Developed by a small team in Italy, Voodoo is an ambitious take on the open world survival genre. While other titles in the market focus on taking out other players, Voodoo has a more communal nature.
With a Kickstarter in full swing, and a healthy feed of updates, developer Brain In The Box were kind enough to answer some questions. From life as a indie developer, to the influences of Shadow of the Colossus, Voodoo is Indiescussion.
Sean: Brain in the Box is a relatively new studio. What’s the story behind how you guys met and ended up creating a game together?
Brain In The Box: Well, one night, in front of a beer, Paolo, our CEO, decided that he wanted to make videogames for a living. The next day he went to the Polytechnic University of Turin and started putting flyers everywhere to find people who wanted to make videogames. The game we were working on wasn’t Voodoo and the team wasn’t what is now, but with highs and lows, we came up with the idea of Voodoo, found an investor, IndieGala, and funded our studio with the will of doing something great.
Sean: Italy is known for its food, football and clothes. How is the indie video game development scene at the moment? Is it growing scene or a tight-knit community?
Brain In The Box: In my opinion, Italy is still a little secret of the global indie game landscape. From the north to the south, we are a tight-knit community and most indie game studios know and support each other. Along with other indie game studios, we’ve presented Voodoo at events like Milan Games Week and Modena Nerd where we took the indie award. There are dozens of really creative indie projects in Italy. Our constant challenge is to get the word out.
Sean: How did the concept of Voodoo come about? It’s not everyday a European based indie developer decides to create a game on primal Africa
Brain In The Box: And we’ve received some flak for this! Voodoo was initially inspired by Shadow of the Colossus. But obviously we didn’t want to just make a clone. In our search for originality we brainstormed about (1) places we’d never been, and deepened that with (2) places we could never go. Africa was the answer for (1) and primal Africa was the answer for (2).
Sean: Voodoo is part of one of the most popular markets at the moment. Is Voodoo trying to add the genre or evolve it?
Brain In The Box: What differentiates Voodoo from other survival games is trying unexplored paths. For example, we have an animation-based combat system, a modular crafting system for our weapons and obviously, giant Shadow of the Colossus like multiplayer battles against the Izimu.
In terms of setting, Voodoo is really trying to go back to the roots. Most people know “voodoo” as something from the Caribbeans, forgetting that it was the slaves from Africa who brought this belief system with them. We’re weaving a fantasy that tries to portray how that belief system came to be. We believe this is a pretty original cultural backdrop for a video game.
Sean: Exactly how much will the gathering of resources play in the overall experience?
Brain In The Box: Resource gathering is a very important part of our gameplay, but only because of how much it impacts crafting. In our research, we’ve discovered how important the art of crafting has been to the survival of the human species. What you craft is who you are. Part of the purpose of this game is for players to discover who they are at a primal level.
Sean: Was there any special focus on making sure one element of the game didn’t drown out another?
Brain In The Box: Indeed we didn’t want to create dull experiences where you have to do too much of one thing. Voodoo’s world tries to be one of continuous exploration and discovery. At the same time we’re gamers ourselves and we know what survival gamers love. That’s why we opened up pre-alpha access to be sure that combat was enjoyable enough.
Sean: From day one, which elements of Voodoo formed the core of the game? Was there any developments that became natural, but unplanned, additions to the game?
Brain In The Box: One thing is playing Shadow of the Colossus and another is designing your own colossus! Our Izimu turned out to be a huge focus in development. It’s truly exciting for a player to battle a creature that is almost 100 times its size. In fact, we recently multiplied the size of the Izimu by 2.5.
Sean: Voodoo’s very tribal focused, but the genre it’s placed in is known for players being rather cut throat. Is there any method in which Voodoo encourages diplomacy and cooperation over a more dog eat dog approach?
Brain In The Box: Spot on! This is actually our own little social experiment that we’re placing in the game. It’s entirely possible for players to simply collaborate for survival where the main “enemies” would be wild animals and the Izimu. The big question: if you could go back to the dawn of civilization, would you choose peace and equality over war and domination?
Sean: Base building is known for its ability to create a personal connection between game and player. Will Voodoo’s village building allow players to create a in-game home or does it act as just a place to hold up in?
Brain In The Box: First of all, in Voodoo you aren’t building your usual enormous, reinforced, cube-shaped building that you see in most survival games. You’re building your village. In your village your tribe will thrive and advance through technologies by adding parts to your central totem. Also, to make your village feel more like home, we are going to add a lot of cosmetic items for your village, from vases, to statues and all the cool stuff Africa has to offer us.
Sean: Combat, as with most games of this type, plays a large role. You’ve highlighted weapon variations that fit the player’s style. Just how much depth is planned for this system? Does it go beyond high damage/slow speed etc?
Brain In The Box: Every weapon in our game has different animation movesets and multiple uses. You can use your spear or machete with a shield, or you can go full berserk by using them 2 handed. Right now every weapon has a speed and damage stat on it. But since this will be an early access game, we will update this combat system by adding combos, different movesets and different armor piercing stats. A third person animation-based combat system has never before been tried in this genre as we are aware and we’re trying our best to deliver the most satisfying one.
Sean: As you’ve mentioned in the Kickstarter pitch video, Shadow of the Colossus was a inspiration for Voodoo. Does this inspiration also effect the way players communicate? Or can we expect more conventional means such as open chat boxes and voice chat?
Brain In The Box: Spot on again! This is the purpose for the depth that we intend to have in our crafting system. We want to give players the freedom to choose how they communicate. Will they resort to chat boxes and voice chats? Or will they think of a more in-game means of communication like signals or movement patterns. There’s a variety of choice built into the game.
True story: we initially thought about putting our own made-up language inspired the Khoisan language noted for its clicking sounds. But we shelved that idea because we’d need to create a system specifically for that. Time will tell if that idea gets taken of the shelf again.
Sean: How daunting, if it all, is it when it comes to creating a Kickstarter pledge?
Brain In The Box: We didn’t prepare for as long as we’ve been told to for a Kickstarter campaign. We found ourselves low on resources and went into survival mode. Nevertheless, creating pledges wasn’t a daunting task. We have quite a thorough roadmap for Voodoo’s development and it was really just a question of opening up those options for backers. We’ve also always been ready to share the development process with the public so this part came a bit naturally to us.
I think if your game has enough content, you can get really creative in the kinds of pledges you make for backers. So far we have about 15 and we actually intend to increase that number.
Sean: Is there a level of added pressure when it comes to crowdfunding development?
Brain In The Box: Oh yes. Keep in mind that development work on Voodoo isn’t paused at all. We find ourselves campaigning, trying to stay responsive to backers, and not falling behind on our timeline for Voodoo. However, no matter the pressure, it’s definitely an unspeakable pleasure when somebody supports you and shows genuine interest in your game. Our backers really give us the fuel to see this through till the end.
Sean: In terms of long terms plans, what’s the grand goal for the studio and Voodoo?
Brain In The Box: Voodoo is going to be deep. Mind you we’ve come this far but this Kickstarter campaign is aimed only at bringing Voodoo to Early Access on Steam. We have more colossi sketched, animals to add, a crafting system to deepen, quests to create — there is so much more in store for Voodoo. We want to deliver the richest experience possible. For the love of our supporters we won’t settle for less.
This is our studio’s flagship project. We hope to continue to put out unique and thought-provoking titles. If some people call them politically incorrect as they have with Voodoo, all the better!
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