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80.lv continues a series of interviews with small studious making unusual games. Today we had a chance to talk with Stuart Ryall from Mojo Bones. Recently this company had achieved great success on Greenlight with new survival game Impact Winter. Stuart told us about the main game mechanics, the choice of engine and the cool technology behind random events in the game.
Could you tell us a little bit about your studio? Where are you situated, how long have you been making games?
We formed Mojo Bones in 2011 and the team has a long-standing history within the industry, going back to the late 90’s (Extreme-G, MotorStorm, Re-Volt, Medal of Honor – to name a few). When we started Mojo Bones, smartphone was a platform we wanted to explore and last year we moved onto 3DS (releasing Siesta Fiesta). Now we’re hard at work on a much more ambitious project: Impact Winter for PC.
Tell us is short about Impact Winter. What is this game about?
Impact Winter is a survival game, but it takes a very different approach to a lot of the other games in the genre. Our main focus is teamwork. You play a character called Jacob Solomon and it’s your job to become leader of a group of 4 other NPC survivors. You’ll be their leader and provider – exploring the world for supplies and making all team decisions. Most survival games are a very solitary experience, and this filters down to how you actually play them. The items you collect; the choices you make; the places you visit are all guided by your single need to stay alive. With Impact Winter you’re having to always be mindful of what your team requires, and that creates a very different dynamic. In-turn, a happy and healthy team will give you greater chance of survival via their specific skills – so there’s good reason to be a strong leader.
Impact Winter has incredible visual style. Could you share some information about your sources of inspiration?
The game takes place on a post-apocalyptic version of Earth set 8 years after a major asteroid collision. The collision has caused ‘Impact Winter’ throwing the Earth into a perpetual winter and burying it under meters of snowfall. Visually there’s been inspiration from a lot of different areas. John Carpenter’s ‘The Thing’ was a point of reference for its atmosphere and tension: that feeling of solitude and being truly alone. We’ve also opted for a clean – almost minimalistic – look to the art style that takes the emphasis away from complex textures and puts more focus on lighting, shadows and FX. Again, this helps build a strong atmosphere.
What kind of technology are you using for this game?
We’re making the game using Unity 3D. We chose Unity because it handled everything we needed it to. Our tests were successful so we continued with development. I think most SDK/Engine choices come down to what you specifically need as a team. Unity is perfect for realizing Impact Winter – so it suits us.
What is the production budget? Are you financing the game on your own, or are you using Kickstarter?
Last year we launched a Kickstarter for Impact Winter but were unsuccessful in reaching funding. However, we did build a strong fan base that have continued to support us to this day (including our recent Greenlight success on Steam). We’re in the process of discussing options and hope to have something to announce soon. The reaction to the Greenlight has been great and we’re overwhelmed with the messages of support we receive. We’ll announce project news via our usual channels (Steam, Facebook, Twitter).
While developing Impact Winter what was the most difficult thing for your company? Maybe the programming, the assets production or music?
The game’s music is being created by a super talented musician called Mitch Murder. We’re huge fans of his work and have been waiting for the right project to collaborate on. His style really fits the mood we want to achieve with Impact Winter and it’s going to be a big part of the overall experience. Back to your question. We’re experienced in all areas so there’s not one particular part we struggle with. Day-to-day development comes with it’s up-and-downs (like any dev will tell you) but we’re very confident in what we can achieve as a team.
Survival games are incredibly popular these days. Most of them have multiplayer. Impact Winter is single-player only. Why did you chose to make the game for loners?
There are already games out there that explore survival from a multiplayer POV. We wanted to focus our attention on crafting a strong single-player experience that feels different from anything else around. It also suits the world and atmosphere we’re trying to create. Impact Winter isn’t going to be a place full of people and colonies – it’s a harsh, desolate world. That’s not to say we don’t have other characters – we do – but it’s not a game design that’s suited to multiplayer.
How does randomness work in your game? How does it work? Do you use some scripts or some other tools to make the game feel alive?
The game’s events are dictated in many different ways. We have a complex stat engine which is used to control a lot of the game’s surprises. We monitor every player’s health, temperature, hunger, thirst, morale and energy. We can assess these stats and make things happen based on how low/high they are. We’re also able to tie events to specific conditions like certain weather events or time-of-day. The world of Impact Winter is very much like a sandbox where we give you an overall objective (to survive for 30 days) and then let you craft your own adventure.
You previous games are completely different from Impact Winter. Different style, different mechanics and atmosphere. Why did you decide to do so hardcore and so dark this time?
Our background is PC/Console and it’s something we’ve been gradually working towards since starting Mojo Bones. We’ve never wanted to be typecast as a studio. We’re happy to make small, fun, casual experiences, but we’re just as excited by the larger – more detailed – games. We’ve been dreaming-up Impact Winter for some time now and it’s exciting to see it taking shape.