Savage Planet: Exclusive Interview with Reid Schneider
We are happy to bring you an exclusive interview with Reid Schneider, co-founder of Typhoon Studios to talk about Journey to the Savage Planet
Disclaimer – This interview was done and recorded on June 13th, 2019 at E3 2019.
Leonid Melikhov: Hey guys, welcome to Gaming Instincts and today we are going to be talking about Savage Planet with…
Reid Schneider: Reid Schneider.
Leonid Melikhov: Tell us about Savage Planet, you guys finally came out of the woods you know?
Reid Schneider: Yeah we’re Typhoon Studios. We’re a new developer up in Canada. We’ve been around since 2017. It’s founded by team members who worked on a bunch of AAA stuff in the past like Far Cry 4, Assassin’s Creed 3, Arkham Origins, Arkham Knight, and we’re trying to bring AAA sensibilities but make something much more focused experience that’s funny, optimistic, bright and colorful.
Leonid Melikhov: And explorative.
Reid Schneider: Yeah explorative. In terms of the game we want to make something that our creative director calls an earnest comedy explore em’ up. So it’s a fancy way of saying that we want people to smile and laugh while playing the game and want it to feel different than what they’re always used to seeing.
Leonid Melikhov: Right, because we’re saturated with first-person shooters right now and there’s always a place for everything.
Reid Schneider: There’s a place for everything. I think hopefully when people play it, they get a sense that it’s different than anything out there.
Leonid Melikhov: So can you tell us about your mechanics in the game, what makes it so different from other exploration games. The first thing that it reminded me of is that it’s a cartoony sci-fi game, with a little bit of No Man’s Sky. So how is it different?
Reid Schneider: Well No Man’s Sky is procedural. With our stuff, everything is bespoke. Everything is hand-crafted so it enables us to really inject lots of character. If something is in a certain place, it’s because we put it there and because we want player to uncover every rock, look for all of the secrets, understand everything going on. We put a lot of jokes in as well.
Leonid Melikhov: Of course.
Reid Schneider: On your right hand you have a gun, and then in your left hand, you have all of these tools. So you’ve got a palmer grenade which are like explosive plants, bounce pads which are things you can create to bounce up towards higher places. It’s all stuff that you find on the planet. Ultimately our goal is to let players come up with interesting solutions to problems that we don’t come up with and that makes things more interesting.
Leonid Melikhov: So guns weren’t originally in the game and I was playing the game for about 20 minutes and I was like, “yeah without the guns it just wouldn’t be as fun.
Reid Schneider: We tried a number of different prototypes.
Leonid Melikhov: It’s a zapper it’s not really a gun.
Reid Schneider: That’s the thing. You can upgrade it, but we want to make sure that you know that it’s not a FPS. It’s really about having a good time exploring and upgrading as opposed to a hardcore FPS.
Leonid Melikhov: So it’s more of a friendly tool to get around?
Reid Schneider: Exactly that’s a great way to put it.
Leonid Melikhov: So what impressed me is that there’s actually crafting in the game. I didn’t expect that. I thought that it was kind of cool where when you kill something, they drop materials. I really love that stuff because I come from an MMO background. I played WOW for 14 years, I’ve played RPG’s for a long time. Not a whole lot of RPG’s have crafting. So I can craft new tools and it’s not about just what you’re given. So when I got the new grapple hook, it took me a while to figure out where to go. The navigation is a little iffy but if you spend an hour in this game you kind of understand how it works and that’s fine.
Reid Schneider: We want it to be a little slower-paced in a sense. If you take a step back and approach it in a more leisurely pace as opposed to burning through it which is hard because in the demo you’re trying to see everything in an hour. But hopefully when people get the game they’ll just be able to sit on the couch, have a beer and enjoying it.
Leonid Melikhov: I like the towers being placed as a checkpoint. So I’ve made it, I got rewarded for it through the tower and I can teleport here so I don’t have to walk all the way. I like the little things where you can throw the cans to make the aliens go to places and get eaten by other plants so you can get the vines off and I thought that was very cool. The animations are great, especially when the aliens take a poop so there’s a lot of funny details and I feel like a bunch of games kind of miss that. They try to go for this one particular thing and it blows up in their face. Attention to detail is extremely important. If you look at games like The Last of Us, they’re very particular about their details. So putting in these little things makes a big difference.
Reid Schneider: It makes a huge difference and that’s the kind of stuff that you remember.
Leonid Melikhov: So how long was this in development for? Two years right?
Reid Schneider: We started the company in February 2017.
Leonid Melikhov: So it’s not that old.
Reid Schneider: It’s not. The first few months, you’re trying to get the ball rolling so it’s about two years.
