In this issue of Mr. PSVR’s Interview Corner, we get a closer look at Patagon: The Forbidden Island from Developer Something Awesome Games LLC in association with Mirowin VR. A game that has some inspirations from some of the beloved movies and games that we can all appreciate with a steampunk elements.
Joren Winge and Brad from Something Awesome Games
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Could you please introduce yourself and let us know what have been some of the games and experiences you have worked on?
Brad: “Hey, I’m Brad, I’m currently a software developer at Ancestry.com, but I got my start working in gaming. In particular in the Free to Play MMO gaming space at various publishing studios. I’ve worked on such games as Flyff, Sevencore, RF Online & Eternal Blade. Later, I met Joren while working at the teen messaging startup, AfterSchool.”
Joren: “Joren: My name is Joren Winge – this is my first game but i have been a software engineer for a long time. I was employee number 2 at the dating app, The League. I worked at a teen messaging startup called AfterSchool, and currently I work for Ancestry.com. My background is in film, and Patagon started as an idea for a film that I had.”
Your new game Patagon: The Forbidden Island seems to have a touch of a couple of different elements from Indiana Jones and Jurassic Park. What can you tell us about The Forbidden Island?
Brad: “Oh yeah, there were definitely a lot of inspirations drawn from such sources such as Indian Jones and Jurassic Park, as well as some of our favorite games like Skyrim, Bioshock and Fallout. I was also inspired by the Carnivores franchise from the late 90’s that I loved as a kid where you actually got to hunt dinosaurs.”
Joren: “I’m a huge Raiders fan and Jurassic park. Patagon: The Forbidden Island is drawing on that big time. You play an explorer/adventure type who is called in to see why the island has lost contact with all but one settlement. There’s definitely a lot of Indiana Jones in that character – rugged loner type – there’s going to be a female playable version too. You’re going to be in the bush a lot, and also dealing with exotic locations and people. Everyone loves dinosaurs and seeing dinosaurs at scale in VR is just a real treat. Combine those elements and you have something interesting. I think the game just comes from wanting to capture that 1980’s style adventure movie that I grew up watching. I’ve been really disappointed with a lot of VR games in the sense that they are just ports of flat screen games and use the same dynamics, waves of enemies, simple maps, etc. I wanted to make something more akin to a playable experience that you could lose yourself in. At the same time, I wanted a game with a plot so you had some direction and it wasn’t freeform.”
Is the whole island open to exploring?
Joren: “Yes, a few areas will be blocked/locked for purposes of furthering the plot and leaving things for you to discover and explore, but for the most part, the entire map is open. It does get progressively harder the farther out you venture from the last base you liberated, but that’s on you! There’s also the skies and waters you can explore around the island with the airships and the mini sub.”
I really like the steampunk aspect and design of if all. Was this always the art style or did Patagon: The Forbidden Island start off completely different?
Brad: “Not right at the start. We initially knew we wanted the game to be set on a remote island and feature dinosaurs. While talking about the setting, we felt that modern times are a bit overplayed and that doing an alternate history early 1900’s with the British Empire still at its height could be interesting.
Joren: “I knew the time period and the vibe would be important and I wanted to stage it in Victorian times, but Brad really brought out the steampunk elements. He’s big into cosplay and different scenes so he brought a lot of the steampunk elements. That being said, I think I was channeling steampunk without knowing it was steampunk. I just kept imaging hunting dinosaurs with single shot rifles in the jungle with pith helmets and khaki suits.”
So wait, there is dinosaur hunting in the game?
Brad: “Definitely! That will be one of the big components of the game. Conversely, not only will you be hunting the dinosaurs they will also be hunting you! We’re working on AI for the dinosaurs to make them more cunning predators that won’t just rush you headfirst but will stalk the player over time. The dinos will be largely more powerful than the player character so you’ll have to use a combination of stealth, smarts, and a variety of traps to bring them down.”
