To help promote their upcoming game, Never Alone, developer Upper One Games hosted an “Ask Me Anything” on the social network site, Reddit.
Never Alone is a puzzle-platformer that delves into the traditional lore of the Inupiat people of Alaska and incorporates Alaska Native elders and storytellers with a co-venture between E-Line Media and the Cook Inlet Tribal Council.
Presented by lead engineer David Koenig, lead game designer Grant Roberts, and art director Dima Veryovka, Reddit members asked the team about Never Alone, which was released on November 18 on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC for $14.99.
Reddit user tuutruk asked, “Are there any plans to do more partnership video games? I bet the pacific coast tribes, especially in British Columbia, would have some great lore to draw upon.”
“We’d love to make more games like this in the future — we’ve even been approached by representatives from other cultures who have seen the inclusive development process we’ve gone through with the Alaska Native community, and expressed an interest in making games based on their people and stories. Of course, that all depends on how successful Never Alone is,” Roberts answered.
Mudze asked: “How exactly did you settle on the art direction? Were there any particular difficulties you had with it after you decided on that art style?”
“For me one of the most challenging parts of this game was to come up with the original visual style and create artwork that effectively represents Inupiaq people, culture, and the beauty of the Arctic Tundra,” Veryovka replied. “I fell in love with Alaska Native art and that became one of the main inspiration for the game. The overall goal was to create this game with a very atmospheric, soft looking feel that captures Arctic beauty. Never Alone was rendered using a lot of pastel, desaturated colors, which helped us create very moody, dreamlike visuals, while still portraying an authentic and believable Arctic world. The characters, themselves, were inspired by Arctic dolls. We tried to give them a very authentic hand crafted feel to make them look like somebody had sewn them using fur, skin and ivory.”
King_KatZ asked: “What are your thoughts on how big indie gaming has become, at what point can it no longer be called indie gaming?”
The word “indie” obviously means different things to different people, whether it’s in reference to movies, music, or games. It’s true that most indie games don’t launch simultaneously worldwide on three platforms in ten languages like we’re doing, but we still consider ourselves an indie studio because we (the core development team and our partners in the Alaska Native community) are making the game we want to make.
Plus, indie gaming getting bigger is a great thing because it means that we have more diversity in the type of games that are coming out now. It’s going to be tough to release on the same day as Dragon Age: Inquisition, Little BigPlanet 3, Far Cry 4, Escape Dead Island, WWE 2K15, and Grand Theft Auto V — especially since I’m going to buy pretty much all of those games and enjoy the hell out of them. But gone are the days of games just being about bigger and louder. Never Alone is smaller and quieter and I would buying it on launch day even if I wasn’t working on it.
X_The_Walrus asked: “Why did you settle on Xbox One and PS4 instead of Xbox 360 and PS3 for this game?”
“Back at the start of the project, our plan was to release for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. As we got further along, we realized that to really make the game embody the vision that we had in mind (and to faithfully represent the culture we’ve been lucky enough to work with), we had to target the latest consoles. We are using Unity, which has made both that transition and continuing development much easier than it would have otherwise been,” said Koenig. Another user asked if a Playstation Vita port was in the works, but no answer was given.
Gamingarchaeo asked “could you give a few insights into how working with the Iñupiat fitted in with the development process, where there any affordances, issues or differences which required special treatment, discussion or otherwise altered the development process at all? Where there significant benefits?”
“From the beginning of the project, representatives from E-Line Media have been in constant contact and collaboration with people at CITC and other members of the Alaska Native community. But the process has always been one of just that: collaboration,” Roberts answered. “As I said earlier, we didn’t want to just make whatever we wanted and then get buyoff every once in a while. We wanted to work directly with the community. That meant refining the story we wanted to tell and the way we were telling it along the way, but it was never anything but a positive experience. The benefits are totally clear: I don’t think we would have been received as warmly as we have if the inclusive development process wasn’t so clearly the best thing to do.”
Nocturnalharmonia asked: “Female playable characters are a big topic in games discussion currently. How did you come to decide upon Nuna as your protagonist? Did you also think of other travel companions for Nuna before settling on the arctic fox?”
Many of us actually have daughters, so the idea of creating something that would inspire them, for us on the development side, was important. Also,we felt the girl hero has been underrepresented in video games and to have a girl character that was powerful and could overcome something as harsh as that environment was something that we felt would be great for games. As far as finding the right companion, we wanted a companion that was authentic to the region, had meaning for the people and would help us make a fun game.We did look at many types of animals but we kept coming back to an Arctic fox.
The fox has a nice size compared to the girl and some really interesting characteristics that make it visually interesting like a bushy tail which can blow in the wind. Also, a fox is very cute and its easier for the player to become attached to it.”
Koenig, Roberts, Veryovka went on to answer more questions, which can be found on the subreddit r/Indiegaming.