Beautiful Desolation came to our lives last February, after its Kickstarter campaign, that was announced and funded on 2017. A bit over 2 years later, we received what was promised on that time, and something even better than expected. This adventure video game, with isometric perspective, combines the latest developments in technology with that nostalgic feeling we all have for those games from the 90s at its best. This game, by the way, is already available both in Steam and in GOG.
We were brave enough to ask The Brotherhood, its creators, if we can interview them, and we can’t still believe they said yes.
Si prefieres leer esta entrevista en español, haz click en este enlace 🙂
On this interview we have been able to talk to Chris, one of the brothers that composes this marvelous duet that is The Brotherhood. We have talked with him about his new game, its development, as well as their professional careers, as individuals and together as a studio. This interview, on the other hand, was supposed to be published a few weeks ago, but COVID-19 put some struggle to fulfill our plans and we have just been able to post it now. To compensate this situation, you can check our analysis of this game next week, in the shape of a video, with the key that so kindly The Brotherhood has given to us.
Without any further ado, here you have our interview with Chris Bischoff about his game, Beautiful Desolation. Hope you like it!
1. After 3 years of development, we have finally seen Beautiful Desolation and we couldn’t be happier with the result: It is just what you promised on its Kickstarter campaign on 2017… but better! We are amazed by the evolution of the initial idea, and how it has been portrayed throughout the time until now. However, it is clear that “we” are not the only ones checking your game so… how has the reception been so far?
We are very pleased. I’ll be the first to admit that I had no idea what people’s reactions would be and it seems that players have responded very well to how layered and ‘alien’ Beautiful Desolation is.
2. Your game has some unique visuals that caught our eye since the presentation of the project in Kickstarter. The 2D isometric perspective is not new for the classic gamer, not even for you (given your portfolio), but it is not the most mainstream one nowadays. What advantages brings this perspective to the table? And what disadvantages, in terms of game development?
This art style has a magical quality that is difficult to replicate in 3D. The imagery has a hand-crafted feel to it, where you often get to see a further view of the ‘bigger picture’.
It can be difficult creating a 2D game that is largely pre-rendered though, as the levels need to be carefully planned and designed from the outset. So changes to art design can be cumbersome. Whereas 3D levels have an advantage – artists can dress their scenes and alter actively during development.
3. What was supposed to be a short film got translated into this game… but that first thought is undeniable in the cutscenes and all the beautiful imagery shown through the whole game. We, and our community as well, are amazed about the beautiful designs you have included in the game. And they are, in a way, a staple of your brand. How in the heavens can you create such beautiful visuals with such a small team?
I started out my journey in 3D art with the dream of creating animated films. We then worked on architectural animations and graphics for over a decade. With that experience, I’m able to combine the technical skills and my love of cinematics and beautiful graphics. It’s important to us! So we pulled it off with a lot of planning – and plenty of coffee!
4. The story of Beautiful Desolation is neither a typical one, nor it is told in a typical manner. The player is supposed to be an active element, in order to understand the narrative, connect the dots and comprehend how that world is actually working. The choices you make in the game affects the story and its outcome. Since you were looking for freedom for the player, did you feel the need to experiment, change the possibilities in the story and play with the feedback from your community/testers?
Our core storyline has remained consistent since Beautiful Desolation’s planning, however the way story is told has changed, as the design evolved. Carefully planning how narrative paths would intertwine and how the story structure would work.
At the end of the day, it came down to using good ‘ol fashioned mind maps, showing all the paths that a player could take. Then playing through those storylines over and over to see where alterations were needed.
5. Let’s talk about South Africa: The portrayal of the region you have made in the game is absolutely amazing. Even for a person who has never visited your country, it is (almost) like being there. From the accents to the scenery, all the groups of people, flora and wildlife, and their adaptations into that post-apocalyptic/futuristic world… It is highly rich and powerful. So, why South Africa? (Use this space as your touristic banner)
When we were planning this project we wanted to move away from the cold hard interiors of space and into something wide open and nature packed. South Africa was the perfect setting for this!
