May 25, 2017 Last Updated 3:32 PM, May 24, 2017

Secrets from the World of OPUS

Published in Editorial
Read 277 times
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Tagged under

The brainchild of Brian Lee and Scott Chen in 2013, SIGONO (originally known as Team Signal) is an independent game development Studio based in Taipei, Taiwan. SIGONO has put out a select few titles over the years. Their most recent release, OPUS: The Day We Found Earth (2015), gained international attention for its storyline and emotional depth. A year later, amidst several other awards and nominations, The Day We Found Earth was awarded Editor’s Choice and Best Mobile Game by Google Play and Indieplay, respectively. In 2016, the team began a new, imaginative project, set loosely within the same universe as The Day We Found Earth. This current project, OPUS: Rocket of Whispers, is targeted for a summer 2017 release.

On the morning of April 19th, OPN Editor-in-Chief Rey Urias and I had the opportunity to sit down and have an interview with a couple members of the SIGONO team: Scott Chen, co-founder of SIGONO, and the team’s UI designer, Sam Chen (Katamari Damacy enthusiast). The twelve-hour time difference between Rey and everyone else notwithstanding, we met via video conference and spoke for over an hour.

We started by dipping into the company’s history. Scott shared how he and Brian (Lee), after finishing grad school at Carnegie Mellon, had launched the company together. “We decided to start our company in California,” Scott divulged, “and then (we worked for) almost a year. (But) we found out the cost of living was way too high. Then we decided to move back to our home country, which is Taiwan. That was three years ago.” I was curious whether they would decide to retrace their steps back to the United States at any point in the future, but Scott was confident in the knowledge that SIGONO is well-established and stable in Taiwan.

The Day We Found Earth

We never started with a robot... trying to find earth,” explained Scott. I wanted to know more about how the story was engineered and why the game took place in space. “We actually just started with simple emotion. We really want to portray that [emotion] when playing our game.”

“It’s the sense of fulfillment as you move and collect (the data),” Sam elaborated. “We wanted players to feel that transition from emptiness to fullness and fulfillment. That’s the core emotion that we wanted to achieve.”

Scott further explained how SIGONO made the link between that emotion and an appropriate setting. “What kind of environment would that (experience) best fit in? Initially, we were thinking deep sea or space. Or a big, wide world,” he mused. “Somehow, we ended up in space.” From there, they started experimenting with music and different art styles and merging them together.

Rey drew attention to their unique approach. It isn’t often that a studio decides how they want their players to feel before any other element or mechanic is established. Scott admitted that it was a different approach from their first two games, which did stem more from the mechanics.

“There’s no emotion in core mechanics,” lamented Scott. “People play it, (but) in a short while they just forget about the game because it’s hollow. There’s nothing emotional about it. There’s nothing you’ll remember about the game. That’s why, with OPUS, we took a completely different approach. We started from emotion instead of a core mechanic

This development approach has continued to be a driving force for the SIGONO team. Thinking about the player, and in what circumstances the player might find themselves, can be instrumental in designing and creating the right environment.

But, because gauging proper emotional results from users isn’t an easy test to administer, the team looks rather at how players react to various scenarios within the game, and whether the users were inclined to continue or veer off-course. SIGONO seeks to implement approachable design with achievable goals, tactfully infusing musical compositions and visual artwork which assist players in losing themselves within the world of OPUS.

A pattern has emerged as SIGONO released the title for their latest project. The titles of The Day We Found Earth as well as Rocket of Whispers are each preceded by the stylized word “OPUS.” I asked the team about what sort of connection this meant, and whether any further meaning was tied to the noun.

“Apart from being a musical composition, ‘opus’ also refers to ‘magnum opus,’ which is Latin for ‘great work.’ It’s generally a person’s best and greatest piece,” Sam began, expounding on the significance of the term. “Also... a ‘magnum opus,’ in alchemy, can refer to the philosopher’s stone, mortality, transcendence – and the belief that they are all one and the same. (To) achieve or create the philosopher’s stone or achieve spiritual transcendence, one must ascend. (This) consists of testing your spirit and mind and body. So if you look at it from that angle, and for any player who would take more from (the term) ‘OPUS,’ I think you’ll find some interesting references in there. I think our writing department did a really good job in connecting all the dots for that framework.”

