Jim Rossignol has made a name for himself covering PC games at esteemed UK blog Rock, Paper, Shotgun
, but he's also built a few of his own with indie studio Big Robot
(Fallen City, AVSEQ
The team's latest project, Sir, You Are Being Hunted
, is a twisted survival sim populated by British aristocratic robots who drink tea, wear top hats, and hunt humans for sport in procedurally generated countrysides.
Here Rossignol talks with Gamasutra sister site IndieGames.com
about Sir, You Are Being Hunted
's "tweedpunk" stylings, and about how Big Robot's limited resources informed the open world game's lo-fi design.
Brilliant title aside, what is Sir, You Are Being Hunted all about?
From a development point of view, it's about a small team (four of us, with some freelance help) exploring open-world games using procedural generation and lots of cheap middleware. From the player's point of view it will be about exploring an island, with a view to staying alive long enough to escape.
The island, which is a sort of caricature of British rural landscapes, is abandoned, and stalked by gentlemen robots. They smoke pipes, have shotguns, and mean to kill you before they make a cup of tea. It's a mixture of Sherlock Holmes and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
We are calling the brave new genre "tweedpunk."
And who are the sirs of Big Robot that will apparently be responsible for this robot-infested, open-world, survival sim?
There's Tom "Nullpointer" Betts, who is chief programmer person. He has spent the past few years as a digital artist and lecturer in games media. Helping Tom is Dan Puzey, who is developing our AI systems in his spare time (he's a lead architect on commercial software projects in his day job).
Doing the design and general dogsbody stuff is James Carey, formerly of The Creative Assembly. He also worked with Bohemia on Arma 2
. We're also getting help from musician Andy Holbrook, and 3D artist Christophe Canon. I have no discernible talent, but you might remember me from PC games site, Rock, Paper, Shotgun
Why did you decide upon robotic and thus quite artificial gentlemen? Weren't the flesh and bones aristocrats good enough?
The intention was to make the game as lo-fi as possible, without losing the things that make a first-person game work. Creating human characters wasn't going to be possible, but humanoid we could do. Robots made sense, because we could make them clunky and inhuman without it detracting from what we wanted to do. In fact, once we'd fleshed out their behaviors a little more, it made perfect sense.
And could you briefly describe the game's setting? Will there be tea? Tweed? Humor?
Dark humor, yes. The game is deeply sinister, because it's about robots that want to kill and skin you, but we hope it will be funny, too. Tea and tweed are in there. Also marmalade, wild mushrooms, and bad weather. We wanted to capture some of what is deep and grim about the British landscape, but also wrap it up with a science fiction bow - full of nods to things like 1970s Dr Who and other splendid, if slightly cheesy, fictions.
So, you were indeed inspired by...
The culture that is native to us, yes. One of the things I've written about a great deal is how developers need to look to local ideas and local fictions if they want to break away from the tropes of mainstream development. GSC did that brilliantly with the S.T.A.L.K.E.R.
games, and I feel like we can do that with Sir
Will there actually be a plot?
There is a plot, yes, but we won't make much effort to explain it. Basically, a teleporter has brought you to the island, and now it's in pieces, scattered across the landscape. You'll need to gather them up to escape.
Judging from the screenshots released so far, this is an aesthetically unique (and beautiful) game. Care to comment and maybe let us in on how you actually decided upon the style of the graphics?
We knew that we wanted to make it lo-fi, because we have a small budget for art. But I knew too that I wanted to make something stylishly dark. The sort of sketchy, painterly thing is very much what I enjoy in games.
I often feel that "realism" ends up detracting from game worlds unless it is done extremely well. And besides, we wanted to create something that anyone could identify just by glimpsing a screenshot. Have a distinct visual theme is, I think, essential to making games memorable and compelling.
How will this open world of Sir You Are Being Hunted be generated? Oh, and do try not to be too technical please.
Basically we're creating a terrain generation system within Unity, which is the framework we're using to develop the game. That will produce a heightmap, and then drop things like walls and hedges onto the landscape in a cellular fashion. This creates the pathing nodes for our robots at the same time. It's a bit of a challenge, basically. Tom will be detailing exactly what we're up to over on the blog.
Any insights into the game design and development processes you'd like to share?
The main one, from my perspective, is that making games is even harder than it looks. I'm amazed so many games actually get made. But things that are easy generally aren't worth doing. Game development seems to prove that.
When should we expect Sir, You Are Being Hunted? Will it be a PC only release?
PC-only, and when it's done. But I hope to have something playable for the residents of the internet in a couple of months time.