We sat down with the team behind the upcoming Beyond Blue (and checked the game out here) to discuss the game and its themes.
How did Beyond Blue come about? Did you approach the BBC or did it approach you?
The BBC approached us after we made Never Alone - an atmospheric platform game based on Alaskan Native culture - and told us they really enjoyed the game were specifically impressed with the way that we integrated a documentary about Alaskan culture through an in-game reward system.They really liked that it allowed players to dig deeper if they wanted to, while still providing an entertaining experience.
The BBC was still in the process of creating Blue Planet 2 when they got in touch with us, but they pitched the idea of creating an original story of our own based on the show.
Using the show as a starting point, we started work on something that was thematically related to the show, while still standing on its own as a product.
Has Never Alone influenced the development of Beyond Blue in anyway?
Massively. Never Alone taught us that investing our time early with experts of the culture meant we could get a better understanding of how their knowledge would affect both the development of the game and the design itself. This in turn meant we were able to develop a game that not only played fantastically, but one that was heavily influenced by the culture we had based the game on.
The scientists we are working with for Beyond Blue are investing a lot of time on the project and we actually have a resident scientist in the office on a daily basis. That deep collaboration allows us to find the balance between creating an enjoyable game, but also developing something that is grounded in real science.
With Never Alone we were really worried about making a game that was to easy, but we found out that many players found the game far too difficult at points. A lot of our players base just wanted to explore the environment or immerse themselves in the story, so we’ve gone into Beyond Blue with that at the forefront of our minds.
So, who is Beyond Blue targeted at?
A high percentage of our Never Alone sales went to gamers who were specifically interested in independent games. So these were people seeking artistic, carefully crafted titles. Our audience also consisted of casual gamers and those who don’t regularly play videogames. We received numerous emails from young teens and families who played Never Alone co-op and completely loved it.
Beyond Blue doesn’t feature coop gameplay, but we believe that it will attract those people who wish to experience the game in a social setting.
How has it been working with the world renowned Blue Planet team?
It's been great so far. We are super conscious of the brand values and authenticity that that they bring to their work and that was a huge reason for us embracing the project. When the BBC team approached us, we had already been working on another game about culture, but it was early enough that we could prioritise this project and start working on Beyond Blue.
Is there any added pressure when you consider the prestige that the Blue Planet team holds in both popular culture and the field of science?
We don't see their prestige as an added pressure or limiting factor, we only perceive it as an opportunity to create something really special.
What can we expect from the narrative?
There is joy and sorrow to be found in the narrative. We want to a large part of it will be exploring the impact that humans have on the ocean, but that isn't the only thing the game will be about. Our aim is to put characters in the role of a scientist; sometimes that is being an explorer, other times its making discoveries that can help impact our progress as a race.
One of the core elements of Beyond Blue will be - if you can see something not going well and you can intervene, do you?
How many animal types will there be in the game?
There are two tiers of animals in Beyond Blue. One is a cast of primary characters that significantly affect the progression of the story, of which there a currently around a dozen planned. There are over 50 secondary species that you will find throughout the game that will feature in sidequests and throughout the world.
The ocean itself will feature a lot of assets, but we don't want to be comprehensive, we want to be representative. If the player is in a deep part of the ocean, we want the experience to reflect what it would truly like to be down there. For example, in the very deep part of the ocean where it is jet black, many creatures glow as they create their own light from bioluminescence.
So we’re right in assuming there will there be a deep ocean area?
Yes there will be, as well as a number of other locations. We will take players from near the surface, such as a coral reef, down to miles below the surface in the pitch black. The level in the demo is called twilight, where light still makes it down a little bit, but it starts to get a little murky.
When is the release window for Beyond Blue?
Spring of 2019
Which platforms will it release on?
Beyond Blue will release on PC and we're aiming to release on all three consoles, but we're just unsure on what the timing will be at the moment