Betrayer, the striking and beautiful first person discovery game by indie studio – and mostly former Monolith members – Blackpowder Games, has been on Steam Early Access for a little while now. Its alluringly unique aesthetic drew us in and made us extremely curious about how Betrayer would keep us interested. So we chatted with studio co-founder and creative director Craig Hubbard about Betrayer‘s blacks and whites and shades of grey.
OnlySP: Hello and thank you for taking the time to answer our questions today about Betrayer! We’ve played the first little bit from the game and it’s quite the unique experience. For those of us who don’t know what exactly Betrayer is, could you please explain what the game is and a quick synopsis of the main storyline of the game?
Hubbard: Betrayer is an eerie first person action adventure game that takes place in the New World in 1604. You’re washed up on a shore and soon stumble across a deserted English colony. You have to piece together what happened and what’s going on from the clues you find, all while trying to avoid getting killed by various supernatural threats.
OnlySP: Where did the idea of Betrayer come from and what influenced it?
Hubbard: It more or less started with the weaponry, which gave us a general time period, and the notion of exploring a mysteriously abandoned settlement. The actual history of places like the Jamestown, Roanoke, and Popham colonies were the main influence, but also films like Last of the Mohicans and Valhalla Rising as well as games like STALKER and Demon’s/Dark Souls.
OnlySP: Do you prefer working more as an indie developer than you did working under a publisher?
Hubbard: Working with the right publisher is great, but working with the wrong one is like being stuck in a slow motion train wreck. The nice thing about being indie is that you can make the choices you think are most interesting instead of the ones you think are safest. The downside, at least at this stage, is not getting paid.
OnlySP: Did you ever try to pitch this game to a publisher before you went indie? Or did they want you to just continue the FEAR series?
Hubbard: We considered talking to publishers, but decided to see what we could do on our own. If we had gone that route, we probably would’ve tried to build up the studio, meaning we would’ve pitched a larger scale, slightly more mainstream concept.
OnlySP: Since the game is based more on exploration than action, does the world itself tell the story you’re trying to tell, or how does it all work?
Hubbard: The story is revealed mainly through clues and scraps of documents you find and various characters you interact with. It’s evoked more than spelled out. You get various pieces of information but are left to fill in some of the blanks yourself.
OnlySP: Even in black and white form the game looks great graphically, the wind effects are some of the best I’ve seen in video games. Why did you choose to remove the color from the game, and do you ever plan to add in a feature that allows it to be colored if the player chooses to do so?
Hubbard: While experimenting with different approaches to stylization, we stumbled on the high contrast black and white look and were struck by how tense the game became as a result. We continued experimenting, but kept coming back to the black and white look because of how it felt to play.
Players can tone down the contrast or add color if they’d like, but we think the default look provides the most enjoyable experience, so we hope players will at least give it a try.
OnlySP: When the game is fully finished, how big will the open world be? We know there’s a total of 8 open areas, but in comparison to other open world games, what would you compare it to?
Hubbard: The game is structurally similar to STALKER in that there are numerous large open areas that are linked together rather than one large continuous environment like Skyrim. As far as scope, the game is substantial but not enormous. Even though there are only six and a half of us and Betrayer is an indie-priced title, we take product value very seriously and want to make sure players feel satisfied with the experience.
OnlySP: Do you have any estimates on how long the main storyline of the game would be?
Hubbard: Not yet. It’ll depend to some degree on how thoroughly you play.
OnlySP: Considering the game is successful on Steam, do you have plans to bring it over to consoles? Especially the PS4, it seems like a perfect fit for the console with its unique world and gameplay.
Hubbard: We’d love to, of course, but our immediate focus is on getting the game done.
OnlySP: Have any other things you’d like our readers to know about the game?
Hubbard: If the premise intrigues you, please visit the Steam forums to ask questions or hear what others have to say about the game!
OnlySP: As one of the only, if not the only, site that focuses primarily on single player experiences, where do you think it’s headed next generation? It seems the new trend is seamless campaign and online multiplayer experiences. What are your thoughts?
Hubbard: Games are more diverse than ever, largely thanks to the indie scene pushing the medium in all kinds of fascinating directions. I definitely don’t think single player is in any kind of jeopardy. As excited as I am about some of the seamless singleplayer/multiplayer experiences you’re talking about, most of the recent games I rave about are strictly offline titles like FTL, Gunpoint, Papers, Please, Metro: Last Light, etc.
But I also love the way games like Demon’s Souls and Journey added social elements to solo-oriented experiences. The moment I realized I was seeing another player in Journey was a bit of a revelation. And the message-leaving element of Demon’s Souls is one of my favorite game mechanics ever. It was such a genius idea.
OnlySP: Thanks again for your time and we very much look forward to reviewing the final product when it releases!