Joren: “There are specific dinosaurs you hunt in the game as missions, but pretty much anytime you venture out into the jungle you could run into a dinosaur or get stalked and attacked by one. Not every mission is hunting dinosaurs though and I don’t want to say this is just a dinosaur hunting game. It just takes place on an island populated by dinosaurs. That being said, it’s not absolutely crawling with dinosaurs. You can go awhile without seeing one. Constant dinosaur fights kind of removes any suspense after a while.”
What can you tell us about the characters in the game and how will they progress in the game?
Brad: “As far as character progression, we’ll have some traditional RPG elements like experience based level progression and skill trees. Players will be able to level up by completing a variety of missions around the island and hunting dinosaurs, and can use those points to invest in various core skill trees (engineering, trapping, etc.)”
What about some of the weapons the player will encounter?
Brad: “We wanted a healthy mix of some weapons you may have actually found in the early 1900’s, along with some fun steampunk guns, so everything from a Lee-Enfield bolt action rifle to the Tesla gun.”
Joren: “The tesla gun. It shoots a beam of concentrated energy. The lightning gun calls down lightning on a spot. The wind cannon generates blasts of wind. Old school weapons like a revolver, pistols , and a long rifle, as well as an elephant gun. We also have a flamethrower for when things get messy. No automatic weapons though – then it just becomes spray and pray.”
Something that really caught my eye is the use of zeppelins and airships. Are those explorable and how often can the player interact with them?
Brad: “Yeah! We really wanted to integrate zeppelins into the gameplay as they’re a huge part of the steampunk aesthetic. Originally, they were mostly only going to factor into cutscenes and some limited gameplay, but as time went on, we really wanted to give players the ability to acquire and fly their own Zeppelin, which we thought would be amazing to see in VR.”
Joren: “Yeah, the zeppelins and airships are a major part of the game now. It’s how you get to remote parts of the island (it’s 7 square miles). There’s going to be some zeppelin battles as well and later in the game you will be able to fly one but you have to work up to that. It’s a bit like driving a bus though. lol.”
Can you tell us more about the day and night cycles and will the cycles somehow affect what the player can do depending on the time of day or night?
Brad: “Well, for starters, the day and night cycle will definitely have a big impact on player visibility. Without a lot of civilization available things get super dark at night and the player will have to rely on their trusty flashlight to see what’s happening. The downside of this being you’ll stand out like a sore thumb to the specifically nocturnal predators we’ll have hunting in the dark, so players will definitely need to proceed with caution!”
Joren: “Certain missions will also require you to do things at night or seek out people or places that are only available at night. So the day/night cycles play a role.”
Patagon: The Forbidden Island looks incredible, but when it comes to immersion, not only does the visuals help with that, but also the audio. What have you done to make audio just as special in the game?
Joren: “For sound design we are trying to use as many natural elements as possible, but that being said, we are letting our sound designer Sonia Mokhtari try and come up with an original experience. She is also creating an adaptive soundtrack that mutates as you play the game so that it’s never the same song twice – though it rotates between 3 different themes. We are trying to get the dinosaurs’ roars correct. That means watching a lot of science videos on what people thought dinosaurs actually sounded like. We have to do the standard monster roars, but we are looking into a lot of bird sounds as well to mix in for more realism.”
Will Patagon: The Forbidden Island be a single-player experience or will there be a chance to go at it with a friend?
Brad: “We started off with the idea that The Forbidden Island would be specifically an immersive single-player experience, despite entertaining the idea of co-op. We decided to make it a higher priority over time though as the growing community really seemed to want the feature and we thought it’d be super cool to hunt dinosaurs and commandeer an airship with friends.”
Joren: “Yeah, we originally envisioned it as a single player game, then we realized it would be fun to go on hunts or missions with friends. Then the more we talked to other gamers, we realized that co-op play needs to be a big component of the game. Now, the main quest will be available to be played with 1 other person and we are developing one shot missions that can be played with up to 4 people. With the success of games like Phasmophobia after the main campaign is done we will just focus on creating more multiplayer/co-op missions.”