Leonid Melikhov: And what are you making it for? PC just that?
Reid Schneider: It’s for PC, Xbox and PlayStation.
Leonid Melikhov: Any ideas to bring it to Switch? It looks like the perfect Switch game.
Reid Schneider: We would love and we’re looking at it. It wasn’t part of the original plan but it’s something that we’ve been actively exploring. But we would love to bring it to that platform.
Leonid Melikhov: What engine are you using?
Reid Schneider: It’s Unreal 4.
Leonid Melikhov: Are you guys gonna enhance it on Xbox One X and do 4K?
Reid Schneider: We hope so, that’s the plan. We’re a small team so we’re gonna have to pick our battles because we’re only 24 full-time people. In gaming terms that’s small.
Leonid Melikhov: Compared to Ubisoft or something like that.
Reid Schneider: Exactly so it’s not like we have armies of engineers. But enhancing the game is what we’d like to do to figure out what’s going to be the highest value to players.
Leonid Melikhov: So what made you bring the shuttle in? Were there any other ideas that you guys had instead of the shuttle as a starting point or some kind of a base?
Reid Schneider: We toyed with a few different things. We like the idea that you’re crash-landed on this thing so you’re stuck and you gotta figure out what’s going on. So it provides a good backstory to, “Why the fuck am I here? What do I do now?” We like that idea. So the overarching goal is for you, as the explorer to figure out if the planet is fit for human habitation. So you’re the guinea pig, the test pilot.
Leonid Melikhov: That’s pretty cool. Was the engine useful for you guys? Did you guys know off the bat what you wanted to use?
Reid Schneider: Yeah. A lot of our team members have been working with Unreal for a very long time. For the Arkham stuff we’ve used Unreal 3 so we have a great relationship with Epic. The game is on the Epic Store for year one. So we have a great relationship with those guys so we’ve had so much experience with the engine and know what kind of game we want to make for a decent-spec PC and console. It just made the most sense.
Leonid Melikhov: So I have a question in regards of the design of the game. So the game is hand-crafted rather than being procedurally generated for different reasons. So is there an actual storyline ending for the game?
Reid Schneider: Absolutely. You are Martin Tweed who is the CEO of Kindred who you might’ve seen in one of the videos. You’re getting messages from him and there’s definitely endings. I don’t know about you but I don’t have 5,000 hours to play anything anymore. So we like the idea that you can finish the game. If we make a tight, fun, 12-hour experience and people have a great time with it, that’s awesome.
Leonid Melikhov: $60 worth spent.
Reid Schneider: So it’s not gonna be full-price, we want to make sure that we’re providing value to our players.
Leonid Melikhov: So what are you thinking, $39.99?
Reid Schneider: It’s TBD. We’re figuring that out soon but we don’t want it to be full-price. If you think of games like Hellblade, or things on that scope, we think that there’s this new mid-level thing.
Leonid Melikhov: High-quality indie games.
Reid Schneider: Exactly so that’s what we’re going for.
Leonid Melikhov: That makes sense because I know a lot of people that like Hellblade and it wasn’t an enormous game it was like, “We have a story to tell and this is it.”
Reid Schneider: And you feel that it’s a cool experience and you can finish it. Then you can go back to you r 5,000-hour game.
Leonid Melikhov: Are you building this as a one-off or if it sells well, are you thinking of making a second game or any DLC?
Reid Schneider: I think we want to make more DLC, we’ll talk more about that soon. We’re not there yet and hopefully people will enjoy it and we can make more of it. With games we want to make a foundation to make it cool and get bigger and better.
Leonid Melikhov: So this is a question to you as a developer. So were you guys at the Microsoft briefing?
Reid Schneider: I watched part of it.
Leonid Melikhov: The Cyberpunk part with the one?
Reid Schneider: The which?
Leonid Melikhov: The one?
Reid Schneider: Oh yeah Keanu Reeves.
Leonid Melikhov: Of course. So I’m sure you heard about Project Scarlett right?
Reid Schneider: Absolutely.
Leonid Melikhov: So they put that in the end and they talked about new tech. All of this exciting stuff as we’re in the middle of the transitional phase. So for you as a developer, the CPU is a giant upgrade and of course the SSD is gonna be fantastic to get way better loading times. For you as a developer does that excite you? What do you think is the most important component for next-gen games in general and what do you look forward to the most to work with?
Reid Schneider: If we take a step back, I think at the end of the day. Cool content is cool content.
Leonid Melikhov: Period.
Reid Schneider: Yes period. So for us what’s really interesting is now it’s great that we have all of these new tech specs with Scarlett, PlayStation and Google Stadia.
