Making ECHOPLEX: The Story so far…

As we prepare to launch ECHOPLEX Early Access, game director Tyron Janse van Vuuren shares the journey so far…

ECHOPLEX started as a short film idea.  My background is in filmmaking and I had never made a game before – but as I worked on the concept, I realized it would be much more interesting as an interactive experience.

I teamed up with programmer and art director Henk Scheepers, who I had worked with on corporate projects.  We did not know each other well at the time, but I was impressed by his meticulous work and sense of aesthetics.

Henk Scheepers, lead developer on ECHOPLEX, working on the game demo

We created a simple browser-based version of the game in mid-2015.  Our focus was to create an easy-to-use level editor for players to design their own levels.  After we launched, we discovered that most people were interested in playing rather than designing – but the “echo” concept definitely hooked them in.

The browser-based ECHOPLEX prototype

The next step was to move the game off the browser and make a desktop demo with more visual detail.  (Players of the browser game would often comment that they got disorientated in the levels because of the visual minimalism.)

Henk and I were both still working full time jobs, so ECHOPLEX development happened in the early mornings and over the weekend.  We worked with our colleague Ronnie Wong Ho Hip, to develop the Echo character model and animation.

We showcased the ECHOPLEX demo at the rAge 2016 video game expo in Johannesburg (we’re from South Africa).  It was the first time that we really saw how players connected with the idea.

After 3 days of watching people queuing to play the game, and bringing their friends back to try it, we realized we had something worth pursuing.

Players at the ECHOPLEX booth at rAge 2016

I knew that it would take full time focus to take the game to the next level – and to do that we needed funding.  I made a pitch video for the game, intending to apply to organizations like Indiefund.  But before I could do that, my friend (and previous employer) Shayne Mann called me and said: “Tell me about this game.”

Shayne invested in the production and helped us make the leap to working on the project full time.  This was the turning point for ECHOPLEX.

Henk and I both moved from Johannesburg to Durban to work on the ECHOPLEX (Durban is cheaper and has the ocean!).  In the space of 4 months, we rebuilt the game from the ground up, developing it into a more multidimensional, story-driven experience.

Actor Aaron Teng on set with DOP Travis van Staden and director Tyron Janse van Vuuren
Filming close ups for the protest scenes
Actress Robyn Davie and director Tyron Janse van Vuuren on set

Many players of the demo asked for an ECHOPLEX story, so we developed a non-linear narrative that is revealed piece by piece in the game.  I filmed the “memory fragments” very simply, working with family and friends as actors in a tiny green screen studio.

And with Ronnie’s supervision of the visual effects, our little production ended up looking much higher budget than it is!

As the project developed, our team grew.  Revin Goff came on board as the game’s composer.  I first heard Revin’s work on Soundcloud, and I was hooked.  His sounds draw you in and keep surprising you – just what our game needed.  Revin is based in Galway, Ireland – so he and I worked on the score almost entirely via WhatsApp.

Revin developed a relentless, mesmerizing theme that came to define the game.
We’ve also been lucky to work with two great companies:  indie game PR agency Novy Unlimited, and Chinese Publisher indienova.  Both companies have brought a wealth experience, expertise and creativity to the project that has taken us to the next level.

Developers will know that making a game is more than a full time job, but it is deeply rewarding too too.   This project has changed our lives in a tangible way, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.

– Tyron Janse van Vuuren, ECHOPLEX Game Director


ECHOPLEX Early Access is just the beginning – check out the ECHOPLEX Road Map to see where we’re taking the game next.