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There's nothing routine about Routine

by Han Cilliers (Lola)  Posted Wednesday, September 26, 2012 2:01:42 PM

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Routine from Lunar Software is a game I’m keeping a close eye on. The reason it has me so excited is that for once a developer has the sense to NOT make a game that caters for the masses. Routine will be extremely difficult and challenging, in fact, it will probably not be to your liking.

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I caught up with Routine's Lead Artist and Designer, Aaron Foster. If the game is going to be anything like this man’s mind, we will be in for one unusual, thrilling and unforgettable ride.

What is it about the medium of video games that convinced you to make a career out of it?

“It's been my life since I was a kid, I have moved house about 15 times when I was young, living in not the best of places, but games stayed constant! I would get engrossed and lost in their worlds, it was amazing, still to this date it keeps me sane! :)

And with work I feel that it takes up so much time of your life, I would hate to do something I don't enjoy or love, putting games and work together seemed so natural to me.”

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Routine is one of the first 10 games that received the “Greenlit” from Steam. Talk us through your journey with the Steam Greenlight process.

“There wasn't much of one to be honest; we didn't even see it go live! I think it was roughly 12 hours after it launched we thought we should get it on there as we desperately want in on Steam. The rest of it was out of our hands, but it was a great experience and got us a lot of press coverage and best of all GOT US ON STEAM!”

Video games have potentially replaced traditional play. More and more kids would rather play a video game than do some physical activity.  How do you think this is changing or shaping this generation?

"Hard for me to answer this, my childhood was playing games. I mean of course I went out to places but where I was living wasn't really great for that, so I guess the highlight and best time of my childhood was those long nights in trying to complete games like Doom and Blood!

So yea, I think it's a hard subject and I'm probably not the best person to ask, but I will say one thing, I do really think that games are extremely inspiring on a creative level, and I think that can be very useful to the right person.”

In your opinion, what role does the Indie genre play in the video games industry?

“I think they are great in terms of innovation for the most point! But like any "scene" or collective or whatever you want to call it, there seems to be a massive trend in doing the same thing over and over, like copying the success of Braid that so many puzzle platformers attempt to do, or the usual Twin Stick shooters/Zombie game.

So what I would say is that it's not about the "Indie" scene it’s honestly more down to a few individuals that really push and innovate in the games industry in general. Some are Indie some are not, but there will only ever be a few greats that really make a difference in my opinion.”

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Routine reminds me of the loneliness in Doom, the horror of Aliens and the dread of Slender. - Han Cilliers

What is the experience that you aim to deliver to gamers with Routine?

“I would love for gamers to love or hate it; if the game is just "ok" then to me I would feel like I failed. The game will not be for everyone! It really won't be, but I am really hoping that a few people will really, really enjoy the experience.”

You highlight the cost of failure in Routine by means of the “perma death” penalty. The difficulty of the game is also increased by the absence of a heads up display (HUD) and health packs. Why did you choose to take this direction with Routine?

“With Routine we really want players to question the actions they make, and I feel with consequences as high as this, they may just do that. I think there should be value on all actions you make or don't in some cases.”

I wanted to do something different with this interview, so I included two questions from two Indie developers for Aaron.

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Anna Marsh from Lady Shotgun Games: “To what extent does the joy of working on your own projects make up for a lack of income? Have you set yourselves a limit where you think OK, when this happens, when we can't pay rent/eat/whatever, we'll all go get proper jobs?”

“Good question! Honestly I try to make sure I am in a situation where money isn't an issue, so at least working on the game isn't as stressful. Right now I have a part time job teaching at a university and of course I don't have that much money to do anything other than eat cheap food and pay rent, but at the end of the day I am making my own game! :) No other job could give me the joy I get from doing that!”

Pete Bottomley from White Paper Games: “After working in an AAA team and also in some smaller side projects, how do you find the role of project lead? What have you learnt and how important is communication in a small, fast iterating team? Also, what would you do differently when starting your next project?”

“Communication is HUGELLY important! We go on Google+ daily and screenshare from our computers to make it feel a bit more like a studio. Ideally we would love to live in the same place as it would really speed up our workflow and also to just make sure morale is high and people are happy working on the project. We also play games together and it's great for keeping the team in synch as we take breaks at the same time.

Project Lead is tons of fun and tons of work as I need to wear so many hats, but honestly everyone on the team does, I just try to make sure we are all on track! I think on our next project we will organise a bit more with potential dates for competitions and keep on track with those as they help immensely in terms of PR and giving the team something to work towards.

Oh and lastly I want to try and make sure we can all work together in the same place, as it really does help getting things done faster and better.”

Closing thoughts

I’ve gotten to know Aaron a bit over the last couple of months, there are a few things about him that sets him apart and that makes me want to share the journey of Routine with him.

He is first and foremost a gamer himself. He understands what hardcore (forgive me for using that word) gamers crave for. This could stem from his days as a top first-person shooter fan boy (he is also a Quake Live fanatic). He is familiar with the demands of competitive gaming and he wants to deliver a game that challenges players on multiple levels.

He has a fantastic team working with him; I’ve yet to meet video game developers that are so open and accessible to press as these guys (and girl) are. Their passion and commitment to deliver a top notch game is inspiring and commendable.

I wish them best of luck and I’m waiting in fearful anticipation for the release of Routine. If you want to read more about the game, you can check out my article, “A horror filled space exploration with Rescue.”

Support the team: Twitter | Lunar Software Website | Routine Website | Facebook | YouTube

Routine will be a PC exclusive title, to be released early 2013. Check out the teaser for a dose of space fright.

Han’s Twitter | Blog



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