Pneuma Q&A with Joe Brammer

Deco Digital is an England based independent game studio founded in 2013 by Joe Brammer and Howard Philpott. The studio created Pneuma: Breath of Life to Xbox One and PC, as a timed-exclusive (releasing on the PlayStation 4 today) to showcase their passion at creating extraordinary experiences that can only be the told through video games.

Pneuma_04Pneuma is a first-person puzzler where players control a self-obsessed god who witnesses the birth of the universe. During Pneuma’s comedic and constant monologues, players must solve puzzles by manipulating bridges, switches and doors with the power of Pneuma’s mind (he is a god afterall).

Joe Brammer, Producer & Artist, for Deco Digital shared his insight into Pneuma, game development and the importance of taking risks.

Q: Can you please share some of your background on game design and how you joined the team?

I started getting into game development when I was 12 or 13, I started modding Battlefield 2 and tweaking it in the way I liked, making my own maps, as well as changing weapons and making fun modifications as well as some more serious ones, I then moved on to source engine modding and eventually UDK. After University I set up a development team with some friends and we decided to make Pneuma, we had 6 months, no money, no food that wasn’t noodles, and not enough time! We rushed and crunched and fought to make Pneuma.

Q: How do you describe Pneuma to people who have never heard of it?

Pneuma is a first person puzzler with an intelligent story! There are some great puzzles in Pneuma, they are all based around your perspective and the screen space in front of you. The story follows ‘Pneuma’, a character we created that has a particularly talkative monologue. He’s very chatty and some people even find him frustrating, but that’s all part of the story.

Q: What was the inspiration for Pneuma?

We started the project making a different game, after 3 weeks we realized… it was bad. So we just decided let’s just go for it, don’t use stepping stones and get bigger and bigger, let’s just make the best possible game we can in the time we have. We were probably a little ambitious but we got there. There wasn’t really any direct influences.

Pneuma_10Q: What is the primary puzzle mechanic in Pneuma?

Perspective based puzzles, what you see.

Q: Are there any platforming or time-based puzzles which require quick reflexes or is it all logic based?

It is all logic based, it’s a slower game but there are puzzles that involve time or a bit of jumping!

Q: It looks like Pneuma poses some philosophical questions – does it try to answer them as well or leave it to the player’s interpretation?

Both really, we do have answers to the questions posed in Pneuma but in true Christopher Nolan style, we want you to discuss what you think, what you believe, and what could happen! But the ending is purely magical, I think we do something that hasn’t been done in games before.

Q: How has user feedback shaped the game throughout development?

Because we were so rushed to make the game, we relied on friends and family to constantly test the game. They’ve seen it grow from this white boxed ugly world into the beautiful UE4 enigma that it is today. User feedback is critical to making puzzle games, you want to try and gauge as much of it as you can, but sometimes you’ve got to take what you can get.

Q: What feature or aspect are you most excited for fans to experience?

I think the ending, it’s such an interesting twist. The word really is ‘interesting’. It’s not exciting with explosions, you don’t save the day, it’s just interesting, our writer did some excellent story telling on this one!

Q: How difficult are the achievements within the game? What percentage of players do you think will collect them all?

Ooooh, some of these are very difficult, mostly because they have less rules. I’ll leave you with a tip though, most of the achievement puzzles involve taking the mechanic you already know and we use throughout the game and reversing it 😉

Q: Will Pneuma support Oculus Rift?

Already does!

Q: What has been the most rewarding aspect of working on Pneuma?

The fact that I managed to make a good game, on Xbox, PlayStation, and PC, with a great group of friends. We went through hopefully the hardest period of our lives together, grinding out a game with literally no fuel in the tank. We were exhausted, but now we all work together on our new game and our lives are excellent. So I think that’s the most rewarding aspect, the feeling that we’ve earned the right to be happy in what we do.

Pneuma_03Q: What advice do you have for developers trying to break into the industry?

Try harder, I have little sympathy for bad portfolios. Don’t be quiet be loud, have a killer hand shake, let people know you’re here and that you’re worth something. Because they aren’t going to find you if you don’t put yourself out there.


Pneuma: Breath of Life is available on PlayStation 4, Steam or Xbox One. Check out Deco Digital’s website to learn more from the developer and their upcoming work.

Level Up, Friends!