I bought this game not only because it was cheap, but because I fell completely in love with it at first sight, because it was so… different. (You can read our review here!). Developed by a group of nine Södertörn University graduates calling themselves Gone North Games, the team have managed to offer us a totally different approach to narration in their ‘FPP’ (First-Person Platformer) for the PC. They emarked on their quest having picked a first-person narrative, and supplemented it with a very well-written script which, we can now see, has worked out very well for ASAMU. I personally thought this was quite an unorthodox approach(read: tough as hell) and the fact that it was executed so nicely in ASAMU makes it quite an accomplishment for Gone North Games. /applause!
The experience of playing ASAMU can easily be compared with Bastion. It’s a breath of fresh air, something unusual, and the first-person aspect just works really well, for both the game and the player. Playing the game for several hours only made me want to get in touch with this new developer and ask them about this, their first-ever game. To my utter delight, Sebastian Zethraeus kindly agreed to give XP4T.com an interview, and what follows is his “developer confession.” ;) Enjoy!
Sebastian, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your team? How many people make up Gone North Games?
We are nine people at the company. I think the one thing that we have in common apart from our love for games is that we all studied game development at Södertörns University in Stockholm. I studied game design and project management, and we also have artists and programmers that learned their respective trade at the university.
How about your own game preferences – what platforms do you play on and what have you been playing lately? Speaking gamer to gamer, is there anything you’d highly recommend?
I bought a PS4 recently and have been playing a bit of Destiny. I haven’t had a lot of time to play lately, but the Metal Gear series is a favourite of mine, so I’m looking forward to The Phantom Pain.
Is Gone North Games your full-time job now, or is developing games something you guys collaborate on after work, and so on?
We are all fortunate enough to have game development as our full-time jobs.
So, A Story About My Uncle. How did you come up with the idea? Was a narrative-driven FPP your primary goal from the very beginning, or did you also consider different approaches?
Well, the game actually started out as an assignment in school. Our task was to make a non-violent first person game using the Unreal Development Kit.
The narrative in ASAMU is one of its strongest parts. Did you hire an external writer, or is someone at GNG a hidden Shakespeare? The narrative parts are really great!
Thanks! Actually, the entire team contributed to creating different parts of the world, but the main part of the story was written by our artist and writer, Elin. We focused a lot on making the game appealing to people who enjoyed narrative in games, but we also made sure that it didn’t get in the way of the gameplay if the player wasn’t interested.
Why did you choose Unreal Engine and DX9 to develop ASAMU? Why not a different engine?
As I mentioned before, one of our assignments was to make a game using the Unreal Development Kit, so when our first demo was complete and we decided to make a full game of it, we just kept going with the engine. It was well-suited to the game and the team had already learned to work with it.
Are you happy with what you’ve accomplished with ASAMU? How do you find the positive feedback the game is getting from both the media and gamers alike?
We’re very happy with how it’s all turned out. This is our first released game and we understand that we could have done a few things differently, but the overwhelmingly positive feedback is a real boost for everyone at the company.
Going back to the narrative — I honestly think ASAMU has exceptional in-game story development — being able to spin a tale in such an engaging manner is not a common skill these days. Have you, then, ever considered making a more traditional adventure game, with a strong story and well-defined characters?
I think that we will always try to create games that have strong gameplay at their core. That said, it’s not unlikely that we’ll be developing more games that continue to have a strong focus on character development and storytelling. We’re a young company that is still trying to find our identity, so it’s likely that we’ll try a few different approaches.
It’s February at the moment, and I’m just wondering what your plans are for 2015, now that ASAMU is out of the gate. What can you tell us about the future? :)
We’re currently working on something that we haven’t even announced yet. More info should come shortly. But we’re certainly trying to stay afloat and create more games that we can be really proud of. We’re in a really good position to achieve that right now.