After I ask him what Flight Faculty 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 observe report, makes excellent sense. “We prefer to make fascinating issues, and we discover curiosity in oddity, curiosity in weirdness, and curiosity in differentness,” he stated. “I feel we love artwork, and we love storytelling, and we predict there are all kinds of how to try this that have not been accomplished. And so we’re simply attempting stuff, seeing if it sticks.”
Forward of the discharge of a new trailer for Stonefly, Flight Faculty’s newest undertaking, I sat down with Volker to speak in regards to the recreation, in addition to Flight Faculty’s historical past and id as a developer. Stonefly is simply the latest recreation in Flight Faculty’s makes an attempt to make one thing that is a bit out there–it’s an intriguingly difficult game to define.
Stonefly can be the second time that Flight Faculty 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 Faculty determined to maneuver away from VR video games, Volker stated, “Nicely, there is a boring reply after which an fascinating reply. The boring reply is that cash dried up in VR.”
Past the boring monetary causes, the crew additionally simply actually needed to take a stab at a recreation that may be out there on extra mainstream platforms. That recreation turned out to be 2019’s Creature in the Well, a recreation that the crew affectionately refers to as a “pinbrawler.”
“Pinbrawler was a phrase that someone at PAX stated to us after enjoying [Creature in the Well], a time period we had not ever heard of,” Volker stated. “And we’re like, ‘That is excellent,’ and began advertising it as a pinbrawler.” Flight Faculty counts the expertise as a blessing. The crew’s video games have at all times been a bit tough 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 Nicely 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 Faculty 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 giant teams of individuals to strive Stonefly and let Flight Faculty know what particularly in regards to the recreation is essentially the most pleasant. “We get a ton of how we market our video games from individuals enjoying,” Volker stated.
On prime of that, COVID-19 has modified how Flight Faculty works on video games. Flight Faculty has a centralized workplace location in Dallas with a couple of of us going to an workplace house in Montreal. So in contrast to many indie studios that have been already distant working from residence operations, Flight Faculty did should undergo the transition of fixing the place and the way individuals work. Volker stated that the crew had skilled constructive and detrimental modifications for the reason that 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 perhaps six months or so,” Volker stated. “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, ‘Take a look at our house, we have got this cool espresso machine and lounge space on the sixth flooring 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 Faculty pulls from so many sources for its video games. Volker stated that slightly than attempt to craft distinctive recreation mechanics, he and Flight Faculty Studio’s Bohdon Sayre speak about elements of play. “Play is a a lot bigger house than video video games,” Volker stated. “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 crew 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 maintain doing this–what is beer pong?” he requested me. “Why do individuals maintain 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 cause individuals play? Do individuals play as a result of they get to drink?” Flight Faculty believes that if you may get on the coronary heart of why somebody finds a type of “play” enjoyable, then you’ll be able to attempt to seize that type of expertise in a video game–like making pinball right into a fight mechanic.
By way of 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, provided 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 going down in the identical universe as Neon Genesis Evangelion or Gundam. “It is humorous that you just talked about mecha, as a result of I’ve received a Gundam proper above my desk,” Volker stated.
That sci-fi-inspired setting and story is the one simply obvious connection that Stonefly has to Creature within the Nicely (after I requested if the crew had any sci-fi followers, Volker stated, “Oh yeah, completely,” with none hesitation). In virtually each different means, Stonefly is a very totally different recreation, which inserts Flight Faculty’s sample of making video games which can be very totally different from what the crew has accomplished earlier than.
“It is type of our self-preservation,” Volker stated. “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 tons of of tremendous proficient, sensible artists. I really feel like Bo and I–I do not know that we have ever stated this out loud–we should make one thing totally different on the market, as a result of in any other case it could 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 Faculty 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 Swap in 2021.