Behind the Lens with Sad Owl Studios: An Inside Look at Viewfinder

What do you see when you look through a Viewfinder? Developed by the UK-based indie game team Sad Owl Studios, Viewfinder offers a unique gameplay experience that utilizes the camera’s perspective and spatial manipulation.

This distinctive approach has not only garnered praise from players worldwide but has also secured the title of Grand Prix at Indie Game Award 2024. Recently, the game received further recognition at BAFTA Games Awards, winning the British Game and New Intellectual Property.

The team shares that photography serves as both a transition from 3D to 2D and from 2D to 3D. In the game, the 2D images captured through the camera lens serve as gateways to another dimension, leading players into a magical and timeless world of puzzle-solving.

Take Pictures Wherever You Go: Transforming a Trend into Key Gameplay Elements

As a puzzle-solving game, Viewfinder not only features captivating spatial constructions like mechanisms, objects, and scenes but also provides a means for players to interact with the world. Gwen Foster, Sad Owl Studios’ Business Director, notes the widespread use of smartphone cameras, making photography a ubiquitous activity. The team capitalized on this trend by incorporating photography as a crucial element.

Among various imaging tools, they found instant cameras to be the most intuitive. Additionally, the game features a printer allowing players to print blueprints and design drawings, enhancing gameplay.

To prevent players from getting stuck, many puzzle games provide hint mechanisms. However, Viewfinder offers no textual hints but instead provides a chair. When players encounter challenges, sitting on the chair allows them to rewind time, enabling them to review past events repeatedly.

Through trial and error, players progress until they solve the puzzle. Gwen Foster emphasizes that the goal of Viewfinder is to help players progress through the game, offering more choices compared to other puzzle games where mistakes often lead to restarting. Players ultimately need to solve the current puzzle, but before that, they can experiment freely.

Viewfinder constructs a puzzle-solving playground where players can explore freely. The game allows players to choose their approach, appealing to speedrunners who enjoy pushing boundaries. The team finds it amusing to watch speedrunners solve puzzles quickly and unexpectedly, adding to the game’s charm.

Receiving Award from Shuhei Yoshida ‘Extraordinarily Meaningful’ as Sad Owl Studios Plans Future with Player Expectations in Mind

When Sad Owl Studios was founded, the global COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, and team members were scattered around the world, including in the UK, USA, and the Philippines. Most of the team relied on remote work. Despite their dedication to developing puzzle games, the members had diverse interests.

Some enjoyed Japanese RPGs, others preferred shooting games, and some were passionate about anime. Despite these differing interests, they all shared a common goal: to do something cool and create a great game. Gwen Foster chuckled, saying that the end result was Viewfinder.

“This award is very important to the team!” the team exclaimed. They were thrilled to participate in the Taipei Game Show and honored to win the Grand Prix at Indie Game Award 2024. Receiving the award from Shuhei Yoshida, Director of Indie Game Advocacy at Sony Interactive Entertainment, was particularly meaningful. Gwen Foster emphasized that receiving encouragement from Mr. Yoshida in the past made this award even more extraordinary.

Sad Owl Studios with Shuhei Yoshida

Regarding their plans after winning the award, Sad Owl Studios had already released the initial version on Steam and completed the PlayStation version by the end of last year. They now hope to expand to different platforms such as Xbox and Nintendo Switch. Gwen Foster candidly mentioned that the team had conducted surveys among players to understand the community’s expectations.

To their surprise, players expressed high interest in DLC downloads, VR experiences, and sequels. With the affirmation and continued interest from the public, team members felt both surprised and excited but also acknowledged the responsibility ahead. They will continue planning and ask for everyone’s anticipation.

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