a sudden we had everything we needed in a team. Nowadays, Johanna and I tend to anything that isn’t art or music related.
3 months later we pitched our game in a pitching competition hosted by the game dev community The Great Journey and Embracer Group — which we won!
How would you describe the inspiration behind A Trail of Ooze? We’ve never encountered a cow protagonist before!
I (Klara) had a period where I binged a lot of documentaries about GMOs, and the human footprint on Earth in general. I’ve always felt a little bit uneasy about all the pesticides and chemicals used to produce food for an ever-growing population. What can that do to a body long-term — and what happens if a cow ingests a lot of it? I think that’s where it started.
It’s incredible how the team has taught themselves game design from scratch just to bring this title to life. What’s surprised you the most about game development?
Well the genre itself came quite naturally to us, since we are all die-hard point and click fans. But I have learnt to never record voices until you have thoroughly tested the dialogue on other players. Maybe not so surprising! One thing that was surprising though is how tedious and boring it is to rig an animation skeleton. And also how rewarding and fun it is to animate the same rig!
What do you believe the secret to balancing adventure game storylines and puzzle design is?
This is very much a matter of personal preference, I would say. I am not a big fan of too many “Myst-like” puzzles. We will have some though!
But I prefer looking for clues in dialogue and combining items with the surroundings and NPCs. With that said, the dialogue should be clear, short and snappy. I’m one of those players that can resort to “click to skip” if it gets too out of hand.
I think we just have to do something we enjoy, then listen to feedback and make adjustments. I think the story needs good pacing, and also to throw in a good Easter egg or two.
Similarly, how are you balancing the humour of A Trail of Ooze with its eco-friendly message?
The story is about a pending environmental crisis surrounding a town called Tunby, so of course that topic is going to be brought up throughout the story.
But we don’t aim to point any fingers. It’s the theme of the story, and not an educational game. First and foremost, we want the player to have a good laugh. The deeper message comes second to that.
Your Kickstarter shows off the team’s favourite adventure games — what makes those titles your favourites?
For me Day of the Tentacle is my first point and click adventure ever. So it’s definitely nostalgia, 100%, but going back and playing the remaster now I felt it was still as good as I remembered it. That shows how good it is. And it’s my type of humour all the way.
Johanna’s favourite is Deponia. She loves the humour of the game. The main character has his rough edges, which makes him very interesting. And overall, the gameplay experience is very smooth compared to some of the old classics with the classic verb-interface.
Adventure games are in active development all over the world these days. How are you all feeling stepping into such an active industry?
I think it’s exciting! We have connected with so many devs out there. It’s an amazing community. Some claim that the genre is dying out but I think with smartphones and handheld devices we can reach a new audience that enjoys a good story. I think there is a future here.
Sound design can play a big part in a good adventure game — what can you tell us about the music, effects and (potential stretch goal!) voice acting you’re planning for A Trail of Ooze?
We tried to tie the music together with the setting and included a lot of folk music. We also wanted to tell the story of a mystery and conspiracy, and didn’t want to go down the jolly “Old McDonald Had a Farm” route.
In terms of the voice acting, we have actually recorded most of it twice. After the first recording session I got the idea of adding Swedish accents. I put a poll out on Facebook and Reddit, and it over 80% of respondents wanted us to use accents. So then we booked another session in the studio. A big shout-out to the voice actors for being so patient, and also doing an excellent job!
The demo’s already out on Steam — when are you hoping A Trail Of Ooze will be ready for release?
At the rate we are going now we plan to have the game ready by late 2023. If we get a publisher or funds of some sort, it could be earlier.
If Dr. Fred let you use his Chrono-John to go back in time three years and give yourselves some advice when first creating A Trail Of Ooze as a shared hobby project… what advice would that be?
Run some player tests before recording the voice acting, and understand that social media takes a lot of time!
What excites you the most about the way adventure games are being developed nowadays? What are you hoping Insanto Studios and A Trail Of Ooze will add to the industry?
We enjoy that a lot of studios bring something new to the table – like RPG elements, different endings, cool UI designs, new mechanics or genre mashups.
We want to bring some of that too of course, but most importantly we want to tell a story where nothing is simply black and white, and decisions that seem to be morally correct might come with unwanted side effects. And we love to break down the fourth wall!
Finally, have we missed anything about the game, the team or anything else you want to take this chance to mention?
Huge thanks to Insanto Studios for taking the time to speak to us!
There’s so much to look forward to in this gem of a title — we’re keen to get stuck in! A mix of green messaging, Swedish ingenuity and plenty of mischief to be made makes A Trail of Ooze an adventure game that’s definitely worth watching — and certainly worth backing, if you’re able!