RGM Interviews Resonator: Anew, Switch and is Trump President?

RGM chats with Jeff and Steve of Resonator about their upcoming Kickstarter title - Anew: The Distant Light

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Resonator are a new independent studio responsible for developing Anew: The Distant Light. Anew is a brand new Metroidvania title that is coming in 2018. It is currently amidst its Kickstarter campaign where it is exceptionally close its goal, with 12 days to go. You chan check out what Anew looks like in the first trailer below:

The team at Resonator consists of two full-time developers:

Steve Copeland (Game Director) – has been a Software Engineer, Senior Designer, and Lead Designer at Electronic Arts, Bioware, Westwood Studios, and Petroglyph on game franchises like Command & Conquer, Star Wars, and Lord of the Rings.

Jeff Spoonhower (Art Director, Resonator) – he has worked as a Senior Animator, Lead Cinematic Artist, and Senior Video Editor at Electronic Arts, Sony Computer Entertainment of America, Volition, and 2K Games on projects like Borderlands 2, Bioshock 2, Saints Row 1-4, Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Syphon Filter, NFL Street, and many more.

They both took time out of their hectic schedules and tireless campaigning for Anew to chat with RGM. We learned a lot about Anew: The Distant Light as well as some insight into the games industry.

Interview with Resonator (February 27th 2017):

Adam Stewart (RGM): “Hi guys.”

Jeff Spoonhower (Resonator): “Hey! Rock and roll! We are ready for you Adam.”

Steve Copeland (Resonator): “Good morning Adam”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Or evening!”

Adam Stewart: “Hi, good morning Steve, I hope you’re well. Yeah, it’s the evening for me haha. So I’ve got questions, which is always good. Most of them are about Anew but there’s a couple about general industry stuff if you’re happy to answer them?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yeah we’re game – shoot.”

Adam Stewart: “Awesome. First of all, thank you for agreeing to chat with me.  Anew: The Distant light has already received nearly $20,000 in just over 10 days on Kickstarter. That must be really exciting for you guys?”

Steve Copeland: “We’re thrilled with the response.  It’s always exciting when someone seems to enjoy the work you’re doing.  We know that there are a lot of games in this genre so it’s satisfying to see that we’re still able to connect with people. That said, the campaign has slowed a lot in the last few days. We’re trying to push through it and get eyes on the page.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yeah, and the funny thing is when you’re running a Kickstarter, you may think the devs are just hanging out watching the money roll in. Not so! We are working around the clock on outreach – press, websites, Twitter, blogs, podcasts, etc.”

Adam Stewart: “I can imagine, a lot about a campaign like this will be about raising the awareness so that you hit that target. So for those who might not have seen it yet, how would you describe Anew: The Distant Light?”

Steve Copeland: “Anew: The Distant Light is most easily described as a “Metroidvania” for those familiar with the term. It’s a single-player, open-world action/exploration game.  We have a beautiful alien world, tons of game-changing equipment for the player, drivable vehicles (check out the giant mech in our trailer), a day and night cycle that affects gameplay, a cool home ship… I can go on all day.”

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All power to the giant robot!!!

Adam Stewart: “I did see the giant mech and it looked awesome! Can’t wait to ride around in that! How does day and night affect gameplay?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “The reaction to the mech has been great! We’ve got a bunch of pilotable vehicles in the works that are going to look awesome and be a ton of fun to play – really overpowered machines. Steve can take a stab at the day/night cycle question.”

Steve Copeland: “The moon you’re exploring has many diverse environments, but above ground the giant, harsh sun affects everything. As the moon revolves and the sun rises, you have limited time to explore while the extreme temperature drains your suit energy. So, you’ll often have to head inside or underground to avoid it. Once you have more suit energy (or more skill) you’ll be able to venture out farther and farther. Some creatures can withstand the heat and others only come out at night. The sun affects the environment as well, melting ice and burning away alien foliage. So, you’ll have to explore the above-ground in both contexts.”

Adam Stewart: “Ah that sounds great, I really like the sound of that feature. So there are skills you can upgrade throughout the game?”