Leonid Melikhov: The hype is real.
Reid Schneider: Right but what I think is really cool is that there’s all of these ways to build and deploy cool content and to get away from the constraints that we have and that’s gonna make it more interesting for the player is if we can continue to build cooler content. TV has been around since forever but up until with Netflix making their own stuff and with HBO we see cooler stuff coming down the pipe. So I think, the we can make new weird ideas that you might not have been able to get an audience before, that’s what we’re trying to do as well.
Leonid Melikhov: It’s always exciting and what’s your opinion on cloud gaming and streaming for games in general. First we went to tapes, CD’s, cassettes, Sony Walkmans back in the day. Then we rip CD’s MP3’s and then we would go to digital downloads. Then it’s all about musical subscription services like Spotify. Then with Netflix it’s all about movies. So now games are getting that but games are different as they’re interactive. Watching a movie and have it stutter a bit is whatever but playing a game and shooting someone in the face in multiplayer is a whole different game. Does that excite you?
Reid Schneider: I’m super excited. The less barriers to entry you can have for players to entry that you can have for players like the more you can play your game anywhere you want to. That’s awesome.
Leonid Melikhov: Plus more people get exposed to games probably. They don’t have to worry about buying things if they’re subscribed to a service. If Savage Planet were to get on a streaming service, people only pay for the subscription.
Reid Schneider: I think when you eliminate barriers to entry, that’s a positive thing. I haven’t played with Stadia and I can’t speak for that.
Leonid Melikhov: I tried out Project xCloud at Microsoft’s briefing and playing Halo 5 Guardians on an Android phone was kind of crazy in a good way. Now I just need to see how it works in my house. I think that we’re using San Francisco data centers. I don’t know where our data center is in Florida…
Reid Schneider: But you want to try it at home to see if it works as well as in the demo.
Leonid Melikhov: Well I kind of look at it like this. As a mega corporation, I’m sure that they did the numbers so I’m gonna give them the benefit of the doubt. It’s fair to be skeptical and critical, but there are people that want to completely call it off and that makes me mad. Just give it a shot and stop hating on it. If you don’t like it, nobody is telling you to use it. It’s simple as that.
Reid Schneider: You are in control of your own purchases.
Leonid Melikhov: Yeah it’s your life, it’s whatever.
Reid Schneider: Yeah just do what you want. I hope it all works.
Leonid Melikhov: I really hope that it turns out for the best because I think it’s the future. I love cross-platform by the way it’s a big deal to me. Call of Duty is now cross-platform after a decade now it’s like finally, I can play with my friends regardless on where I am.
Reid Schneider: I think that the work that Epic has done is awesome. It’s like they’re using their force for good. Using it to make games play better, to give players a better experience. I mean Fortnite blew up and they’re leveraging that position in the market for good.
Leonid Melikhov: Dauntless went cross-platform too and it’s good stuff. It’s kind of crazy that we got Banjo in Nintendo. Microsoft puts their first-party titles on the system now so it’s crazy on what’s going on.
Reid Schneider: It’s better for players.
Leonid Melikhov: It absolutely true. So back to Savage Planet before we leave you. What do you say to the fans of people who are looking forward to the game?
Reid Schneider: We’ve been working hard on it. We hope people like what they’ve seen so far and we’ve got a lot of stuff in the pipeline that’s even weirder. So there will be more news to come later on and I hope people enjoy the game when it comes out in early 2020.
Leonid Melikhov: Early 2020?
Reid Schneider: Early 2020.
Leonid Melikhov: There’s so many games in 2020.
Reid Schneider: I know , I know.
Leonid Melikhov: It’s nuts.
Reid Schneider: It’s our first game from the studios. You can always rush something but we think that it’s important to give it the time it needs.
Leonid Melikhov: I think that if you are releasing a game, don’t release it in a very saturated market. There’s way too many heavy-hitters coming out. Final Fantasy VII is coming out early March and Cyberpunk is coming out mid-April and no one’s gonna be competing in that case. So if you’re gonna release something just release it in the beginning of the year or late Spring. That’s just my suggestion and I’ve seen it happened.
Reid Schneider: There’s just cool stuff that doesn’t get any buzz.
Leonid Melikhov: Yeah it doesn’t get buzz because buzz is on the other stuff. It would be bad if everything were to be forgotten.
Reid Schneider: Don’t worry, we’ll take your advice. Ha ha.
Leonid Melikhov: Cool man. Thank you so much it’s nice to meet you.
Reid Schneider: Yeah you too.
Check out our exclusive gameplay preview for Journey to the Savage Planet here.