You can say what you like about the Steam Greenlight process, but there's no denying that the majority of the games that manage to force their way through the mayhem look and sound fantastic.
, for example -- a game about badger survival, and quite unlike anything I've played before. Developed by Pid
studio Might and Delight, the most unusual game is due for release later this summer. Judging by my playthrough, it's going to be quite the hit, for many different reasons.
That gorgeous art style is the first and perhaps most obvious point of call. Sadir Samir, lead producer at the studio, tells me, "The graphical style for Shelter
is inspired by the Japanese hard cut look for art and symbolism, and something Jakob Tuchten [art director] came up with."
As soon as Tuchten brought the concept style to the rest of the team, it was the obvious choice for the game. It was then a case of working out how to keep the life of a badger fresh for players to explore.
"When designing the levels, Andreas Wangler's [lead designer] goal was to make each level different, but also to tie into each new danger that the badger family encounters," Samir notes. "As an example, the rapid river level became ascending and sinuous. The fire level became flat because he wanted to bring forward being in the middle of a burning inferno.
Indeed, it's quite astonishing just how varied the game's environments feel, especially when you consider that you're essentially playing through the same types of woods and forest areas throughout, yet the color, tone and dangers around you make it feel completely different each time.
Badger badger badger
But it's not just the art style that makes Shelter
a success. Players control a mother badger as she guides her children through the forest, looking to food to keep them healthy and alive.
The way in which the game leads you slowly into this concept is wonderful, as it really builds a false sense of security. "The goal was to give the player a feeling of safety first, that the first level actually is a good place for the family," Samir says. "This makes the rest of the game more harsh and scary."
Samir is referring to the dark shadows of the eagles above that are looking for a tasty snack; The crashing waves of the rugged river that will sweep your babies away; The forest fire that threatens to engulf your entire family in mere moments; And plenty of other dangers that lurk.
"We had many ideas that we decided didn't work in the end," Samir adds. "This game is about keeping it simple. We wanted to give the player more time to feel and not just play the game."
"The main idea is to give the player a feeling of the animal life and what it is like to be an animal in the wild," he continues. "For many animals, life is about getting hunted, but also to hunt."
This is evident in the way that, while you're dodging predators, you must also hunt frogs, foxes, voles and other creatures for your own survival. "Funnily enough, it works very well in our game where it is a lot about finding food to be able to actually meet the dangers thrown at you," he says. "If you dont eat, you will die."
And how much research did Might and Delight do into badgers and the way they live to get a feel for how the game should play?
"Not much research at all," Samir laughs. "It could actually be any animal. I hope we don't upset any badger friends with this game."