Written by T. Blake Braddy, @blakebraddy
The Forest is kind of like MineCraft as written by Lucio Fulci and designed by Crytek. In it, players crash-land on a vast and beautiful landscape covered with trees, flowers…and cannibals. To survive, players must build shelters, develop weapons, and hunt for food, not to mention avoid or deter the multitude of threats that surround them in this open world. The game looks beautiful, and the enemies are not run-of-the-mill people eaters, which gives this bright, exotic landscape an ominous, LOST-ish feel.
It is in an early alpha stage, so there’s plenty to be fixed, but the team working on The Forest is committed to developing a surreal, creepy, yet varied experience. Michael Mellor, Ben Falcone, and Anna Terekhova of Endnight Games gave some great and cryptic answers as to where The Forest is headed and how it will change as the game reaches its final release form.
BD: The game is in Early Access. Clearly you have a vision for where you want it to go. What would you like for the final product of The Forest to look like? What changes to the world, environment, and game complexity will you be implementing?
We wanted to release a base that showed what our vision is for the game. We plan on opening up more areas of the world to explore, more caves that go deeper and deeper. As well we will be adding more wildlife and revealing more mutants.
Things like sound design, improved graphics and performance, deeper simulation aspects and more things to build and construct will all be added over the course of the alpha. There are also a few big surprises we have in store and not yet ready to reveal.
BD: Is anything big being developed right now that you are adding soon that players would be really interested to know?
We have a lot of really cool stuff in the works. Along with bug fixing we also want to release some cool new things with each update. We haven’t revealed everything yet but we have a pretty solid roadmap. The current plan is to release every two weeks or for the bigger updates, every month. The first update is coming in a few days. (June 16th)
BD: How long do you plan on being in the alpha / beta stages of development?
Our current plan is to aim to have the final ready in six months. However as the game develops we will get a much clearer picture. There are a lot of features and improvements we want to make and don’t plan on releasing final until we, and the community really feel it’s ready.
BD: I read on the Steam page that a team of only four people created this game. How long have you been working on it, and how did you manage to create something so visually interesting in that period of time?
Most of the team has been working on the game for over a year now. We have also made use of some very talented freelance artists and coders from around the world.
BD: Plenty of games in this subgenre of survival sim focus on a very simple aesthetic, or stylized retro-ish graphics. The Forest, on the other hand, is going full tilt on the visual side of things. What prompted that decision?
We have always wanted to see how far we can go with graphics. Coming from a VFX background we knew we could create something really interesting.
BD: Tell me a little bit about the people who live around the crash site. Where did the inspiration come from to use cannibals as a complicating, dangerous element?
The inspiration for the cannibals came from 80’s Italian cannibal films. We wanted a smart enemy who could climb trees, mourn their dead and in general be an interesting threat in the world.
This isn’t the 80’s anymore, and so we didn’t think we could get away with a native cannibal threat such as in the traditional cannibal film, and so instead created a mutated human concept, we haven’t revealed exactly who they are but over the course of the alpha as more of the cave systems are opened up, who they are and what they’re doing in the world should start to become clear.
BD: I didn’t get very deep into the game – I need to work on my survival skills! – so could you talk also about how the inhabitants play into a larger mythology of the world, or is that being kept secret?
We don’t want to reveal too much about the inhabitants and how they connect to the world. Its something we want players to form their own ideas about as they explore more and as the alpha progresses. Safe to say however that its a really important focus for us, making the inhabitants feel like they belong and have a history with their environment.
BD: The game includes a “peaceful mode,” so it seems like you also have an interest in making survival situations as deep and interesting as the enemy attacks. What are the different ways players can approach the world in The Forest?
The peaceful mode is going to be the exact same game, just with the enemies turned off. Although we always saw the core game involving enemies, if players want to turn them off they can approach it as a pure survival experience.
BD: Tell us about how co-op will be integrated into the game. How many players will be able to play simultaneously?
We’re hoping to have 2 players to start and possibly build from there. Adding real people to a situation suddenly makes it interesting in a completely different way and it’s something we’re excited to explore more.
BD: Has anything surprised you about how people are playing the game, versus how you imagined people would be playing it? Does that affect how you tweak player experience?
Its been really awesome to see the different playthroughs on YouTube. there has been a surprising amount of strategies used by different players. We did not expect players to be so fascinated about killing seagulls on a yacht, for example.
BD: How has fan support helped keep the team focused? What sorts of suggestions have been most helpful in steering you in the Alpha phase?
Its been really great getting feedback for the game. Everyone is very enthusiastic and it really helps motivate us. We have had tons of ideas and suggestions emailed to us. Right now the most helpful things have been people providing us with detailed bug reports so we can go in and fix them properly.
BD: There is certainly combat in The Forest, but survival is obviously the main component of gameplay. Do you think gamers’ tastes are shifting slowly away from destruction as a means for entertainment?
We think the combat and survival are both essential components of the game. You need the threat of violence and destruction to build tension from the peaceful moments when you’re exploring or crafting. That said, it would be entirely possible to build a great experience purely around survival, its just not the focus of our game.
BD: Similarly, what do you think open-world survival games have to say about the concept of making your own play, rather than being compelled to do what the developers have laid out as “necessary?”
Giving the player freedom gives them a lot more possibilities in what the gameplay is in the world. Open world games also have lots of potential to create real tension/horror, as you’re not on a linear path the player can feel genuinely disoriented and unsure what may happen at any moment.
BD: What is the plan for Oculus Rift integration? Do you have plans to port it to Mac or release it on consoles at any point?
We are planning on releasing an Oculus update soon. There are still a few things we need to work out before it is ready for the public. Regarding Mac, at the moment we are a very tiny team so our main focus is the PC version. Once that is complete we will look into putting it on other platforms
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