Shu Game Designer Interview with Jonathon Wilson

There are many gaming events throughout the year with your big hitters like Gamescom and E3 taking place in the US. For the UK though we are treated to EGX at the NEC in Birmingham. Not the biggest of events, but one that gives us brits a chance to get hands on with some triple AAA games as well as some hidden gems. Straight from the show floor, I got the chance to try out indie developed title “Shu” developed by Coatsink games who themselves are based in Sunderland.  I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Shu game designer Jonathon Wilson who helped me get a better understand of what their trying to achieve with this Platformer.

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Matt: So for people going into this blind, how would you describe Shu?

Jonathon: So Shu is your cutesy, 2D Platformer. The premise of the game is you play as this hand-drawn character named Shu who goes on an adventure to save his friends and try to outrun the storm. As you progress you save his friends by going through these various lands. Then there actually comes a point where you confront the storm.

M: So obviously the games named Shu? I’m guessing it’s not named after Shuhei? (Shuhei Yoshida –President of Sony)

J: No its not, but I made that joke as well when I saw it. If you actually look at all the Twitter comments or comments on our Playstation blog post we put up recently, a few people have been jumping to that conclusion, but there is no reference to Shuhei whatsoever.

M: So what is Shu then? It’s the name of the main character but does it mean anything else and how does it fit into the world you’ve created?

J: Basically it’s based off like bird people. (Shu was an Egyptian God known for being the God of wind and air).  It was mainly for him stand-out in the characterisation

M: So I read that Shu has been inspired by games such as Rayman and Sonic, so what do you think you’ve transitioned over from games like those?

J:  I say we’ve borrowed from the art-style and aesthetic. The flow of the games too like with Rayman you can get into a good flow. You can play the games without it, but as a player you tell that it feels better and controls better. So it’s kind of transitioning that flow of the gameplay to help navigate these various walls

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M: Speed-running seems a big part too.

J: Yes, so speed running came quite late into development actually. So it was EGX last year where we put up the time trials. We saw this go down really well, so decided to go back through all our levels and introduce leaderboards into the game to compete with friends.

M: What do you think makes Shu standout from other 2.5 platformers?

J: I’d say it’s the hand drawn characters and the aesthetic. Also the colour palette with each wall having its own predominant colour; it helps it stand out more and gives a lot of depth. Especially now we emphasize background and foreground. It allows you to create these unique worlds.

M: The Launch trailer for Shu was shown in 2014 at GDC with a 2015 release date. With an extra year to polish the game, what do you think you’ve added and improved?

J: What happened was last year at EGX, was when we finished development and looked at the complete package. We weren’t completely happy, so we broke down everything, identified what worked what didn’t. Then we did a massive overhaul of the animation and design which gave us an opportunity to emphasize the leaderboards and the speed running aspect as well.

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M: So I believe your looking at bringing the game to PS Vita too with Q4 the aim?

J: So what I’ve noticed since we’ve made the announcement that the game is coming out the same day, there is a lot of people that are worried it will get canned. I know why because I’m a Vita user as well.  It’s not gonna get canned, it is gonna come out. I can say I’ve put a lot of time into making sure it runs on Vita. Basically I can finish the game on Vita. It’s just it’s a case of doing the last few things in development. Q4 is the target. Q4 will be the release date.

M: Is there extra content too for Vita?

J: Yeah there is like a refuge of sorts, like a hub area where your villagers will go as you progress throughout the game. The premise of it if you go within it at the start of the game you’ll be very limited as you don’t have the abilities to fully move around it. So as you progress throughout the game you’ll see new things appear in this area.

Big thanks to Jonathon Wilson and Coatsink games for taking time out to conduct this interview. Shu is due for release digitally on Oct 4th  2016 for Playstation 4 and PC with a Q4 release for PS Vita.

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