If you missed the news this week, Eastshade Studios has finally gotten its mysterious, open-world exploration game to a state where it is playable from start to finish.
We have been tracking the development of Eastshade for a long time now, but have never really understood what exactly it is players do in the game. We know that it is open world, that there are some RPG systems, and that you make paintings, but otherwise, Eastshade Studios has kept pretty quiet about what the core gameplay loop is.
We reached out to Danny Weinbaum, the creative director of Eastshade, this week to find out a little bit more about what exactly it is you do in Eastshade and the beautiful open world he is crafting.
So what exactly is Eastshade? We’ve seen a lot of absolutely gorgeous screenshots from the game by this point, but I’m not exactly sure what you do in the game yet! I know it’s an open world exploration game with RPG elements, can you elaborate on that?
WEINBAUM: Well, its an open-world adventure game where you play as a traveling artist. You can paint pictures at any time, which operate much like a photograph or screenshot. Many of the quest objectives manifest in painting commissions which require a certain object you must find, a sight you need to notice, sometimes at certain times. So it’s not meant to be a painting program, but rather an open world to explore.
There is an inventory with some light crafting mechanics, many NPCs with quests and micro-stories, and a very clear sense of progression throughout the game. The world has impasses that the player needs to surmount in a sort of adventure game style, where you’re doing different kinds of quests (sometimes painting, sometimes object collection, and sometimes a riddle or puzzle that needs solving, often using knowledge obtained from somewhere else in the world) for folks and they reward you with items or knowledge to keep exploring new areas.
The environments are varied, as are the little stories you encounter as you talk to more people.
You’ve been putting what seems like an endless amount of care into this world your building. How much time are you spending just adding in all this detail and what are you doing to make this world fun to actually explore?
WEINBAUM: In regards to the visuals: We spend a relative minority of time on small details. My years as a professional environment artist have taught me it’s the big read that counts, and we try to keep our focus on the details that we feel will give us the most bang for our buck.
I’m proud of how Eastshade looks, and how its visuals inspire a sense of place, but I didn’t get there by noodling away on things. One has to be vigilant in assessing the most important visual elements, and honing the things that contribute to that big read. I know that might sound counter intuitive, given Eastshade’s apparent fidelity, but that’s the way I approach it.
Regarding what makes the world fun to explore: Eastshade has a reasonable density of hand-authored quests and (hopefully) interesting narratives to go along with those quests. So in addition to the varied sights that keep coming, so too do the characters, with colorful voice acting and personalities, as well as the variety of objectives that are asked of the player.
The world has ambient interests too: For instance we have a teahouse which has stories and music every evening, and we’ve authored and produced an ample supply of those. Hearing these stories and music gives your avatar “inspiration” to create more paintings. Inspiration is a finite resource which is replenished by discovering new locations, reading books, and drinking tea!
WEINBAUM: Leaving Lyndow barely made me minimum wage for the time it took. Believe it or not even that is extremely difficult to do in the current games market. So no, Leaving Lyndow’s revenue did not allow for budget expansion on Eastshade.
I did, however, gain valuable experience in what it is to finish and ship a game. Eastshade’s scope has grown in some ways (such as now it has full voice acting and lip sync), but has shrunk in others (we’ve cut content, places, features, and more). I feel there has been a lot more compromise than expansion.
It seems that a lot of the positive reviews for Leaving Lyndow loved it for just being a relaxing experience, is that one of your main goals with Eastshade? To just provide a relaxing and “colorful” adventure?
WEINBAUM: Certainly! Eastshade is a peaceful place, and I think any player that enjoyed that aspect of our debut title will find even more of that from Eastshade.
You’ve been working on Eastshade for quite a while now, and having released Leaving Lyndow in the past, what kind of feedback did you take from that short experience that you’re applying in the larger experience?
WEINBAUM: The biggest thing we did was improve the character designs and add full voice. The uncanny design of the half-monkey half-humans from Leaving Lyndow were a pretty common source of complaints, so we invested heavily in improving those, as well as adding voice acting to give them a more life and soul. We feel that aspect is vastly improved.
You mentioned in your tweet that we reported on that the game took you around five hours to complete, which seemed to surprise you. For someone playing that’s not a developer, how much content do you expect the final adventure will have?
WEINBAUM: I really don’t know! But we’ll likely be finding that out within a few weeks from internal testing.
Are you aiming for a 2019 release now for Eastshade? And we know it’s coming to PC, but are you targeting consoles as well now?
WEINBAUM: We haven’t announced a release date, but yes, months not years. Its coming soon! Yes consoles are planned, but unfortunately we can’t divulge any more specifics about that at this time.