Interview: Schim offers "a whimsical, colourful world for you to explore"

Heidi Nicholas - August 27th 2022

Schim is a colourful 3D platformer with a twist — you're platforming through shadows. It's set to come to Xbox One, so we reached out to Schim's creator, Ewoud van der Werf, to learn more.

Schim is a beautiful abstract 3D platformer in which every creature and object has its own schim; its own soul. Our schim gets separated from its human, kickstarting an adventure filled with light and shadow. We chatted to Schim creator Ewoud van der Werf, who was kind enough to answer all our Schim questions.

What is Schim?

3D platformer Schim sees you interacting with and influencing shadows to form a path through the game. It's created by Ewoud van der Werf and published by Extra Nice. “Schim started out as my exam project, and when I started brainstorming ideas I came up with concepts involving shadows,” van der Werf says. “Creatures that could only move in shadows, that could chase the player. Later I decided to make the player a shadow creature because I thought that would be a lot more interesting.”

When does Schim launch?

We don’t yet have a launch date for Schim, but we’ll keep an eye out!

What’s it about?

“Every object, thing and living being in Schim has its own soul, called a schim; this schim acts as the sort of guardian angel and essence of their thing,” van der Werf begins. “They can get separated when a thing is forgotten, abandoned, lost, or neglected. Part of a reunion between a schim and their host will be to solve the underlying problem.”

We become separated from our human in Schim, and it seems the consequences of this are severe — “forgotten objects without a schim will slowly begin to disappear from the world. You can see this happening to the collectibles that you will help reunite with their schim. These collectibles have started to sink into the shadows until you pick them up again.”

It sounds as though we’ll be a helpful schim, aiding other characters wherever we can. “Along your journey you will find other schim that have lost their object. You help them reunite by finding their object — sometimes that means you have to puzzle a bit to make that happen,” van der Werf says. “These also act as collectibles in the game. There will also be humans with their own stories that you can influence. These characters will be recognisable and can be found in multiple levels. As a schim you will be able to interrupt or help their flow in their day-to-day life.”

How does Schim play?

“Most levels have small ‘stageplays’ that you can interact with and could get different outcomes determined by the player’s interactions,” van der Werf explains. “These stageplays can be optional, so players who like to take their time and explore the levels will be able to find more than a player who tries to reach the end… Exploring and taking your time and looking for ways to interact with the world are a big element of Schim.” These stageplays “can be humans that react to something that you interfered with or animals that respond to you. In most platform games the platforms you can use are quite clear and are the thing you can rely on,” van der Werf continues. “In Schim the platforms themselves are indirect so platforming can already feel like exploring and predicting where and when you can go somewhere.”

Van der Werf explains that there are a number of inspirations behind Schim. “At first, Schim leant more into extreme platforming; Cluster Truck was an inspiration at the time, but this later changed when we found out the game should be calmer,” van der Werf says. “During prototyping and experimenting, we realised we wanted to make the world and its characters feel more alive. We started calling these: ‘stageplays’, little animations that the player can influence. At a certain point, both we and the playtesters saw a link with Untitled Goose Game. So even though it was not the original inspiration for the game it did end up inspiring us as Schim evolved. That feeling of experimenting and playing around in the world is something we want to facilitate even more, and we are currently working on more of that kind of content!”

What’s the world like?

“When you start Schim, you enter a whimsical colourful world for you to explore,” van der Werf says. This world is key to Schim; to the story and to the gameplay. We move through the shadows of the world, interacting with things to influence the behaviour of objects and creatures, thereby manipulating their shadows so that we can keep moving on.

Schim’s abstract, eye-catching art style seems to contribute to the game’s charm. Each level will have its own four colours, and we asked van der Werf for more details on this. “Most levels are either a directional lighting level (usually set outside during the day) or a point lighting level (these usually take place at night or inside a building),” van der Werf begins. “That's one of the first things we look at. The latter, for example, uses a lot more contrasting colours to better indicate how a place is lit. A directional level usually has two less contrasting colours for shading. We also look at what is going on in the scene, if the tone and emotion of the level reflect the palette, and what time it is in the world. Some levels are set in the same place but at a different time of day, also influencing the lighting.”

Schim’s creators have described the game as featuring Dutch-inspired locations. “Early on in the development, the game was still a bit more generic with just a couple of models. The look and feel were already there but we were still figuring out how to emphasise the personality of the world,” van der Werf explains. “I think everyone who creates anything, works from their personal experience and reference. We realised that every time we created something that felt Dutch, it felt more real and alive. Our own feeling was confirmed by people testing early levels and really loving the Dutch elements. We got this feedback from both people from the Netherlands and those from other countries,” van der Werf continues. “So we decided to lean into it more and make it more of a core ingredient of the game.”

Any news on the Schim achievements?

We don’t yet have the Schim achievements, but van der Werf gave us an idea of what to expect. “Most of the achievements in Schim are usually designed around collectibles, stageplays, and challenges in the game,” van der Werf tells us. Since we’ll be offered multiple ways to interact with things or finish a level, we wondered whether we might see some achievements tied to replaying the game — “yes, you can expect achievements if you get different outcomes, usually when you replay levels,” van der Werf confirms.

Schim seems to have a sense of playfulness and adventure that promises to be quite charming. “I hope players enjoy their time with Schim and remember their inner child,” van der Werf says. “Perhaps they’ll start to look at their everyday world like a playground again.”

So, what do you think? Will you be keeping an eye out for Schim? Let us know in the comments!