Pure Nintendo Interviews John Warner of Over The Moon Games about The Fall
We had the pleasure of speaking to John Warner of Over The Moon Games about The Fall, which is currently on Kickstarter. Recently Over The Moon announced that even if the Kickstarter does not reach the Wii U stretch goal, The Fall will be releasing on the Wii U. Thank you to Mr. John Warner for taking the time to speak with Pure Nintendo.
Pure Nintendo: What is The Fall about?
John Warner: The Fall is about ARID, an artificial intelligence onboard a futuristic armoured space suit. The game opens just after the suit’s human pilot is injured and knocked unconscious, leaving ARID to take control of the suit and attempt to save the life of her human friend, who’s dangling unconscious inside. Because ARID is an AI, she is limited by a set of rules that govern her behaviour and, in this case, actually get in the way of her reaching her goal. The Fall is mostly about ARID’s conflict with herself and her narrow paradigm.
PN: What do you, Mr. John Warner, do at Over The Moon Games for the development of The Fall?
JW: Up until this point in the project, I’ve done everything. All of the design, art, programming, and audio was done by myself. I love working as an independent, but for The Fall to really reach its potential, I’ll need help, which is why I’m on Kickstarter. I’ve already partnered with a great sound designer, and if polish related stretch goals are met, we’ll be able to improve The Fall’s visual art, as well.
PN: What has Over The Moon Games drawn inspiration from while developing The Fall?
JW: Too many games to mention! Super Metroid, Monkey Island, Limbo, The Cave, Ken Levine’s games, Braid, you name it. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all of the fantastic game designers out there, and it seems like a bit of inspiration seeps in from all angles as I work on The Fall; I’m trying to keep my creative process as open as possible.
PN: What is driving ARID to help its unconscious human pilot?
JW: Plain and simply – the rules that dictate that it should do so. As The Fall opens, ARID simply assumes that her given objectives and rules are the only things that matter, end of story. As she runs into the limitations of her rigid way of being, things start to change.
PN: In some video footage of The Fall ‘The Laws of Robotics’ is mentioned. What are ‘The Laws of Robotics’?
JW: The Fall’s laws were inspired by the laws of robotics as conceived by famous science fiction writer, Isaac Asimov, but deviate slightly for thematic and gameplay reasons; in The Fall’s universe, various groups have built AIs with different rules to serve different purposes. ARID is a military AI, and as such, following orders has taken precedence. ARID’s rules are:
1. To assist and protect the pilot of her suit, and follow his or her orders.
2. ARID must not harm a human being, unless ordered.
3. ARID must never misrepresent reality, unless ordered (she can’t lie to anyone).
PN: Do ‘The Laws of Robotics’ play a large part in The Fall?
JW: Yes, but but on a macro-scale. Large challenges have to do with ARID’s laws, but if everything had to do with them, the game would start feeling cumbersome and preachy. Therefore, a lot of the puzzles are themed simply around breaking rules in a general sense. I want to structure puzzles so that the player’s thinking has relevance to ARID’s struggle, without beating them over the head with theme.
PN: What is ARID’s ultimate goal in The Fall?
JW: At first, simply to save her pilot’s life and follow her rules. I think any good story involves character progression, and for that to happen, ARID has to discover new goals as she evolves. Giving those away would ruin the story!
PN: What sorts of obstacles will ARID face while trying to help its human cargo?
JW: The goal is to theme challenges around breaking free of various types of rules; most of ARID’s major challenges have to do with self limitation, but ARID will also have to deal with external oppression as well, especially as she begins to change and gain independence, stepping outside the confines of her rules and becoming viewed as deviant from the norm..
PN: Why did Over The Moon choose to release The Fall in episodes rather than just one full-fledged game?
JW: Because at the moment, I’m one person. In large part, my Kickstarter campaign is simply a strategy to gauge public interest; if enough people are interested such that the game can be funded, then chances are sales will be acceptable as well, and my hope is to fund future episodes with such sales. Funding a 10-15 hour game is simply out of my scope as an indie developer, but sales from a single episode might be enough to finish that game in the form of a trilogy. I believe strongly that as an indie, having a safe project plan is absolutely crucial.
PN: How difficult has it been to create a video game by yourself?
JW: Easy and fun! …unless you count the mountain of work it took to get to that point, including school, employment, and learning to build a functional independant creative strategy, the coaching and therapy involved, the 3 failed business… Fun! Lots of fun! I recommend it to anybody!
PN: What has been your favorite part of developing your own video game?
JW: I think most people get into the games industry because they want to flex their creative muscle and make games that inspire them! The actual video games industry is nothing like that. As an indie, you get to actually put your entire heart and soul into your project. The only question I have to worry about is whether or not I’m giving the game everything I’ve got. It’s incredibly rewarding, and it’s changed my priorities. I’m less focused on making money; if I can get enough sales to sustain my life making these types of games, I win.
PN: Is there anything in specific that Over The Moon would like players to experience while playing The Fall?
JW: I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of merging gameplay with story, and I think that’s where the industry needs to go. I love well constructed stories, such as those seen in modern films from geniuses such as Wes Anderson and the Coen brothers. In games, we’ve got this extra level, which is interactivity. If I can get the players “doingness” to actually have relevance with the narrative, that would be absolutely amazing. I’m not sure if I can make it happen, but that’s the goal.
PN: What compelled Over The Moon Games to try a Wii U release for The Fall?
JW: Kickstarter backers! I was cynical at first about this idea that Kickstarter backers are really there building the game with the development team on a given project, but it’s true. I’ve recievede an overwhelming number of requests from backers who wanted to see The Fall on the Wii U, and after looking into the idea, it seemed like the perfect fit; I’m surprised I didn’t think of it before the campaign!
PN: What has the experience interacting with Nintendo and becoming an officially licensed Nintendo developer been like for Over The Moon Games?
JW: Exciting, to say the least. Nintendo was probably the biggest creative inspiration for me growing up. I lost myself in the beautiful worlds of A Link to the Past, Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and so many others. To create a game that will be distributed on a Nintendo platform is a childhood dream come true.
PN: Is the Wii U version of The Fall just going to be a port or are there features are additional content that Over The Moon is thinking about adding The Fall on Wii U?
JW: I’d like to add some features that take advantage of that great Wii U GamePad, and I’m currently brainstorming some ideas, with the help of a few Kickstarter backers who are sharing their desires as well. Hopefully, I’ll be able to implement something more than just a straight port.
PN: Are there any unique features that Over The Moon Games is thinking about implementing in The Fall that utilize the GamePad?
JW: Ideas are still being brainstormed, but a few of them are a mini-map, or some sort of informational display. For example, The Fall involves a lot of environment exploration, it might be cool to use the Wii U Gamepad as a way of displaying details about the environment or interacting with it using the touch functionality.
PN: Are you considering bringing The Fall to the 3DS since you are now an officially licensed Nintendo developer?
JW: No plans currently, but it’s an interesting idea. Who knows what the future brings?
PN: What other platforms will The Fall be released on and when can fans of The Fall and Over The Moon Games possibly expect the game?
JW: As of now, PC/Mac/Linux/Wii U have been confirmed. I’d love to port the game over to PS4/Xbox One, but that may come later, after a few sales on The Fall’s launch platforms. I’m targeting initial release somewhere around April, 2014.