Song of the Deep is gorgeous looking, upcoming side-scroller developed by Insomniac Games about a young girl’s journey to find her missing father. TheGamerDaily got a chance to interview the man behind this project, Brian Hastings. Brian told us about the game itself, what inspired him to create it, his view on the industry and getting lost at IKEA. Song of the Deep is due to come out this summer on PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
TheGamerDaily.com: Song of the Deep was inspired by Chief Creative Officer Brian Hastings’ daughter, can you explain how/why she was the inspiration? Did Brian Hastings go missing at some point?
Brian Hastings: I do get lost periodically. So far it’s mainly been in parking lots, airports and IKEA. But the events of Song of the Deep aren’t inspired by any real life happenings. I simply wanted to create a hero my daughter would look up to – one whose heroic qualities reflected the things I wanted her to be most proud of in herself. Things like determination, intelligence, kindness and perseverance. When she would tell me about female characters she liked in TV and movies she would often first talk about how pretty they were rather than what they did. So, for a while, I had been thinking about creating a heroine who was basically an average, ordinary girl who did extraordinary things simply because of the situation she was put in and who she was as a person.
TGD: For a gamer who knows nothing of your past titles, or this one, how would you summarize or explain this game?
BH: Song of the Deep is a metroidvania-style action-adventure game following a young protagonist, Merryn, who ventures out into the depths of the sea to find her missing father. This unlikely heroine builds a small submarine from spare parts and sets off to rescue him. Along the way, she’ll make friends, discover lost civilizations and ruins, and upgrade her submarine to explore even deeper.
Players will get the opportunity to explore a fantastic non-linear interactive underwater world, from ruins to boneyards to gardens. Every corner of the ocean offers a new surprise.
TGD: Why was an underwater theme with ancient ruins and submarines chosen?
BH: We knew an undersea adventure would offer a world of beautiful backgrounds, teeming with ocean life and challenges to explore. And the narrow tunnels of the ancient ruins offer a great framework to move the gameplay along from puzzle to puzzle.
TGD: Which demographic(s) are you most trying to appeal to with Song of the Deep?
BH: Song of the Deep is a rich gaming experience that extends beyond its engrossing gameplay and incredible graphics. Like a favorite book or movie that stays with you, the story of Song of the Deep will resonate with gamers of all ages. Its message is simple: no matter who you are, you have the ability to overcome adversity when you don’t give up.
TGD: Is this game in any way meant to be an inspiration for girls or young women? If so, how?
BH: I don’t want to be presumptuous, since we all take inspiration from different things, but I do hope that people find some inspiration in it. Although I originally thought of it as a story for my daughter, I think the themes of the story are universal. This is a story about overcoming seemingly impossible obstacles to help someone we love. Merryn is a character who represents the best qualities in each of us – the qualities we sometimes take for granted or undervalue. It’s easy to fall into the trap of valuing ourselves based on external factors – our appearance, our possessions, our careers. Merryn represents those heroic qualities in ourselves – kindness, bravery, compassion, resilience – that we should [maybe] value more than we do.
TGD: Do think having a female lead character will help to popularize it with female gamers?
BH: We think the character of Merryn will appeal to a lot of people because she is unique. Merryn relies on her courage, intelligence, and love for her father to help her overcome adversity. She’s an underdog character in an impossibly difficult situation, and I think that’s what makes people relate to her.
TGD: Plans for any expansions or DLC?
BH: We’ve created a pretty vast world with a deep lore that extends beyond what is seen in the game. We wanted to make sure that the world was cohesive and that there were a lot of secrets to discover as you explored, so that’s why we put the extra time into the world creation even for things that weren’t going to appear in the game. That said, at the moment we don’t have immediate plans for expansion.
TGD: The last few years have seen a large number of side-scrolling games produced, why the sudden popularity? What is their appeal?
BH: For many people here, side-scrolling adventure games are one of our favorite genres, and one that we’ve always wanted to make. Even back when we made the Captain Qwark 2D side-scrolling vid-comics in Ratchet and Clank, we were secretly dreaming of being able to make a full game out of them.
As for why there are more of them recently, it could be that there are more paths to market these days, so a greater number of games can find their own audience. That’s one reason we are partnering with GameStop on Song of the Deep. It gives us the opportunity to create a polished high-quality game in a genre we love and offer it front and center to the GameStop audience.
TGD: Given the recent, lackluster response to the release of Unravel, are you worried at all about Song of the Deep?
BH: Each game is unique. There has been deep love for this game at Insomniac ever since it was conceived, then GameStop fell in love with it and offered their support, and now a large audience of gamers have shown interest, which is thrilling and satisfying.
TGD: What is it about Song of the Deep in terms of gameplay, or otherwise, that you think will make it more appealing/successful than Unravel?
BH: The two games are so different in terms of story, genre and core gameplay that it’s tough to answer this succinctly. Even games that are much more similar to each other than these two games often meet with vastly different outcomes in the market, and it’s hard to say exactly what specifically made the difference.
That said, I’m not trying to dodge the question. Song of the Deep’s gameplay is metroidvania exploration, combat and puzzle solving. It’s got a deep upgrade path where you are constantly rewarded with new abilities and improvements to your submarine that allow you to evolve your style of play in fun ways. Being underwater, the core mechanics feel fresh and different in the metroidvania genre. The combat is responsive and addictive, but still manages to ramp up to a chaotic frenzy that makes the more pyrotechnic upgrades feel very rewarding. When done well, metroidvania games are some of the best gaming experiences there are. It’s just tricky to do them well. But at this stage in the project I’m very confident that we are going to be delivering a really great experience.
TGD: What are your favorite games and/or game genres? What do you play in your spare time?
BH: I like a pretty wide range of games, but what I’m interested most on any given year tends to change. When I was a kid I really liked the arcade games of the 1980s, and then as I got to high school I was really into the BBS games like Trade Wars and MUDs. I also loved Star Colony 2, Dungeon Master and Starglider. Each of those had a significant impact on my design sensibilities and tastes.
Later, when Insomniac was fist starting out back in 1994, I loved the Final Fantasy series more than anything else. I completed every one of them through FFXII and I loved them all (yes, even FFVIII.)
Most recently I split time between checking out intriguing indie games and playing the big AAA hits. But the thing I like most is playing games with my kids, so lately I have especially enjoyed Mario Kart and Mario Maker.
TGD: What is the number one thing in the industry you’d do away with immediately?
BH: The free to play model. And I say that having been there and having tried to make it work. But in retrospect, I think the whole model is damaging to both players and developers. If games on a platform had to cost something, even a small amount, then I think it would eliminate a lot of the ‘spammy’ and distasteful tactics that otherwise become the norm when every game has to be free in order to compete at all.
TGD: One thing you’d like to see more of?
BH: Variety. Variety in genre, story, characters, gameplay. I think everyone in the industry wants that, though. One of the nice things about the rise of the indie scene is that there has been a big increase in the amount of variety in all these kind of things. Working on Song of the Deep has been really great, partly because it gave us the chance to do a project that was really different compared to most AAA games. Of course, even when we are working on huge AAA titles in mainstream genres, we’re still looking for ways to make them totally unique in that space. But Song of the Deep has been a very special opportunity because the genre, story and world were all very different from what we have done in the past. On paper it’s a pretty risky proposition, but it’s a project that we and GameStop deeply believe in and we think that it’s going to find an audience of people who truly love it.