Exclusive: Q&A With Team Alto — The People Behind Alto’s Odyssey and Alto’s Adventure

Alto’s Odyssey launched on iOS and tvOS late last month, and we loved Alto’s latest adventure in the desert. We got in touch with ‘Team Alto’, the developers behind Alto’s Odyssey to talk a bit about the game, their development process, and their future plans with Alto and friends.

Team Alto is a collaboration between ‘Snowman’ and Harry Nesbit, and it’s this collaboration that is to be thanked for creating Alto’s Adventure and bringing Alto’s Odyssey to us.

Note: We’d like to thank Ryan Cash, the Founder of Snowman, Eli Cymet, Lead Producer at Snowman, Harry Nesbitt, Lead Artist and Programmer, and Jason Medeiros, Designer & Developer at Snowman for taking the time to answer our questions.

Being a small team developing these awe-inspiring games, can you give us some insight into what the brainstorming and development process is usually like?

Eli Cymet (Lead Producer at Snowman): “First and foremost, thanks so much for the warm words! It means a lot to hear that people enjoy the things we make. As creators, that’s so wonderful.

When it comes to brainstorming and development, each project is – as one might imagine – a little different, depending on what you’re looking to create. With the Alto series in particular, though, we like to start from the perspective of a feeling we want to convey. With Alto’s Adventure, the idea was to create a game that captured the feeling of snowboarding — of being out in nature in a space that felt cozy, safe, and serene. A lot of the decisions, like the game’s mountain setting, its one-touch mechanics, and later the Zen Mode, spun out from wanting to convey this feeling.

For Alto’s Odyssey, we ran our development in tight “sprints,” setting up key goals we wanted to achieve over the course of three to four week periods, and checking in weekly to make adjustments. These sprints got much tighter as development neared completion, and by the time we were in the final stretch, we were pushing out a new build of the game almost weekly to test important fixes and polish.”

Harry Nesbitt (Lead Artist & Programmer): “I remember almost 12 months before we started, producing a sheet of thumbnail sketches to try find the overall tone of the game, and really explore how the new environment might come into play. I particularly wanted to avoid the kind of usual cliches you see in “desert” games – it’s important that the world feel totally authentic and respectful towards the cultures that it draws from, not simply as “theme” or set dressing for the sake of the game. I think getting that right was almost the determining factor on whether this game was going to work from an aesthetic stand point, and many of the narrative flourishes, such as the hot-air balloons that represent this central idea of travel and exploration, came from these early sketches.”

Alto’s Adventure was set amidst snow-capped mountains. What made you think of shifting Alto to a desert for the sequel?

Ryan Cash (Founder of Snowman): “As with the first game, it was very important with this followup to capture a specific feeling. We spent a lot of time talking together and thinking about what emotions we might want to stir in players before really committing to development. We didn’t want to treat another Alto game like a foregone conclusion because of the success of the first title.

Things really clicked when we reflected as a group on how much our lives had changed since the release of Alto’s Adventure. The team had grown, some of us had moved away from the homes we knew to live in other places, and we had all experienced big personal upheaval in different ways. What we arrived at was a desire to capture the feeling of going outside your comfort zone, exploring the unfamiliar, and accepting that the concept of “home” is related to the people close to you, not any one place. In many ways, this is what led us to grandeur of Alto’s Odyssey’s setting. This idea of a fantastical place far from what you know as home, where you learn to see the beauty in embracing the unknown.”

The basic idea behind Alto’s Odyssey is very much the same as Alto’s Adventure, how does the new game differ from the original?

Eli Cymet: “I think the feelings we’re exploring this time around and the places they led us in design make this an experience that will absolutely feel fresh and exciting for new and returning players. The presence of biomes – these diverse natural spaces that transition seamlessly into one another – makes the game much vaster in scope than Alto’s Adventure. They bring a host of core new mechanics like wallriding, moving grind rails, multi-tiered grinds that snap and sway, tornados, and rushing water. All of these features lend themselves to a greater sense of exhilaration, and allow players to get up and into the air to pull off big combos. We’ve gone to great lengths to make sure none of them add any new control inputs, though, making the core play experience as accessible as ever.”

With ARKit and ARCore on the rise, have you guys thought about an AR-feature for Alto’s Odyssey? It sure would be fun to play the game in AR.

Jason Medeiros (Designer and Developer at Snowman): “A hallmark of the Alto series is that these are games that are designed to be accessible to a wide audience. We want players who may not consider themselves gamers, per se, to be able to find something about Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey that they can enjoy for a few minutes each day, wherever they may be. It’s this last point that makes AR functionality less than ideal. You can’t play AR games sitting on your couch, on the bus, or waiting around somewhere. You also need an appropriate physical space, making it more like the deliberate experience of a VR-game, board game, sport, or outdoor activity. We want to make sure that if & when we implement AR into a game, it’s for a truly unique play experience that you couldn’t do without AR.”

Are there any future plans for Alto? Any sequels you’re thinking about?

Ryan Cash: “I think, as a team, we’re all still coming to terms with the fact that Alto’s Odyssey is real and out on the App Store. Our focus right now is definitely addressing a few quirks and bugs we’ve spotted, and making sure players are having the best experience possible with the game. We’re not quite ready to think about the prospect of another Alto title right now. With that said, I think we’re all very passionate about this universe and these characters, and if it feels right, I think we’ll always want to explore more stories with Alto and friends.”

If you’ve not played Alto’s Odyssey yet, I’d really recommend you try that game. It’s a paid game but is well worth your money, and one you wouldn’t be able to put down. For people who have played Alto’s Adventure before, you already know how good Team Alto is at its work, and Alto’s Odyssey just shows off how much they’ve improved in every regard.

Download Alto’s Odyssey from the App Store ($4.99)

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