In 2017, Ubisoft inaugurated the Indie Series, a yearly competition open to indie game development studios from Quebec and Ontario (Canada) that includes money prices, mentoring, marketing and creation tools as well as financial advice in order to magnify the winning studios and their games’ success. The Indie Series is held in collaboration with National Bank and other experts in the industry.
Sabotage Studio won first prize of the 2018 Quebec edition of the Indie Series last spring and it is with great pleasure that we present their first game, The Messenger, which will be released on Nintendo Switch and PC on August 30th.
Ninjas, demons, a retro aesthetic, and tight controls; that’s the winning combo offered by The Messenger, a platform sidescroller with an 8-bit atmosphere and innovative game mechanics at the dawn of its launch.
Assuming the role of a young ninja threatened by the arrival of a demon army in their village, players will have to overcome convoluted obstacles and eccentric enemies to deliver a scroll paramount to their clan’s survival. The Sabotage Studio co-founders, Martin Brouard and Thierry Boulanger, are confident The Messenger’s humoristic tone and solid gameplay design will keep players at the edge of their seats.
A childhood passion
“Development started in 2016, but the project dates back to primary school” explains Thierry, Creative Director of The Messenger. “I grew up in the 80s playing NES with my friends. Ninja Gaiden, TMNT, for me ninjas were always the coolest heroes.”
Thierry’s passion for game development was already blossoming during that period of his life. Flash animations of a ninja sidescroller he started making in his childhood were the first sources of inspiration for what is now one of the most anticipated indie games of the year.
However, even though their project is gaining in importance, Sabotage’s developers are still maintaining their young spirit. Throughout the adventure, the player will have to face bosses that while being difficult to beat, often have some humoristic characteristics.
“We wanted to represent parts of a child’s relationship with authority through our boss battles.” Says Thierry, in reference to the two-foot high skeleton boss featured in the adventure. “Authoritarian figures are often seen as ridiculous when we’re young. We tend to want to delegitimize them by exaggerating their flaws. Since the idea for the game came to me when I was a child, it was something we wanted to transpire in the game. Bosses are still hard to beat but they’re often a bit ridiculous.”
Throughout the whole process, Thierry and Martin have lightheartedly approached this 80s action game aesthetic. For them, The Messenger is all about coming back to concepts that have always been pure fun for players:
“It was important for us not to take ourselves too seriously. This gaming style is a bit quirky and over the top, that’s what makes it interesting. We make an agreement with the player to be proud of our nostalgia and just have fun, that’s how everyone will have the best experience.”
A team as creative as eclectic
“We were only two people at Sabotage in the summer of 2016,” explains Thierry. “In January 2017, with other sources of financing, we were able to grow significantly.”
Thierry and Martin mentioned that their search for talent for their game’s development and Sabotage’s growth was relatively straightforward. Having themselves worked more than ten years in the videogame industry, they simply contacted old colleagues that shared their passion. They further explain having prioritized the coherence of values and the quality of confidence relationships between team members in order to build a strong studio in their image. Two years later, ten hugely talented developers and artists united their forces in Sabotage’s offices to create original and engaging gaming experiences.
As for tasks that require more specific competences, the co-founders carefully selected talents that inspired them personally. For instance, they reached out to Rainbowdragoneyes, a multi-talented technical death metal drum player from Denver, for the composition of their full 8-bit soundtrack (find him on bandcamp). The result is a wonderfully epic set of compositions that perfectly complement the adventures of the platform game.
Therefore, the combination of these deep and eclectic talents is what gives this “love letter to the eras of 8-bit and 16-bit” all its charm.
Once this array of resources was mobilized behind the effective realization of the project, the Indie Series gave Sabotage Studio the opportunity to bring some final additions. Notably, the developers had the opportunity to use Ubisoft playtest resources, an extremely efficient and useful polishing tool when put in the hands of such a capable team in regards to its optimisation of the creative process.
Ubisoft is proud to have had the chance to honor Sabotage and The Messenger in the 2018 edition of the Indie Series. This title is certainly among the firsts of a long line of successful projects for the new studio. Available on Steam and Nintendo Switch starting August 30th, this new sidescroller will soon give players the opportunity to put on a stealthy ninja suit and save their village from a demon invasion.
Find The Messenger on Steam.
Producer: Magalie Allard
Co-Founder and Creative Director: Thierry Boulanger
Co-Founder and Executive Producer: Martin Brouard
Composer: Eric W. Brown
Programmer: Sylvain Cloutier
Level Designer: Philippe Dionne
Quality Insurance: Carl Dubreuil
Level Artist: Michael Lavoie
Character Artist : Savannah Perron
Character Artist: Jean-Luc Savard