Oh hey, look at that! Our Game of the Month segment is back! For the month of October, we'll be highlighting Never Alone, by E-Line Media. As always, be sure to check out Truth & Requiem on Twitch for the Game of the Month streams each week!
Since its release back in 2014, Never Alone has been crushing it, winning awards all over the place - and they're well deserved. Never Alone is the result of an awesome collaboration between OG game developers, an educational group, and Alaskan natives. Part of the "games for change" movement, Never Alone brings traditional Alaskan storytelling to modern Alaskans and gamers worldwide.
E-Line media has a studio right here in sunny Phoenix, AZ where they are working on spinning up some new titles as we speak. Their second studio, in the Seattle area, are the masterminds behind Never Alone.
Let's meet these "masterminds", shall we?
Matt Swanson, producer at E-Line Media's Seattle studio, took the time to talk a little inside baseball - or, inside game dev, if you will.
Do you have your own in-house engine or use a third party system?
"Never Alone was developed in in the Unity3D engine, with a handful of custom tools we built to help development."
What platforms do you release on now / plan to release on?
"Never Alone is currently available both via Steam and non-DRM versions for the Windows, Linux and Mac platforms, the Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Nintendo WiiU and Nvidia Shield & Android TV consoles as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. We have not announced any plans for additional platforms at this time."
What are the development tools you use the most?
It depends on the person and discipline -- our artists use Autodesk Maya for modelling and animation, 3DCoat and Zbrush for high resolution modeling, texturing, sculpting and retopology, and Adobe Photoshop for a variety of tasks. Our engineers use Visual Studio for development, and we use JIRA for task and production management. Beyond that, each person has their own toolbox of programs and techniques they use.
What advice would you give to a new studio?
Follow your passion and do your homework. Find the games that you really want to make, that will keep you motivated and passionate, that you really want to play. Build early prototypes, test your assumptions and gather feedback early and often, even if it is just modeling a game mechanic on paper to learn what works and what doesn't, before you spend a lot of time developing the more advanced versions. Build a plan and stick to it, but be ready and able to adapt as you discover new information. Don't be afraid to try something new and risky, but make sure it is something you can test and that it reinforces your passion and motivation for making the game in the first place.
What marketing resources do you use?
"We were very fortunate with Never Alone to receive a lot of earned media, articles written about the development process and the story behind the game. The Inclusive Development process we used, including members of the indigenous community as partners in the process, including their voice and insights at every stage of creation, really resonated and made the game stand out for journalists, players and reviewers alike. This earned media was helped greatly by making sure we had a thorough press kit available with an assortment of screenshots, trailers, press releases and other supporting media. We also had a great response from the YouTube Let's Play community and made a lot of effort to reach out to reviewers and journalists as we neared release."
Any mistakes / hiccups you have made so far, something you would advise a new studio to avoid?
"I'm a big fan of the old adage, 'Measure twice, cut once'. There was a lot of content that never made it into the final release of Never Alone, and a lot of time spent in the early stages trying different things that were deviations from the vision we had from the beginning. These ended up being big distractions and cost us time, when we should have stayed true to our plan and trusted our guts as creators and artists, followed the pillars for the game that we set up in the beginning. This meant that, at the end, we were rushing to get the last of the content finished rather than being able to really hone and polish a few of the rougher edges that appeared in the original released version of Never Alone. No game is ever perfect when it is released, but spending time early to test things quickly, rather than trying things out later in the process, can make sure that you can proceed with more confidence and faith in your direction."