As we continue to advance and technology continues to grow, more and more questions about machines arise. The biggest one still remains about whether AI with ever reach human sentience, and to what degree. Wulum, the development studio behind Last Soul, is tackling this question and trying to put a lighter spin on it. To learn more about the team’s approach, we sat down with Tony Munoz, Wulum founder and lead designer behind this upcoming sci-fi adventure. By sharing his thoughts, we now have another angle to look at machines and the questions we have about them.
Last Soul Developer Interview with Tony Munoz
Let’s get started: Who are you and what’s your story?
Tony: Well, I’m Tony Munoz and I’m an indie developer. I founded the studio Wulum in 2014 in Calgary after moving to Canada in 2013. I had always wanted to create video games and seeing all accessibility of platforms like Steam and mobile pushed me to pursue that. It was a slow start even though I’ve been coding since I was 12 because I grew up in Venezuela, which has a sort of non-game development culture (at least when I moved).
How long have you been working on Last Soul?
Tony: I had the initial concept around 2020 where I discussed the story with one of my friends. After fleshing it out, I started meeting with publishers to get things started. I must’ve met with 50 of them and the few who got back to me liked the idea but urged me to work harder on the art style. I’m not an artist and spent about 2 months working alone trying to improve it. Luckily, I knew very talented people in Calgary and Edmonton that I invited to be part of this project. After convincing them to take a chance, we got started right away and have been working on it ever since. We started working together at the last trimester of 2020. Took a chance, we got started right away and have been working on it ever since.
What a journey! What are some things that inspired this game?
Tony: Oh, where to start… I love sci-fi and have loved Star Wars since I was a kid. I’m huge fan of pixel art and robots; I think those two go really well together. They have a retro feel which helps create games like those on Atari. In terms of design, I was inspired to make a game that would encourage people to discover and inspire them in turn to make something new. I also look up to games that don’t revolve around killing.
That’s cool. What else is behind the design of Last Soul?
Tony: Before I even started, I took a course on how to create stories that engage people and how to present a complete story for a game. I divided the story into five to seven worlds and over 40 playable levels. My friend helped me a lot in organizing the story. We really wanted to make the game with writing that’s enjoyable, funny, and light-hearted. On that note, Ready Player One helped inspire the creation of all this. We really wanted to bring some of retro culture into the game. Things like Adventure, one of the greatest games ever made, and all that 80s music.
What can you tell us about the music?
Tony: I’m a fan of John Williams, who has made an immeasurable contribution to the world of music. I wanted to create the sensation of big music with such epic feeling behind it, a combination of John Williams and TRON. Another score we drew from is that from the Ender’s Game film. The music should be so special that it’s able to stand on its own while accurately conveying the character’s feelings.
Awesome! Okay, what was the biggest challenge you needed to overcome?
Tony: Definitely developing the artistic style. Pixel art is very challenging and people spend so much time trying to make it unique and animated. I don’t like sprite sheets and I wanted to push the pixel art to the limits by creating big scenarios. Games like Hyper Light Drifter accomplish this with their different look and non-repetitive presentation. We tried a variety of techniques to make the look of the game as different as possible. If I could, I’d hire on three more people just to work on the art.
I understand that. How would you sell this game to someone you met on the street?
Tony: Oh, that’s a good question. I guess I’d say something like, “if you love retro style games with a good combination of sci-fi, action, shooting, and a great story mixed with the best music, Last Soul is a game you need to play.”
How hard is this game, and can you beat it?
Tony: I’ll definitely say that this game challenges you. The first version of the demo was way too easy according to my son. Ideally, we would aim to make a demo that one of us could beat in 10 minutes, but a new player may take over 90 minutes.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. As indie devs, we’re constantly play-testing to make sure that it works and that it’s achievable. It is, but I’m not gonna give away any tricks. The tutorial is mainly there to get you familiar with all the mechanics before we throw you right into the action.
Quite the challenge. Before we go, any final thoughts you’d like to share?
Tony: There are still things that we’d like to add to the game with the aim of making people happier. We want to create a game with our supporters and we value every comment we receive because that’s what helps to build a great game.
There’s something special about Last Soul, not just the game, but the story. When you get to the end, you will need a week to recover because it’s going to be amazing. I know everybody will enjoy it.
The Closing Line
The Last Soul demo is currently available to play on Steam. There are plans to release the demo and full game on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Switch. It’s a game about robots, feelings, and the idea of robots with feelings. The story promises to be comedic yet sincere with all the aesthetics coming together and standing alone. Here’s hoping many folks will enjoy Last Soul and that it won’t be the last game by Wulum.