Q-Games founder and veteran designer Dylan Cuthbert speaks out on The Tomorrow Children in a recent interview, explaining just what this intriguing new title is all about. Below are some exerpts from the interview (you can read the full one at the European Playstation blog):
I think it’s fair to say that The Tomorrow Children was one of the more unusual titles that debuted at Gamescom. Lots of people will have watched the trailer during the press conference and found it totally intriguing, but others may well have wondered, “What the hell did I just see?” For that latter group, can you give us a brief ‘elevator pitch’ encapsulating exactly what The Tomorrow Children is all about?
Dylan Cuthbert: Very difficult! It’s basically an open-world sandbox game with some rules in there to encourage a feeling of ‘togetherness’ – that you’re working together to build things.
If you were to distil it down to the most action-based elements – you explore the surrounding islands; you mine resources; you work out a way to get them back to town, then you use them to expand your town. You can even craft tree saplings and do some farming if you want to – you can farm apples to feed the population you’re restoring.
The accumulation of all that is that you fight these marauding monsters who’ll try to destroy your buildings. That’s the base loop.
Every little thing you do in the game is recognised by the state. Whenever you want to, you can go to the labour office and you’ll get a print out of every action you’ve done; such as, say, carrying an apple 10 metres. Then it’ll give you an income based on what you did and you can use that income to buy yourself perks, or better tools, or just play around with the game’s systems.
How exactly did the project get started?
Dylan Cuthbert: We wanted to make a game that had a social experiment element to it, and a game that played out in a manipulatable world.
As for the art style, I really like wooden puppets from the Czech Republic, especially from the ’60s. And more generally I like the fashion from the late ’60s too. As we wanted the game to have this social experiment element to it we figured the best basis for that would be a Marxist setting – that ‘behind the iron curtain’ Cold War feel always gives you a bit of a thrill.
We started experimenting from that point. We wanted a new visual style that utilised new 3D tech – not the standard stuff we see that has been extrapolated from old PS2 systems. We took a radically different approach and wanted to find a way to get an almost pre-rendered look, like a Pixar film perhaps.
We looked around and found this tech called cascaded voxel cone ray tracing, where all the light around the game camera is encoded in a 3D structure. So as you walk through the scene you’re getting 3D lighting occurring around you. It’s not pre-baked – it’s all real time.
We spent quite a lot of time developing that, and really used the PS4′s compute power to its extremes to implement the technology. That all started about three years ago. It was a smaller team back then and we slowly started adding people.
I’ve heard you were under special orders from [PS4 system architect] Mark Cerny to make something a little bit different for the new hardware…
Dylan Cuthbert: Right at the start of the project Mark said to us, “I want people like Q-Games and Media Molecule to create new technology – or do things in a different way to how the big AAA studios have had to operate.” Those giant studios have their pipelines, and they just have to get this stuff made. It’s fine, and it usually creates a great looking game, but Mark also wanted something that was a bit different, and that’s what he encouraged us to do right at the start.
We saw a few glimpses of the game’s monsters in the reveal trailer. Can you tell us a bit more about the different types of creatures players can expect to encounter?
Dylan Cuthbert: Right now there are four basic types, and a few special types as well. Within the islands you’ll find creatures that spawn out little flying creatures. If you get attacked by them you get reset back to the town. You’ll lose the log of all the work you’ve done and won’t be able to claim income. So, you don’t want to be attacked by them, but you can take them out with a shotgun. There’s sentinel guardian type things in the islands as well, and treasure bosses you can fight too.
These creatures just stay in the islands – they won’t come and attack your town. In this category we have three types. There are spiders, which come in hordes, attack buildings and explode themselves. Then there are the giant Godzilla-style Izverg creatures that will crush buildings and eat people. And then there are flying creatures that drop bombs.
Those are the main ones at the moment. Post-release we can consider different things too. The giant Izverg is kind of like a boss character as you have to collaborate to bring them down. The spiders you can bring down by yourself.
You’ve mentioned players will be split up across a number of different persistent towns. Will you be able to move between them and visit friends?
Dylan Cuthbert: You can move freely back and forth between towns, though it may cost you some ration coupons. If you’ve got a friend playing in another town and they need help, you can go in and lend a hand. There’s a limited amount of guest slots in each town though.
It’ll be more of a cooperative relationship at present, rather than antagonistic, but we’ll see where that goes after launch. You can get missions from NPCs in your town. From the regular NPC, the missions are fairly normal, but a bit later on you’ll be introduced to the black market – the seedy underground. Once you get exposed to that, you’ll start getting missions that are anti the state, and that’s a whole other part of the game we’re not quite ready to talk about.
It’s nice to really get a better understanding of what exactly The Tomorrow Children is, how it plays and what social aspects it possesses.