Steve Copeland: “Ah, in that context I meant the player’s skill. You can blast enemy creatures and moon minerals to replenish energy. If you do that rapidly enough, you can keep your suit topped off, even with a small energy tank. All of your character’s abilities are derived from equipment you find and those each have an upgrade path for you to customize.”

Adam Stewart: “Ah, ok. Thanks for clarifying that. Where did the idea for Anew come from?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Steve and I are both fans of games in the platforming and exploration genres (“Metroidvania”) and we knew we wanted to make this type of game from the get-go. Steve can comment on the gameplay/mechanics side of things. As art director, I pitched a few story and world ideas to Steve when we were in pro-production, just brainstorming fun ways we go take the game in. The one story that really lit a fire in us is the one we went with – this notion of a dying Earth, and a child being sent out into the deep reaches of space – just seemed really cool and intriguing. There were so many things we could do with it, as far as the child’s journey, where he was going, and why! It opened up a ton of opportunity for creative visual storytelling and world design as well, being in the sci-fi genre. The story went through many revisions until we landed on a tone we felt worked. We plan to reveal the characters and story of our game primarily through visuals, sound, and music – very little to no text and VO. We are very excited about the approach we’re taking, as it is unusual in this genre of games.”

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Exclusive image shared with RGM from Resonator

Steve Copeland: “The gameplay inspirations are many and varied. I’ve always loved the Metroid game-world structure (in an abstract, game design sense) so I had always wanted to make one. You can also see influences in both gameplay and game world from many other games: Cave Story, Limbo, Ori and the Blind Forest, Dark Souls, Mario Galaxy, Spelunky, Strider. It’s great fun to experiment with mechanics that different games have and combine them with each other and your own original ideas.  It doesn’t always work out, but eventually you can predict what’s likely to be a fun mash-up of mechanics.”

Adam Stewart: “It is certainly a unique concept, for me anyway, and there’s a great heritage being honored from what you’ve said. You both have great résumés for games you have worked on in the past. Did you take any inspiration from your previous work when creating Anew?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “I think, consciously or not, what I do creatively is absolutely influenced by the work I’ve done in the past. Working on Bioshock 2 was influential, as Rapture is such a visually dramatic, beautiful place. High contrast colors and lighting helped to create the mood in that world. I learned a lot about lighting from that project, as well as from the many cinematic jobs I had with Sony in the past (Syphon Filter, Resistance, Uncharted: Golden Abyss). It’s been a great relief to be able to create this world in a way that feels very personal to me though – the look of the alien moon, the terrain, the creatures and player, lighting, color, etc. – is how I see the world in my mind. I try my best to share it with the audience that will play our game in a way that is truthful to my original vision.”

Steve Copeland: “I’ve had the privilege to work on a lot of games that I’m proud of, but those were massive team efforts. In those contexts, one tends to have relatively little influence on a project as a whole and creative energy just accumulates. You might feel exhausted after a long crunch to develop a game, but those ideas spring back after a rest because they didn’t fit the project you were working on and were never realized in a satisfying way. I tend not to look too much at my own past games for inspiration and instead find it in other places: personal relationships, travel, hobbies, books, movies, music, and of course, games made by others.”

Steve Copeland: “I do look backwards a lot to avoid repeating the same mistakes, though!”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yes good points by Steve! Getting away from my computer is a huge catalyst for inspiration, I wanted to add – just getting out into the world and observing.”

Adam Stewart: “Bioshock is one of my favourite game series, so thank you for that. I would agree it’s always good to have that keen reflection and be able to take a step away and give yourself some space. Are you finding that working within Resonator is giving you less pressure, or is it too soon to tell?”

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Exclusive image shared with RGM from Resonator

Jeff Spoonhower: “Haha! I wish it was less! Since Steve and I are the only full time developers working on the game, we’ve taken on a massive amount of work. One way to think about it is – we are each doing the work of at least five full time employees on a typical dev team at a studio. Probably closer to 10 each, if you include all of the marketing, PR, social media, and business development work we do in addition to actually developing the game. It is stressful, for sure. We put in a lot of hours on the game, lots of night and weekends, and we’re also thinking about it all the time. It’s our baby, you know? It’s our passion project. That said – the effort has been worth it so far and we are optimistic about creating a really awesome experience when we ship the game. It’s so rewarding to be able to create an entire game, and world and say “Yup, we did that!””

