I was barely able to stifle my speculation after watching the announcement trailer for Reus, and having published that post it only got worse. I began ruminating on every aspect of the trailer, looking for reasons why the project, which seemed so perfect for me despite being in the ‘god game’ genre that I generally dislike, would only lead to disappointment. Having worked myself into quite the delirium I desperately reached out to Abbey Games, and thankfully Adriaan Jansen responded to my pitiful pleas.
This interview/act of mercy can be found after the jump:
Finners: How did Abbey Games form and how did the idea for Reus begin to take shape?
Adriaan: Abbey Games started out with Bas Zalmstra, the lead programmer, and Adriaan Jansen (me) the lead designer. We met each other at the University of Utrecht, and really complemented each other in skill set and way of thinking. We started with some small games made in a week or so to test our skills, but then Reus happened and shook our planning up. During the project, Maarten Wiedenhof and Manuel Kerssemakers joined in, seeing a lot of potential in the project.
The inspiration for Reus came from this movie (embedded below). We really liked the social critical theme, but also the added fantasy of being a giant. We quickly found some mechanics that we thought would really fit the theme, like providing humans, but also keeping their greed in tone and going all ‘old-testament’ on them. We also like to make things we think are new and interesting in forms of gameplay, theme, and art. This theme gave us a lot of possibilities and inspiration. So we kind of did the stupid passionate thing and went for it.
F: With a name like Abbey Games I am somewhat concerned that this game may turn out to be somewhat of a religious diatribe – Is this is a valid concern or is this a rather secularist god game?
A: The origin of the name has no roots in religion whatsoever. While some of us are religious, the Abbey theme is more about careful artisan quality than about religion. Regarding Reus, the game is neutral not only in religion, but also in morality. You play nature, and we picked a sort of traditional view of nature seen in many table top games. Nature should be true neutral, only there to enhance and provide life. If a religion should be tagged on Reus, it probably would be Pantheism.
F: Allowing the player to control everything but mankind itself is an intriguing idea – How does it impact the game, and how advanced a society does the game progress to?
A: The fact that you can’t control mankind is very important to the theme of Reus. Since the prosperity of humanity measures your progression through the game, you are encouraged to make life good for mankind. Make it too good, however, and the humans will take things as granted or become hungry for more. This can escalate into many things, like war or irresponsible experiments. You as nature should then teach them some respect before they wipe themselves out.
We are currently working on three age sets: classical, medieval and modern. However, this is very prone to change. The last age is important for the theme, to reflect the current real world into the game a bit.
F: Genetic engineering is mentioned as an element of the game –How does this present itself, is it something that you as a ‘god’ manipulate or something that mankind itself experiments with?
A: Both nature and human use genetic engineering. You as nature use it to evolve new species (although in a horribly unscientific way), while the humans only use it for mischief. The latter is not because we want to make a statement against genetic engineering or anything, but because the humans in Reus are just genuinely pesky [buggers] who will do their best to mess up your balance in their short-term favour. The genetic engineering itself is not horribly complex: the player has the option to add gene modifications to parts of nature. Some will give boosts, like a gene for bigger and sweeter apples, while other may open paths for totally new species, like evolving an apple into a peach tree. This evolution can even extend to mythical or fantastic proportions if you’re playing really well.
F: The game tasks you with “maintain[ing] the balance in which man is not overpowered by nature, and nature does not fall to man’s greed.” How does nature’s power present itself – Is it purely with environmental dangers or are there also predatory animals that man must overcome?
A: Nature’s power presents itself in mainly two different ways: Dangers and Catastrophes. Dangers are things like lions, wolves or even giant flytraps. They are part of nature and help you to keep humans in check, preventing them from growing out of control. Man can be attack and destroy danger, but they can also learn to live with them. This will still slow their growth, but they will be able to harvest resources from them. Much like Kenya can make safari’s and get some money from those hungry lions. Catastrophes are natural hazards like earthquakes, to immediately damage things walking around on the planet. Including humans and their petty buildings of course.
F: As opposed to controlling these elements yourself you act through some giants, what does this added dimension bring to the game?
A: There are four things we really like about the giants. First and foremost, they give the player an avatar to interact with the humans. I can’t say much about how this will envelop, but it’s the main reason we wanted them. Secondly, they add positioning as a dimension to the game, making the game more deep. Thirdly, it also adds a team-building and character building dimension to the game. We want the player to plan ahead and think about their course of action:”Shall I take a Rock giant to create mountains, or do I want to perfect my swamp?” Last but not least, the giants just look mighty awesome.
I was cautiously excited about this one following the trailer (you may have picked up on that), but it is now one of my most anticipated releases. It is a project that I – if it wasn’t for my lack of skill, dedication and drive – could have very well created myself.