Calme developer interview: A cliffside town adventure game with a hand-drawn flair

Calme is a title that’s currently being developed by Japanese creator Nonohara and is an adventure game set in a cliffside town of the same name. Below the steep cliff the town rests on is a dense sea of clouds that covers the land. This sea of clouds is filled with toxic fog and dangerous to humans that enter and those who do will lose consciousness within 10 minutes.

In Calme, players unravel the mystery of the dangerous cloud sea, uncover the truth behind the town, and learn more about the characters that inhabit this world.

While the warmth of the graphics and somewhat harsh setting are enough to attract interest, just what kind of game is Calme and how is it being made? We spoke with Nonohara during August’s BitSummit X-Roads to learn more.

──Please introduce yourself.

I’m Nonohara of Doukutsu Penguin Club (formally Nonohara Works). As for my history, I was a concept artist in the games industry for around 8 years. I went independent and became a freelancer last year, and development on Calme has been in progress since around that time.

My pen name is Nonohara, so I called the team Nonohara Works*, but the game is being developed by three people: myself, my wife, and a programmer. I’m acting as the game’s producer, director, and art director.

The story and game design are being made as me and my wife bounce ideas off each other with my wife handling most of the character modeling. All of the backgrounds are being done by me, with a programmer friend handling the programming.

*In September, after this interview, Nonohara Works was renamed to Doukutsu Penguin Club

──What led to development beginning on Calme?

I worked as a concept artist in the games industry, but I’m not the type that wants to only draw all the time. From the time I intended to be an artist, I wanted to make stories and worlds through pictures. Games have music, story, and movement all in one, and I think they might be the best vehicle for delivering worlds and stories, so I’ve always wanted to make games.

I’ve liked games ever since I was a kid, but when I regularly worked in the industry, I didn’t have any time for making them. I also personally didn’t have the skills to make a game when I entered the industry, so I haven’t been able to make a game myself up to this point.

But time passed and I went freelance last year. I gained some game development knowhow and made friends and acquaintances over those 8 years that I could make games with, so I started development on Calme. The project started by first thinking of a world that would be exciting to explore and then thinking of gameplay that would fit that world after.

──Please give us an introduction to Calme.

In the simplest terms, Calme is a cliffside town adventure game. It’s set in a cliffside town called Calme. Below the cliff is a hazardous sea of clouds and those who enter without a mask will lose consciousness in around 10 minutes. However, the town isn’t rich in food and supplies, so Cloudsea Hunters reluctantly enter the fog as a means to somehow continue their way of life. This is the kind of town and world we’re trying to depict with Calme.

Gameplay elements include communicating with the town’s residents, solving puzzles around the town, and getting more range to explore as the story progresses. The adventure game elements are particularly strong.

The protagonist of the game also enters the sea of clouds. While monsters reside there, there’s a rule that they must not be killed because those who do contract a deadly disease. You’ll have to do things like hide in grass, throw bait to lure them away, or have bait on a wire and run electricity through it to stun them. Dealing with enemies has a more stealth action type of style to it.

In addition, we want to bring about a sense that these creatures are alive, so enemies each have hearing, sight, and smell sensors. One enemy may have excellent hearing or something, and each enemy has different sensory levels which adds variety to the strategy.

──You mentioned electricity, but is technology being developed in this world?

It is not. Within the clouds are the ruins and remains of an advanced civilization with some leftover lost technology. In the case of electric shocks, someone found a capacitor and discovered how to use it by chance.

──The PS1-inspired look of the town is striking. How did you go about deciding on a graphical style for the game?

The starting point was a series of illustrations I had made before development began called MOE-KENCHIKU. I wanted to express that kind of look as well as possible and a low poly style reminiscent of the PS1 felt just right without the hand-drawn feeling seeming out of place. There’s also some influence from games I love like Final Fantasy IX.

──Is there anything you’re being especially particular about with Calme?

The feeling of balance between it clearly being a fantasy world and also evoking a feeling of closeness is important. Like that sense that the characters are actually living their lives in the town and that the town feels like it could exist in the real world despite being fantasy. We’re paying extra careful attention to making the setting itself enjoyable.

In addition, there are characters with a lot of individuality. The protagonist resembles a human, but there are also characters like beasts that stand upright on two legs and mushroom-like creatures that have sprouted legs. We plan on depicting a world that doesn’t really have restraints on the kinds of characters that live in it. We’re also putting a lot of effort into the story, so we hope players enjoy seeing these expressive characters woven into it.

──Is there anything else you would like to tell our readers?

We’re only around 5% of the way through development, but we’re taking care with the setting, story, and visuals and working to implement action that enhances these aspects. As of now, we want to release it on PC (Steam) and Nintendo Switch, and while there’s a high chance we miss this mark, are aiming to release the game around the end of 2024. It’s a long way away, but we hope you look forward to it.

──Thank you for your time.

Calme official website
Calme Steam store page

Publication date of the original Japanese article: 2022-09-04 11:15 (JST)
Translated by. Nick Mosier