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18th Oct 2013
Lunar Software Discusses Their Upcoming SS2 Inspired Indie Title, Routine - fett - 04:36
Lunar Software's alpha-demo of their upcoming first-person game, Routine, made quite a splash around the web, and particularly at TTLG where we've been carrying the System Shock torch for over a decade. We caught up with Lunar dev, Aaron Foster for a quick Q&A about Routine and what hopeful fans can expect from this promising indie title.

Q: So, out of the box I have to comment that you guys seem to be fans of LGS and games from some LGS related studios, like Irrational and Ion Storm. How strong is that influence in Routine? I ask because the first few seconds of the Alpha demo are strikingly reminiscent of System Shock 2. Intentional?

A: The whole feel of the tram scene in Routine is completely inspired by the start of SS2! When I first played SS2 many years ago that scene alone completely immersed me in the world.

Q: How did the idea to make a game with an old-school approach to gameplay and design come about?

A: I've never really thought of it as an old school approach, but rather just one that cares more about the players actions, environmental storytelling (rather than the more common linear cut scene approach) and also consequences to your actions. So I guess it came from being a gamer/designer that cares about things that are not as commonplace anymore.

Q: It seems that recently, many devs are beginning to cite LGS and games like Thief and Deus Ex as a major influence, but while they understand the mechanics of that style of gameplay, they often don't seem to understand the relationship between the mechanics and the narrative part of the experience. How big of a role does the story play in Routine, and are there examples of how it intertwines with the mechanics?

A: I will be a bit vague with this answer as its kind of awkward to explain without going into detail but we want you to pay attention to the environment, your actions and choices throughout the game will affect the ending, we are not here to tell a story with a happy ending that everyone will experience, you get what you deserve based on your choices.

Q: There's the argument that older games are too punishing in terms of resources or simply being less obvious in some ways. When we're talking about classic Looking Glass or Irrational games, you've got a fairly niche crowd – like TTLG and some others – that appreciate that type of gaming. Is Routine going to appeal to people outside of that niche? If so, are there things you are doing specifically to allow easier access for modern gamers at the outset to condition them to play more thoughtfully?

A: I know this is probably going against everything you should do with game development but a target audience was never really thought about when coming up with the core design of Routine, we just simply want to make a game that we want to play. Many people have asked for things like Perma Death to be removed or put in as an option and we simply can't do that... removing that core pillar would have a serious impact on the whole game, Perma Death is not a mechanic to make the game harder but rather something that will make you think and care about your actions. So I guess we are not actively reaching out of that niche but if lots of people play it and enjoy it then fantastic!

Q: Since there are multiple ways to approach progression in an open environment, do you intend to have the player piece together the events that preceded their arrival through computers and logs, working their way to what they perceive as their own goal, or do you plan a more directed experience with specific goals (provided by the narrative) to accomplish?

A: Another awkward question! a bit of both would be my answer.

Q: Do you plan to provide a map allowing the player to choose thier own path in advance, and will there be secrets that reward exploration?

A: There are maps in the environment but nothing that you have with you, exploration is really important to us!

Q: Besides physical progression through the game, most "immersive sims" offer character progression. System Shock 1 did this by providing new and better cyber-tools and weapons to find, scattered throughout Citadel station. System Shock 2 did it mostly with RPG stats and skill points. Is there character progression in Routine? Did you consider both approaches - did you choose one over the other or should we expect something totally different?

A: We toyed with the idea of character progression in Routine, but it's such a huge resource heavy feature, with just the 4 of us it was much smarter to design without it.

Q: Can you talk a little more about perma-death as there's been a little bit of confusion as to how that actually works. Obviously the absence of a vita-chamber scenario, but it seems that perma-death is a conscious part of how you hope players will approach the game.

A: Yea Perma death is extremely important to Routine and we design the whole game with that as a core mechanic, as I said previously, perma death is not there to make the game hard it's there to make the player care about his actions and know there are consequences to the wrong choices.

Q: A lot of ttlg-ers are split on the subject of Deus Ex:Human Revolution and Thief 4. Can you comment on some of the more modern mechanics being utilized in those titles and your philosophy on the integration of such things into the vibe of a game like Routine? Boss fights aside, what about things like objective arrows, highlighting, etc.?

A: I fucking hate arrows and objective icons in fact pretty much anything that removes the joy of finding things out yourself! I can't comment on Deus Ex: HR or Thief 4 as I've not played or seen much about them sadly!

Q: What is your approach with regards to user interface? Is everything the player sees the same thing as what the player's avatar sees? Is minimalism a design goal and what do you think a suitable interface can provide in terms of immersion?

A: Yea we really wanted to remove all abstract UI/HUD elements from the game, just as a way to increase immersion, honestly. However there are a few abstract things in the game at the moment - like trying to teach the player that there is perma-death without just killing them is an awkward thing! Hopefully we can rid the game of all abstract gamey UI without hurting the design!

Q: It may be too early to discuss since I'm sure you're knee-deep in Routine at the moment, but does Lunar Software have a vision to produce other games with the same philosophy as Routine, or is the design philosophy just one of the many tools in your bag? In other words, would we ever expect to see something along the lines of Borderlands or Destiny down the road, or a traditional FPS with all the modern trappings, or does Routine represent the core of what Lunar is all about?

A: We absolutely have core game design elements that we care about that will make it into most of our games for the foreseeable future such as consequences to your actions, environmental storytelling and exploration, to name a few. But I will say that we will probably not make a realistic looking Sci-Fi game for our next big project.

Q: What other games impress you these days? Console, PC, mobile?

A: Games we love lately are of course Dark Souls, our programmer is addicted to Dota 2 and I've also been playing a lot of Natural Selection 2. It's been quite a while since we have played games properly though, we keep saying "After Routine we will play that" heh.

Aaron promises a more in depth interview as the game nears completion. View the Routine alpha demo HERE. Visit Lunar Software for more info on this up and coming development team and stay tuned for updates on Routine and news about Lunar in the upcoming months.