I was thrilled to get a few minutes of Saehoon Lee’s (Studio Pixellore) time recently to chat about the recently released Subterrain. I’ve just begun to dive into the game, but I’m very impressed so far- Look for a full review of the Steam version soon!
Jeff: Please give me your background and tell me how you became interested in game development
Saehoon: I have been making games ever since I was a child around age of 12 or so. (Real-time) graphics is my passion and the games suits my interest because it is a perfect media for it.
J: What writers and artists influenced your design and storytelling ideas? How did you decide on music and sound effects?
S: Subterrain has been created by many different people from all around the world. Our team has layered the basics and then the community filled in the actual game design, scripts and stories details during the early access period and post release period. So I can’t say specific (writers have) influenced the game story line. For the music, we had our main composer Sean Lee, but we also had community contributions from couple of artists who were willing to create the music for us. We wanted to create very atmospheric music that just plays on the background and doesn’t get in the way of player focusing on the game play.
J: What do you find appealing about the Survival Horror genre
S: Intensity. Consequences. I think it is a genre that can pump the heart of the players without even knowing.
J: While making the game challenging, what is your design philosophy regarding easing new players into unfamiliar systems?
S: This was one of the most difficult task that we had to go through while making Subterrain. Subterrain is not a spoon fed game and you really need to learn how to do things by yourself to truly enjoy it. It’s a bit old school style but the actual fun comes in when you figure out the complex mechanics to (find) the way to survive and reach your goal. But this of course (presents) a tough learning curve to the new players. We have more than 40 tutorial pages that one can always reference to and the first 20 mins or so of the game play is designed linearly to teach very basic game play mechanics to the players. And then we just left the players to either figure things out for themselves or look into the tutorial pages.
J: How do you prevent players from being overwhelmed by all the things they’ll need to do to survive while also exploring?
S: We don’t. We want the players to be overwhelmed ! Yes, it sounds strange and it may go against the traditional ways of getting the players to be engaged with the game, but we wanted to create situation where there are many decisions to be made and the time is not waiting for the player. It’s always race against time and you are probably going to make mistakes here and there but we wanted to create feeling that surviving isn’t a cakewalk and you have to live by the decisions you made. It’s hardcore stuff, sometimes it’s very punishing. Strangely enough, that the most of the current players of the game seems to enjoy some of the pain it comes with it. The others, well.. they will probably not buy the game in the first place.
J: What are some hints for new players?
S: Be patient. And remember that you do not need to collect everything in everywhere you explore. Focus on what matters and always be on the move.
J: How did you determine how the game would control?
S: The game is top down view shooter like, so the character needed freedom of movement from where the player wanted to aim. So separate movement and aiming (looking) controls were needed. For PC, you can do this by using keyboard and mouse, and for controller it works as traditional dual stick shooter. It’s a bit more like first person shooter except it is 2D.
J: What are you the most proud of when you see people playing and enjoying Subterrain?
S: I am proud of Subterrain (in general). The game has been made by our team and the community themselves. It isn’t a perfectly executed game because it has many elements incorporated from ideas of many different people. But I think it is its own plus too as there always seems to be some element in the game that the player(s) like. It is my first game as indie developer personally so I am proud to actually finish it and then release to all major platforms including consoles.
J: What do you want it to mean to a player when they see PixelLore on the title screen?
S: Quality and dedication to the community. We want the players to feel that the games made by Pixellore (aren’t) going to be abandoned. We may not be making the next best hit in Steam (we could) but even then we are dedicated to the quality of the game and its community. We listen and we want to improve.
J: What games inspire/influence your designs?
S: Fallout, System Shock. Too many to count really!