One of the stand out titles unveiled at E3 was the striking The Solus Project. The survival title which was built with Unreal Engine 4 has exploration at its core amidst a striking visual backdrop. Creative lynchpin, Sjoerd de Jong takes a few minutes to talk about the upcoming title.
How did your partnership with Grip Digital come about? Grip Digital and us have worked together before. We shipped Unmechanical on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One earlier this year together, so continuing our cooperation for The Solus Project was the logical next step. In a competitive industry like ours I think it is vital for small studios to enter into partnerships like these and work together.
Who makes up the core development team at Teotl Studios? On The Solus Project it is really just me (design and art direction, all gameplay scripting, most environments and tech art, UI) and Jonas Kjellberg (sound and music) who are on the project continuously, but beyond us two a lot of people have been involved on and off over the two years we’ve been working on this. Friends and old colleagues we contracted, students from Futuregames, and so forth.
What lessons learned from the development of The Ball will you be looking to incorporate into The Solus Project? Design wise a common thing we heard was that some people wanted to just do the puzzles, and not be faced with enemies every now and then. So with TSP we did exactly that, and went all out on the world and not combat.
The biggest things we learned from The Ball however were business and marketing related, so we are approaching things drastically different there now. For example we are now ensuring to release on multiple platforms from day one, and we are not going to make the mistake of releasing in October again (too many releases). The dev team behind The Ball was also too big, which made it too hard to manage and sustain with our limited resources and income. So we are now doing a more focused game, with a smaller team, better tools, with hopefully better market timing, and on multiple platforms. We hope this new approach will lead to success.
How early in the process do you identify and begin to develop a concept seeing as its been years since The Ball? We want to develop the games we are in love with, and at the right times using the right opportunities (for example a new generation of engines/consoles). If that requires us to wait several years before we make our next game than that is worth it for us. We want to do this the right and proper way and not just rush one title through after another.
Creativity is also hard to force. We had an early concept of The Solus Project up right after The Ball, when it was still set on an abandoned Mars colony, but we felt back then that the idea was not yet mature enough. By 2013 however, the vision shaped up further and we felt ready to commit to it. And that is also another thing. Doing these kind of games is really intense mentally. Similar to The Ball, by the time it will be released I will have worked on it for 2.5 years carrying very large parts of the production responsibility on my shoulders. And that weighs through after a while, so we need to space things out some sometimes.
How has the reveal at E3 influenced the game and how is this likely to influence the rest of the development process? As with every public announcement once you have announced you get yourself into the spotlight and you get a lot of feedback flowing back to you from the public. So as we are going on, we will be keeping a close eye on what people seem to enjoy and be attracted to, what goes by unnoticed, and make some changes in our direction where possible. It has already become obvious for example that the mystery part is really important for people, more so than the survival aspect. So one thing we are thinking of right now is to add more things to discover and unlock.
You’ve opted for the PC and Xbox as primary platforms, any plans to extend this to perhaps the Ps4 and what would it take for this to happen? We may expand to other platforms in the future, but for the initial release it will be PC and Xbox One only. This will allow us to focus the efforts of our small team on a select few platforms and make sure we have the best possible experience on those.