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Outland Developer Interview

by Matt Miller on Sep 30, 2010 at 12:14 PM

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We talked to Ubisoft and Housemarque about this new downloadable game that melds Prince of Persia, Metroid, and Ikaruga into a stunning new hybrid.

We got our first glimpse of Outland just a few weeks ago, but it has already moved high on our list of anticipated downloadable titles. The game is targeting release on both PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade in 2011. We posed some questions to Adam Sarasoh, producer for the game over at Ubisoft, and Ari Raula, lead designer at developer Housemarque, and they filled us in on what makes the game so different.

What is the storyline behind Outland?

Adam Sarasohn: Set in the modern day, your character has been drawn to this jungle by a recurring series of visions. He arrives to discover that the ruins of an forgotten ancient civilization have become the battleground for two ancient forces. As you progress through the game, you uncover the underlying cause of this ancient conflict and your fate in resolving it.

Who is the character you play in the game?

Adam Sarasohn: You play a young man of Mayan descent, living in Mexico City. Beset with nightmarish visions, he has already attempted all of the cures of the modern world: doctors, therapy, medication, etc. With his life falling apart, his research uncovers a shaman living in the Yucatan who may have the answers he seeks. After a grueling trek into the jungle, he finally uncovers the shaman, who reveals his greater destiny and sets him on his path.

What games and gameplay concepts served as inspiration for the game?

Aki Raula: Gameplay influences mainly come from classics like Super Metroid, Ikaruga, Shadow of the Colossus, Prince of Persia as well as Out of This World and its spiritual sequel Flashback. While Ikaruga stands out as the strongest comparison, we feel that we’ve added more depth on the core concept by including a multitude of other variables that utilize the same gameplay around the player’s polarity. Influences for the game world derive from old platformers and adventure games; a few to mention include: Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis, Pitfall I & II and all the aforementioned titles.

The light and dark mechanic sounds fascinating. Can you explain how that works in the game, and a few examples?

Adam Sarasohn: Our game is all about balancing your energy alignment between Light and Dark. When facing platforming challenges, ranged energy bullet attacks, and enemy types, you have to switch between Light and Dark to deal damage at the appropriate time, while protecting yourself in the process.

For example, when you are powered by light, light bullets will not hurt you, dark bullets will damage you, you cannot hurt light enemies, you can damage and kill dark enemies, light platforms will power on and transport you, dark platforms will stay powered down, or some cases disappear altogether from the screen. The opposite of the above list is true when you switch your alignment to dark energy.

Beyond the light and dark elements, can you offer some examples of other gameplay elements?
Aki Raula: If you’re interested in learning more about the world you’re passing through, you can explore off the beaten path and learn the secret history of this ancient civilization, and uncover several surprises along the way. Combat is also a significant part of our game.

So how does combat work?

Adam Sarasohn:  Our jungle is a dangerous place, so while you’ll begin the game with basic platforming abilities, you quickly discover an ancient sword to help you dispatch the enemies you face along the way. As you progress, you’ll unlock new more powerful attacks for your character. These attacks can be strung into combos for increased damage. Ground stomps, uppercuts, slide attacks, and more will enable you to handle new enemies as well as reach previously inaccessible areas of the environment, so they’re useful for exploration as well.

What systems is the game releasing for, and when might it be out?

Adam Sarasohn: Currently, we’re planning to release Outland in 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network.

What makes the soundtrack of Outland stand out from the crowd?

Aki Raula: We feel that our musical score in Outland, composed by Ari Pulkkinen of Trine’s fame, complements the colorful and contrasted spirit world of the game by combining strong, memorable and diverse melodies and rhythms. Each environment has a unique theme and features ethnic and orchestral instruments that supplement the exceptional visuals.

What element of the game are you most excited to see players dig into? Is there something about the game that helps it be distinctive from other 2D platformers?

Aki Raula: When doing early conception for Outland the biggest driving force was the need to create the same feeling one had when playing all those 80's classics at a young(er) age; the feeling of bewilderment, discovery and the unknown.
Adam Sarasohn: Housemarque took inspiration from all of my favorite games and created a visually stunning world that feels rich with history and depth.  I love the sense of mystery that pervades the game. What has caused this conflict, and why have I been drawn here?  I also think they’ve taken the polarity mechanic in new and exciting directions. 

Sometimes the appropriate path through the game will require a little more puzzle solving, while other challenges will focus more on reflexes and dexterity.  Finally, I love our boss battles: just when you think you have a handle on our game, we throw some epic encounters at you that force you to use all of your skills in tandem to succeed.