It is a visually diverse place, with landscapes ranging from deserts, to forests and oceanside beauty. The country is also a melting pot of different cultures – something we were eager to showcase in our own way. It is also easier to write from what you know and having been born and raised here, it is very familiar!
6. You have established that there is an option to avoid conflict in Beautiful Desolation, which is a feature not usually seen in video games. As an example, Undertale created a bit of controversy regarding this fact. Do you think this feature has created some difficulty for you when designing/programming the game? Also, should it be more common, when given the possibility by the genre?
I think that it comes down to the story you are trying to tell. If you have a story that can be told through conflict, then adding in pacifist options may not work out. Alternatively, if you have a game where the story would be at odds with violence, you run the risk of creating a dissonance between the player, character, and the world. It may be interesting to see if more games explore this approach.
Disco Elysium recently broke the mold by having an RPG that had no direct combat system in it, but still managed to tell a harrowing story full of conflict. It’s exciting to see what developers play around with, always bringing something intriguing.
7. So, this is not your first “rodeo”. Not even your first game by yourselves. Before “Beautiful Desolation”, we were able to enjoy games of yours like Stasis and Cayne. Both of them were praised because of their visual elements, their playable system, as well as their stories. As anyone could say, you are a really precise studio, capable of addressing each and every aspect of a game. How difficult can it be doing it all by yourselves? Do you tend to rely on the help of “outsiders” or prefer “residents” from your studio?
Nic and I have been working together in some form, for most of our lives. We have an exceptional working relationship where we balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. There is a freedom that we have with just the two of us working together. It allows us to make alterations to the story or aspects of the game quickly, sometimes discussing a feature in the morning and having it complete by lunch time!
We definitely play into our strengths though and look to outside professionals for voice acting or editing, for example, towards the end of a project – giving this brotherhood duo time to focus on the rest.
8. Talking about your experience, and before Stasis, Cayne and Beautiful Desolation, each one of you have more than two decades of experience in the industry of video games. First, you worked for others, and step by step, you ended up working for yourselves, whilst fulfilling the promises you made to your backers. What feelings do you have when mixing the thoughts of working for AAAs such as Wasteland 3 and for your own game?
We’re comfortable with the client-studio relationship, as we have been doing commercial graphics since the early 2000s. Working with other studios is always a pleasure, and amazing to be able to turn their vision into something tangible. Every project is a lesson, and we learnt a lot from Brian Fargo and his team.
9. In terms of your previous experience, we were speechless when found about your collaboration with inXile for Wasteland 3. Even with words from Brian Fargo himself, stating that “I adore the artistry and visual FX of the Bischoff brothers and would back just about anything they’d do.”. You are rubbing shoulders with such huge names in such a humble way… How did that happen? And how did we get to interview you?!
Social media has an amazing ability to connect people across the globe. Most of our industry contacts have come from a simple message or comment online, that’s led to a dialogue and, in some cases, a working relationship.
10. And, then, Mick Gordon, huge name of in the field of music composition for video games like DOOM, Wolfenstein or Prey, made the OST for Beautiful Desolation. Please, someone, pinch us!
Well, pinch me. Working with a talent like Mick was wonderful. He is a humble person but a musical genius. He very kindly guided us in his methods of producing a soundtrack. We approached the OST by attempting to hit emotive notes rather than producing a track that only sounds good.
11. Tricky question! – Recently you said that “Crowdfunding has huge advantages for us. On top of the funding that allows us to make these games, it gives us a direct line of communication with the people who actually PLAY our games. We read all of the comments and take to heart what our backers say to us — although they’re quite often happy to trust that we’re making the best choices for the game.”. Do you think there is a disconnection between those big companies making huge games and the audience they want to appeal? Asking from a more personal/gamer perspective.
It’s important to have a direct line of communication with your supporters, because they are the people you are making your game for! However, it’s easy to lose yourself in that feedback. It’s a fine line taking on board opinions and criticisms, and trusting your gut to make the product and art that you want to make. Games are probably the single most complex pieces of art on the planet to produce!
