Interview: The past, present and future of Don’t Starve

Sections: 3D, Action, Game-Companies, Genres, Indie, PCs, Sim, Windows

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Don’t Starve has generated a lot of buzz recently. This Tim Burton-like survival simulation started off as a little known Google Chrome game, but has gained popularity through word of mouth recommendations and support from the Twitch TV community. Earlier this week, we got in contact with Klei Entertainment to talk about where Don’t Starve is now, and where it expects it to go in the future.

The following questions you see here were answered by one of Klei Entertainment’s main programmers Kevin Forbes. Forbes is very active in the official Don’t Starve community forums, and has generally been the voice of Don’t Starve from the start.

GamerTell: Who on the team came up with the concept for Don’t Starve? Did other games serve as an inspiration?

Forbes: The idea for Don’t Starve comes out of a 3-day game jam that we did a couple of years ago. We wanted to make a ‘creepy castaway’ simulator. The original version features a main character who wakes up near a fireplace and an axe. There is a really quick day-night cycle, and an ever-increasing number of pigmen who would emerge from the woods to watch you. At night the pigs would attack you, unless you were holding the axe. There was no way to win.

It was a really limited game, but there was enough of a spark there that when we were looking for a new project.

GT: Does Don’t Starve share the same development team that worked on Shank or Mark of the Ninja? Is it considered a full-time project at this point?

Forbes: Mark of the Ninja was made concurrently to Don’t Starve, though many of the core devs of Shank 2 moved on to Don’t Starve. It’s definitely a full-time project!

GT: How many active players does Don’t Starve have across Google Chrome and Steam?

Forbes: Well, that’d be telling! We’re not yet showing up on the Steam stats because we’re in Beta, but we’re definitely consistently in the top 100.

GT: Will we ever learn more about Maxwell and his involvement in the character’s predicaments?

Forbes: Definitely! But I don’t think Maxwell would like it if spilled the beans too early.

GT: Some advanced players speak of running out of things to do once they have conquered the survival element. What are you planning to do to keep them invested in the long term?

Forbes: We are very aware of the ‘content wall’ that people hit after a good number of hours in the game. We’re constantly adding more content to push this wall back, and we are working to make the game get a lot more difficult as you survive longer. We’ve actually posted a very high-level roadmap of what we plan to do with the game before our official launch here: Most of the items on the roadmap are intended to make the game more fun for long-term players.

GT: I understand you are planning to remove Research Points in 2013. The community seems to have mixed feelings about that. Have you taken any specific suggestions from the community while you work on the new research system?

Forbes: For sure! I find it quite helpful to bounce new ideas off the community before I make big changes to existing systems. You have to be really careful how you fix something in a live game, because even if you are fixing an objectively flawed game mechanic, you are messing with something that the players are invested in. My policy is to be as open an honest as possible with people, and to be willing to adjust things after the fact if they aren’t working.

GT: A community member discovered portraits in the game’s files that suggested we may be able to play as a spider named Webber. Any comments on that?

Forbes: There is actually a lot of in-progress and concept-level artwork in the game files, because we tend to do things in batches. You may get to play as Webber the spider-dude some day, or we may decide to use him for something else. Only time will tell!

GT: I can see Wilson as being a capable zombie killer. How do you think a zombie scenario would fare in Don’t Starve?

Forbes: Wilson is more of a runner than a fighter. I think he’d try to keep as far away from any zombies as he could manage.

GT: Will you ever let the community create mods in the final Steam release?

Forbes: That is an interesting idea, that we have been discussing internally for a while now. There are a lot of technical and logistical hurdles that we would have to figure out if we were to implement an official modding system. We’ll have to figure out that when we get there.

GamerTell would like to thank Klei Entertainment and Kevin Forbes for taking the time to do this interview for us. The beta release of Don’t Starve is available to pre-purchase on Steam for $11.99. The full release is expected in late March of 2013.

Additional thanks goes to Klei Entertainment and its QA lead for supplying the header image.



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