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Interview RPG Codex Interview: Primordia, Point-and-Click Adventure Inspired by Fallout and Planescape

Crooked Bee

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Tags: Mark Yohalem; Primordia; Wadjet Eye Games; Wormwood Studios

Today is adventure game interview day. Primordia is an upcoming point-and-click adventure developed by Wormwood Studios and published by Wadjet Eye Games, heavily inspired by such classic CRPGs as Fallout and Planescape: Torment. It also features unique art by Victor Pflug and voice acting by Logan Cunningham, the narrator of Bastion. In this interview, we chat to Mark Yohalem, Primordia's designer/writer, about the game and its inspirations and features, including its ties to the RPG genre. Have some excerpts:

Please introduce Primordia to our readers. What is the game about, what kind of world is it set in, and what character(s) do we get to play as?

Primordia is about a reclusive robot named Horatio who ekes out an existence by scavenging the wastelands around him, with the help of his sarcastic companion Crispin. Horatio's dream is to repair an airship called the UNNIIC (pronounced "unique"), in which he and Crispin live. That goal, and his very survival, is jeopardized when a robot smashes his way into the ship, declares it "forfeit," shoots Horatio, ignominiously throws him out of the ship, and then steals the ship's power core and floats off into the Dunes. Since Horatio and Crispin need electricity to survive, they have to find an alternative power source or recover the one stolen from them.

As you might expect if you've played the original Fallout, things turn out to be less simple than just finding a missing part, though we never veer into the "save the world from the demonlord and his army of orcs" scenario that Fallout has. Rather, I would say that that Primordia has a much more personal story, along the lines of Planescape: Torment.

As for the world of Primordia, it's one populated entirely by robots. These robots have seen better days, and most of them are eccentric if not outright insane. You meet characters ranging from tiny machines the size of bugs to god-like automated factories as big as an entire city. The environments form a post-apocalyptic, post-organic setting: junkpiles, rusting cities; crumbling edifices; giant, buried robots; leaking subway tunnels; and so on.

Aesthetically -- and here I can't speak as well as the game's artist, Victor Pflug -- it's a different kind of post-apocalyptic vision than what you've seen before. Fallout has a sort of 1950s retro-futurism; Bioshock has a 1930s art-deco retro-futurism; things like Mad Max or Terminator just have a kind of industrial-waste / desert futurism. To the extent you can stick a label on this, it's art nouveau mixed with HR Giger motifs (though Giger himself seems inspired by Gaudi, who was arguably part of the art noveau movement). So you have these elaborate, almost organic stylings that are crumbling apart, revealing their inorganic, mechanical core.​

Apart from telling a story, video games often explore a particular theme or set of themes. What are some of the themes you aim to explore with Primordia?

The big ones are: independence vs. collectivism (and, relatedly, the nature of freedom and free will); religion vs. materialism; creation vs. destruction; justice vs. mercy; and -- dare I say it to the Codex -- decline.

Regarding decline: Post-apocalyptic settings are actually pretty common in gaming, but typically games starts at the point where things have bottomed out and are getting better. For example, the hardscrabble towns you see in Fallout have become a fairly advanced nation state by Fallout 2. In Primordia, you're still on the downward slope. While there are ways for the game to end on an optimistic note, it's not like you've saved the world or even arrested its decline. More like there's a small bubble of hope in a tub of water that's rushing down the drain.

Regarding the other themes: Basically, I hate games that take a strong philosophical or political position (like "corporations are evil!") and then just rig the plot to showcase why that position is true. In Primordia, Horatio has certain views on the themes in the game -- he values independence and he religiously venerates Man the All-Builder -- and so, to some extent, the player is going to take Horatio's side. But the other side gets to make its arguments persuasively, and Horatio is shown to be wrong in many ways. I don't think the player is going to come away thinking, "The creators of Primordia rigged the whole thing to show that the ideal lifestyle is to be like Clint Eastwood in Gran Turino, only really religious." We're hoping they come away thinking that they're no easy answers, just hard choices, as players came away from Planescape: Torment.​

Primordia is being published by Wadjet Eye Games but developed by Wormwood Studios. What is the size of your company and how did it come about? Is Primordia your first game?

Wormwood is Vic (artist), me (writer/designer), and Jim (coder). There's also a composer and sound guy, Nathaniel Chambers, but he's really a contractor working for Wadjet Eye, even though his role on Primordia is pretty significant. Jim and Vic have both worked on a lot of independent games before. I've worked as a writer on a handful of published games, including Kohan II, Axis & Allies, Heroes of Newerth, and Savage 2. I also worked on Dragon Age: Origins, although I believe that what I wrote for Dragon Age was entirely cut (it was an origin quest involving a barbarian character, and then an encounter with a blind, racist human who didn't realize he was being cared for by an elf). Since I work full-time as a lawyer, I couldn't commit to moving to Edmonton for Bioware, and we parted ways.

