Did the amount of character animation work required for Ao take you out of your comfort zone at all, or were you pretty used to heavy animation work before this?

Ryan: This is my first major undertaking as an animator. I knew it would be a ton of work, but that doesn’t take the sweat out of it. When deciding on her primary moves, many times I had spent a day or two on a single move only to have it not fit with everything else. But seeing the best bits flowing together is really something. It’s worth the hard work for sure!

What were your tools and software of choice for producing Ao’s artwork? How long would you say it takes to produce one character animation on average, from start to finish, before sending it off to Shaz for insertion into the game?

Ryan: All Photoshop, with pen and paper sketches beforehand. An eight hour day will produce a single move if I’m lucky.

The music shown off in the first teaser footage was also impressive – is that an in-game track? And who’s composing the game’s music? 

Ryan: Shaz did that track, it’s good stuff. I come from five years in the music industry and I’ve always been big on videogame music. Chrono Cross, Ico and the Final Fantasy game soundtracks get tons of plays on my iTunes.

Shaz: That trailer music is an edit of a track that I made a few years ago. Long before I started making games I was making music. So it’s great to be able to design audio for my own games. We’re still quite early in the sound design for Ao, but as we both come from music backgrounds we’ll be making the music ourselves.

And finally, a fun question for you both: what are some of your favorite anime or manga, and would you say these influenced the game’s direction in any way?

Ryan: I am a huge Studio Ghibli fan, so that’s my bible, but I’d say the top influences for me on this project (in various ways) would be: Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, Ghost in the Shell, Akira, and Neon Genesis: Evangelion. I could go on forever, but those seem the most relevant.

Thanks so much for the interview!

Shaz: Akira was the first anime I saw and still one of my favorites. Actually, I saw it at a cinema screening recently. Previously I’d only seen it at home, so it was great to experience it on the big screen with big, massive audio — the soundtrack is excellent. I really like Ghibli stuff too — they’re masters of world creation. And I also have a lot of affection for Transformers: The Movie, it’s still great 25 years on!

All your base are belong to Ashley Ao.

Huge thanks to Ryan Jackson and Shaz Yousaf for taking the time out to answer our bevy of questions! If you’re as excited for Ashley Ao as we are here at iFanzine, you can subscribe to Honey Tribe Studios’ Twitter and Facebook accounts for the game so you can get all the latest news! You can also check out some tunes from Ryan’s band, Endless Hallway, while we patiently await further info.

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