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Interview With Chameleon Games, Creators of ‘Tamarin’

Interview With Chameleon Games, Creators of ‘Tamarin’
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Tamarin is an upcoming 3D adventure game which we covered briefly on the Kinda Funny Games Showcase that took place during E3 2019. The game features a small tamarin, which I have since found out are squirrel-sized new world monkeys. The team behind the game is Chameleon Games which is comprised of a number of ex-Rare developers who worked on games such as Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, and many other classic games.

I had an opportunity to interview Omar Sawi, Director at Chameleon Games, by email to discuss the upcoming title.

Matt: “Tamarin looks like an extremely ambitious project for a smaller team. How long has the game been in development?”

Omar: “Indeed, a 3D action-adventure isn’t easy for a small team to do. And that’s a big reason why it’s taken a very long time to develop, over five years so far!

Matt: “In the announcement trailer, we see a variety of different locations: forests, mountains, caves, and a factory. What was your inspiration for the world in the game?”

Omar: “Initially, the game was based on ‘travelling the world’ – seeing a lot of beautiful natural locations. Later, we toned this down to focus on a specific region, trying to do that well. Since I’m directing the game and personally grew up in the countryside of Norway, I have much personal experience exploring and being within the beauty of Nordic landscapes. So, that’s a setting that players can experience in Tamarin, with all the variety that the visual theme provides, such as extremely long sunsets and shadows in the summer, the distinct seasons, the mountainous geology, and the cute petite species of plants that have adapted to survive in those conditions.

Matt: How big can we expect the overall world to be in the final release?

Omar: “We don’t want to say it’s so HUGE, because that’s actually often a complaint for this kind of game – especially if the world feels empty. With a game like this, the ideal is not for it to be open world, but to become intimate with your environment, knowing it inside out so you can find every secret and see the same places you’ve been to before from a completely different vantage point or perspective, [like] through a new tunnel or entrance, or after you have acquired more abilities to navigate the world.

Matt: “What was the design process like for the main character, and why was a tamarin chosen?”

Omar: “Since Tamarin is a game inspired by nature, all the beautiful animals species, plants, and natural locations that exist in the world, I tried to find all the world’s cutest and most underappreciated animals. So there was a list of animals up for the audition, and the tamarin won the competition! Why? Because his fast movements were the most well suited to an action game which is about having fun exploring a 3D environment.

Matt: “Will there be any other playable characters besides the tamarin?”

Omar: “No.

Matt: “Chameleon Games is composed of many ex-Rare developers. What is the pedigree of your team?”

Omar: “Tamarin has been crafted by a lot of talented and experienced game developers. When we started out, I asked the creator of Banjo Kazooie to design a ‘star’ based on a baby emperor tamarin. He was joined in by the former Head of Art at Rare on character concept art. David Wise, who did the great Donkey Kong Country soundtrack, has done all the music, and we had several other key people from the famous Rare games, such as Richard Vaucher who did a huge amount of art on the game. Apart from that, there’s been a few from Sony London who did more recent PlayStation games, three of us are from Norway, and we have a very experienced software engineer from Taiwan. It’s an indie project, not everyone has worked on the project throughout the whole 5 years, specific parts have been contracted out to specific people to finish, but generally, we’re lucky to have had so much talent on the project.

Matt: “Tamarin seems to emphasize exploration in a beautiful world. Can we expect to gain different abilities that enhance our ability to explore the environments?”

Omar: “What’s really enjoyable is when you explore an environment, and your ability to explore it enhances over time, leading to new secrets, pathways, and vantage points. In Tamarin, you start out with a lot of acrobatic moves from the beginning so you don’t feel limited, but you can both get weapons and tools that lead to new things, and there are also objects within the environment itself you learn to use over time.

Matt: “In Tamarin, we will be using a variety of different guns to stop the army of insects looking to invade the environment. It’s interesting that these cute characters are juxtaposed with this inherent violence. What was the reasoning behind including weapons in this game?”

Omar: “In the game, the tamarin has lost everything; His home and his family. And the forest around him is burnt down. It’s a story about nature’s destruction for children and adults alike, and it’s something that’s really happening to animals who are losing their natural habitat. So, through his struggle for survival and that of his family and friends, he meets an animal friend who helps him. The weapons and tools he gets allows him to get past the intelligent army of insects who work in groups, but there are also special kinds of items like shurikens [and] ninja stars to cut through things, and flowers which grant invincibility. Getting through the game involves both being able to use weapons and using the acrobatic and agile moves of the tamarin to the fullest.

Matt: “What can players expect the overall gameplay loop look like?”

Omar: The game has a unique gameplay structure which alternates between two gameplay styles and atmospheres. Some parts are like an adventure game or a 3D platformer, you explore full 3D open playground spaces out in beautiful nature. In these areas, the tamarin doesn’t have any weapons, and there are a wide range of moves he can perform as an agile tamarin, such as climbing, swimming, and leaping. The atmosphere is more thoughtful and relaxed. However, it contrasts with sections that are more intense, and which often take place in closed underground tunnels. You get enemies flying in, making formations, bugs get splattered, and [there are even] big beetles shooting rockets. Hopefully, by having such varied gameplay, you’ll feel the game stays fresh.

Tamarin

Matt: “Besides exploration and combat, what else can we expect to see in Tamarin?”

Omar: “Dancing ants! Some giant… maybe we shouldn’t tell. You’ll see love and hugs if you complete the game!

Tamarin is currently scheduled to release the Summer for PlayStation 4 and PC. For all your other gaming news, previews, and interviews, keep it locked to Mammoth Gamers.

My name is Matthew Adler. I am a Freelance Video Game Journalist and also the Host and Creator of In Your Element: A Gaming Podcast. In Your Element is a general gaming podcast with an emphasis on indie games. I feature a variety of different guests each week for discussion around specific topics. Check it out on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other major podcast services!