Following a demo of Journey to the Savage Planet at PAX West 2019, OnlySP had the opportunity to sit down with Denis Lanno, the community manager at Typhoon Studios.
OnlySP: I really like the tone of this game. It seems much more lighthearted than most exploration games that focus on the nitty gritty, with all the browns and greys. And what stood out to me the most about the tone of the game was the monster design, especially with those chickens at the beginning with the big googly eyes. Can you tell me what other steps the studio has taken in order to convey that sense of humor and light hearted exploration?
Lanno: Throughout the game you can scan everything in the world and when you scan something, not only do you learn a little bit about it, but there’s usually a joke contained within that. Any time you go back to your ship, there’s horrible ads blaring at you, terrible products you would never buy. We satiricalized everything in the game, and have that shine in every aspect of the game.
OnlySP: Many people in the studio have a background AAA games. In particular, they’ve worked on games such as Batman, Far Cry, and Assassin’s Creed. Tonally, when you think of something like Batman, you think of dark settings and a brooding atmosphere. Can you tell me what was your experience like going from working on that kind of dark setting to work on something more lighthearted Journey to the Savage Planet?
Lanno: Journey to the Savage Planet, in a certain way, is kind of a knee jerk reaction to that. We’ve all worked on Batman games, Far Cry games, Assassin’s Creed games; they were very heavy and long games. Now that we’re an indie studio, we’re free to make the game that we want to make. We wanted to make a small game that is finishable, and that has a bright vibrant color palette, as well as fun and approachable.
OnlySP: And just continuing about transitioning from big AAA to an indie studio, I read in other interviews that you’ve had to cut certain features that are present in a lot of AAA games in order to keep your game focused. Can you go into more detail about your process of deciding what features you wanted to keep and which ones would get cut?
Lanno: In comes down to playing the game. We’ll prototype something and try it out in the game. If it doesn’t feel right then we’re more than happy to cut it if it makes the game better.
OnlySP: Being a new studio, I can imagine you have other tasks too outside of being a community manager and your job title. Can you tell me about some of the unique challenges transitioning from being in hyper-specialized role at a AAA studio to doing a bit of everything in an indie environment?
Lanno: It’s hard to manage to manage all the tasks that you have given to you at any given time. We’re all wearing various hats and that’s just the nature of an indie studio. If someone is capable of doing something that may be isn’t necessarily in the scope of their job description, if they’re willing to step up and do it, that’s always good. It’s a certain type of personality that really thrives in that environment. What we did was to hire the right people that enjoy that kind of setting.
OnlySP: For you personally, besides being the community manager, are there are any aspects of the game that you’re involved with?
Lanno: I did a lot of writing of the game. There’s an encyclopedia of creature information in the game called the Kindex. I wrote a lot of that and that’s where I was able to contribute outside of my community manager duties.
OnlySP: Many people have compared Journey to the Savage Planet to games like Ratchet and Clank and No Man’s Sky. I wanted to ask if there were any games that you personally took inspiration from when developing Journey to the Savage Planet?
Lanno: Another game that was a big inspiration was Metroid Prime. We loved how there’s this aspect of scanning the world and exploring this environment and getting new abilities that allow you to access new places that you couldn’t before. That’s very much in the DNA of the game and a big inspiration for us.
OnlySP: So the publisher for Journey to the Savage Planet is 505 Games. Notably, they’ve most recently published Control with Remedy Entertainment. I know that Typhoon had multiple offers before deciding on going with 505. Can you discuss the reasons why Typhon decided to go with 505 Games as the publisher?
Lanno: 505 Games is a very exciting place where they’re growing as a publisher. For us, it’s exciting that they make us a priority, and we’re an important game to them. We have a strong relationship with them and have been very good to us. Just meeting them, we got the sense that they would definitely help us out with what we needed.
OnlySP: So this game is coming out in 2020. Of course, the industry generally agrees that the next generation of consoles for PlayStation and Xbox are going to be released late next year. Can I ask you about your thoughts on the next generation, as well as how Typhoon Studios is looking to tackle it.
Lanno: As soon as we get new hardware to try some of these new consoles, that’s something we’re definitely be exploring. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we’ll look into that when the time comes!