After I ask him what Flight College Studio is all about, artistic director Adam Volker laughs and says that the studio’s model is that of “peculiarity.” Which, given the studio’s monitor document, makes good sense. “We prefer to make attention-grabbing issues, and we discover curiosity in oddity, curiosity in weirdness, and curiosity in differentness,” he mentioned. “I feel we love artwork, and we love storytelling, and we predict there are all kinds of the way to do this that have not been completed. And so we’re simply making an attempt stuff, seeing if it sticks.”
Forward of the discharge of a new trailer for Stonefly, Flight College’s newest challenge, I sat down with Volker to speak in regards to the recreation, in addition to Flight College’s historical past and identification as a developer. Stonefly is simply the latest recreation in Flight College’s makes an attempt to make one thing that is a bit out there–it’s an intriguingly difficult game to define.
Stonefly can also be the second time that Flight College has gone for a extra conventional console and PC recreation than the digital actuality video games that outlined the studio’s origins. After I requested why Flight College determined to maneuver away from VR video games, Volker mentioned, “Effectively, there is a boring reply after which an attention-grabbing reply. The boring reply is that cash dried up in VR.”
Past the boring monetary causes, the staff additionally simply actually needed to take a stab at a recreation that may be obtainable on extra mainstream platforms. That recreation turned out to be 2019’s Creature in the Well, a recreation that the staff affectionately refers to as a “pinbrawler.”
“Pinbrawler was a phrase that someone at PAX mentioned to us after enjoying [Creature in the Well], a time period we had not ever heard of,” Volker mentioned. “And we’re like, ‘That is good,’ and began advertising and marketing it as a pinbrawler.” Flight College counts the expertise as a blessing. The staff’s video games have all the time been a bit troublesome to outline in that they take inspiration from many sources however do not simply examine to different video games on the market. However describing Creature within the Effectively as a pinbrawler–shorthand for a recreation that provides pinball and brawler mechanics to a Legend of Zelda-inspired dungeon crawler–is catchy and simple to market.
It is magic that Flight College has sadly not been in a position to seize a second time for Stonefly. With the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling all the most important gaming occasions within the latter half of 2020 and the previous half of 2021, there hasn’t been an opportunity for big teams of individuals to attempt Stonefly and let Flight College know what particularly in regards to the recreation is essentially the most gratifying. “We get a ton of how we market our video games from individuals enjoying,” Volker mentioned.
On high of that, COVID-19 has modified how Flight College works on video games. Flight College has a centralized workplace location in Dallas with a number of of us going to an workplace area in Montreal. So not like many indie studios that have been already distant working from house operations, Flight College did need to undergo the transition of fixing the place and the way individuals work. Volker mentioned that the staff had skilled constructive and unfavourable modifications because the begin of the pandemic–the most noticeable distinction is the unlucky lack of the choice for teammates to simply name one another over to their desks for fast and simple suggestions.
“We began the manufacturing [on Stonefly] earlier than [COVID-19], however solely by possibly six months or so,” Volker mentioned. “I really feel so horrible for [game designer Mel Ramsden] as a result of she got here to interview on the studio and we have been like, ‘Try our area, we have this cool espresso machine and lounge space on the sixth ground of this lovely constructing in Montreal,’ after which she’s by no means labored within the studio. We employed her, after which I feel it was both the week or just like the week after that we went into quarantine in Canada. I really feel like she hasn’t even gotten the complete expertise.”
A part of that full expertise is how Flight College pulls from so many sources for its video games. Volker mentioned that fairly than attempt to craft distinctive recreation mechanics, he and Flight College Studio’s Bohdon Sayre speak about elements of play. “Play is a a lot bigger area than video video games,” Volker mentioned. “And so we’ll take a look at issues like tag or board games–that’s why we talked about sumo wrestling for Stonefly.” Throughout our dialog, Volker threw quite a lot of different brainstorms at me that he and the staff have had for his or her video games, together with sports activities like soccer and baseball and actions like archery, axe throwing, and beer pong.
“Why do individuals hold doing this–what is beer pong?” he requested me. “Why do individuals hold enjoying it on a regular basis? Is it simply the social aspect–pretending you are cooler than everybody within the room–is that the one purpose individuals play? Do individuals play as a result of they get to drink?” Flight College believes that if you will get on the coronary heart of why somebody finds a type of “play” enjoyable, then you possibly can try to seize that type of expertise in a video game–like making pinball right into a fight mechanic.
When it comes to extra conventional inspirations, Volker talked about that Stonefly pulls from Tremendous Smash Bros., Dynasty Warriors, and anime, amongst different sources. For anime, he particularly talked about Studio Ghibli–which makes quite a lot of sense, on condition that after I first laid eyes on the sport and noticed it in motion, I felt like I used to be seeing Studio Ghibli’s The Secret World of Arrietty happening in the identical universe as Neon Genesis Evangelion or Gundam. “It is humorous that you simply talked about mecha, as a result of I’ve received a Gundam proper above my desk,” Volker mentioned.
That sci-fi-inspired setting and story is the one simply obvious connection that Stonefly has to Creature within the Effectively (after I requested if the staff had any sci-fi followers, Volker mentioned, “Oh yeah, completely,” with none hesitation). In virtually each different means, Stonefly is a very completely different recreation, which inserts Flight College’s sample of making video games which are very completely different from what the staff has completed earlier than.
“It is type of our self-preservation,” Volker mentioned. “We might by no means really feel assured going toe-to-toe with BioWare or Bethesda or no matter, and make an enormous, conventional third-person motion RPG. As a result of there’s just a few of us, and people different studios make use of like a whole lot of tremendous gifted, good artists. I really feel like Bo and I–I do not know that we have ever mentioned this out loud–we need to make one thing completely different on the market, as a result of in any other case it will simply get buried.”
Here is hoping that Stonefly will not get buried. I enjoyed the hell out of Creature in the Well and it is distinctive implementation of pinball mechanics, so I am trying ahead to seeing how Flight College Studio manages to seize its model of peculiarity this time round. Stonefly is scheduled to launch for Xbox Collection X|S, Xbox One, PS5, PS4, PC, and Change in 2021.