Overgrowth director sheds light on development, hurdles, anticipation and having patience for ambitious games.
Wolfire Games has been hard at work with their intriguing ip, Overgrowth; an action adventure game, said to be the spiritual successor for Lugaru. OG blends dynamic hand-to-hand and weapon combat; coupled with nimble platforming and whimsical Asian art direction, among other styles, in a vast world with expansive exploration.
The anticipation for OG swells with each successive update, as refinement, performance and aesthetics continue to flourish through development. We sat down with lead designer/director, David Rosen, to talk about Overgrowth’s continued progress.
Raymond Solis: Overgrowth has been in development for several years now, and the beta goal is said to be this year, how close are you to this goal?
David Rosen: I think we are still on track to reach beta within a year, though it’s always hard to say for sure. Overgrowth has a lot of experimental design, so we are always reacting to what is working and what’s not, and it’s difficult to measure progress against a moving target.
RS: You’re now limiting update videos to once a month, is this to expedite up development?
DR: It doesn’t take a long time to make each video, but maintaining a weekly video schedule encouraged us to focus on features that can be completed in a week, and that are easy to demonstrate visually. It was clear that if this trend continued, we would end up with a large collection of cool features, but no coherent game. I changed the schedule to allow more space to see the big picture, and focus on bringing all of the existing features together.
RS: Currently, OG has you and Aubrey doing most of the work, are there any plans to bring on more hands to expedite development?
DR: The bottleneck of Overgrowth development is usually figuring out the best thing to do next, so increasing the team size might be as likely to slow it down as to speed it up. All we know for sure is that it would increase our development costs.
RS: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve seen during the development for OG?
DR: The hardest part is making sure that I’m always working on the most important task for the game. It’s easy to spend a lot of time on something just because it’s fun, or because it’s bothering me, but I always have to make sure there’s not something more important that I should be doing instead.
RS: Overgrowth sits as one of the stand out indie titles to keep on the radar. There is much talk within media and communities about the exciting potential of this game, how has the positive reception/anticipation affected your continued progress?
DR: It’s great to hear that! It was really helpful to have such a positive reception early on, because it allows us to focus entirely on making the game better, without having to worry about marketing or business aspects too much.
RS: A lot of update videos have illustrated arena mode and combat in general, how is the single player – adventure aspect, coming along?
DR: Aubrey has created a lot of the terrain and environmental artwork for the levels, but we can’t work on the level design itself too much until the core mechanics are nailed down. For example, a platforming level might have to be changed significantly if we make a small tweak to how wall-running works, and a combat level would need to be rebalanced if we make any changes to the fighting.
RS: How long will the story campaign run?
DR: The length of the story will depend on how many interesting combinations of gameplay elements there are to explore. We value the player’s time too much to risk stretching the gameplay thin to reach a target number of hours, so it’s hard to say until it is done.
RS: So far, we’ve seen Turner (rabbit) and the wolf. When will we see the other remaining characters: dogs, cats, and rats? And are there plans to create more? Perhaps a fox or coyote?
DR: We should have more to show of the other races pretty soon. We don’t have plans for further races beyond those five because of the combinatorial explosion of match-ups. We have to balance the gameplay of rats vs wolves, cats vs dogs, and so on, as well as weapons like knife vs spear, or sword vs. staff. Balance doesn’t mean that they are all equal, but that their relative effectiveness and optimal gameplay styles are intentional and interesting.
RS: The community has been diligent with feedback, how extensive has their input been otherwise? I.e. custom maps, weapons, character model submissions, etc.
DR: When developing, it’s easy to stick to safe, minimalist levels so as not to strain hardware or stress technical edge cases. Then the modders make crazy levels that have the player dodging boats that fall from the sky, or running down pipes at race-car speeds, or bat people flying through massive modern cities. The mods help us understand what the engine is capable of, and what gameplay ideas could be fun to bring into the main game.
RS: Some critics and fans have grown impatient with the title’s development timeline, what words of reassurance can you give them?
DR: Aubrey and I have a lot of other game ideas that we would like to work on, and nobody wants to see the game completed more than we do! However, we have to make sure that the game lives up to its potential, and we are doing everything that we can to bring it together.
Overgrowth has no official release date, but can be pre-ordered and played on PC, Mac, and Linux. Be on the lookout for the beta build in the coming year and head over to Wolfire Game’s blog site for updates and gameplay footage.