Interview: Over The Moon Founder John Warner

The Fall is releasing this week on Xbox One and PS4. Previously released on Steam, The Fall received high praise for it’s creative storytelling and engrossing atmosphere. I got a chance to chat with Over The Moon founder and The Fall developer, John Warner on possibly one of the best indie games to hit consoles.

Q: What was your inspiration for the setting and atmosphere of The Fall? Was there any games or movies you drew from?

A: I’m a big fan of atmospheric games and film, so I’m sure The Fall is a mix of a lot of different things. That being said, The Fall was directly inspired by three games. First was Super Metroid, and in particular, that great feeling it had of exploring an alien world, where each new area you found was a mystery to explore. I wanted The Fall to have a deeper sense of interactivity however, so our second inspiration was traditional point-and-click adventure games, like Monkey Island, with their creative, unusual and sometimes bizarre settings and challenges. Third, as a reference for art style and mood, was Limbo, because of its thick atmosphere and vague style. We wanted The Fall to have an art style that was vague enough to activate your creative mind, to make you wonder what was just outside of the camera frame.

Q: The three main characters are all AI. What was it like to “think” as an AI when writing the dialog?

A: I’d have to ask my writer, Caleb Allard about that! Caleb is the guy who wrote all the dialogue, so he’s the guy to thank that the characters have some some depth and intrigue. If I can risk speaking for him though, I believe the process was similar to writing for a human character who was emotionally repressed. The Fall has a lot to do with rigid rules and order, but we wanted to imply that the robots in our universe were fundamentally sentient… at least, some of them. Ultimately a story has to be relateable to the people playing it. That’s obvious, I suppose, but ultimately I think that The Fall is a very human story!

Q: We first heard about The Fall when Giant Bomb awarded it Story of The Year in 2014. Were you excited and/or surprised at such high recognition?

A: Yes, absolutely! We’re still incredibly thankful that we were noticed by Vinny and that he enjoyed the game so much. It probably goes without saying that we’re proud of the game and believe in it — we really put our best into it — but indies have got a huge problem in that there’s a lot of games out there. It’s not easy to compete, so any visibility that you can get is a huge leg up.

Q: To continue from the last question, the Metacritic score for The Fall seems unfairly low due to outlets such as Giant Bomb not giving it a full review even though they highly praised the game. How do you feel about sites like Metacritic when it comes to indie games such as The Fall which usually don’t get a lot of reviews?

A: This might seem bitter, which is too bad because I can promise that we’re at peace with our 2/10s, etc, but I do believe that Metacritic is garbage. It’s a somewhat useless service and we desperately need something better. I don’t look at Metacritic scores any more as a consumer, because every review rates games on a completely different set of values, and we have no language or structure currently in this industry of understanding or separating what those values are. The Fall, for example, is a game for people who really like to explore, and be pulled into a story. Part of that process is reading — not huge walls of text, but a lot of little bits. If you don’t like to read, or you just don’t want to play that type of video game, you will probably have an absolutely miserable time with The Fall, and in all earnest, those sorts of people should give us low scores, and their audiences probably shouldn’t play our game. By way of contrast, I have games in my Steam library that are ugly as sin, and their stories are complete trash, but I love them, because they have really, really fun gameplay. There are a lot of games out there that do some specific things very, very well, but don’t get good metacritic ratings because they don’t cover all the bases that a AAA game might cover, and a handful of reviewers mark them down. I strongly believe that as we see more and more varying games, metacritic will become more and more of a problem, unless they change, or someone else comes along.

Q: The gameplay of The Fall has a lot of elements from various genres (Puzzle, Platformer, Metroidvania, etc.). What genre would you classify it as if any?

A: A friend of mine calls it an “aim and click adventure”. I think that if I had to pick a genre, I’d call it a point-and-click adventure. However, it’s also got a shooter mechanic in it as well, so that doesn’t exactly fit. I dunno. I suppose I partly just made a game that I wanted to play. You hear about these separations of genre as if overlap is simply not possible… I like using my brain and shooting stuff!

Q: How was the Kickstarter experience for you personally? Were you happy with the outcome?

A: Yes, I’m quite happy with the outcome, and the experience was great. I think that sales of any kind is a really important exercise. A lot of people see it as a sleazy practice, but mostly it means getting clear what the value of your product is. Why would someone want my game? How does it actually improve their life? Working on the sales pitch component of the Kickstarter campaign actually helped my clarity on how to make The Fall a better game. There’s a huge difference between sales, and selling out.

Q: Do you currently have any plans for Episode 2? You can’t leave us hanging John!

A: Yes, we have tons of plans, and I really want to talk about them! However I am absolutely the worst and keeping my blog updated. In truth, at this point, I don’t even know how to go about starting to open up the process. I suppose I need to sit down for a few days and plan out some huge development blog post backlog where I can talk about it without ruining the surprise. I’ve half considered making the entire process completely transparent, simply because I won’t have to think about what to post, and what not to post, which is probably the number one thing stopping me from doing anything at all. Anyway sorry – I’m ranting a bit.

We’re super excited about part 2. My writer Caleb and I have been hard at work on it for some time, really condensing the concept down to a diamond, and I think we’ve got to the point where it’s pretty clear. Production is under way, and I’m pretty happy with how things are turning out. Perhaps I’ll plan some sort of announcement soon, if I can find the time to organize it. I’d just rather be developing, I suppose.

Q: With The Fall being episodic, do you have an idea of how many episodes you’d like the story to span?

A: The plan is 3. Three is a very satisfying number, and gives us the time to do some fun things with ARID’s character development.

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