As part of my series of interviews with indie developers, today I’ll be talking with John Krajewski from Strange Loop Games about his latest project Eco, a multiplayer game where you build, control and try to live harmoniously with the natural environment. It even has orcas!
TechRaptor: Tell us all about yourselves and your latest project Eco.
John: I’m the founder of Strange Loop and designer of Eco, I worked in the games industry at larger companies like Electronic Arts before starting Strange Loop five years ago. Eco is our latest and biggest project. You have to build a civilization within a simulated ecosystem, working to prevent a global catastrophe without causing one in the process.
TechRaptor: What was your inspiration for Eco? What games would you compare it to?
John: Lots of inspirations: The books ‘Guns Germs and Steel’ and ‘Collapse’ by Jared Diamond. The game Ultima Online. Minecraft. Rust. The Wire. Basically what want to build is a malleable social system, with real players as the elements. The medium of their interaction is an ecosystem that is affected by what they do, adding meaning to every action and creating consequences.
TechRaptor: Eco promises to be different to other city building strategy games in that here you are building and interacting with the natural environment. What made you decide to take this route?
John: I think video games are (or should be) done with faking stuff. Why give the impression of an ecosystem simulation when you can actually create one? Why have a pretend economy when you can have a real one? There’s so much potential to create these incredibly rich, malleable worlds, and not really any great reasons to fake it anymore. Simulations give so much more reality and meaning to a player’s actions.
TechRaptor: You’ve decided to use KickStarter to fund your project. What made you go down this path? Do you think it has changed the way you would develop Eco?
John: Playing this game is about functioning in a community, and we want developing the game to be the same! It’s going to be developed very openly with the community, taking their feedback and contributions continuously. Kickstarter is thus a perfect fit for it, we can build that community before the game is finished and get them involved through the whole journey. It’s going to be amazing.
TechRaptor: Your KickStarter page is extremely professional. What advice would you give to indie developers who intend on using the platform to fund their projects?
John: Announce a month or two before you Kickstart, so you can start to gauge the reaction and tune your message, and also build up a core list (and email list/FB following/Twitter following) that you can then have a solid first-day bump to start things off right.
TechRaptor: Eco also has a strong co-op focus in the environment building mechanic. What made you decide to keep away from the single player for a more multi-player focus?
John: The core design principle of the game is ‘The tragedy of the commons’, and you can’t have that without multiplayer, without a malleable government system, without a malleable player economy, without a foundational simulation which provides the resources in the game and is vulnerable to player actions. We could fake these for single player, but what would be the point? Having real people enact it will be so much more meaningful than could ever be faked.
TechRaptor: You were also recently Greenlit on Steam. What do you think of the Greenlight system and how it has changed game development?
John: I think it’s a great place to get that first boost of attention. It’s full of eager game players who want to be part of amazing games, and if you can give them something interesting they will support you from the beginning. It’s an incredible community, don’t know of any other like it.
TechRaptor: Finally what advice would you give to other indie developers out there at the moment?
John: As an indie, you can test out radical ideas that the big guys can’t. In fact, that’s really the only way to stand out. Push the envelope somehow, don’t try to make something that exists. Seek inspiration outside the gaming world and turn it into a game. I see a lot of nostalgia projects from indies, I would much rather see games going in new directions, branching out from gaming history and tackling other aspects of life that are completely untouched by games.
TechRaptor: Thanks for your time.
John: My pleasure!
What do you think of Eco?