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The Artful Escape is coming on September 9 for the Xbox and the PC. And for Johnny Galvatron, the creator of the game, that date has been a long time coming.
The leader of Beethoven & Dinosaur has worked on the musical narrative adventure for more than six years of his life and he is finally done. That’s the way it is with art. On Thursday, publisher Annapurna Interactive showed the game its showcase and revealed the launch date.
“It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life,” said Galvatron during a press event.
It’s about a teenage guitar prodigy Francis Vendetti who sets out on a psychedelic multidimensional journey to inspire his stage persona and step out of the shadow of his famous musician uncle, a dead folk singer who was like a Bob Dylan character.
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“The start of the game shows some of the weight that’s on Francis’s shoulders and his opinions on his own kind of creative persona,” he said.
The game is loosely autobiographical, as Galvatron, who spoke on a call from Melbourne, Australia, spent about five years of his own life as a musical celebrity himself. As for his own life, he said he signed a record deal a week after playing the first show with his band.
“I was in a rock band back in the day, signed to Warner Brothers and toured the world and did all that sort of stuff,” he said. “And I ended up crashing pretty hard after that. I felt like making a game about it but ended up climbing another mountain making that game.”
They hit the road on their second week.
“And then I didn’t come home for like four or five years,” Galvatron said, in an interview with GamesBeat. “I hated it. I think I have a lot of experience in the music industry, but it was definitely a rebellion against what the music industry is. I guess I thought it was a music industry with magic doors, wonderful experiences, and I didn’t have many things to go on. This game is definitely my 17-year-old self’s version of the fantasy of what I thought the music industry would be.”
He wrote a long novel that he never shared with anyone, and that was his apprenticeship in writing. And that turned out to be his transition into game development.
The story is about coming of age, and it was inspired in part by David Bowie’s journey to create his Ziggy Stardust persona, which was just as creative as the music itself.
“Some of the things in the game are about the satellite aspects of a person’s creative persona,” Galvatron said. “It’s about the way they dress, the way they market themselves. The kind of imagery they associate with who they are and the backstory and narrative of who they are.”
Galvatron showed off the game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in 2017. He had a crew of around eight people, and that was most of the team that worked on the game.
“I don’t see myself so much as Francis because Francis is a very good guitarist and I’m rubbish,” he said. “Francis has a good musical future ahead of him.”
Galvatron feels disillusioned about the music industry.
During that time, Annapurna helped level it up.
The game features a strong cast with voice performances by Michael Johnston, Caroline Kinley, Lena Headey, Jason Schwartzman, Mark Strong, and Carl Weathers. The team recorded an entire folk album as part of the backstory for the uncle.
He learned early on to pull back and let the artists bring themselves into his vision for the game.
“The game has been rebooted several times,” he said. “While we were in the process of making this game, we were definitely learning how to make games, which is not ideal. It was an amazing adventure. I think we’ve made a really fantastic game.”