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Interview with Don’t Starve: Reign of Giants’ Seth Rosen, Part One

Don't Starve reigns as one of the most interesting titles in recent years, offering more in the ways of the experience and focusing on the journey rather than being a means to an end. Klei Entertainment's Seth Rosen (Designer/Programmer) elucidates some of the finer points of Don't Starve, communities on both PC and console, and what's next for our morbid little dudes and dudettes in the vast wilderness. Special thanks to Klei's CM, Corey Rollins!

KYLE: Players have already had plenty of time with Don't Starve, having been out for over a year now. Are you still happy with how the game is performing?  Are you seeing new players drawn in by the fact that you're consistently tweaking and adding new content?

SETH: We're very pleased and excited to see that Don't Starve continues to be a game with a sizable active community. Doubly so because it seems to always find ways to grow! Some of that is because we're bringing it to new platforms (PS4 back in January and, as we recently announced, Vita is on its way) However, as you mentioned, it's a game that's very much 'alive'--we've been adding to and evolving the game for a while and right now we're working on a new multiplayer mode called Don't Starve Together.

This is purely speculation, but my guess is that the new content itself isn't necessarily what's attracting more new players to the game--instead it gives more veteran players new stories and new topics to keep the conversation going. In turn, it's this word of mouth that brings new people to the game: this sort of grassroots expansion of the Don't Starve community has been a really strong element from the get-go. That said, I do think that when people see our history of making free updates to the game, it makes it easier to put down some money and know that expense will help us continue to deliver (new) value into the future.

KYLE: Players can create their own content on the PC version of the title.  What are some of the more interesting things you've seen people add?  Myself, I saw the perfectly-suited Edward Scissorhands created by a community member just the other day.

SETH: A lot of the mods that we see getting made change some small thing about the balance or the UI of the game. While these mods aren't massively game-changing on the surface, it's something we fully endorse and are excited about: we want people to play Don't Starve in the way that makes the most sense for them. Obviously, we have a way we want the game to be experienced (i.e. the default settings), but I'd rather someone play with some mods that make it slightly easier (or harder!) installed, than not play at all.

We also see a ton of character mods get made. The first one I ever came across was a character mod that put Octodad into the game. I really love the Octodad games, so that one will always stick with me. I haven't seen the Edward Scissorhands character mod myself, but he fits nicely with the aesthetic of Don't Starve; I'll have to check that one out.

There are also a handful of groups making some really ambitious mods. There's a team making a mod called Up & Away ( ) that is adding new areas, new creatures, new plants, and new craftables to the game--it's awesome to see people coming together to make something big. While Up & Away in particular was already in development at the time, one of our goals when we made The Screecher last Halloween was to show that these sorts of bigger mods that add large swaths of content (or change the game on a fundamental level) are totally possible. I think that, especially with a multiplayer mod on the horizon, we'll continue to see some really cool mods getting made.

KYLE: The title was criticized early on for having permanent death and so few prompts in how to explore.  Obviously this didn't affect the team as they are still staples of the title, but was it discouraging at the beginning?

SETH: We've always known that Don't Starve isn't going to be a game for everyone, but that’s okay. You may play for a few hours. We really wanted to make Don’t Starve about the experience of playing the game, and the actually “experience” you get from learning your own strategy for survival. Whether it’s through trial and error, or talking about it with friends or people on the forums.

We challenged ourselves as designers to create a game that was more about the journey than only the “completion” reward. Whether it’s a game of chess or a friendly game of basketball that you play, it’s not about the reward (professionals like NBA etc aside), it’s about the game.The fun of it was to play, or practice and improve. This is one reason we built the game this way, as it forced ourselves as designers to create a game to be simply interesting to play. Plus, death is worked in as part of the character unlock mechanic. We expect players to play it multiple times and learn. The new characters add different variables to this to provide new strategies and playstyles.

KYLE: How has being on the PlayStation 4 affected Don't Starve's performance among the community?  Like Mark of the Ninja before it, have the dynamics between PC and console communities allowed you to change the game for the better on both?

SETH: Launching Don't Starve on PlayStation 4 was fantastic: it introduced the game to a whole new set of people. We actually saw a bunch of people playing it for the first time on PlayStation 4 and then getting a copy on PC so they could try it there as well, which is a massive compliment. Putting the game on PlayStation 4 made us double-down on controller support and finding a good control scheme when using a game pad. Accessibility is really important to me, so this was really great to see and I think definitely improved the game for everyone. Overall, we try to have parity on all platforms as much as possible (mods and high-density customization options are the two big exceptions), so it's mostly had the effect of adding even more people to the conversation about Don't Starve.

KYLE: How did being a PlayStation Plus goodie affect Don't Starve?  Would you consider doing something similar with a future Klei title that make an appearance on the console?  Perhaps even on the Xbox One with their Games with Gold?

SETH: Being a PlayStation Plus free game shortly after the launch of the PlayStation 4 was great: as with any console launch, there's only so many games available at the start. I don't think the timing was essential to our success but it was definitely cool to see Don't Starve show up on a lot of "If you have a PlayStation 4, get these games" type lists. May PlayStation 4 players who had the console at launch are also PS+ subscribers, so  it's sort of a no-brainer to pick up a game with a lot of buzz around it for the price of free. Getting a huge influx of new players who are excited to discover the game (or maybe wouldn’t have tried it otherwise) is always great for the health of the community. Being on PlayStation Plus was an experiment that went well: doing something similar in the future is something we’d consider looking at, but with other platforms or exact details we don’t know what’s in store just yet.

KYLE: Don't Starve's characters are a kooky bunch.  What sort of places were inspirations borrowed from in their creation?  Same for the increasingly demented creatures that roam our new "home."

SETH: The art style of Don't Starve draws some from the work of people like Edward Gorey and Tim Burton. Generally, though, the characters and creatures you find in the game get designed from a behavioral or mechanical standpoint and then we find a look that makes sense for their role, while making sure to stay on-style.

Sometimes that process includes making up some additional back-story for the character (i.e. Webber's history as a young boy who survived being eaten by a spider and now lives inside of that spider, together as one), but other times it's simply a matter of answering a question like "what does the most stereotypical Canadian lumberjack look like?" At the end of the day, everything has to fit within the game world: in function, in tone, and in visual style.

Continue reading with Part Two of the interview...

Day 15 | Klei Entertainment

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BiggCMan1411d ago

I just love the art style in this game! So many indies have incredible art direction.

randomass1711410d ago

lol You beat me to it! I love it as well. It's like a combination of Adventure Time and Tim Burton. :D

beepbopadoobop1411d ago

That mod looks really cool! I may have to pick this up on pc to try some mods!

oasdada1411d ago

Hvnt tried any but wud consider givin mods a roll

LukeFair1411d ago

I like the design and art of this game

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