Steve Copeland: “Yep. What he said. It’s a completely different kind of pressure. It’s hard to be effective at all of the roles you have to fill throughout development, marketing, and business. I feel liberated in many ways with nearly unlimited creative freedom, but we put huge pressure on ourselves to achieve a result that we hope will satisfy you, and ourselves.”

Adam Stewart: “From what is out there now, your hard work is showing clearly. Anew is already looking superb. What are you hoping to accomplish with Anew? Is it the start of a series or do you see it more as a unique, one-off title?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Thanks for the kind words. Steve can address our longer term goals, but really, right now, we are focusing 100% of our energy on making this game an amazing standalone experience.”

Steve Copeland: “We do have ideas that make sense for this game world and fiction, but that won’t fit into Anew: The Distant Light. If the reception is strong enough on this title, we’ll likely pursue them in some form.”

Adam Stewart: “Are you planning any additional DLC for Anew?”

Steve Copeland: “We’re not holding back any content for post-release. Everything we can get done will ship in the game and we intend for it to feel like a complete, stand-alone experience.  After the game launches, we’ll need to evaluate how to deliver more game if there is a demand for it, but we’re not at all thinking about that sort of thing right now.”

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Exclusive image shared with RGM from Resonator

Adam Stewart: “I totally understand that, way into the future! So when can we expect to see more of Anew?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “We’ve got lots of great stuff yet to reveal about our game. The main forum for news at this point is on our Kickstarter page, in the “Updates” section. We’ve been pushing out new content such as design updates, behind the scenes videos (art and music creation), Twitch streams (happening soon) and more. We are also very active on our social media channels, like Facebook and Twitter. Steve – anything to add?”

Steve Copeland: “Yep, that’ll be the main place for reveals for now. Some more specifics about gameplay and content should be coming soon.”

Adam Stewart: “I guess Kickstarter gives you guys that freedom to keep engaged with people more easily?”

Steve Copeland: “We’ve always been interactive on social media. Kickstarter helps to invite the conversation though, by its nature.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yeah our backers are really supportive and hungry for news and new content.”

Adam Stewart: “You’re aiming for a summer 2018 launch date on PC right?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Ah, the “when’s it coming out” question. Steve?”

Steve Copeland: “Kickstarter makes us put a date so that is our best conservative estimate. We hope to launch even sooner, but we intend to simply launch when we complete the content and hit the quality bar we’re aiming for. If the Kickstarter does exceptionally well, we’ll be able to hire an expert or two to accelerate things.”

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Adam Stewart: “Yeah that makes sense. I know I’d rather wait longer for a stellar game than rushed one. Currently Anew is coming to Xbox One, PS4 and Steam – are you guys looking into other formats, such as the Switch?”

Steve Copeland: “We’ve taken steps to facilitate building Anew for a wide variety of platforms, but we have to be careful about losing focus. So, we’re launching on PC first, followed by XB1 and PS4.  Switch is on the radar, but we can’t commit to anything yet.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yes, we want to get the game in front of as many people as possible! We’ve already announced PS4 and XB1, and there has been a quite a lot of interest in a Switch port as well. Early adopters are really hungry for content on the new system, which is understandable. Once we launch on PC, we plan to evaluate all of our other options. It’s actually a semi-complex issue (going to other systems) – we unfortunately do not have a huge red button that we can slam our fists on to automatically output the game to the Switch. That would be awesome, actually. Each console platform has different hardware specs, and therefore requires us to approach coding and art creation in different ways to get it to work on the system.”

Adam Stewart: “Totally makes sense. Especially with the Switch just releasing. What do you guys think of the Switch? Do its unique features give you any ideas for how Anew might work on it?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “It looks pretty cool – I mean purely from a consumer standpoint. The ability to play games on the big screen and on the go is awesome. My nine year old son has already told me several times that he wants to play our game on the road to visit grandma and grandpa.”

Steve Copeland: “It looks cool, but they’ve been somewhat shy about their specs and who knows how much friction there will be for indies getting games on there.  It apparently has proper controllers so that’s a good start.  Haven’t had time to think about any kind of novelties specifically for that platform.  I tend to want to give all players a very similar experience, regardless of platform.”