The SIGONO team is currently building out to eleven members. The company size has more than doubled since the first OPUS installment, which evidently had “four and a half” members, according to Sam. “At that time, we had a composer who worked part-time,” related Scott. “Now he’s full time with the company.”

When it came to finding a target audience, SIGONO’s approach turned out to be very grass roots. The team members worked together to find, amidst their own friend groups, individuals who seemed to be their target audience. The team then began paying attention to the social media pages of those people, noticing which groups they liked to join, and discovering their interests. After gleaning some insight on those friends’ preferences, the team then began interviewing them with more specific inquiries.

“We actually constantly sent text posts to (a few of) them and asked for their critique,” Scott mentioned. “Because we think that they’re the most approachable target audience we can (reach). We tried to stay in constant contact with them.”

“Generally, their opinion on design has had more weight than any given member of the development team,” added Sam. “Because we aren’t necessarily the target audience. We might have overlapping interests. But in the end, it’s them; we kind of hold their interests (in mind).”

Rocket of Whispers

I posed the question to Sam and Scott about how they would summarize their new game.

“(You) help a witch (shoot) ghosts into space with a rocket,” replied Sam confidently. “That’s it. It has all the points that our testers have been curious about. It has the witches, the ghosts, the rockets.”

“It’s a (post) apocalyptic world…” Scott took a little time to formulate his answer. “You search for ingredients, trying to build a rocket to send the dead to space. It’s all about trying to build a rocket.”

“(The) ‘whispers’ are the ghosts,” Sam responded. “The idea is that (it’s) a rocket full of spirits. These ghosts, these ‘whispers,’ these murmurings (are) returning to space. We try to create an image with the title. We want to evoke something very vivid.”

“The player will control the main character and walk around a snow-covered world,” Scott detailed, “And then he’ll walk past a lot of desolated towns. Visually, we try to create a sense of loneliness. You’ll see a lot of buildings already collapsed. People will wander (in) those. People will... understand the story of what happened around that city or town. We use a lot of stories, visuals, and music to give a sense of loneliness.”

“Just like the first OPUS,” Sam associated, “All the elements are with that emotion in mind. With the music as well – I think our composer did a really good job in building that atmosphere. And with my art (and) effects, I tried to get across some key elements of that.”

When they considered whether the two OPUS games were connected somehow, Sam explained that, though both The Day We Found Earth and Rocket of Whispers were in the same universe, “[the titles] are largely unrelated.”

“Story-wise, you won’t find Emeth, or Lisa, or anybody related to the first one,” Scott assured us.

Closing Remarks

We closed by discussing whether the duo had any side projects of their own they sought to complete in the future.

“Personally,” began Scott, “– not speaking from the company’s mouth –” he quickly qualified, “I would want to make my own game (where) people could connect with each other and... have the same goal. (They would) try to complete something. Maybe (a) journey. You would connect with a stranger. You would have the same goal, and try to work together without actually communicating... I want to make an online game, but not about fighting.”

“I want to try out that genre of infinite runners,” considered Sam, “but with a really (captivating) story to it.” He used KetchApp as an example of infinite runner games as he explained his idea further by posing a hypothetical question: “What if you added something really dense to it?”

I was privileged to sit down with Sam and Scott. It was enthralling and informative to be let inside the OPUS world and the minds that have worked so hard in creating it. I look forward to the release of OPUS: Rocket of Whispers in the next few months. Until then, I shall be listening to some alluring musical compositions from SIGONO’s previous game, OPUS: The Day We Found Earth.

Laurrel Allison

Laurrel Allison is a writer and editor who hates avocados and can’t do yoga. From the States though she may be, she prefers giving in to wanderlust and is currently located in Taiwan. Laurrel is a content creator for various online publications. She is known to enjoy taking a cuppa, playing video games, as well as watching You’re the Worst. She can be followed on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Related items

  • PREY - AAA Anonymous Epi. 15

    With AAA Anonymous, we discuss our latest AAA game addiction, until the next one replaces it. This episode covers Arkane's anticipated 2017 release: PREY.

