We've had our beady eyes on open-world survival horror The Forest since we first got wind of it last May, and we know many more of you on Game Debate have been really excited to see what indie studio Endnight Games could do with the title. Since those first impressions, we've seen a host of gorgeous screenshots and trailers that have only piqued out interest further.
With The Forest entering Early Access this coming week, we spoke with Endnight Games' creative director Ben Falcone try and get a little more insight into the game, its influences, and what sets it apart as a title...
"Early Access" can be rather an ambiguous term when it comes to discerning the content of a game, so we began by asking what we can expect from this first release, and what the developers hope to add to the title as it progresses.
GD - The Forest is entering Early Access in a few days. What features can we expect at this stage, and what do you hope to add as the game develops?
BF - We want the first early access release to be a great base we can build on top of. Adding and opening up new areas and new caves over time, as well as increasing the variety of wildlife in the world.
There are quite a few surprises planned for the enemies over the course of the alpha, and players can expect new types to appear as development continues.
On the building side, many more structures will become available and more crafting options will open up over time.
We are also really excited to experiment more with a multiplayer/co-op experience over the course of the alpha and feel its something that could really add a lot to the world.
GD - You’ve compared The Forest to Minecraft in earlier interviews, how deep does this comparison go? Will crafting be an open-ended experience or do you intend to help funnel players down a specific avenue of progression e.g. crafting trees?
BF - We have a very unique crafting system. It’s based on a fully 3d interface and we plan on expanding the amount of items you can craft throughout the Alpha.
GD - With no clear end game or goal, what in the game world gives the player the impetus to move on?
BF - We actually do have an end game although not all players will be interested in reaching it. We imagine most people will be more interested to see how long they can survive. The cannibal threat in the world will be very vicious and it will take a lot of skill to overcome.
GD - Where do you think the balance lies between totally free-form progression and focused goals in a survival game?
BF - We are really excited about the idea that players can invent their own goals. Some players will decide to build a raft to explore an island nearby. This will require finding cloth and rope which will be more abundant deep down in the caves. Finding those items becomes its own mission, you will have to prepare to go down in the caves making sure you have enough light sources and weapons to survive. Mini missions like these, invented completely by the player will make up the bulk of the game.
There's a lot of survival games floating around right now, so we wanted to address how Endnight is working to set The Forest apart, how players will be able to interact with the mutant dwellers that share the island, and how The Forest will instil fear into gamers.
GD - The survival genre is having something of a golden age at the moment. How do you feel The Forest will stand out and what do you feel you are bringing to the genre?
BF - We’ve really focused on building an interesting world that we can just throw players into. Heavily focused on atmosphere and immersion. We try and keep everything in the game world at all times, including our 3d inventory and crafting systems.
Our enemies are a real threat and will place players under constant stress, forcing them to build smartly and gather resources to both survive in the world and against the enemies.
GD - You’ve previously cited Cannibal Holocaust as an influence, to what extent can you interact with your fellow forest dwellers? Will opportunities arrive to infiltrate their communities?
BF - The cannibals live mostly underground, and like ‘I Am Legend’ It’s possible to head down there to kill them off whilst they sleep.
As we revealed in our third trailer, there are several varieties of mutant, from regular close to surface mutants who appear mostly human, to deep down below where the mutants can get really distorted and creepy looking.
GD - Horror game legend Shinji Mikami said not too long ago that gamers have become harder to scare. Do you think this is true, and how do you feel you can maintain the tension for the horror elements of The Forest?
BF - We don’t try and scare players, instead we have tried to build an interesting realistic world with an enemy threat that just happens to want to eat you.
We don’t have any jump scares or what games might traditionally use to try and scare players. Building an atmosphere that is in part horrific, such as deep down in a cave, matched with this very serene above ground forest with birds singing and pretty lakes and ponds create a really unique experience.
Once players are drawn into the experience we find they get scared at almost anything. In a recent playtest one player jumped back on seeing a stalagmite in a cave that from a distance appeared to have a faint human form.
GD - It’s great to see a survival game that is focused on a Single Player experience rather than the many, many survival multiplayers out there right now. What drew you to focus on single player as the primary experience of the game?
BF - We’ve focused on single player because a lot of our team is really interested and influenced by single player games. System Shock 2, Bioshock and open world games such as GTA have been big influences on us.
The Alpha system requirements for The Forest dropped earlier this week, and we wanted to know how the devs at Endnight were working to make such a visually attractive title as ubiquitous as possible when it came to running on PC.
GD - From what we’ve seen of The Forest so far, it looks like a graphically beautiful title. How tough is the title going to be on our PCs? Will the game run on lower-end rigs?
BF - We have put a massive amount of time into optimizing. We have an amazing graphics programmer on board who has been working hard to optimize all our settings as we move closer to launch. We expect over the course of the Alpha for performance to improve even further.
Older machines should perform pretty well with some settings turned down such as our screen based reflections,ambient occlusion and motion blur.
GD - What about The Forest most excites you personally as developers?
BF - We’re excited most about the amount of freedom we give players. Just letting people loose in a sandbox environment where you can build stuff, chop down every plant and tree, or go caving.
Walking down to the beach and picking up a rock and throwing it at a seagull, seeing it plop down into the sand dead. Or dismembering an enemy body and using his head to mash open a suitcase, are the unique types of moments players can expect.
GD - Thanks for your time and best of luck with Early Access!
The Forest is entering Early Access Alpha this week, and will be available to play from 30th May.
So, GD, over to you. Are you hyped for The Forest? Will you be plunging into Endnight Games' open world when it hits alpha later this week?