Chants Of Sennaar Interview: There Are No Plans For Additional Playable Content

"The experience we offer stands on its own, and we consider it complete as it is."

Story Highlights

  • Chants of Sennaar is an adventure game with language-based puzzles.
  • The game has been praised by fans and critics alike for its immersive and fun gameplay.
  • We interviewed Julien Moya, the Creative Director at Rundisc, over an email Q&A session.

There are tons of different ways developers have approached puzzle games over time — some utilizing the environment, while others using multiple playable characters to promote cooperation. One unique way that has remained underutilized is language-based puzzles, which have only been seen in a few popular games like Heaven’s Vault (2019) and Captain Blood (1988).

This niche part of the puzzle genre has recently been significantly expanded thanks to Chants of Sennaar — an adventure game with a refreshing visual style and a story that uncovers as you solve these linguistic puzzles. It won the Best Indie Game award at The New York Game Awards and has been nominated several times for its soundtrack, visual art, and game design. 

Following the game’s success, we spoke with Julien Moya, the Co-Founder and Creative Director at Rundisc, over an email interview to discuss how the game contributes to the puzzle genre and the process that it went through to get here.

Chants of Sennaar
Chants Of Sennaar Has Crowned The Best Indie Game At The New York Game Awards – Image Credits: Focus Entertainment.

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Chants of Sennaar?

Julien: My name is Julien Moya, and I’m the Co-Founder and Creative Director at Rundisc. For Chants of Sennaar, I was responsible for almost all the visual aspects of the game (art direction, modeling, animation), as well as writing and game design in collaboration with my partner Thomas Panuel, who also coded the game.

The game has received thousands of “overwhelmingly positive” reviews on Steam. How does it feel to see this much support? And has that encouraged the team to increase its scope for post-launch updates for the game?

Julien: Of course, we hoped that players would like the game, but we honestly expected more polarized reviews. Knowing that we were making a niche game, we thought more players would say, “It’s nice, but it’s not my kind of game.” So we were surprised by the almost unanimous reception from the press and from all types of players.
But it didn’t allow us to expand the scope of the game or plan to add content. The experience we offer stands on its own, and we consider it complete as it is. We’ve said what we needed and wanted to say.

This is the first game by Rundisc to have received such global praise. Has this helped the studio start development for its next potential title?

Julien: Of course, the relatively unexpected scale of the game’s success has lifted Rundisc into a whole new league. We now know that we have players ready to be interested in our next productions, and we’ve gained both competence and confidence in our development methods. And it’s significantly easier to attract potential partners when you have a proven track record of success. So, we didn’t take too long to get new projects underway!

Chants of Sennaar
Chants Of Sennaar Took Some Inspiration From Heaven’s Vault And Captain Blood – Image Credits: Focus Entertainment.

Rundisc has done a great job at creating this unique world with its own sort of culture. Aside from the Tower of Babel myth, what other cultures or civilizations did you take inspiration from?

Julien: Actually, we weren’t really inspired by the Myth of Babel. We started building this universe and writing a pretty complete scenario, and then we realized how similar it was to the biblical story, so we decided to lean on it a little bit for its evocative power. It was easier to tell people to “imagine a kind of Tower of Babel where this and that happens” than to try to explain the concept and the universe from scratch.

In fact, the initial inspirations for the game were to be found in numerous historical novels and movies, in the Franco-Belgian science fiction of the 70s and 80s (particularly the comic strips and cartoons of the Métal Hurlant era), and in the old European video games of the 85-88 period.

While several games use “language” as part of their puzzles, only a handful do it to the degree that Chants of Sennaar does. Do you think this game has potentially created or further expanded this niche part of the puzzle genre?

Julien: We didn’t create this niche, as some other puzzle games already used language in their gameplay, including Heaven’s Vault or Captain Blood, which both inspired us. But it’s a fairly small category, so it’s almost certain that we’ve expanded it in one way or another. Whether Chants of Sennaar will inspire other games in their gameplay, only time will tell. But we’d love to!

Considering how language and communication play such a vital role in the game's puzzles, could you tell us what the research phase was like for the game? Did you get any help from other linguists?

Julien: In terms of form, i.e., the visual aspect of the game’s languages, we took inspiration from writing systems that have existed throughout History, often mixing them. For example, the language of the Bards is a mixture of Kufic and Devanagari, which matches their culture.

The substance, i.e., the grammatical rules and the corpus of words used, was driven by the needs of the scenario and the gameplay. In Chants of Sennaar, languages, and their glyphs are actually puzzle elements, just like the doors, keys, and machines in the game. Conceptually, we made no difference. So, creating the languages was pure game design. We didn’t enlist the help of linguists, and our game has absolutely no scientific or historical pretensions.

Chants of Sennaar
Chants Of Sennaar Is A Unique And Captivating Puzzle-Based Game – Image Credits: Focus Entertainment.

Since it is an indie title, were there any features or different puzzles you couldn't implement due to a lack of resources? Can you tell us about them?

Julien: No, that didn’t happen because, from the very beginning, we took great care to tailor this project and all its aspects to our team, our skills, and our resources. The artistic and graphical choices, the nature and scope of the game, the story, and the budget required to make it were defined and derisked as early as possible, even before we started production, to ensure that everything was within our grasp. So we have no regrets or frustrations about the final result: Chants of Sennaar is exactly the game we wanted to make.

One of the most common mistakes that small independent studios seem to make is to imagine games that are too big for them, games that require too many resources, and start developing them, assuming that they will somehow find money or a solution along the way to hire the people they need. It may work in some cases, but it’s a pretty reckless method, and in any case, it’s not our way of doing things.

The game was nominated for Best Soundtrack at The Steam Awards 2024. What was it like working with Thomas Brunet, and could you tell us about the compositional process?

Julien: Thomas would be in a much better position to answer about his process. But what I can say about our collaboration is that it was a real pleasure working with him. We were always careful to give Thomas the right amount of context and clues to guide him toward what we were looking for while completely trusting him to get it right. We chose to work with him because of his musical style and approach, so he was free to express himself throughout the project. I’d say that about 90% of the music he sent us during the course of the project was validated without almost any reservations or comments. And we’re obviously very pleased with the results.

Speaking of awards, Chants of Sennaar has been nominated numerous times for different categories and even won Best Indie Game at the New York Game Awards. But which of the nominations or honorable mentions are you most proud of?

Julien: It’s hard to say because every nomination is an honor in itself. It’s always a great moment to see our work being recognized by our peers and players. However, the 3 French Pégases Awards we won this year, including Best Game of the Year and Best Independent Game, were perhaps the most rewarding. The Pégases are probably not very well known internationally, as they reward only the best French productions. But for a studio like ours, and given the quality of the competition in our country, winning this award was a huge success.

YouTube video

Chants of Sennaar is an adventure video game with language-based puzzles developed by Rundisc and published by Focus Entertainment. It was released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC on September 5, 2023. We extend our gratitude to Julien Moya for answering our questions and to Kim Manuel Edra for helping us.

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Mudassir is a seasoned journalist with a passion for uncovering the stories behind our favorite virtual worlds. Armed with a trusty notepad and a keen curiosity, he dives headfirst into the gaming industry's most exciting personalities. His knack for insightful questions and his ability to connect with developers and gamers alike makes his interviews a must-read. While on the lookout for the next person to interview, Mudassir keeps himself busy by writing news surrounding the gaming universe. Experience: 4+ Years || Senior Journalist || Education: Bachelor's in Psychology.

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