How a French husband and wife duo made the most refreshing game of the summer
This scorching summer of 2018, it’s not difficult to understand why refreshing poolside puzzler Swim Out would be one of the most played games on Hatch. But no matter the weather outside, the game is a relaxing yet challenging breath of fresh air, as you figure out how to navigate around nefarious (or just oblivious) red-capped swimmers and make your way to the next pool.
Crossing paths in London at the Casual Connect conference - where Swim Out was an Indie Prize finalist - I met the game’s creators Augusta and Mathieu Lozinguez, the married couple who constitute Lozange Lab, a firm based in Metz, France making art installations, educational exhibits and games like Swim Out.
How do you work together? Who does what?
Augusta: I'm working as a developer and I am in charge of all the graphic arts.
Mathieu: I'm also a developer and I do the audio.
Why should we play Swim Out?
Augusta: If you like puzzle games, it's very creative and really brain teasing. If you don't like puzzles, maybe you should play anyway, because the environment in the swimming pool makes the experience very different. Maybe you don't like the idea of a puzzle where it's just blocks you have to move around. But our game is more than that - it's an experience.
Mathieu: It's the ambience, you have a very relaxed feeling when you play the game because it's turn-based and there are no stressful timers or clocks. You can take your time to play and enjoy the graphics and the audio and visual ambience.
What inspired the swimming theme?
Augusta: In the beginning, we knew we wanted to make a puzzle game with a very bright and very clear board. We wanted something with a lot of contrast but also very pure visually. And one of many ideas that came was the top view of a swimming pool. This splashes and little waves in the water were eye catching. We had put some dots in the game, as you do when building a prototype, and the dots sort of naturally turned into the caps of the swimmers.
I also like the swimming pool because it’s a special place, maybe even a bit weird, but also a common place. Many people have been to the swimming pool and some will tell you that they love it. And some people will say it's a nightmare, I hate it. This is a strange place we all know, and it turns out we all have a lot of feelings about it.
Mathieu: People who played the game have told us, “It's exactly like this in real life, it's a nightmare to try to get out of the pool!”
Yeah, those swimmers in the red caps blocking your path. They're pretty evil. Have you experienced behavior like that in real life at the swimming hall?
Augusta: Some red caps are evil. I mean the one with the pool noodle is definitely rude. But I also think that when you go swimming in public, you go back and forth in your lane and kind of block out everything else. We're in our own space in the pool, we are in some kind of survival mode. You just do it. Or maybe it's because I'm French and we like to be rude!
Mathieu: Personally I don't see very well, so when I go swimming and take off my glasses, I see nothing and swim straight into other people. I am probably one of those people with the red caps.
Ha! I knew it!
You two have a partnership in multiple senses - you work together and you’re also married. Do you try to keep work and home separate?
Mathieu: We don't (laughs).
Augusta: We were always talking about games even before we created the studio, it was an important part of our conversation - what we like, what we dislike in games and why. So I guess that has continued but now we are speaking much more about our own games. So it's not easy to keep things separated, but it works.
Lozange Lab is an interdisciplinary enterprise - you don't just make games, but also art installations and educational projects. How do you decide what to work on, and is there a guiding philosophy?
Augusta: There must be one, but it's not clearly defined. But the very first basic thing is just how long will it take and can we do this? The other thing is that the project has to please both of us. It’s mainly based on how we feel with people. If someone comes to see us and we feel that we can really do something together, then we do it.
Are you working on anything that you can tell me about today?
Augusta: It's kind of a secret. Usually when we start games, we don't talk a lot about it because if we talk too much without doing something, we are afraid that we won't like the idea anymore. But we are working on a kind of puzzle, with some management elements. We can't tell you more yet.
I look forward to it. One last question: Swim Out has launched on Steam, Nintendo Switch, iOS and a few other platforms. Is there anything in particular that attracts you to Hatch as a new platform?
Mathieu: Yes, Hatch and game streaming are new in business, but it's an attractive platform and we have tested the app in beta, and the tech is very good. And we have a good relationship with the people from Hatch. They have really showed an interest in our game and we trust them. On the traditional stores there are so many games released every day, but on a curated platform like Hatch it's great to have that visibility.
Augusta: The fact that it's a curated platform is important for us and for the game - because the platform is not just like, “here’s a bunch of games”. You see games that are special and that you would talk about. We're aiming for a certain uniqueness with our art, and when we stand out on a platform like we do on Hatch, we can reach new people who want to play the game. So it's fantastic.
Thank you very much!
Joseph Knowles is Hatch's director of communications.