Continuing on from Part 1 of my interview with The Kraken Sleepeth‘s Andy Gibson, the director further elaborates on his project, and offers opinions on AAA games, sequels, and why indie games can sell platforms. Enjoy.
I know that The Kraken Sleepeth is a one-man-band project that took nearly a year to develop, but Child of Light is a game that was also a relatively indie orientated project done by Ubisoft in the company’s drive to cater to more niche audiences. How much would your game have cost if it was done by a company of that size?
I wouldn’t have a clue, but they’ve got all the overheads (the management, the amazing facilities, paying good wages to very talented people). That’s totally where micro-studios can compete, because those big projects need big budgets, and that means less innovation and less risk. If as indies, we can punch above our weight, we can be taking risks and we can be doing innovative stuff that they wouldn’t be able to (or want to) do.
You mentioned the word “innovative”. How do you think The Kraken Sleepeth will be able to distinguish itself from similar projects in the marketplace?
I don’t see anything of a similar nature in terms of look and style, and that is what gets peoples attention to start with. Making a good game is hard, but getting noticed is way harder now. I’m happy that The Kraken Sleepeth will stand out, and if people would take a look at any of the screenshots, the art direction is strong enough to stand out. The teaser trailer gives a really strong impression of the game as well, so I’m not concerned about the game not being noticed.
Are there any adventure elements?
Yeah, there’s a really strong adventure element (and mystery) to it. As you explore these different sites and locations across the world, you’ll be collecting clues which tell this amazing back-story. That’s hopefully one more reason as to why people would want to carry on playing the game – that feeling of “one more level, one more level” – so as to find out the revelations at the end of the game.
What games had an inspiration on the game?
Caverns of Mars on the 8-bit Atari was the inspiration basically. It was about going down into the sea, and then having to race back out and save your life. Combining that with the element of your battery life power, where your torch gets smaller and smaller as you go deeper and deeper. I think that’s a really nice combination. I think the best games are where the contents match the features and they support each other, so I’m really happy that my game has both those elements working well.
A lot of people complain that games aren’t long enough nowadays. You get games that are 8 hours long, and lots of people complain about those, but then you look at old-school games that could have been completed in 2 hours. For someone who is looking to play The Kraken Sleepeth, how long do you think it’ll take the average player to complete the game?
Difficult to know, but there is an endless level at the end of the game (without giving too much away). But I think it’s a really important point. I love Limbo which is really only 3-4 hours. You finish it, you complete it, and you’ve had an amazing experience, and that’s the kind of experience I want from The Kraken Sleepeth. It worries me a little bit when people expect to get 8, 10, 20 hours out of a game that they paid 99 cents for.
I get really bored of a game after about 6 hours…
I want to keep people engaged and entertained for 2 hours, like a long movie. They can replay elements if they wish, but I’m not interested in going down that route of competing against AAA huge budgets. That’s not where I want to be as an independent developer.
Do you think there will be any DLC – even though that’s a thorny subject amongst gamers?
I think that’s an interesting point. Really, my focus is in getting the game finished as best as I can (before release). I’ll be taking a month off, spending some family time, and then I’ll see what’s next. DLC is not impossible, and is relatively simple for me to do. If there is an appetite and interest from the community, and people are enjoying the game and it’s selling well, then there is definitely an opportunity to do DLC. That’ll be really interesting, because I’ve got a list of things I need to do to finish the game, and I’ve got a very long list of things I’d like to get in the game.
How do you think DLC differs from the notion of a sequel?
I think DLC can give more of a back-story and more of an expansion, but with a sequel I would hope that it would be a 2.0 rather than a 1.1.
Like a complete overhaul?
Yeah… Take the things that work well, and riff on those and iterate them further, and take some risks with new features that will keep people intrigued and entertained with what a full sequel should be.
What do you have planned next? Do you have a sequel planned?
I haven’t got anything planned. I’m finishing this game, and I’m taking some time out. I’d love to do more with Little Acorns. I’m still really enjoying doing The Kraken Sleepeth. I have about 3-4 strong premises for games, and would love to do some prototyping.. I’m also looking to build a studio as well, and am looking to hire people towards the end of this year.
You mention that you have about 3-4 ideas in the pipeline. Are they all of a similar nature to A Kraken Sleepeth?
They are very different. Very different stylistically, and very different in terms of mechanics. They’re ideas that have been floating around inside my head for a while. I’ve done some initial concept work, and would love to turn them into prototypes and pitch them for funding.
How easy is it for a game designer / developer / director to go from one game type to another game type? For example, if you look at the film industry, you get directors who are really great at action, but really poor at comedy – like Michael Bay. How difficult do you think you’ll find it in transitioning from the 2D style adventure game genre to whatever it is you have in mind?
Little Acorns is one of the best 2D platformers. I’m really happy with the quality of what we did, and it’s been well received both critically and commercially. The Kraken Sleepeth is nothing like Little Acorns in terms of mechanics or flavour. I think I’ve transitioned pretty well.
As a designer, you’re always looking to try out new ideas, and whilst it’s great to work in one genre, you’re always tempted to try different things. I’m not sure as to what is round the corner for me, but I have 3 or 4 new ideas – none of which are remotely like Little Acorns or The Kraken Sleepeth. That’s part of what is fun about working in the industry. Trying new stuff out.
Considering the number of gamers that don’t play games beyond a certain point, and given the huge number of games that are already out on the marketplace, how would you feel if people buy your game (even at a reduced rate in a sale) and don’t play it?
It’s always really disappointing when you’ve made a lot of content and people don’t enjoy it all. But that’s ultimately the developer’s fault by failing to make the game engaging enough. Ideally, I just want people to say “I just want one more go. Just one more go”. If I do my job properly, that’s what they’ll say. I’m not trying to compete with these 10/20/30 hour games. I’m trying to make small, polished, personal games that hopefully offer a unique experience that people haven’t played for a little while.
Shahid Ahmad (of Sony) recently stated that indie games can sell hardware. Now, after Microsoft’s 3 month exclusivity clause, you’ll be looking to expand your hardware portfolio. I assume one of those will be the Vita, iPhone, or something similar?
I don’t think The Kraken Sleepeth would suit a small screen, but I am definitely looking at all possibilities across all platforms which have bigger screens.
Given that Shahid Ahmad has stated that indie games do sell platforms, do you think indie games are now at the stage where they can compete against AAA games?
Yes. Absolutely yes. People buy games, not the platform. People buy a platform for a game. People buy Nintendo for Mario Bros. games. I think if you have a great game, people will look at getting that platform.