  • Visualnoveler Announces Destiny Chronicles

    Visualnoveler announces its next Fantasy Action JRPG game, Destiny Chronicles, an action role-playing game that follows Celeste, a young squire, as she journeys across a mysterious land filled with ancient ruins and dangerous monsters to reclaim a powerful stolen artifact and prove herself worthy of knighthood.

  • Playcrafting Spring Expo 2017

    “Jus’ watch me, you joyk,” New York might say. While the city doesn’t attract big name game studios yet, it has a growing and energetic indie game scene. The members of this scene are gaming devotees looking for communal support and wishing for New York to support small entrepreneurship and can-do attitudes. Programs to help start-ups exist, like NYU-Poly, Entrepreneurs Roundtable Accelerator, and NYC Seed. However, the landscape lacks initiatives which support video game developers, specifically.

  • Battle of Bucharest: Mount and Blade’s First eSports Event Announced

    The live finals will match up the best European Mount & Blade players in Bucharest on May 20 to compete for a prize pool of $10,000. The event is organized by the Lithuanian Esports Federation with the support of TaleWorlds Entertainment and hosted at the PGL Studio in Bucharest, Romania.

  • Divinity: Original Sin 2 Game Master Mode Unveiled

    Larian Studios has today unveiled details on Game Master Mode in the upcoming RPG Divinity: Original Sin 2. This mode will let fans of tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder create their own pen and paper campaigns from top to bottom, using Divinity’s unique combat system to bring battles to life.

  • Mirage: Arcane Warfare Beta Gets 9 New Maps and Character Customization

    Torn Banner Studios, creators of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, have launched a refresh of the currently-running closed beta for their upcoming magic ‘n melee multiplayer combat game Mirage: Arcane Warfare. Live on Steam now, this update includes a series of gameplay tweaks and improvements implemented by the team based on feedback from current beta testers.

  • Jujubee Announces More Content to Realpolitiks

    The newly-developed content update will be available from May 5th via online stores, including Steam, to coincide with the release of the retail version in Central Europe. The update is free to all legal owners of the game.

  • The Bittersweet Rebuild

    Why am I like this? Why did I let a few frame drops in Overwatch annoy me to the point of spending hundreds of dollars on new PC components that will just inevitably annoy me in the exact same way a few years from now?

Latest Shows

Bulletstorm: Ful…

With AAA Anonymous, we discuss our latest AAA game addiction, until the next one replaces it. This episode covers Gearbox's remake of Bulletstorm: Full Clip Edition... Featuring Du...

Expeditions: Vik…

Circa 790 AD. A small band of Norse warriors lands on the shores of England. History may have forgotten their names, but their actions live on. As the chieftain of your clan, let a...

Out Soon

PC Gaming Incoming

DIRT 4

DiRT 4 is all about embracing fear. It’s about the thrill, exhilaration and adrenaline that is absol...

TEKKEN 7

Discover the epic conclusion of the long-time clan warfare between members of the Mishima family. Po...

Final Fantasy XI…

Dive into the next chapter of the critically acclaimed game FINAL FANTASY XIV Online with its epic n...

Micro Machines W…

The legend is back! Micro Machines World Series combines the thrilling madness of racing micro vehic...

Old Man's Journe…

In the brief time it takes to complete it, Old Man’s Journey plays out the calm yet deliberate journey of an aging man, set to right the wrongs of his youth once upon a time he cho...

Reservoir Dogs: …

Reservoir Dogs: Bloody Days by Big Star Games is a third-person top-down shooter with few connections to Quentin Tarantino’s film other than it being about gangsters with color-cod...

Forts Review

Forts is an exceptional example of how a release can properly integrate many mechanics, from multiple genres, and get it right. The fast-paced challenge of managing multiple tasks ...

Empathy: Path of…

Between the graphics and exploring this abandoned world and piecing together what happened, Empathy: Path of Whispers is incredible and highly recommend, even if you might not usua...