Le says she remembered some notable art styles they tried out, most of them geared towards recreating the feel of traditional materials, including an inked comic style like Valiant Hearts, and a friendly watercolor look, similar to that of Ira Sluyterman van Langeweyde, which reminds her of cozy children book illustrations. Another option had consistent outlines and a simplified texture, close to what Shedworks’s Sable pulled off, inspired by the French comic artist Moebius. Apart from these, several stylized 3D looks were attempted as well.
She also says that her degree in digital animation from university allowed her to have a firm grasp of the full pipeline of filmmaking for animated features, which overlapped with the game-making pipeline. She had to learn everything from preproduction to actually animating in 2D and 3D. That knowledge came in handy when she started working on Hoa.
When Tung came to her with the idea, she didn’t have much experience in gaming at all. That was one of her greatest challenges, she says, but also presented her with a unique opportunity to contribute to Hoa and its artwork.
“I would sometimes be driven by the visual flow or suggest ideas that gamers wouldn’t think of. Sometimes it would be just completely technically impossible,” says Le. “But other times, after work and experimentation, it becomes something that is part of how Hoa is different from other games.”
The development team’s fifth and most recent member, Johannes Johansson, composes the music for Hoa. The Skrollcat team discovered him in early 2019 when they were looking for a composer. When Tra heard Johansson’s demos, she knew that he had to be involved with the game. At each stage of the production, the team would send a visual, gameplay section, or story beat to Johansson, and he would in term provide samples inspired by those materials.
As the level design and visuals progress, the music does as well. Many times, the music also informs the development team of how the game could take shape, and helps them visualize certain areas better when they’re stuck. Johansson and the rest of the team went back and forth until a full composition formed. Laurie Koivisto is the sound designer and handles the orchestration. After Laurie’s contribution, Simon Paldanius would mix and master.
“We did like recording with an orchestra. Throughout all the stages, the team was really proactive. We go back and forth a lot until we are happy with everything. It’s just the ideal creative teamwork process, I guess. I think we are really lucky to have them, truly,” explains Le.
Michael Yum, president of PM Studios, Hoa’s publisher, says that he had found out about the game through a friend. He saw the trailer debut and he and his entire team were enamored by it. So Yum looked up the website for the game and reached out to Skrollcat. Yum believed that he was late to the party, that the studio may have already been talking with other parties and missed the boat on publishing Hoa.
“I just kept persuading them that, you know, that we were a developer too,” adds Yum. “So we understand everything. ‘We can help you.’ It took a long time, but we convinced them that we can help bring their vision to life and bring the right partnerships.”
Hoa was originally announced for Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. As a publisher, one of the most important aspects is to get the game into as many hands as possible. The most obvious audience were PC players, and then Switch owners. Both platforms help indie games thrive, so PM Studios knew that having Hoa available on both was a no-brainer. In late March, PM Studios made an announcement that the game was also coming to PlayStation 4 and 5, as well as Xbox One and Series X|S, with physical copies available for the PlayStation and Switch versions.