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Indie Interview: Island

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Hello! Tell us about yourself, and where you currently are professionally. How long have you been in the industry or around it? If you switched careers, what made you choose game development?

Hello, I’m Nicolas. I worked on this punishing survival concept for a while, before bringing a team together and pushing it into reality. I have been a developer for a while, but this is my first video game project. As a gamer and D&D GM, I’ve always dreamed of building a really intense and atmospheric video game.

This dream comes to a never ending addiction to both literature, and 8/16 bit gaming.

I will do my best to offer you a great experience !

What is your current project, Island?  What is the core of the game and what we should expect?

This isn’t just a game about finding food & water, placing traps, hunting, and building or reaching a shelter before nightfall.

To me, approaching the concept simply by filling a hunger meter or collecting branches after branches to build a shelter would get boring rather quickly.

The game is being built around rules inspired from real survival situations, and in many cases making it is about cleverness and mental fortitude. Bodies are often unexpectedly resilient, while the mind usually breaks first.

Island isn’t just about hunger, thirst, or staying warm. Pain, terror, and despair, can quickly degrade your mental condition. Conditions can stack quickly. You are often hurt, diminished, and desperate.

You’ll regularly be confronted to critical situations, and the game is about how you will face those. Let’s have one example :

You’ve been walking around for days, searching desperately for a few drops of water. Anything. At the heart of the jungle, you just found a pond a very stagnant water. You risk losing even more fluids because of dysentery, if you drink this. You’re also not so good at lighting a fire. What will you choose to do : spend the next days trying to become better at firestarting, or leave in hope of finding cleaner water somewhere else ? Or you could try these weird fruits you collected earlier, but you are not so sure they are edible.

How long have you been working with it? What research, if any, went into it?  

A long preparation period was necessary before starting coding the game itself. For almost a year, we read reports from real survival situations, and interviewed survivalists.

The body and mind of a person confronted to this type of situation undergo a lot of unexpected challenges. Because we wanted the game to really feel natural when confronted to choice, we collected as much traits as possible to increase realism in the game mechanics.

We learned for example how much dizziness, fear, or dehydration can strongly alter your perception, and decided to include a psychological factor in the game.

 

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What are the biggest challenges faced thus far in the creation process for the project? Any inside the development process information you want to include you are welcome to do so. Any fascinating stories or bizarre moments are welcome too!

I am an introvert that likes nature, calm places, and a good storytelling. I’m saying this because I suspect that other independent developers may read this at some point. I followed a pattern of falling in love with a great idea, working hard to make the game a reality, and assume this will suffice when it will be revealed. Thanks [to] Cthulhu I’m also paranoiac. A marketing person (read : who talks human) has been added to the team, and helped us build the game’s community before the campaign launch.

Recently, a few other developers came asking for advice for their marketing campaign, and I noticed the same pattern : they are really good at storytelling and building a unique and interesting experience for the community, and not so good at communication. I suspect there is a lot of us out there with a similar pattern, and many good ideas get delayed or abandoned because of this. Don’t underestimate marketing

Tell us more about the game regarding moment to moment gameplay. What should we expect from it?  What do you imagine for it from your side of development, and for us as gamers? 

The main game mechanic has been designed to keep the player under a certain amount of pressure. Your actions will revolve around the solar clock, and the weather indicator. You will have to estimate how long you have before nightfall, because everything you accomplish in the game costs time. It is strongly advised to reach your last shelter, or build a new one, before it’s dark.

Wandering around to look for easily accessible resources and materials, or just exploring,  advances time, and your range is limited by your needs.

Actions, like building a weapon, fishing, or scavenging a specific resource, cost time as well, and its up to you to decide an order of priority, depending on what you deems the most urgent.

You can’t just walk for days, without food, or water. You are limited by your capacity to get the best of your environment.

It’s up to you to decide what are the most vital skills to learn. You are near the ocean. Should you get better at spear fishing, or building shelter ? This depend on your next few days’ strategy. For example, before considering that previous choice, are you planning to stay near the coast, or explore deeper inland ?

What influences of yours come into play(books, movies, games)?  What games yourself do you play? What, if any, influences are seen in the work you do?  Who has inspired you?

Long before discovering video games, I found a dusty closet filled with stacks of old books. A pure, almost fanatic love with the adventure genre was born that day. Island is directly inspired from Robinson Crusoe, and Mysterious Island. I also have a lot of passion for the rest of J.Vernes’ work, as well as Barjavel, Lovecraft, Tolkien, and One Thousand and One Nights.

I usually mostly play other indie games and 8/16 bit gaming, and the occasional AAA game. To me, it’s all about the atmosphere. Witcher 3 and FTL are both, for example, equally amazing.

Why Kickstarter over something like Steam, where you can utilize Early Access from people who purchase the game for direct feedback?

As a gamer, I noticed that while it can be very exciting to test games in early access, hype can fade away during long waiting development time. You can discover a game for the first time only once, and to get the best of some games I personally chose to go back, from now on, to wait for the official release and full experience.

During the next phases of development, we will test the game in closed beta, as well as during conventions, to collect sufficient feedback.

What has been the most requested feature you’ve seen so far for the game from any feedback you’ve received?

Before the Kickstarter campaign launch, the most requested features requested by the community were consoles ports : Switch, 3DS, and later on, PS4 and Xbox One as stretch goals. A multiplayer mode has been significantly requested as well.

During these first few days of the Kickstarter campaign, we’ve got quite a few requests for something unexpected : many asked us to include Wilson in the game as a cameo. You know, the volleyball in the movie Castaway. We’re currently discussing this, and will post an answer about that in a next campaign update.

Where can we find your content and information about the game now? How else can we reach you? Social Media, etc.

We can easily be found on Twitter (@IslandTheGame), and are quite chatty there. Questions & remarks are welcomed !

Right now the best way to find the accurate info about the game is on the Kickstarter page, or on Twitter. At the end of the campaign, we will setup a website for the game, and build a community for the game there.

This will be found at : http://www.IslandTheGame.com.

Why should people back this now, rather than wait to see if it becomes funded? Feel free to tell us how important funding is at this stage.

On Kickstarter, funding and awareness go hand in hand. By funding a game early, you are telling other gamers that you really care, and want to nurture this idea. This is not only a necessary step in creating positive awareness and momentum in the funding, but is also crucial on a subjective point of view for the development team. A gamer, somewhere, really loved our work. This kind of trust and support is strongest asset in pushing us to the finish line.

Anything else we should know at this point from you?

Currently, the campaign just reached about 50%, and 22 days are left before the end of the campaign. This is the result of the warm love and support from our backers, journalists including yourself, and all of the game’s community on twitter. I would like to thank you all for your support ! If you like the game, please share it with it your closest friends !

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