Abbey Games are the independent development team behind the god game Reus. I recently had the opportunity to speak to lead designer Adriaan Jansen, technical lead Bas Zalmstra and co-founder Manuel Kerssemakers about how they worked together as a small indie team, their thoughts on the next generation and what’s next for the company.
Q) For those who haven’t seen or played it, how would you describe Reus?
A) Reus is a 2D god game where you control giant to shape nature. Your goal is to make the humans on your planet prosper by providing them with bountiful nature, but if the humans grow too fast, they’ll become greedy and may cause problems…If you like to explore and exploit numerous possibilities, strategies and challenges, while controlling awesome giants and nature in a beautiful setting, you might really enjoy Reus!
Q) How much inspiration did you take from older games in the god game genre such as Populous?
A) Of course we drew lots of inspiration from older god games, but not as much as you might think. While games as Populous, Black & White and the newer From Dust definitely inspired us a lot in terms of theme, we did not take much from their designs. We aimed to have a god game that was about balance of the intricate systems that run a planet, rather than the expression of might for which god games are famous.
Q) One of the more disappointing things I found whilst reviewing the game was the small map sizes, do you currently have any plans to increase the size of the maps via DLC?
A) We have heard more often that the planet is too small, even before releasing the game. The limit is mostly technical. Reus has a lot going on, both in the simulation and graphically, and increasing the planet size will put a higher toll on the computer. We are considering this though, and it wouldn’t cost anything extra.
Q) As a small indie studio, how did you deal with time management and self imposed deadlines?
A) We have had lots of problems with time management and deadlines. Everyone who worked at Reus is new in the industry and had no experience in games of this scope, and we did not really have a strong structure or authority to push us (except for empty bank accounts!). We all did projects at university and games in our free time, but we really needed to learn a lot during development of Reus. In the start we kept making mistakes: setting deadlines and missing them, without bettering ourselves, making unrealistic assumptions about workload and plannings. We managed to fix this by being really critical of ourselves. At some point people we worked with, mostly Dennis, one of the programmers and designers, asked some critical questions that led us to being more realistic. We still don’t know the truth about project management, but we’re learning fast!
Q) Do you think that the game would work well on home consoles or handhelds and is this something that you have considered?
A) We have definitely considered this, mostly tablets. We think that tablet gaming could become really big but I doubt that at least in the near future it will win from pc with respect to the ideal gaming platform. We are thinking about porting Reus to other platforms than Windows, tablets are definitely something we are looking at. However, Reus is, as it is now, a true pc game and we really want to focus on that first.
Q) How do you think Sony and Microsoft can help get indies to make games for their next generation platforms?
A) Just be open to them and be willing to help. We feel that everyone who is willing to compromise towards the indie situation (little money, lots of creativity) is really nice to work with. It is important that they respect developers as a creative force who know what they are doing and have other choices as well. To be more specific: find a channel through which indie developers can pitch their game to someone or to subset of the audience. This way they can give a chance to smaller companies.
Q) On the subject of the next generation, where do you think the single player experience could go on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One?
A) Everywhere! To be honest we haven’t much looked into the next generation consoles yet as we’re focusing on PC development right now. We do think that single player should never be underestimated. The fact that multiplayer becomes easier and more accessible for developers every day, does not mean that there are no valuable single-player experiences anymore.
Q) Finally, what’s next for Abbey Games?
Were busy exploring our best sides, our fanbase and our biggest interests. We have some overarching themes, but how it will all fit in our future plans, we’ve yet to see. Maybe working in Reus a bit longer would make the most sense, but if the stars align differently we might be starting on a new project soon. So honestly, we don’t really know yet. In any case, you can expect us to make more games in the future! We’re psyched to put more diversity in the shelves!
We at OnlySP would like to wish Abbey Games the best of luck in the future and thank them for taking the time to conduct this interview.