Spaces of Play have been working (with the support of Indie Fund) on Future Unfolding for quite some time now and though the game’s site only provides minimal information, you can know more. How? Why by reading this interview with Andreas Zecher, that’s how.
Could you please briefly describe what Future Unfolding is all about?
Future Unfolding is a surrealistic top-down action adventure with a focus on exploration. We want players to explore both the game world and the game mechanics.
It definitely looks unique in its vivid colours, oil painting quality and obvious yet subtle 3Dness. What are your aims visually? How did you settle on a style?
Our goal was to create a dynamic world where everything can shift it’s shape at any time. To do this, the art style needs to communicate liveliness and change. We’re using particles to build up the world like an Impressionist painter would use thin, yet visible brush strokes to craft a painting. When people play an alpha build of the game, they often describe it as a painting coming to life.
A second goal was to let the visuals be abstract enough to allow for ambiguity. For example, it’s not immediately clear if an animal approaching you is a wolf, a lion or a fox. Players have to use their imagination to fill in the gaps.
How will Future Unfolding play?
You will be able to freely explore the game world and its secrets without any handholding. There are many things in the game to discover that we don’t point at or explain since it’s much more rewarding to find and interpret these things for yourself.
One of the main game-play elements is to find hidden patterns. These can be activated to manipulate the surroundings or to gain special abilities temporarily. A hidden pattern could, for example, be three flowers arranged in a triangle. Because these power-ups are tied to specific locations, we can make them powerful and interesting without worries of imbalance in the game.
Another key mechanic is interacting with the animals in the world. You can encounter both friendly and hostile creatures. There are no means of fighting, so you need to instead outrun or out-smart predators. All objects and creatures in the environment have possible interactions. You can ride on deers, move stones or bump agains trees. We want to put the player in a state of surprise and wonder by sneaking in many small interactions, without attaching a huge visual indicator on them.
What bits of the game will be procedurally generated?
The layout of the world is procedurally generated, so it’s unique for every player. The visuals and effects of the patterns will be different for everyone as well. We’re also experimenting with randomising which creatures are friendly and which are dangerous.
Do you feel that the procedural generation of content takes away the designed feeling of a game world? Doesn’t it at times feel too random?
We use procedural generation in a way that adds variation, but keeps important level and game flow structures intact and predictable. For example, we don’t need to manually place every tree by hand. We can just programatically describe how dense a forest should be, where it is divided by a path, or if it is next to a clearing. In this way the game world is still very much designed by us. We have our own custom level editor that lets us design areas on a high level, and we of course also design the algorithms that populate the world on a low level.
Could you tell us a bit about the team?
We have the same core team as with our previous game Spirits, with one difference that we’re now working with Swedish sound designers Nillson+Carleberg. The game is designed and built by Mattias Ljungström and Marek Plichta, who complement each other very well. I have a supportive role at the team, dealing with things like PR, business development or web development.
We’re always trying to find inspiration from outside games. We’re constantly trying to use technology in a way to create the exact art style we want. For example, all shadows are animated in 2D, converted into voxels and then finally exported as 3D models using our custom editor. Most other developers use skinned models for 3D, which creates a different visual feeling when animated.
When would you expect the game to become available to play? On which platforms?
We’re aiming for a late 2015 release on PC, Mac, Linux and other to-be-announcement platforms.