Do you like some swash in your buckle? Like collecting resources and living off the land to survive? How about traversing around an ever changing archipelago with a crew of misfits? Or hunting mysterious portals, fighting vicious wildlife and throwing down magical totems? You’ve got awfully specific tastes, but Lost Sea can provide – procedurally generated maps and dungeon crawl style gameplay await in the latest game from East Asia Soft. Nick Ballantyne and I met with game designer Aidan Price, hurling questions at him while we both put his game through its paces.
Where did you guys get the idea for lost sea?
Aidan: We started off by sort of just sitting down and thinking about what we liked in games and we already had a couple of ideas about what we wanted to try. We wanted something quite bright and colourful, which is where we got the sort of jungley setting, and the other thing that we wanted to try was procedural generation and that’s where we got the idea for the Bermuda Triangle. Because everything in the Bermuda Triangle is supposed to shift around and stuff, which gives us a lot of cool options. So maybe you could leave an island and then when you come it’s almost like the island has remodeled itself, so everything is constantly shifting and changing.
The demo only lasts for a couple of in-game days and the mission is fairly limited, what will the majority of the game be like?
Aidan: One of the things for PAX because it’s almost a little like a trade show, we’ve got a lot of people coming through and they don’t have a lot of time. So we’ve got this kind of strategy game where you’d normally be working towards these quite long term goals. It wouldn’t really work at this kind of show where people would be harvesting for an hour and not be able to actually complete any of their goals. So we actually had to speed quite a lot of the mechanics up, so normally with the totems, you’d actually have to collect the different pieces and combine them, almost like a crafting element in the game. Some pieces might be more rare than others, which forces players to make decisions about what to use and when. That extends out to the rest of the game for stuff like upgrades, selecting members of your crew. So for PAX, we asked ourselves what the core mechanics are – that’s exploration, attacking the critters and crew management.
What, then, will be the overarching goal of Lost Sea? Is it just gathering enough resources and crew members to escape in a ship?
Aidan: I’d say the main thing is about exploration, we didn’t want to make a game that was all about twitch combat. We wanted players to be able to think their way out of problems; so you’ll spend a lot of time gathering resources, but resources are limited. You’ll end up having to make decisions like do I want to go to this dangerous island where I might lose crew members, but I’ll get this valuable resource? That’s what we wanted to happen throughout the whole game, that there’s always a risk of there being a grim kind of trade off when making choices.
Will there be a gradual increase in challenge over time with the environment and monsters that you encounter, or will there be a constant danger of being killed by something way more powerful than you?
Aidan: The risk with it being procedurally generated, [is that] you don’t want players to go to an island immediately after the tutorial and be confronted with these ultra deadly creatures. It works for some games, like FTL [Faster Than Light] – I don’t know if you guys have played it before, but sometimes you can jump to the first sector and be almost instantly killed. To me, that’s a little bit frustrating because you’re just unlucky, right? You can’t really play your way out of that. So what we’re doing is ‘zoning’ the content that’s available, we’re not saying that “this is specifically going to happen here,” but more like “this guy’s a little too powerful for you right now, we’ll hold off on bring him out until later.” Stuff like that.
If the game’s focus is on exploration, will the islands become more expansive as you progress?
Aidan: That’s right – so the island that the demo’s set on at the moment is, like, six ‘rooms.’ These are segments of islands which form together to make one island. So we’re pushing it at the minute to see how far we can go – when we first started doing some of the tests of the architecture, we had something like a thousand rooms. That’s obviously ridiculous, but we were thinking of having some of the larger areas be up to about two hundred rooms? We really want players to get a sense of exploration. You saw the map today, but it’s just a place holder for PAX. In the full version we’ll also have things like fog of war, encouraging players to actually push deeper into each island.
So during the announcement trailer, we saw a bit of humor which has actually been a bit absent from the game – how will that feature in the gameplay?
Aidan: I think mainly it’s just to do with the art style and dialogue, particularly in the tutorial. We don’t have a lot of the more scripted elements right now, but in the tutorial there’ll be a character there who fills the role of comic relief as he takes you through things. We’ve also got a lot of varied and funny stranded crew members as well to provide that sort of humor as you’re running around. Really, we just didn’t want to make this super serious because there are already loads of serious games out there.
Lastly, what are you guys hoping to achieve with bringing the game here to PAX?
Aidan: The main thing for us is that when you develop something, you sort of lose all objectivity. So when we bring stuff to shows like this, we really want to start getting feedback from everyone immediately. I’ve worked on stuff like it before, you work on something for like eighteen months to two years and then you get like a focus tester in a month before you ship – that’s too late right? So we really need people to get in and play it, to get a real hands on. If you get a few thousand people playing something over the weekend and they’re all telling you the same thing, you should probably listen to them.
If finding yourself in Lost Sea sounds like a fun way to while away the days, you can sail on over to East Asia Soft’s official website here. You can keep a weather eye on their Facebook page or Twitter feed for updates and, if you’re on board for adventure, you can vote on their Steam Greenlight page.