September 4, 2012 2:00 AM | Staff
Role-playing survival games are currently on the up and up, no doubt thanks to the behemoth indie title that is Minecraft. The idea of being plonked into a world with barely any instructions other than to survive on what you can find scattered around is clearly capturing the imaginations of millions of gamers and, in turn, the minds of developers.
You'll probably know Klei Entertainment for the wonderful side-scrolling brawler Shank, or perhaps the Eets puzzle series. The studio is currently putting the final touches on its next Xbox Live Arcade title Mark of the Ninja, but also has a new project underway that is causing quite a stir.
Don't Starve is an upcoming survival game for PC, much in the same vein as the aforementioned Minecraft. With the title, Klei is looking to innovate when it comes to setting and overall look, with an obvious Tim Burton inspiration in place.
"Minecraft is a great game, and it certainly influenced our design," says Klei's Kevin Forbes. "We're aiming for a more systems-exploration gameplay experience, with a heavy emphasis upon character and theme."
"With the art style, we were going for something that is dark and creepy while still maintaining a strong sense of appeal," he continues. "I wrote a steampunk-horror backstory and Jeff Agala (Klei's lead creative director) gave it this great sketchy newspaper cartoon style. There are a lot of Burton and [Edward] Gorey images in our reference bin."
The game, which is currently in open beta and can be accessed for free, started life as an in-house game jam a couple of years ago. Forbes was attempted to create a Lovecraftian version of Nintendo DS classic Lost in Blue -- a sort of supernatural castaway simulator, with creepy pig people and a day-night cycle thrown in for good measure.
The open beta angle is allowing the team to fulfil the original vision, says Forbes, as players throw their ideas into the mix and discuss what they like and don't like about each new addition.
Says Forbes, "Opening up the development cycle early has been an awesome experience so far. It's great for figuring out what aspects of the game players are really responding to, and for nipping usability issues in the bud."
"It has also forced us to figure out our distribution, purchasing and customer service issues up-front, which should make our eventual roll-out a lot easier."
Did the team consider making Don't Starve a free-to-play game, given that F2P is the "in thing" at the moment?
"We have had a lot of heated discussions about free-to-play within the team," he answers. "I certainly wouldn't rule it out as a business model, but I think that in our case a lot more study is required."
"I think that teams will continue to find interesting ways to finance their projects. Holding an open paid beta allowed us to find an early audience and is giving us time to craft our game with real feedback ahead of its release. I'd certainly use it again."
[Mike Rose wrote this article which originally appeared on Gamasutra.]