A couple weeks before PAX, we received a rather amusing email from a bunch of guys making a ‘serious’ game. The email itself was pretty stock standard, but there was PS message that mentioned an interview we did with Ron Curry where we discussed serious games. “Well, well, well,” I thought, smirking at the prospect that someone’s done their homework on us for an interview. Turns out the game isn’t half bad either, so I had quick chat with Trev to give me the run down on why a game about a tree makes any sense.
Okay, who am I talking to?
Hey, I’m Trev Clift from Siege Sloth games. I’m one of the developers on Evergreen.
Give me the elevator pitch for Evergreen.
Evergreen is a tree-growing game. You start at the beginning of life on Earth and each level is a key time period throughout Earth’s history where you build up your tree and build a little environment around yourself, a little ecosystem, and interact with the world through that ecosystem.
From what I played, the game is very Zen. Why did you want to take that direction for the game?
Well, we wanted to make a tree game because there’s nothing else like it. Having that Zen atmosphere really goes hand in hand with a tree game.
You are a self-described ‘serious’ game. Can you elaborate on that?
We are an educational game, but we focus on the fun over the educational part. We saw an opportunity to teach a lot of history throughout this game and decided that was a great idea to teach our players about history as they play.
So, it’s teaching history?
Yeah, so, each level is as factually accurate as we can get it, starting at 380 million years ago right up to the present day.
Why did you decide to go with the serious game angle? Why label it as such?
We decided to do it just because we saw an opportunity to teach people something. If you play a game and don’t learn something, that’s a missed opportunity.
So, learning from any game you play is quite important?
Yeah, I’d agree with that.
As far as serious games are concerned, if you’re pitching this to someone, would you highlight that it’s a serious game?
Depends who we’re pitching to. Some people are all over the serious game angle, and some people are just not interested in something that’s an educational game. There’s an idea in people’s heads that an educational game cannot be a fun game, and we’re trying to prove that wrong.
As a developer, would you say that you’re mainly going for entertainment then adding the educational stuff into the game?
The main objective is entertainment. People are more receptive to learning whilst they’re being entertained. If we can put in educational content on the side, something that some players will ignore and others will get a lot out of, we see that as the way to go.
What’s your opinion on serious games in general?
Yeah, the name isn’t great. I think there’s a lot of room for improvement in serious games, and we’re moving in the right direction, but I feel like there’s a lot more improvement that could be done.
So, do you think they’re a positive thing but the name is detracting from it?
Yeah, the name kind of has a bit of a stigma to it.
So, where are you guys from?
What’s the scene like in CANBERRA?!
It’s a small and close-knit community, but we’re growing pretty quickly now. We’ve all moved into the same co-working space which has been amazing. It’s a bit like The Arcade in Canberra, and just being able to have all the community in the one space, it’s allowed us to bounce ideas off each other, learn different things from each other… It’s been really good for the community in Canberra.
That’s good to hear! What are the biggest challenges you guys are facing?
There’s not a lot of funding. We’ve gotten funding through generic entrepreneurial grants and innovation grants… And there is a butterfly flying around.
Don’t worry, perfectly suits the game.
The biggest hit was losing the game developer fund a few years back. That would have been amazing to keep around. More funding would always be great. You know, you need to put money into the community for bigger scale productions to start coming through.
What used to exist in Canberra?
We used to have 2K, then it closed down when it started getting too hard for bigger companies to stay in Australia. So, because of that, we had a bunch of very experienced people who no longer had jobs. They started forming smaller indie teams. We also have the AIE, and a lot of students are coming out that and forming their own studios. It’s not just Canberra, it’s all across Australia, there’s just lots of small teams all across Australia.
Would you say the shift has been good?
I’d definitely say it has been. I mean, job security is a little bit low because of it, but shifting more towards indie focus means you get a lot more innovation, you get a lot more crazy games that are coming out. Things that are different or trying something weird, like what we’re doing.
Zen game about a tree.
Yeah, nobody’s doing what we’re doing.
Do you tend to get more contract work and leave games a side venture?
Our team’s actually been getting by on contract work. We do museum exhibits and little apps and stuff like that. We’re happy to pick up contract work wherever we can. We’re happy to do any of that.
You can follow the game’s progress over at http://www.siegesloth.com/