When Replay Studios announced Survivor, a new game that would recreate historic disasters, including the 9/11 attacks on New York City, they produced a buzz around the internet. Many people wondered how the developers would pull of such scenarios, and what the studio meant by “Reality Gaming”. NintendoSpin got a chance to speak with Replay Studios’ Claus Wohlgemuth, co-producer and co-author of Survivor, to get some answers:
NintendoSpin: When we first read about Survivor, we realized what a unique and fresh idea this was for a game. What exactly is “Reality Gaming”, and how did the concept for the game come about?
Claus: “Reality gaming” is the recreation of real life events in a gaming format, in the case of Survivor, historical disasters. The greatest disasters have always been a source of inspiration for dramas, artworks or films, why not for a video game as well? Though the scenarios are based upon authentic events they remain in parts fictional. Games or movies can change the reality for dramaturgic reasons whereas documentations can’t.
The world simulation will be close enough to the historic originals as to give the player an emotionally impressive idea of what was going on. We’re avoiding theatrical effects as well as false glorifications of heroism, like it is shown in some Hollywood disaster movies. The focus is set directly on realism.
The idea for Survivor came spontaneously. We have already thought about a storm disaster game or a game about the Titanic. Then suddenly someone had the idea to make many, independent episodes with emblematic disasters as the connecting link.
NintendoSpin: We know the concept is definitely interesting, so what is Replay Studios doing gameplay-wise to set Survivor apart?
Claus: Simply escaping falling debris or fire is not the kind of gameplay we wanted. We want to offer a maximum of player freedom. Every level contains 5-8 huge areas we call sectors. Every sector will have a number of different mission goals to complete, but you’re not forced to finish them all. There will be for example hero goals (saving people, fighting looters, unfriendly security people, repairing devices etc.), crime goals (looter etc.) or voyeur goals (shooting sensational photos at dangerous places) Gained items we’ll get for credits as reward (helmet, gas mask, fire blanket, crow bar, guns etc.) will be important to survive later areas. In shelter areas you can watch TV, buy and sell items, learn about mission goals, evacuate rescued people, receive medical treatment and save your game.
You can’t stop the disasters but you carry certain responsibility that some situations are not getting worse. (For example stopping a religious fanatic or suicide prophet who causes panic and makes people following him into great danger or sure death.)
There will hardly be time to complete all of these goals, because the disaster events in the areas are often getting worse. So you have to decide what you want to go for, or to follow only your own survival. You can also return to past sectors to complete missing goals later on.
A little TV screen of the Non Censored Network will keep you informed all the time about the situation in the area.
Once you play a hero you’re not forced to be a hero for the rest of the scenario. You can choose your actions freely, with all the consequences. Sometimes you’ll depend on your movement skills and good timing whereas in other situation the right equipment will be essential. You can also call lost NPCs and make them follow you when you have discovered a hidden exit.
The player faces unique situations all the time without repetitions. He can also use cars and other vehicles in some scenarios. Different disaster events happen dynamically and animated structures will often be collapsing. Chance is also playing a certain role in dynamical events. The player will have different possibilities for finishing mission targets as well as reaching access points to further shelter areas.
NintendoSpin: There was a lot of interest generated when the game was announced. How long has the game been in development, and how far along in development is it?
Claus: The development is still in an early state. The past few months we have been doing research and writing the design document.
NintendoSpin: We know you will release the game across consoles and PC, will all the versions of the game be identical?
Claus: It’s too early to answer that question, yet.
NintendoSpin: We know that the game takes the player through various authentic disaster scenarios; can you give us any specific locations or scenarios that are currently included in the game?
Claus: Hurricane Andrew, Earthquake of Mexico City, Titanic, Hiroshima, Paraguay fire disaster and 9/11. A final selection will be made together with a publishing partner.
NintendoSpin: Are there any plans to make a handheld version of the game for either the Gameboy Advance or Nintendo DS?
Claus: At the moment are no Game Boy Advance or Nintendo Ds versions planned.
NintendoSpin: One of the things that sets the concept of Survivor apart from other games is the historical scenarios and the realism that comes from playing through actual events. What sort of gamer do you think this game will appeal to?
Claus: What sort of gamer it will appeal to? Everybody who’d like to try an exciting, new and unexplored genre. Everybody who is tired of repetitive mainstream and is looking for an outstanding, emotional gaming experience. We want the game design to offer challenges for hard core gamers as well as beginners. Of course Survivor should not be played by children.
NintendoSpin: Do you have a tentative release date yet?
Claus: Q1 2006.
NintendoSpin: Do you have anything you would like to say to gamers looking forward to Survivor?
Claus: Though all the controversy, we are very glad how well the idea of Survivor has been received so far. We had lots of positive feedback on our forum. To know that there are much people waiting for the game gives us the right dose of extra motivation. We have received an e-mail by someone who had lost a family member in the 9/11 attacks. He said, he was always wishing for a game in which you could stop the planes from crashing the towers. He likes the idea of Survivor anyway and wishes very much to play the game. That gave us strong support as well.
You can get more information on Survivor here.