Exclusive – StillAlive Studios Discusses Their Kickstarter Son of Nor
As you well know, iGR has been working with several notable Kickstarter project creators lately. We work our hardest to create awareness of deserving crowdfunding projects that break the mold of what we’ve been seeing in the games industry for far too long (convention). We first mentioned our next project in last weeks Kickstarter Spotlight. StillAlive Studios will allow you to move deserts and mountains in their planned action adventure game – Son of Nor.
Julian Mautner, Chris Polus, and Ricardo Valenzuela did an amazing job of deflecting the barrage of questions I levied at them with awesome answers. StillAlive is, in many regards, the studio that game developers dream about working for. Their project, Son of Nor, checks all the boxes of a game players have been craving for. Now it’s time for me to stop talking so much, and give the floor to the great people at StillAlive:
Dylan: StillAlive Studios was conceived in 2010 as a three person team. From there it looks like you’ve attracted a veritable United Nations of talent. Was it your current project – Son of Nor – that made the rest of your team “gravitate” (sorry, pun intended) to StillAlive’s ranks?
Julian: Yes and no, when I started asking for help in various channels and forums I did mention Son of Nor as the current project. Though back then it was a completely different game, but still it got people interested. But I don’t think SoN is the only reason of why our current members joined SAS, I also think that the fact that we are a distributed team and people can work from their homes, which is almost never seen in the game industry, made this project even more attractive and friendly.
Dylan: What games have members of the development studio been a part of in the past?
Julian: Almost all of us have previously worked on games, although most of them were not commercial, for example: Ricardo (Game Designer) worked for Freaky Creations which is currently developing To Leave and Jason (Artist) who worked on Ironwars. Also Daniel (Concept Artist) worked on many mods including a ton of stuff for DOTA2 and Adrian (Art Director) has a lot of experience in the action figures and toy industry. I myself on the other hand did already several projects on my own, or within a small team I led.
Dylan: When did the principal development begin on Son of Nor?
Julian: We could say that SoN’s development started in early 2012. Although the project initiated quite some time before, most of the time up until then we worked on getting the team together and of course team organization.
Dylan: At what point in development did you decide to turn to crowdfunding via Kickstarter?
Julian: We have been working for over a year in Son of Nor without pay, we have used all of our savings and we have reached a stage where we can’t go on without help, this is why we decided to turn to Kickstarter. We really need the people’s support, we don’t have an office, someone famous or a publisher behind us, we have built this from the ground up and we are really proud of what we have so far.
Dylan: Many games have tried to use physics to manipulate the environment, and represent supernatural character attributes. What game, in your opinion, came closest to getting it right in the past?
Julian: That is really a tough question. In terms of Physics only I’d say “From Dust”, although it is a different game entirely. Maybe also the game Crazy Machines.
Dylan: Son on Nor seems to have most of it’s in game physics engine operational, and a working prototype is shown in the KS pitch. What additional elements are you planning to add to the game?
Julian: We are currently working on various stuff, one of them is the elemental magic combinations and also how some objects and elements react with each other, for example if you cast a fire spell on the sand it will turn to glass!
Dylan: Three main powers are outlined as being available. Telekinesis, Terraforming, and Elemental Magic. One of the manifestations of the elemental branch is named essence. What type of attacks will this form of Elemental Magic consist of?
Julian: We have named essence the elemental power of life and death because, well, one is the absence of the other, so life is not death or the other way around. Thus they’ll have something to do with souls 😉 I will say just that for now, since we want to keep these powers a surprise 😉
Dylan: I love the fact that stillalive is aiming to reduce the presence of HUD and UI elements in Son of Nor. What current games will you be taking queues from to conceptualize the sense of full immersion?
Julian: Thanks! although we have many games as inspiration, the main ones are of course Dead Space with their integrated UI in the player’s suit and for the crosshair our game designer took inspiration from the minimalistic crosshair featured in LA NOIRE.
