As far as I know there won’t be any hookah smoking caterpillars (unless Stephen, Colm and Nathan take the hint) but what you will find is a young girl stuck in a perpetual winter. Solas and the White Winter is a 3D adventure puzzler that follows Solas through her adventures in an endless winter, trying to dispel past mistakes and reunite with her family.
I’ll now turn it over to this 3 person indie dev team from Dublin, Ireland.
This interview has graphics pictures!
Can you describe Solas’ mission as she navigates through the harsh winter?
For Solas, her mission is personal. But the game is about reuniting with lost family and correcting past mistakes; setting things right again.
What elements of game play are specifically influenced by the winter setting?
Generally speaking the games atmosphere and environment were heavily influenced by the winter setting. But more specifically, there are areas of the game in which Solas must try and stay warm. Also, the blizzard and low visibility makes it that bit more challenging for Solas to navigate the land.
Solas and the White Winter inhabits an ancient Celtic world. What specific Celtic traditions and history have you included in the game?
Imbolc is an ancient Celtic tradition celebrating the passing of winter into spring and we have loosely based our story around this. The Cailleach is another ancient Celtic myth that we incorporated into parts of our story. The Cailleach is said to be a Celtic hag or Goddess tied to the land or weather. Researching these allowed us to add some authenticity to the story but also helped us form parts of it. It also led us to some gameplay ideas.
Were there any bizarre traditions that you came across in your research that you haven’t included in Solas?
Nothing entirely too bizarre, although we did find commonalities between various ancient Celtic traditions. We found that a lot of the festivities were based around the land, harvests and fertility. Celtic mythology is just so rich and dense that we found a tiny portion of it was all we needed to flesh out the story we wanted to tell.
What inspired you to develop a game that showcases a young girl as the heroine?
We didn’t necessarily have a conscious decision to make Solas a girl at the beginning. As we developed the story Solas’ character was created out of our research. The reason why we chose a young protagonist is because we feel the family bond is stronger between parent and child.
Do you think there is a trend developing to bring girls into gaming?
We feel it is less about getting girls into gaming and more about acknowledging and caring about the fact that there is already a large player base of female gamers. You can see this in how there has been an increase in female protagonists compared with the last decade.
What sets this game apart from other games in the same Genre?
We found that Irish Celtic myths and traditions have been overlooked in the past in video games so we feel that our setting is something that sets Solas and the White Winter apart.
How have you been evaluating progress during Solas’ development?
We have adopted several evaluating tools throughout development. We had Solas and the White Winter scoped from the very beginning and this allowed us to monitor progress quite efficiently. Our key, however, was constant communication. We had weekly Skype calls where we evaluated our current status and pending tasks. We were constantly reviewing our own and each others tasks, which allowed us to flag any problems as they came up and issue fixes.
Based on feedback, what kind of alterations have you made along the course of development?
The Indie Facebook groups have been great for offering feedback. We also brought the game to a indie developer meetup here in Dublin where we got great feedback. Initially the game was centered around exploration, but after play tests and feedback we found that the puzzle elements were more fun so we decided to highlight these more than the exploration.
What innovation in Solas are you most proud of? why?
We are most proud of the story, in particular our telling of it. It is language agnostic, as the game has no words or text outside of the menus. It has been quite challenging telling a story this way as we have had to rely on visuals only to tell it.
What platforms will you be releasing Solas on?
We will be releasing on PC, Mac and Linux
What did you build your game with? Why?
We used Unity as our engine as we were most comfortable with it and we felt it was the best tool available to us to create the game we desired. It also offered us a better means of achieving our art style.
What was the most challenging part of completing your game? How did you address it?
As mentioned above, writing the story from a design point of view and knowing the player wouldn’t have any text available to them was the most challenging part of development. To address this issue, we decided to segment the story into much smaller pieces and feed these to the player over the course of the game.
In retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently from the start of this project?
There are many things that we would do differently from development to project management. We feel that there are always better ways to do things but due to timing and budget constraints, you may not be able to. There is always room to improve, both on a company and personal level. Specifically, we had to change out core idea quite early on so in future projects we want to meticulously prototype our games.
Tell us about your team at Savepoint Studios. (including the four legged ones 😊)
We are a small 3-man team from Dublin, Ireland. The 3 of us met in college in Dublin and quite soon after graduating began developing games together. We shared similar ideals about game design (and love of pets) and decided to create Savepoint Studios. Stephen and his various cats comes from a programming and computer science background and handles most of the technical aspects for us. Colm has a similar background; he did engineering in Dublin before he decided to pursue games design and he is our animator and character modeler. Nathan also began in engineering but moved to games design. The self-proclaimed proud owner of the best Star Wars figure collection in Blanchardstown is the main 3D and environmental artist for Savepoint Studios. Colm has yet to own a single cat, he’s more of a dog person.
Stephen: Yes, I do indeed have a lot of cats. Gizmo in particular helps me debug the code sometimes.
Did you go to school for Game Design and development and/or how did you get into this line of work?
Yeah we all met in college studying game design, actually.
Was there a specific game or experience that influenced you to choose this career path?
Stephen: One of my earliest memories as a child is playing video games at home with my dad on our Snes. Ever since, I was hooked and loved diving into the vast array of experiences games offered me. So I’ve always wanted to one day create games myself. But what started me out was Timesplitters 3 Future perfect, which had a level editor where I could design my own maps and play them with my brother. The fun we had playing on maps I’d made myself is what created my desire to craft these experiences for other people.
Nathan: Some of my earliest and fondest memories I have is of me playing the Nintendo 64 and Zelda with my family, it is the moment that I remember when I started viewing video games differently, something much more than an activity to pass the time. But the defining moment when I realised I wanted to pursue a career in video games was when I finished Bioshock 1. The rich and dense world offered inspired me to create my own worlds and experiences.
Colm: I think what led me to game development wasn’t a specific game or experience. It was a long process from creating custom levels in games like Advance Wars and Timesplitters when I was younger right up to learning how to code menus and build robots that could play football and climb ladders when I studied Engineering in college. It wasn’t until after all of that that I decided I wanted to go into game development,
What advice do you have for other indie developers?
Whatever you do, always have a plan or idea of where you want to go. For us as small indie devs we felt that a plan at the beginning allowed us to see the end, where we wanted the game to be. Have deadlines and milestones, they give you something to reach and celebrate(morale is paramount).
Never be afraid to reach out to the great communities we have for feedback. Both from these groups and your teammates, be able to take criticism. Don’t take things to heart as it is the best way to learn and improve your project.
What can we expect in the future from Savepoint Studios?
Gaaaaaames!! For now though we are going to support Solas and the White Winter as it launches. After which we will start to come up with designs for our next game and begin developing that.
Is there any other behind the scenes information you would like to share with our readers?
This is how our programmer described to the artists how one of the puzzles will work…….
……How did this game even get finished.
Thank you!! All the best,
Not to put to fine a point on it but get ready for their unlock on Steam here:
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