What have you found when it comes to a game like this to be the most surprising and challenging when developing for VR?
Joren: “Walking – making walking not vomit inducing – the game requires you to walk around and do stuff so we tried to make walking as comfortable as possible. We also have teleportation, but walking is definitely a challenge. Lots of small actions are more complicated in vr like reloading a gun or switching weapons. They all require custom coding, special animations and creating gestures that can be used in VR.”
I have to ask, with this being a forbidden island, I’m getting some LOST vibes. Were there any inspirations from LOST that you tied into The Forbidden Island such as maybe time travel?
Brad: “It probably sounds horrible, but I have to confess that I’ve never actually watched LOST haha. As far as island tropes go, I feel like for us there are probably more allusions to Kong: Skull Island with the themes of a harsh primitive environment riddled with dinosaurs and other prehistoric monstrosities.”
Joren: “I have never seen Lost either – but from what I have heard of it, I think the larger story has Lost vibes. Why are the dinosaurs here? What’s going on on the island? There are some mysteries to unravel and hopefully they will be more satisfying than the ending to Lost since I heard it was disappointing.”
If someone wanted to back Patagon: The Forbidden Island, what could they do?
Brad: “Definitely hit up our Patagoon: The Forbidden Island Kickstarter page. If you like what you see please support us at one of our various pledge tiers!”
Joren: “Please back us on our Kickstarter page – https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jorenwinge/the-forbidden-island-the-steampunk-rpg-for-vr-and-desktop?ref=project_build – and share the game with anyone who you think might enjoy it. Especially other VR enthusiasts. It’s a small, very friendly community, which is one of the reasons I wanted to develop games for it.”
Do we have a release date for when The Forbidden Island might release and what platforms it will be releasing on?
Brad: “We’re aiming for a release sometime in 2021.”
Joren: “We are aiming for the beta to be out by May 2021 and the full game by October – though we plan on supporting the game for years with more content and missions. It seems like games have a much longer life cycle now which I really like. Also I’m hoping if we can hold off till then we can use Unreal 5 as the engine.”
What are your top 3 things that you love about developing for VR?
Brad: “By far the biggest one for me is just the sheer immersion that VR allows for. Being not only able to play a game, but step entirely into another world is an exhilarating experience. And as far as the Forbidden Island is concerned, it’s been awesome to see the scale of dinosaurs firsthand or survey the horizon from the deck of my airship without looking over and seeing my boring apartment haha.”
Joren: “What Brad said – the immersion – the world building – the ability to create experiences, not just games. But also I love how rabid the community is in supporting smaller indie developers and games. It’s a really positive environment.”
For someone looking for that something to wow them, what would you say to someone on why they should experience Patagon: The Forbidden Island?
Brad: “If you’ve ever found yourself yearning for an age of exploration and wonder, we’re looking to provide just that. We’re developing an immersive world featuring everything from robust story-driven RPG elements to co-op that will allow friends to engage in thrilling dinosaur hunts and take to the skies commanding their own airship.”
Joren: “Yeah, for me the game was created because I wanted to step into another world. You can walk around – get into adventures – just explore. It was designed to get lost in. The airships have a huge wow factor. Jumping out of one is very exciting, getting picked up by one as well. Fighting dinosaurs is very exciting and a little scary. I still cringe every time I get eaten and die.”
I really want to thank Joren and Brad from Something Awesome Games LLC in association with Mirowin VR for taking time out of their busy schedule and sharing their passion for Patagon: The Forbidden Island when it releases in 2021 on both PCVR and PlayStation VR and for also talking about Virtual Reality.
To learn more about Something Awesome Games LLC, please visit their site.
To keep up with Patagon: The Forbidden Island, make sure to like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter.
For now, please enjoy Patagon: The Forbidden Island trailer…