Last week we introduced you to The Long Dark by Hinterland games, a game built around survival in the unforgiving northern wilderness. This week we take another look at the game, this time via an interview with Hinterland Games, the developers of The Long Dark. We talk about the game, as well as a bit of their history and their reasons for choosing Kickstarter.
1. First of all, thanks for answering our questions. For starters, can you tell us a few words about your project?
The Long Dark is a first-person survival simulation, set in a cold Northern wilderness. You play Will Mackenzie, a bush pilot whose plane crashes in the woods after a geomagnetic event renders all technology inert. Your first focus is day-to-day survival in this new world, where you have to contend with the forces of nature: weather, wildlife, lack of resources, exposure, etc. Over time, as you meet other survivors and learn more about what is going on, you have to make choices about how you want to exist in this world, and what kind of a survivor you’re going to be. The game’s focus is on delivering a deep simulation of wilderness survival, within a strong narrative framework and compelling world.
2. Why did you decide to start a campaign on a crowdfunding platform? Why Kickstarter?
We wanted to reach out to the community to start the process of building up their awareness of what we’re building, and to engage with them directly. The entire team at Hinterland are ex-triple-A developers, so interacting with the community directly is a new experience for us — we’re used to doing it through a curtain of marketing and PR people. Of course, we’re also hoping to raise additional resources to make The Long Dark, but mostly for us it’s about building community engagement and getting their feedback on what we’re doing.
3.What uniqueness are you bringing to the table?
We’re approaching the post-disaster genre from a completely different direction. In terms of gameplay, The Long Dark is a thoughtful, slower-paced, exploration focused experience. Combat is rare. Gathering knowledge about the world is critical. There is no manual. Learning how the world works is critical to your survival. As for tone and treatment, this is the quiet apocalypse. There are no zombies or other B-movie elements. We play a bit with fiction and how the world works to keep players guessing, but generally the world works they way you might expect it to in the wake of such a disaster. This is a more thoughtful view on the end of the world.
4. Is The Long Dark your first game? Is it your first Kickstarter project?
The team at Hinterland is made up of veterans of the triple-A industry. Every one of them is a 10-15 year veteran game developer. But, The Long Dark is the first game we’ve made together. This is our first Kickstarter. It’s been interesting experiencing it from this side of the fence. We’ve backed a lot of projects ourselves, and analyzed a lot of campaigns. We’re definitely learning a lot!
5. What kind of rewards did you come up with? What would be your advice to others regarding the rewards?
Early on we brainstormed tons of great physical rewards that really suited our wilderness survival motif, but abandoned them due to the realities of cost and shipping. We have many of the “standard” rewards, like t-shirts, downloadable art books and soundtracks, etc. We also offer backers the opportunity to name something in the game world, contribute content, attend recording sessions, or have dinner with Mark Meer (Commander Shepard in Mass Effect) who is voicing Will Mackenzie in The Long Dark.
6. What would be your advice regarding creating a project on Kickstarter in general? How important was the video?
The video is critical. You have to be very focused on your message, because you have a lot to say and the minutes pass quickly. We ended up launching with a 10 minute video because we had so much to say. We had tons of great feedback on it but we realized it was too long for most people so we cut a shorter version after the first week of our campaign. In terms of Kickstarter in general, prepare to spend a couple of months solid just preparing for it, and know that it will take over your life for the duration of your campaign. Pace yourself, plan carefully, and don’t give up. It’s an emotional process.
6. What did you do to promote your Kickstarter campaign?
We announced our studio and project launch a week before our Kickstarter launch, so we had a lot of buzz when we launched. We’re also using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc. to spread the word. You have to do whatever it takes to get the word out about your project.
7. Please share some details about yourselves.
Hinterland is made up of a team of triple-A veterans, including core team members on games like God of War, Saints Row, Mass Effect, Company of Heroes, and others. We joined together because of our shared passion for making great games, and our desire to create something more personal. You can find out more about your studio here: http://www.hinterlandgames.com
8. Please tell us something which isn’t written in your project page which worth mentioning.
The entire team at Hinterland is unified around a mutual love of pancakes.
9. What is newsworthy about The Long Dark?
We’re different from a lot of other game projects on Kickstarter in that we’re not a nostalgia project — we’re an original IP from a new independent developer made up of industry veterans, and we’re using crowdfunding to raise some money to add quality and polish to the game we’re making. We’ve already raised some independent (non-publisher) money to develop the game, so we’re not depending solely on Kickstarter for our funding, which means you can be sure the game will get made. But with the support on Kickstarter, we can really push it to the level of quality we’re striving for, and we hope people will sign on and support us so that we can create this amazing, memorable game for them.