Dylan: It sounds like your hoping to split the game about 50-50 in regards to combat v puzzles. Is that to control the pacing of the six chapters Son of Nor will consist of?
Julian: Yes and no, we love our combat, we think it is quite unique and that it is really fun in multiplayer, the way you change the maps because of the destruction and movement of the sand, it becomes havoc! But we also like strategies, using the mind to solves problems, this is why we are integrating puzzles that use the physics and abilities in our game, we want to show our gameplay is useful for many different things.
Dylan: We love seeing and learning about game development. What were some of stillalive’s motivations for publishing over thirty dev diaries during the development of Son of Nor?
Julian: Feedback is super important for game development, and we thought this was a nice way to start before going into beta testing. We read and take into consideration every comment as we create our game, and so far it has been great, the public resonance and the feedback has been pure gold.
Dylan: It seems like Son of Nor will be a rather emotionally charged story. With the player acting as a guardian for humanities last bastion of hope The Edge. How important will Son of Nor’s soundtrack be in reinforcing the powers, emotions, and environments in the game?
Julian: It will be super important, after all in an audiovisual product, audio is half of it, right? We already have a great composer working for us, Mike. You can hear his work in the Son of Nor Kickstarter video and also in the page’s body text. Also our sound designer and producer, Chris. He has been working with us since the beginning and his output has been amazing. There’s an internal demo where there are these arrow traps and the sound effects of the arrows passing by as you come in closer are incredible.
Dylan: What’s up with the Sarahul Empire? What are their motivations for wanting to exterminate humanity?
Julian: The enmity between Humans and Sarahul is quite old, over 400 years old! The two races came into existence at the same time, they are called the second litter, since they came after the Aitharii and the Horastes. Both civilizations were quite peaceful and united, until one day the Sarahul started to develop magic. This magic gave them power, and with it, ambition and superiority, which they used to enslave the human race. As time passed by along with certain events, humans started developing magic powers too; this let the humans be free from the shackles of slavery and continue being an equal civilization to the Sarahul. Sadly, the Sarahul feared that the humans would take revenge at any time, and of course humans had the grudge of past history, this created tension that later exploded into The Great War which human’s lost and brought them into the brink of extinction.
Dylan: When I think of physics based puzzles, one of the best examples I can think of is Trine 2 by Frozenbyte. It was intriguing having to use many different combinations of powers to advance through the puzzles. What types of physics based puzzles will inhabit Son of Nor? Will they include multiple stages with different abilities needed to solve them?
Julian: We will have different kind of puzzles. From huge ones that go throughout a whole level to smaller concentrated ones. These puzzles will be created in a way that you will have use all of your powers or maybe just some in certain ways. These puzzles include the use of telekinesis, terraforming, elemental powers and of course multiplayer cooperation. And yes… Trine was an important inspiration for us 😉
Dylan: Our final question is in reference to what stillalive envisions for PvP mutliplayer in Son of Nor. How do you think combat would function? Can we expect Team Deathmatch with players crushing entire teams with enormous boulders, trapping them in sand dunes, and barbecuing their opponents to a crisp?
Julian: Yes! you can expect that and even more. We are also thinking on new, original and exciting PVP modes that use the best of our gameplay mechanics. And for those puzzle-lovers we are currently thinking on adding additional PVP modes that gives more importance to solving puzzles than combat (although there will be a presence of both)
We’re genuinely excited to see what StillAlive has up their sleeve that wasn’t discussed with us, and for them to reveal those details, Son of Nor has to meet it’s funding goal. Our readers are constantly impressing us with their level headed approach to the community we’ve built, their dedication to being informed and mature gamers, and especially for their thoughtfulness. Son of Nor is a game that’s worth funding and StillAlive has presented us with a well oiled prototype that’s been garnering a lot of attention. We hope that our questions helped answer some of your own you may have had about their Kickstarter project.
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