[Interview] Talking STONE with Greg Louden

Written by Abram Buehner

Introducing: STONE Developer Interview

Recently, I sat down with Greg Louden of Convict Games to chat about his game, STONE. Billed as a hip-hop stoner noir starring a koala, STONE has larger-than-life ethos and I just had to know more. Without futher ado, please enjoy my unabridged conversation with Greg Louden.

What inspired you to get into game development?

I was inspired by lots of games, but largely by the potential of games. I always felt there’s so many more stories we can tell and STONE is a response to that. In games, you evade, attack and shield as mechanics traditionally. We want to push interactive storytelling further. Usually there’s the same sort of music too, we wanted to challenge that as well. Convict was founded by my co-director Sarah and I on 5th of July 2017. Our goal is to tell high impact and alternative stories. Typically the sort of stories in cinema, TV or literature. Once we had that goal we came up with the motto of “breaking free since 2017.” Which means we’re trying to do something fresh with our stories rather than follow others.  So we’re here to help evolve games and the stories played.

STONE is a narrative-heavy experience. What does the medium of video games afford to you as a storyteller that is lost in other formats, such as film?

STONE is a fusion of all mediums and unlike other mediums we’re not stuck by the limits of time. STONE can be a short experience or a long one if you listen to the music, watch the movies in the cinema and soak in the world and characters.  I think some players will definitely watch some cinema and will probably be blown away, because these films are largely masterpieces that, as they’re old enough, they’re free for use. So in essence STONE is a story, a film festival and a music festival. Perfect in this age of being safe inside and wanting to best use your time.

STONE has a very strong aesthetic. It’s evocative of, and blends
together, many different, popular film tropes and sounds that work
together elegantly. At the same time, its cartoony aesthetic and koala
protagonist feel out of left field – yet it really works. I love the
ambiance of this game. What led to you fusing together all of these
disparate elements to create STONE?

Thanks so much. With Convict we want to be bold and we always think what’s better than watching a film is playing it. With that being said we wanted to create a stoner noir game that felt like watching “The Big Lebowski” or “Inherent Vice,” but was uniquely ours and also uniquely Australian. Most games are set in America and we wanted to tell a global but deeply Australian one. The bright pink aesthetic was inspired by the films of Kenneth Anger and Gaspar Noe. The whole koala, anthropomorphic concept came from the fact it’s a great metaphor; and in games we need to build everything. So why do we recreate the real world when we can create something new and something only games or CGI can do? Lastly the symbol of the koala in recent times has changed as it’s under threat so we also like to think we use to remind the world of Australia’s unique nature and that it deserves to be respected and saved.

There are always obstacles in any creative endeavor that have to be
overcome. Did you run into any challenges during the creation of STONE that you had to solve? Did you learn anything new about game development in the process?

I learnt a lot from STONE and making it. STONE came from a vision I had of starting a Aussie game company that makes alternative story games. From there the idea of a stoner noir came into mind. So from this idea I built a team, built a company, built the game and collaborated with lots of musicians and artists to create STONE. I came into STONE with experience working in AAA at a high level, but still learning the business, legal, publishing, PR and marketing side has been all new and now STONE is out and ready for players on Switch I’m very keen to take it forward onto our next game. 

What was the most rewarding aspect of STONE’s development cycle?

The most rewarding aspect of making STONE has been to finish what we started. Our goal with STONE was to bring our story game to be PC, App Store and consoles. Switch brings this cycle to an end and it was challenging but we’re so happy to be releasing on Switch. We think STONE works great and fills the gap for more mature story games on the platform.

Thank you very much to Greg Louden for his time. STONE launches on Nintendo Switch on May 8th.

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