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Q&A: Polychroma Games on the gameplay, narrative of Filipino-made indie game ‘Until Then’

Kyle Chua

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Q&A: Polychroma Games on the gameplay, narrative of Filipino-made indie game ‘Until Then’
'Until Then' features a bittersweet tale of tragedy and mystery set in the Philippines

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The interviewee was incorrectly credited as Mickole Nulud, Polychroma Games director. This has been corrected to Mariel Tuble, writer at Polychroma.)

If you’re a gamer who enjoys narrative indie adventures like Indonesia’s A Space for the Unbound, then the Filipino-made Until Then should be right up your alley.

This slice-of-life game, developed by the Philippine-based Polychroma Games, features a coming-of-age tale that deals with the trauma of loss through the eyes of a high school student. Much of this bittersweet tale of tragedy and mystery is set against the backdrop of the Philippines, showcasing the unique culture and experiences that shaped the developers’ own lives.

Q&A: Polychroma Games on the gameplay, narrative of Filipino-made indie game ‘Until Then’

Until Then doesn’t have an exact release date yet, but it’s expected to arrive on PlayStation, PC, and Linux sometime this year.

You can already try the game out for yourself through a free demo on Steam, and we caught up with Mariel Tuble, writer at Polychroma Games, to talk to her about the narrative and gameplay, as well as the response so far to the game.

Q: How do the elements of mystery and tragedy play into the narrative of Until Then?

Mariel Tuble: Until Then follows the story of Mark Borja, a Filipino high school student in a world still recovering from catastrophe.

He navigates his daily life, hangs out with his friends, joins a school club… but there are strange things happening around him that he can’t seem to shake off. His story might just take you to the heart of the mystery, if it isn’t too late.

Q: How does the setting of the Philippines play into this narrative?

MT: The story is one that could take place anywhere, really. It just happens to take place in our home country, because we wanted a distinctly Filipino flavor that would be achingly familiar to Filipinos who want to play the game.

Q: What went into the creative decision to set the narrative in the Philippines?

MT: We write what we know! Of course, there’s a lot of fun in getting to showcase the environments and culture of our country, but we just wanted to draw from our own experiences: taking the LRT to school, hanging out at the local peryahan, Christmas caroling from house to house. The Philippines is teeming with stories to tell!

Q: Speaking of the narrative, what are some of its key themes? And why did you want to highlight these themes?

MT: At its heart, Until Then is a story about coming to terms with change, loss, and the passage of time. We wanted to tell a story that would emotionally resonate, and these are feelings and topics that most people are intimately familiar with, no matter where they come from.

Like I said, we draw from what we know! Every single person on the team knows loss and the discomfort of change in some way, shape, or form. Our own experiences definitely colored everything we put into Until Then.

Q: Without spoiling anything, what do you want players to take away from the narrative?

MT: We really just want the game to leave an impact. We want it to make our players feel and think, but what it is they think and feel is in their hands. It would also be cool to have more gamers interested in Filipino culture, and to see more games set outside of the usual places like Western cities and East Asia. There are so many stories to tell from all over the world!

Q: When it comes to gameplay, what can we expect from Until Then?

MT: To be honest, in creating Until Then, we didn’t really think of it as a game – we think of it more as an interactive, cinematic experience. If people are looking for a fast-paced fun game of skill, this isn’t it. There are a lot of scenes that really force you to slow down to take in the moment, choices big and small, even miniscule, and minigames based on the mundane things we do everyday.

Q: Can you share more about these minigames that you mentioned?

MT: We wanted the minigames to reflect the little games we play with ourselves in our day-to-day life: passing barya in the jeep, fighting a friend for fishball, and trying to stick a flash drive in the right way.

Q: Did the narrative influence the gameplay in any way?

MT: The narrative definitely influenced the gameplay. There’s a definite focus on creating an atmosphere, so the gameplay is designed with that in mind. You’ll have to play to find out more!

Q: Were there other games you drew inspiration from in developing Until Then?

MT: We definitely drew inspiration from a lot of our favorite media. Night in the Woods and Life is Strange are some of the games that really influenced both narrative and gameplay. Gorgeous pixel games like the upcoming The Last Night inspired our art style and direction. We also took some cues from Oxenfree for the presentation.

Q: Until Then is drawing some buzz, having been featured on Steam Next Fest and on the PlayStation Blog. How do you feel about the response to the game so far?

MT: Ecstatic, for sure! And maybe a little bit daunted, too. It’s so exciting to finally get to share what we’ve poured our hearts and souls into these last few years.

Q: Speaking of which, how long has the game been in development?

MT: The game has been in the making for several years now, but things really took off in early 2020. There are ten people on our core team, but there have been some other people who joined our production in the past.

Q: Does the buzz affect the development and release of the game?

MT: The buzz makes us excited and more determined to wrap this up and get to our end goal, but the release date is still TBA at the moment!

Q: Lastly, what advice can you give other developers who also want to tell their own stories through a game?

MT: Sometimes you’ve got to take a leap of faith – probably even several! Find people who really believe in your vision and the story you want to tell; it makes all the difference. Also, play lots of games, watch lots of shows and movies, go out and see the world. Until Then would have never been created if it weren’t for the many things, big and small, that inspired us.


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