I think that larger game productions are an entirely different beast when it comes to their creation. A single decision could end up costing millions of dollars – and can’t even begin to put myself in their shoes.
12. Following the idea of “direct line of communication” with the players, we have seen that you are REALLY active in the different forums regarding your games and in any way to speak directly with your community. How are you going to work with them from now on? Will you take the feedback from them to improve the game, maybe creating new content?
We love talking to players and communities about our games – that’s why we make them! To tell stories, to listen how they felt about those stories, and related to the characters.
As we speak, we’re in the midst of adding additional features to Beautiful Desolation based on the player feedback. Anything that we can do to make the game experience better, we will do. It also serves as lesson for us, so we know where to improve on our next game.
13. So your game is eye candy + has a nice story + really good playability and minigames + with the player always in mind. It has received great reviews so far, and has an amazing price for a game that has just been released. But… we realised, after reading comments from members of our community, that not a lot of people know about Beautiful Desolation. Why could this happen? Is the market oversaturated and only those who have humongous marketing campaigns are seen?
We don’t have a marketing budget, so we rely a lot on the game community at large to tell others about our games. We know that adventure games are a smaller niche market – but it’s a market full of passionate people! Our hope is that the game will be able to stand out of the crowd by being an amazing experience – visually and storywise – for players.It can be harder these days for smaller games to get noticed, however with streamers and YouTube players eager to find exciting new things to show their audiences, it’s not impossible.
14. The Dev Log you have been publishing in Beautiful Desolation’s Kickstarter page until this point is just great, with lots of detail and information for both the backer/player and any game developer interested in the matter. Do you think it should be a more common thing to have this kind of insight in the development of games? We are sure that readers are going to be really interested in more information like this from you, maybe in the shape of a YouTube channel? 😛
Dev Logs for a narrative game like Beautiful Desolation are actually really tricky to put out there, because we wanted to keep the story under wraps and not spoil anything for players!Development also changes all the time, and I think that opening that process up too much could make the developers a little hesitant to try out new things. That said, I loved watching DoubleFine Adventure and the Amnesia Fortnight videos because of how much insight they show of the process of making games.
So, maybe you’ll see more behind-the-scenes info when we start on our next project.
15. Since, as we established before, don’t know a lot about South Africa, we would love to know about studios in your country and how game development works over there. Is this kind of job becoming as mainstream and socially accepted as it is in Europe? How has the video game industry evolved in South Africa during the last two decades, mainly since the boom of Steam and Kickstarter?
There aren’t many game studios in South Africa making independent games in comparison to Europe or the United States. Most of the work here comes in the form of companies outsourcing development for parts of their projects, gambling industry, etc.
South Africa does have hurdles when it comes to development but Steam has opened up the market to everyone, and with the amazing current development of tools, as well as the wealth of information out there, there has never been a better time to make games!
16. And just to finish the interview, and although you have already talked about the translationinto languages apart from the currently established ones, we really have to ask you: Is Beautiful Desolation going to be translated into Spanish? Pretty please?
Translation costs are one of the largest costs we have for our games, but we want to tell our stories to as many people as we can! A Spanish translation is certainly a top priority for us.
[UPDATE] Last April 21st, they announced that the game received a patch for Spanish as an option. If the absence of this language was an obstacle for you to purchase the game, now is the time!
And here ends our interview with Chris Bischoff, member of the duet The Brotherhood, about their long desired game Beautiful Desolation. If you are interested in the idea they present, go to Steam and GOG through the links we have included at the beginning of this article. If you are not sure enough yet, wait until next week, when we are posting our analysis of the game, in video format, for the Magazine.
We would like to deeply thank Chris, in particular, and The Brotherhood, in general, for getting aboard this interview and answering all our questions. We would love for you to go and write a support message on their Twitter and Facebook profiles.
If you have enjoyed this interview, check this link to see all the studios we have already talked with, up until this moment.