Note: Answers primarily by Alex Beachum, with assistance from Jackie Kritzberg and Logan Ver Hoff.
Nintendo Life: Outer Wilds is one of our most anticipated games from 2021 and we imagine a lot of Switch players will be actively avoiding it elsewhere while waiting for this release! Can you tell us a little about how and why the release schedule changed from the original “Summer 2021” window?
When choosing a launch window, we probably looked too much like the Nomai character, Avens, and should have been more like Daz or Yarrow. There were also complications from the fact that we were still working on “Echoes of the Eye” – which we decided to add to the Switch version once the postponement was agreed upon.. But what it boils down to is that there’s a lot of excitement around the Switch release this early.
…It really boils down to there being too much excitement around the Switch release early on.
There’s a lot of Zelda in the DNA of Outer Wilds and Alex has said that one of the reasons it’s there is because Skyward Sword “broke it.” What games did you play during development, and did you change your design approach with Outer Wilds in any way?
There were plenty of games that inspired aspects of the original approach, but once we figured out how to make “curiosity-driven exploration” work, we were fully committed to making Outer Wilds a game of its own. Our creative director, Alex Beachum, specifically refrained from playing Breath of the Wild during the final phase of development to avoid being overly influenced by how they approached open-world game design.
With Breath of the Wild and Tears of the Kingdom taking a completely different path than Skyward Sword, have your feelings about Skyward Sword changed over the years?
After finishing the base game of Outer Wilds several years ago, is there anything you would change if you could start over? Have you ever made adjustments based on player feedback or data?
We are constantly testing gameplay and are often inspired by player feedback. For example, the Quantum Moon disappearing when you blink during the awakening sequence was suggested by one player.
There are always things you can do differently in hindsight. The only thing that comes to mind is to bring more attention to the ship’s autopilot and landing camera features. Another is a fundamental tweak to everyone’s favorite teleportation puzzle. And we will try to scare our players more – Alex loves scaring people.
Outer Wilds touches on some ideas and themes that may be familiar to Star Trek TNG fans (like me!) and sci-fi fans in general. Are there any touchstones for science fiction or even non-fiction works that you had in mind while developing the game?
It was the biggest inspiration 2001: A space journey And Apollo 13. There is also an explicit reference to sunrise. less known, Twin Peaks It inspired some of the lighting decisions in the game’s final sequence.
How do you feel about different types of time loops? (i.e. ones that can be changed versus ones where everything is predetermined and everything you do was already destined to happen.) Did you indulge in paradoxes during development? How did you decide? The outer wildernessTime loop method?
There are always things you can do differently in hindsight.
Honestly, we never thought about making events predetermined. Pre-determined time loop narration is better suited for non-interactive media. This is a game about players choosing to explore because of their inner sense of curiosity, so player choice really matters, which goes against the narrative in which everything happens because that’s how it always happens.
Going into detail if possible (although we can spoiler this answer if need be), what requirements did you make for the author of the song that lies at the heart of Outer wilds?
We knew we wanted to use the tools you hear around a campfire. From there, Alex Andrew Pralow, our composer, gave us some reference pieces — “The Sorcerer’s Journey” by The Eagles is included in the list — and the ambiguous direction that makes it seem cyclical in nature might fit well with aspects of the game — like the objects it orbits around and the time loop. Andrew came back with the sausage.
Considering the Switch version, how did you find working with Nintendo’s “mature” system? Were there any problems besides the obvious limitations compared to other platforms?
The Switch’s portable screen size required us to resize text and UI across the game in a way that could change on the fly. It ended up being a net positive because we were able to add a great UI mode to all versions of the game. Now players on other platforms can select Larger UI mode to see text better on their current settings or on other mobile devices like the Steam Deck.
What do you think of the species name “Metroidbrainia”? What do you call this type? Outer wilds inside?
Outer Wilds is quite the “Metroidbrainia” game, and as a team we embrace linguistic chaos, so it’s a huge honor to be labeled with a portmanteau of portmanteau puns.
Having lived and “flew with”. Outer wilds Since it’s been over a decade, how do you feel as you approach the end of this particular project? Or is this not the end?
Outer Wilds is pure Metroidbrainia, and as a team we embrace the linguistic chaos
The whole team is very excited to move on to new projects. We love Outer Wilds and are thrilled to have it on Nintendo Switch so more people can experience it. But we’re also ready to move forward and bring a new game and experience to fans. As Rebeck says: “It’s time for something new now.”
One last question from Zelda: Breath of the Wild vs. Tears of the Kingdom – Which is your favorite?
I think we’d have to say that Breath of the Wild is the favorite team-up between the two. It truly paved the way for Tears of the Kingdom with its beautiful, hand-crafted world and commitment to player-driven exploration. Many of us have not had the opportunity to play Tears of the Kingdom for various reasons. But it’s on everyone’s playlist!
Finally, what’s the hardest thing about creating a time loop game?
Design things that players will need to understand and pay attention to while they are under time pressure. Then remember that the player is under time pressure because we are just debugging everywhere when we test things during development. Another reason why we keep playing!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Thank you Alex, Jackie and Logan came to answer our questions Outer Prairie: Archaeologist Edition. The game is now available on Switch eShop. Stay tuned for our review of this critically acclaimed adventure, and let us know if you’re playing it in the comments.
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