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Adam Stewart: “Ah that’s cool. I know Nintendo just announced 60 odd titles from indies releasing through 2017 so there’s seemingly some support at least.”

Steve Copeland: “Nice!  Sounds hopeful for us in the future then! We’ve been a bit nose-to-the grindstone lately and are missing some news here and there.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Haha. I just found out today that Trump is president.”

Adam Stewart: “I’ve got my fingers crossed for sure! Would love to be able to take it out and about, as would Jeff’s son! Where do you think gaming is currently at as an industry?”

Steve Copeland: “It’s rough being an indie developer, I can say that much. We longed for the days when good tools were affordable and it was possible to distribute on consoles without a publisher (and actually get on the proper storefront). Now that we have that, games are coming from every direction at a breakneck pace. It’s good for gamers, if they can find the kinds of games they like, but bad for individual developers – so hard to get your game discovered. All we can do is try to hit a quality bar that is high enough to get noticed, make sure the look of the game is special and unique, and have some fun experiences inside that are different in some meaningful way from what others are offering. I also worry that storefronts like Steam will become like a mobile app store, with mountains of shovel-ware.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yeah, 100% in agreement with Steve. The main challenge we face day-to-day isn’t so much making the game (although that is not easy), but rather, getting noticed and being seen.”

Steve Copeland: “As a developer, you always want the highest possible bar for storefront curation, provided you’re still getting let past the velvet rope.”

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Adam Stewart: Yeah, with the plethora of titles out there, it can’t be easy. I guess that’s when it helps to have a stand out, unique looking title such as Anew. It definitely has my attention.

Jeff Spoonhower: “Thanks. Yes having a distinct look was a strategic decision, to be sure.”

Adam Stewart: “So, apart from Anew, what are your most anticipated games at the moment?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “I still haven’t played “Inside” yet, and I can’t wait to check it out. I am a “Limbo” fan boy. Plus Red Dead Redemption is one of my favorite games from the last gen, so I am looking forward to RDR2. That was announced, right? Trump is president?

Adam Stewart: “Haha yeah, due in Autumn I believe.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Thanks Adam. I have so many games in my Steam library, and shrink wrapped on my shelf, I cannot in good conscience purchase any more for at least 5 years. I have at least 6 years of games I need to get caught up on.”

Adam Stewart: “Haha I totally get that, my pile of shame keeps increasing but there’s always more I want to play.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yes! It is a global problem apparently. Steve do you still play games?”

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Steve Copeland: “I’ve been so busy that I’m eagerly anticipating getting to a bunch of games that I’ve already bought! Hollow Knight just came out and I’ve been following that one for a while.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Right! Owl Boy as well. Oh, also – Blow’s new game ” The Witness”. Ok I am done.”

Adam Stewart: “For me it’s the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Yeah for sure.”

Steve Copeland: “10/10 from Edge!  Sounds like a must play to me.”

Adam Stewart: “Yeah for sure. Ok, so finally, do you have a message for anyone who might be considering backing Anew: The Distant Light?”

Steve Copeland: “Just that we’re hardcore fans of the Metroidvania genre and we’re trying our best to do it right while still adding lots of fresh gameplay, visuals, and mystery. The trailer is a bit long, but it’s all real gameplay and shows a good diverse cross-section of our crazy ideas. If you just scrub through it quickly, you’ll miss something cool. We’re very engaged with our followers and love to hear their ideas about what they like and don’t like. Check out our Kickstarter for tons of details with more coming. Also, only 5 slots left on the Early Bird tier.”

Adam Stewart: “Thank you for taking time out of your (assumingly) ridiculously busy schedules to chat with me. Good luck with the Kickstarter and I hope to chat with you again in the future. Is there anything you’d like to add before we finish?”

Jeff Spoonhower: “Thanks for the opportunity, Adam! We appreciate the support and interest in our game.”

Steve Copeland: “Thanks for your time as well.  It was fun.”

So there you have it. If you’ve liked what you see give the Kickstarter a back. They’re lovely guys and deserve your support, if you’re interested of course. Let us know what you think to the interview in the comments below, the RGM Forums or on Twitter. Feel free to share this article on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pintrest or Reddit!

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