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The Gamer's Lounge Interview with Prideful Sloth, The Developers Behind Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles

  • Was the vision for Yonder always clear or did it start out as something else? Any significant changes from the initial prototype?

Yonder has changed in some ways, yet somehow it turned out to be exactly how I envisioned it.  Without the entire teams support and understanding of the vision, and each adding their own unique takes of that vision, Yonder would not be what it is right now.

 

  • I know the team behind Prideful Sloth is indeed full of pride, as it exudes through the great work of the game, but was it scary at first leaving such high profile companies to embark on something a lot more personal? Were there moments in the development process you guys had severe doubts in your decision, or did it become more comfortable over time when you realized you were creating something truly special, even if it could end up as something within a niche market and demographic?

Setting up Prideful Sloth and launching Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles has been the most rewarding and most scary thing I’ve ever done.

When we first decided to leave our jobs and setup the studio, we always discussed back-up plans, and what would happen. We wouldn’t have taken up the endeavor without having considered all options.

We made sure early on to sanity check the design of Yonder.  We talked with platform holders, through play tests, and through industry connections.  Through these discussions, and through maintaining a healthy amount of skepticism, we started to realise that Yonder could be successful.

We always accepted that Yonder may be a niche title.  We did our market research and demographic checks early on.  All of the research we did said that a well-executed game, even with a more niche focus, can (and has been) successful.

 

  • Prideful Sloth managed to find that perfect balance between Indie and AAA with Yonder. Was this intentional, or did it just kind of happen in the development process? It's hard to explain the elements, for me, at what makes it have that feeling, but it just does, and it works blissfully.

Our aim, as a company, has been to utilize all of our skills and experience we gained throughout our careers working in AAA.  Applying these practices and philosophies helped us to better streamline our workflow and help us command priorities and timelines.

The indie side, for us, is a mix between the freedom to try new (and sometimes risky) things, and the need to min/max our efforts and resources as a new startup studio.

So there’s this dual force behind the company: professional practices + indie expression; It lets us dream big and out-of-the-box like an indie, but we’ve also got the aptitude to translate that and pull it off

 

  • Yonder is an absolute joy to play on PlayStation 4, especially with the ability to remote play on the Vita. I know it's probably early to announce things, but with the easy and accessible pick-up-and-play nature of it, it'd be a perfect fit for, and I think would be a HUGE hit on, the Nintendo Switch. Have you guys thought about bringing it over at some point in the future?

We are looking into other platforms, however, we have no ETA on when these may come.

 

  • Looking at the cover art as well as various pieces for Yonder show a gorgeous and colorful art style that almost looks slightly inspired by the likes of Supergiant Games' Bastion with a sprinkle of Pokémon (especially with this image), but the game itself in motion sees a very minimal, polygonal, but equally cute and aesthetically-pleasing art direction. What's the reason behind the two styles, and was Yonder originally going to for a more artistically and in-depth driven art direction before opting for the minimal nature of it?

The process for this was actually the other way around – we did a lot of initial work to define an art style for the game, and the process to achieve it given our limited resources and the scope of the project. The most important thing to us was focusing on the overall art direction and impression of a scene, not the micro details. So a more minimalist approach was developed and proven to be a big success for both the readability of the world and also the time investment to make it.

The key art and all our marketing pieces are simply taking this result to an ideal level, it represents the most polished vision of the world of Yonder.

I’m a big fan of retro games, so this pairing of minimalist in-game art with idealized key art has quite a charming appeal to me!

 

  • The game just came out and I've already put a ridiculous amount of hours into the game that I may or may not want to publicly share. The Simulator genre in general I'm not particularly fond of, yet games like Dragon Quest Builders and Breath of the Wild have helped me see a newfound love and respect for it, even if those really just borrow elements rather than purely identify themselves as such. I think it's the open world aspect of Yonder with its RPG tendencies that have me hooked and unable to put it down, even well after I've beaten the story (I'm so close to the Platinum but I also would like to take my time and enjoy it some more, haha), and yet, believe it or not, it's the simulation aspects of it that I think fuel the addiction even more. Was Yonder originally going to be one way or the other, or was having a genre-infusing game that borrows the best parts of some of each genres most respected games something you guys aimed for in order to make Yonder accessible and easily enjoyable by just about every type of gamer? I hope more games that do focus on being primarily a simulator take into account what Yonder has done so it's a lot more fun for people like me who don't particularly care about the genre. A lot of simulators unfortunately don't seem to have a story of any kind, and I think that's where I get lost is I ultimately feel like I'm building farms or marrying people for no discernible reason. I think the only game to come out as of late to really focus on that and do it well, especially for someone like me, is Stardew Valley. Even Animal Crossing couldn't really get me into the genre, and any time Nintendo delves into a genre, no matter what it is, it's bound to get you hooked and fall in love with it, if not at the very least the game itself.

The influences from the types of games I enjoy come from a variety of (mostly niche) backgrounds such as life simulation, jrpg’s, OCD collection, and community mechanics.  

From the start, we wanted to mix these elements together in a meaningful and cohesive way - To build a game where the player can dictate their pace, where players can find the activities they like and immerse themselves in them.  

The story is something we wanted to make sure gave the player some purpose and grounding in the world, but we also didn’t want it to get in the players way; we wanted to ensure that you, as the player, were able to tell your own story in this sandbox world.  

For the most part, that initial goal of making Yonder be a personal experience seems to be the thing that most resonates with people.

 

  • The fact that Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles plays with you and goes at your own pace is another reason why I love it so much. Being able to play games at my own accord without feeling like I absolutely need to go through the story in order to uncover anything and then have the rest feel worthless is a gripe I have with most games, but Yonder is incredibly relaxing thanks to its no-rush attitude, and not only rewards but encourages exploring - which was a big part of why I loved Breath of the Wild so much. You could get lost in the world of both Gemea and Hyrule and never want to leave. I know games aren't easy to make, so while playtesting did you want to make sure this was a feeling most players had instead of like "this is useless just let me get through this story and call it a day", or did this kind of happen by accident because you were crafting a world so rich and exciting?

During our playtests we were able to pinpoint a few different play styles.  Our labels for them were Explorers and Sandboxers.

The Sandboxers were the ones always testing their boundaries in the game.  They constantly challenged everything.  The Explorers were the type to ignore where the game told them to go, instead they wanted to discover and wander around using themselves as a compass.

I really think we did well at supporting the more Sandbox and Explorer playstyles with Yonder!


 

  • Lastly - and this isn't so much of a question - I do want to congratulate you guys on the launch of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, and I really hope that anyone reading this goes to pick it up if they already haven't. I've already been recommending the game to a lot of people that I know that own a PS4 or gaming PC (I'm literally about to triple dip with digital/physical on PS4 and a copy on PC), as I personally feel it's a great game to have especially on those days you want to relax and just mess around. It also helps with pitching that there are insanely cute cats scattered throughout Gemea to collect. I'm happy Prideful Sloth was able to realize their vision and that Yonder proves to be worth it in the very end, because, personally, I do believe it was.

Thank you so much for the kind words.  We really do appreciate it!

While there are lessons we learned about what we can improve, we are still extremely proud of what we achieved with Yonder and we are excited about everyone’s continued journey in Gemea.

© The Gamers Lounge 2017