March 14, 2018
Ats’a is an album of music visualized as a video game. The core gameplay involves collecting songs in an environment where the music is always playing. The Ats’a songs are Non Player Characters (NPCs). They control the mood. They control the weather. Headphones are encouraged.
In Ats’a, you play the role of Hugo. You are a kid that imagines himself as a dragon slayer in the foggy coastal town of Waldport, OR circa 1983. You meet up with Hugo for the first time as he is walking into town to meet up with his best friends, Tony and Rose. They all have summer jobs working for the Sub State Systems Corporation, and they meet up every day at the Ats’a Pizza Parlor. The day gets off to an odd start when Hugo notices that his scorched vinyl records are scattered around town. Hugo had left his collection at Ats’a to play for his friends.
The goal of the game is simple. Collect ALL of the missing vinyl albums. The real challenge will be figuring out why they were lost in the first place.
Jetstream was founded by Josh Kneedler in 2007 based on the notion of flying around the world, creating unique interactive projects, and listening to music. The reality, however, is that he works with his feet on the ground in Portland, OR. Josh has been fortunate to work with some incredibly talented folks.
On the music side, he worked with Dave Allen on his Pampelmoose independent record label. This was before the streaming wave hit, but the indie spirit was real. Josh remains positive that new ideas are worth exploring in music distribution.
On the interactive side, Josh worked with Robert Lewis at Fashionbuddha. Steve Jobs crushed Flash in 2009 and Fashionbuddha was the type of studio to see this as a opportunity. Within six months Josh was creating iOS games. He has developed many traditional iOS applications over the years, but the seed for creating independent games was planted at Fashionbuddha. His last iOS game was a modern take on the classic Snake game. He worked with Jose Fresneda and Justin Colt at The Collected Works. That project is available at sssssnake.com.
The Ats’a project came about because Josh and his good friend Justin Lowe wanted to team up on a game project. They originally wanted to make a game for Justin’s storybook, Hello, My Name is Octicorn, but the timing ultimately didn’t work out. One door closes and another one opens up. Justin wrote the Ats’a original story concept and they were off to the races.
Ats’a was inspired by 80’s electronic music. It is the type of music Josh always imagined playing in an adventure video game. The right sound has a spatial-visual component that can be reflected in the game landscape itself. The trees sway and the lake ripples to the music.
The music curation side of Ats’a is being driven by the team at the Portland marketing agency Sub Rosa. They often talk about how Ats’a didn’t really click until they found just the right bands to be featured in the game. One example was finding the band Cozy Photo. Their Old Land track is a perfect fit for the game, but the connection also lead to Marcelino Franco of Cozy Photo creating the main theme music specifically for Ats’a.
The look of Ats’a is heavily influenced by the design aesthetic of Peter Saville. The color pallette overlaid over the Fantin-Latour flower painting left a lasting impression on Josh. Yet he stresses that ideas don’t have to be over-explained. With Ats’a Josh and his team are attempting to let the core concept of a music-driven game play itself out in often unexpected ways.
Josh says that creating an indie game on this scale is exciting, terrifying, exhilarating, and exhausting. Mostly it’s rewarding because these highs and lows are his. Ats’a started out as a game, but it has really evolved into a music project. He appreciates being nimble and having the freedom to experiment with new ideas.
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