The beautiful cyberpunk game that turned two brothers into developers

Tim and Adrien Soret, brothers from Paris, were quietly developing a Studio Ghibli-inspired dark fantasy game when the Cyberpunk Jam digitally rolled into town in early 2014. They took a break from their existing development schedule to build a completely new experience, a pixelated, neon-infused, sci-fi homage to some of their favorite childhood titles -- Another World, Flashback and Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee. They were new to game development and unknown on the indie scene, but in six days they coded, animated and designed their entry, The Last Night, and then threw it online for voting. They didn't expect much.

"When we discovered that we won out of 265 games, we were totally stunned," older brother Tim Soret says.

Journalists, fans and other developers began reaching out to the brothers, praising their work in the Cyberpunk Jam and asking for more. It was an "insane amount of attention," Soret recalls:

"Finally, as artists, our lives started to make sense. It felt like we hit the right spot, that we were in the right place, that we did the right thing, that finally we were doing something to actually please people rather than annoying them with advertisings, like I did in my previous career."

They decided to pause the fantasy game and build The Last Night into a full cinematic platformer, a style of game that emphasizes exploration and experimentation in a living, breathing, 2D environment. This is the type of game the brothers were waiting for, a new kind of side-scroller built with all of the power and ease provided by modern technology.

"As a creator, everything you have in mind, you can make it now, with almost no technical limitation," Soret says. "That's why we want to bring back this genre from the grave. The pleasure of a real 2D adventure, but without the slow pace of point-and-click, without the hassle of point-based combats of RPGs, without the levels designed as platforming puzzles. Just real adventures, full of in-game storytelling, of action, of exploration, where you're in direct control of your character at all times."

There are no good or bad choices. Just like real life, there are just choices. And there are consequences.

The Last Night is gorgeous. Artistically, it draws inspiration from Blade Runner, with high-stacked cities packed with bright lights and roaming, flying authority figures. It stars a man with a gun, a bounty hunter-type character faced with a series of life-altering decisions. The game diverges depending on the choices each player makes over a series of connected nights, each one starting and ending in the hero's apartment. Choose one action on night three and it impacts the events of night six or seven, Soret says. This means there is definitely more than one ending in The Last Night.

"There are no good or bad choices," Soret says. "Just like real life, there are just choices. And there are consequences. And you're not always in control of what happens. The goal for us is to make a story that will bear different meanings depending on your actions. This is how we want to explore under different lights the themes of the game, like the melancholy of modern life."

For the Cyberpunk Jam, the Soret brothers used an art style they thought was simple to implement: lean, pixelated characters with long, thin limbs, similar in style to Gods Will Be Watching or Sword & Sworcery. They didn't even like that character design -- and they still don't -- but they did what they had to in order to finish the jam. Spindly legs are easier to animate, it turns out.

The final version of The Last Night features pixelated characters with more realistic proportions and movements. The brothers even recorded themselves doing certain moves in real life so they could transfer those natural movements to the game. It's higher-quality content all around, Soret says.

Making these decisions -- scrapping one art style for another, pausing one game to jump on the momentum of another, entering the Cyberpunk Jam in the first place -- is made easier for Tim and Adrien since they share a history and were raised the same way. This is the main advantage of working with a brother, "someone who is exactly like you," Tim Soret says.

"We miss the same games; we share the same idea of the ideal game," he says. "When we work on the same piece of art, we know that we can trust the other in terms of vision and art direction. The worst part is that, obviously, we suffer from the same weaknesses. One example is that we're not extremely organized and we suck at estimating and managing our time (the classic artist curse)."

The Last Night (Video Test)

To counteract their shared weaknesses, the Soret brothers are working with writer and producer Danny Wadeson and a coder from MIT, Kamran Khan. "We bring our unique vision and our creativity, while they bring stability, planning, scheduling and motivation," Soret says.

Together, the brothers Soret and friends plan to build the immersive, cinematic, 2D platformer of their childhood dreams. The Last Night is on track to launch in 2016 for PS4, PC and Mac from their studio, Odd Tales, with a Kickstarter planned for early this year.

"We want to deliver what people really want, because we feel we're the only ones who can do it," Soret says. "We saw the remake of Flashback or Oddworld, and we feel it's far from what cinematic platformers could be today. So when you have a unique vision and you feel you have the power to do it in your hands, it would be terrible to not do it. We feel it's our duty."