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From RIGS to Röki, a point-and-click adventure

Meet the UK's latest indie, formed from the ashes of Guerrilla Cambridge.

Three months ago, Alex Kanaris and Tom Jones were cast adrift by Sony when it shut down Guerrilla Cambridge. Both had worked at the studio as art directors. Both had worked for Sony for 14 years.

Three months later, Kanaris and Jones are showing me a trailer for their new game, Röki, a Scandinavian fantasy-inspired point-and-click adventure, and the pair are ready to announce their new indie studio, Polygon Treehouse.

Röki looks beautiful, with hints of games such as Tearaway and Broken Age, and fantasy elements inspired by pop culture touchstones such as Labyrinth and His Dark Materials. You can see its debut teaser trailer just below.

But I'm also interested in the journey of its two creators, who in such a short space of time have turned redundancy into a dramatically-quick debut. Röki itself will be out sometime next year.

"We took a bit of time," Kanaris tells me over a video call, describing Polygon Treehouse's official founding in February, although it sounds like he's being humble. Sony offically announced Guerrilla Games' closure on 12th January - just three weeks before.

"We were fortunate enough to have a bit of interest from established studios for job roles," he continues, "which was really flattering and something we had to weigh up - but we were both interested in going indie."

The pair had been working hard on RIGS, Guerrilla Cambridge's PlayStation VR launch title, right up until the studio's shutdown.

"It was challenging couple of years," Jones says. "I think we made a great game which is why it was sad the studio shut. We were still working on more stuff for it, getting more levels and more DLC out for the community.

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"The thing that's the saddest, perhaps, is that RIGS never got the chance to grow and go to where we wanted it to be, but it did a good job of pushing VR and setting a benchmark, perhaps, for other developers to follow.

"But you can't work in the games industry without living with the chance of the studio shutting down. Sony is a company that has to manage its costs effectively. It was a surprise and very sad, obviously a tough decision for everyone involved and not one I suspect Sony took lightly. Fortunately, most of the people there have gone on to other things now, but these things happen."

Once the duo decided on going indie and working together, the idea of a point-and-click game was decided upon quickly.

"The idea came to us pretty clear," Jones continues, "even before we'd decided to go all in on doing the whole indie thing. There was a game there we wanted to make, so that was actually pretty smooth - which is kind of scary, [it was so smooth] it makes me nervous. But it takes that sudden creative freedom to focus on those ideas you talk about in the background at work, away from the actual projects at Guerrilla.

"We'd often discuss ideas and have to essentially, put them to one side, because maybe the scope wasn't that of a triple-A, big 100-strong studio, but was nevertheless something we were interested in."

"Point-and-click allows us to flex our art muscles while also testing ourselves in other areas as well," Kanaris adds. "The genre has had a renaissance in recent years, and it's so open we can tell whatever story we want, with the characters we want."

Röki is heavily influenced by Scandinavian folklore, and tells the tale of a young girl travelling deep into an ancient wilderness. It's a collision of real and fantastical, the pair tell me, as Röki's young heroine seeks to save her family. Like all good fairy tales, dark forces are inevitably at play - the creature at the end of the trailer is Röki itself.

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It's a setting which Jones says was inspired by the kind of bedtime stories he has told to his young son, although with a more grown-up twist. Babadook is mentioned as another one of the pairs influences, although the game will not be a straight-up horror experience.

"It's not a horror game, but watching 80s kids films growing up - they don't pull any punches," Jones continues. "They're scary, dark, disconcerting."

It's the kind of game the pair could never have made at made Guerrilla Cambridge.

"Traditionally, being part of Sony pushing new hardware has challenges. Chasing that hardware developing and keeping up with that is very tricky. Often, artistically, you have to make compromises here and there and make concessions where you don't feel you have to. Where as this is more liberating," Jones concludes.

There's still a long way to go, and there's been no firm decision yet made on funding. A crowd-funding option is attractive to Polygon Treehouse, the duo say, to ensure development remains open and can be inspired by community feedback when the pair do show more. If Röki's stylish trailer is anything to go on, we're looking forward to seeing it.

Polygon Treehouse's website is now live at Polygon-Treehouse.com, or you can follow the studio for more updates via Twitter.

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