We sat down with Norwegian indie developer Rain Games to discuss their latest action-adventure game, World to the West, the work of Jules Verne, taking risks and Pokémon Blue - enjoy!
What inspired you and your team during the development stage?
We were inspired by a lot of different things while developing World to the West. The Zelda series is a pretty big influence, particularly A Link to the Past for the Super NES. We also took some cues from Secret of Mana, which was also originally released for the Super NES, and has recently re-released for mobile devices. Since we set the game in the same universe as Teslagrad we naturally also took a lot of inspiration from the world building we did for that game. There are also a couple of characters from Teslagrad that make their way over into World to the West. We’ve also liberally taken inspiration from real history. We looked at the Aztec and Inca religions and the colonisation of America, as well as some of the more insane British explorers. The works of Jules Verne and William Golding also played a role in our writing process, which I’m sure you can spot if you play the game. Indiana Jones also played a part in inspiring Teri, one of the four playable characters.
Can you tell us about your team at Rain Games?
We started Rain Games in the Norwegian city of Bergen back in 2010, a couple of years after the Norwegian government announced it would start handing out grants for video game development. The first year we had a budget of roughly 3,000 pounds and an office without heat, which I’m sure you can imagine is rather unpleasant during the Norwegian winter, where temperatures often drop below freezing. Our first game was Teslagrad, a 2D puzzle-platformer originally released on Steam in 2013 before making its way to PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One, Wii U and the PlayStation Vita. Our team came from all kinds of different places, like TV, theatre, physics and IT as well as straight out of university, which meant we had to break a lot of new ground.
How difficult is it for indie developers in the current market? Can you take artistic risks and still make a profit?
Being an indie developer certainly isn’t easy. The most difficult thing is probably to get funding, find a publisher, that sort of thing. Once the game is finished, we definitely have a market willing to buy. You can absolutely take risks, and are probably more rewarded for it. If you take no risks, and don’t invent anything new, nobody will be interested, and you’re competing with a huge amount of games, both old and new, in your genre. If you take a risk, and invent something new, people have a reason to look into your game, and if you can surround that with a solid framework of tried and tested mechanics you can absolutely make a good game.
"You can absolutely take risks, and are probably more rewarded for it. If you take no risks, and don’t invent anything new, nobody will be interested..."
What advice would you give to someone looking to work in the video gaming industry?
If you want to work in the video games industry you need to have passion and drive. You have got to be prepared to work harder than everyone else, and for less pay. If you’re serious about that, learn a skill that is relevant for making video games, but also in other professions. Whether that is writing, programming, design, animation, accounting, management or something else, learn it, get good at it, and focus your skillset towards digital media.
Where do you think the industry is heading - is VR the future in your opinion?
We think of VR as a new form of media, and we’re under the impression that it still has lots of room to grow. That said, no new media has managed to completely supplant old media yet, so we don’t expect VR to make any other parts of the industry obsolete any time soon, even if it might eat some market share. What we think would be really interesting is if VR managed to evolve into AR. If you could free VR from the blinding effect of the headset and take it further away from your home we think you could make a lot of interesting things.
"If you want to work in the video games industry you need to have passion and drive. You have got to be prepared to work harder than everyone else, and for less pay..."
What does the future hold for World to the West and Rain Games?
We are currently laying the foundations for our next game, which we will start work on as soon as World to the West releases, and we have a small team working on a VR game in the same universe that I can’t talk a lot about. In the long term, we’ve seen that we spend roughly three years on a title, a development cycle we’re pretty happy with. However, three years between each game is a long time, so we want to expand to the point where we can have three different teams working on separate titles in our universe, so you might eventually see us release a game every year. While not sequels to each other, they would have character overlap and a constantly progressing story. We’re thinking along the lines of what Sir Terry Pratchett did in his Discworld series.
What game(s) have had the biggest effect on your life, and why?
For me, World of Warcraft, Dragon Age: Origins and Pokémon Blue probably had the biggest and most distinct effects on my life. Pokémon was my introduction to video games, and I spent countless hours in it growing up, collecting, breeding, beating and growing. World of Warcraft gave me a place to be myself in my teenage years, a chance to interact with different people from all over the world and a sense of mastery. Dragon Age reminded me how amazing RPG settings can be, and rekindled my love for exploring new creative universes after I’d spent probably seven years just playing WoW and RTS games.
If you were on a desert island (it has power) and could only take one console, what would you take, and why?
I would probably take the PS3. It was the console I had when I was a teenager, and I really enjoy a lot of it’s library. With MotorStorm, The Last of Us, all the current Dragon Age titles, the BioShock series, the first three Mass Effect titles, Dishonored, Demon’s Souls, Infamous and so on I should be able to amuse myself for a good long while.
Thanks to Vincent, Thomas & Mariela at Rain Games for talking to us. World To The West is available now on Xbox One, PS4 and PC - check out our review here.