Downward throws a lot into the mix right from the start. Describing itself as “post-biblical-apocalyptic parkour”, the Unreal 4 powered indie project from Italian developer Caracal Games Studio isn’t short on ambition, with the small team opting for an open-world in what’ll be their first professional game.
The Downward team are old friends, and have always been into gaming, but last year they saw the opportunity to get the gang back together and make the game they’d always wanted to.
“Most of the members of Caracal Games Studio have known each other since we went to High School together,” they say. “Many years have passed, and at the moment we’re all around 25.
“We’ve always had an interest in videogames and in studying programming, but this is the first time that, starting from last year, we’re working under our Chief and Designer, who reunited us with this project in mind.”
There’re only five staff at Caracal, a lead designer, a programmer and animator, a production assistant, a concept artist and a PR manager, so each member has lots to deal with. But they’re committed to making Downward something that’s attention-grabbing and different, to do that, they needed to start with a company name that reflected that spirit.
“As with everybody that’s searching for a name, we wanted something interesting, new, but at the same time linked to our past and our background,” they explain.
“The caracal is a beautiful and proud feline, which embodies, in a way, the idea of wilderness and creativity of our young and energetic team. At the same time, the name Caracal can be seen as a short version of Caracalla, which was the nickname of the Roman emperor Antoninus (188-217 A.D.). Another reflection of our Italian heritage.”
Funding is always a big issue for indie-start-ups, and in some countries, government institutions step in to help out, like the Nordic Game Program or the Screen Australia Interactive Game Fund. However in Italy, Caracal haven’t found such opportunities forthcoming. Despite this, they’re happy to be part of the Italian indie-scene, and are looking to lead the charge of more innovative and ambitious titles coming out of the country.
“Italy has many independent videogame studios, all with their own interesting projects with national and international visibility,” they say. “At the same time, both as developers and gamers ourselves, apart from the great race simulator Assetto Corsa (by Kunos Simualzioni), we’re still waiting to see really big and ambitious projects come from Italy.”
They continue: “In all honesty, as a team we’ve noticed that there’s a generalized prejudice against the videogame world in Italy. When there’s a more established and accepted videogame culture in our country, maybe we will see bigger and more amazing projects, who knows?
“With regard to government funds, so far there are none worth mentioning in Italy. A few years ago we had the MEDIA Program in Europe, which was interesting and was really something for independent developers to consider. But for us, at the moment, we’ll have to make do with what we have.”
Crowd-funding isn’t on the cards yet, but is something that the Caracal team might explore in the future. Right now, they’re choosing to focus on making Downward the best it can be, before holding out the hat.
“It’s difficult to say, since so much of Downward is still a work in progress,” they explain. “If and when the time comes that a crowd-funding service is the best option, we’ll let you know. Our aim for now is to design something that’s interesting and has a high level of performance, which draws people’s attention and shows our dedication and commitment to the project.”