Our next intended project is a text-heavy, heavily randomized space opera RPG in the vein of Star Control 2 and Weird Worlds. I've been working on the design to it in a serious way for five years, and off and on since I was 12 or so.​

Read the full interview: RPG Codex Interview: Primordia, Point-and-Click Adventure Inspired by Fallout and Planescape

You can also check out Primordia's official website.
 

ghostdog

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Great interview Bee !

And some very informative and satisfying answers by Mark.

:thumbsup:
 
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Beautiful art.



Is Primordia still scheduled for this Fall? What are the things still left for you to do before release?

Technically speaking, the last day of Fall is December 20. (Who knew it went so late?) Barring some catastrophe, we will release before then, probably during the first week of December. Substantively, all that's left to do is put in a little bit more voice acting, a few more sound effects, one or two more pieces of music, and a tiny bit of art. That's probably a week's work. After that, it's just a matter of testing and polishing.

That would equal to at least 3 months of tinkering on Age of Decadence terms and another 12 months as just a matter of testing and polishing.
 

MRY

Wormwood Studios
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Since CrookedBee interviewed me, we've actually reached content-lock, so everything's now in. :)
 

Cowboy Moment

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Everything else aside, it's always nice to see a game developer who knows what art nouveau is. And in general, it's always nice to see games which are actually thoughtful and treat their own thematic content seriously, as opposed to a colourful backdrop for extreme AAA action (lol Bioshock).
 

kazgar

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Hey Crooked Bee

Shouldn't the news article (or the interview) have a link to some sort of order page or somesuch?

I don't think you can preorder the game yet, so there's just the link to the official website at the end.

Just usually expect to see on in the news article without having to the click-through to the interview?

But i'll stop now before it turns into another fixed width issue.
 

FrancoTAU

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I feel like I saw this game awhile back. Was Tim Schaefer playing this game in one of those Double Fine documentary updates or is there some other point and click robot game that just came out?

I got a laugh out of Mark darting around how we call certain posters, "storyfags". Lol.
 

ghostdog

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I feel like I saw this game awhile back. Was Tim Schaefer playing this game in one of those Double Fine documentary updates or is there some other point and click robot game that just came out?

That was machinarium.
 

Joff1981

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Project: Eternity
I was already really looking forward to this game without knowing much about it other than the general look of it and that it was being published by WEG who have recently been putting out some great games by small development teams (Gemini Rue, Resonance) and helping them to polish them up and gain exposure. With that interview I can't wait to get my hands on it, hopefully the talk of more difficult puzzles doesn't turn out to be just talk as that is one of the weak areas of WEG in my opinion being an experienced adventure gamer. I can understand why they feel they have to do it although I do wonder if they aren't turning off experienced adventure gamers in order to try and appeal to more casual players and if that does actually have a positive impact on sales for them.
 

MRY

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I am humiliated to admit that, mere moments after Joff's post, WEG made the executive call to remove one of the trickier puzzles from the game. Amazingly, two gaming publications -- not milquetoast ones, but ones that I think have pretty deep roots playing adventure games -- found the puzzle so frustrating that they rage quit and vowed not to run a preview or review of the game as long as it's in. As much as I'd love to stand on principle, I'd love even more to have Primordia actually get played by people, which requires coverage, etc., etc. Anyway, I intend to spend the weekend dressed in sackcloth, drenched in ashes, fighting wasps.

I will receive all well-deserved abuse with shamed equanimity.

(That said, there are still a couple really tough puzzles in the game that aren't designed around tormenting the player, as this one was. This was the infamous "trolled me" puzzle.)
 

Jaesun

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I am humiliated to admit that, mere moments after Joff's post, WEG made the executive call to remove one of the trickier puzzles from the game. Amazingly, two gaming publications -- not milquetoast ones, but ones that I think have pretty deep roots playing adventure games -- found the puzzle so frustrating that they rage quit and vowed not to run a preview or review of the game as long as it's in. As much as I'd love to stand on principle, I'd love even more to have Primordia actually get played by people, which requires coverage, etc., etc. Anyway, I intend to spend the weekend dressed in sackcloth, drenched in ashes, fighting wasps.

Jebus chris. Stand your fucking ground. If YOU feel this is something you feel is right (the design decision) please do NOT back down to these fucktards.
 
Self-Ejected

Excidium

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I am humiliated to admit that, mere moments after Joff's post, WEG made the executive call to remove one of the trickier puzzles from the game. Amazingly, two gaming publications -- not milquetoast ones, but ones that I think have pretty deep roots playing adventure games -- found the puzzle so frustrating that they rage quit and vowed not to run a preview or review of the game as long as it's in.
Wow. Not giving the game coverage because one puzzle is too hard? Do they only cover Telltale games?
 

wormix

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two gaming publications -- not milquetoast ones, but ones that I think have pretty deep roots playing adventure games -- found the puzzle so frustrating that they rage quit and vowed not to run a preview or review of the game as long as it's in.
Instead of cutting it you should use this as your selling point.

So devious it made grown men break down and cry!
 

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