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An interview with the extraordinary minds behind Ether One

Ether One from White Paper Games is an exceptional game - the almost perfect scores from critics around the world is a testimony of that. It is such an exceptional game that it’s hard to believe that it’s the first game from WPG.

Ether One points towards the genius of the WPG team - the gorgeous landscape reminds you of an enchanted painting, the puzzles are on par with the likes of a giant like Myst, but most of all, the story. WPG managed to create a game about dementia – and they pulled this off in such a remarkable manner that one reviewer even stated it “helped me cope with a family member’s dementia” Kotaku.

That a game could accomplish something so touching is exceptional and a testament to what this team is capable of.

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I caught up with WPG Co-founder and Designer, Pete Bottomley. He wasn’t allowed to play video games growing up, and the first game he played was DOOM. His favourite game of all time is Dishonored, he likes watching documentaries and enjoys long walks on the beach ;)

Join me as I walk around in the beautiful, humble and extraordinary mind of Mr Bottomley.

How do you feel about the overwhelming positive reception of Ether One?

I honestly don't think it's sunk in yet. If you were to tell me we'd get higher than a 7 before we released I wouldn't have believed you. We were always saying in the studio that if we hit a score of 7 then we would know that we had made a decent game. Since it's our first game we had no idea about the process of releasing and how it would feel to send something out into the world that you've just spent the last 3 years of your life creating.

It was definitely a surreal time to say 'no more', but the work also doesn't stop there. Releasing a game is only half the work and making sure that we're getting sales, reviews and generally keeping the momentum going about Ether One has been really challenging. I don't expect it to end any time soon. It's also been a huge learning experience for the entire team, and I'm so proud of what we achieved. Regardless of how many units we sell, I'm just happy that the people that are playing Ether One are enjoying and connecting with the game in ways that they don't usually.

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Looking at feedback from fans & reviewers. Is there anything you would do differently?

Game Design wise I wouldn't change a single thing. It is what it is. It's the type of game design that people resonate with differently depending on the element. For the puzzles, some people find the interest of picking apart the world the most fun. It takes them back to the core adventure games of the past.

Everything has a purpose and if you're missing something it's never far away it's just because you haven't connected the dots. It's always the case that you focus more on the negatives of the game though rather than any positive words. There's nothing that we'd do differently for Ether One, but there's a lot that we have learnt through the process from fans, reviewers & game developers alike that we can put into practice in our next game.

Ether One represents whom we were at the time of designing. Our next game will hopefully show how much we have learnt throughout the process and so forth.

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Ether One is your first release. What did you learn from the experience?

So much that I couldn't even list it all! We mostly learnt to work as a team. When we first started, we weren't really aware of everyone's skill set and the pipeline we should be following. There was a point about a year into the development where everything just suddenly clicked into place and we started flying.

I learnt that you need to totally invest yourself into the game and sacrifice a lot of time and energy outside of the game to make something personal and unique - I think I'm still trying to get back to reality post release and find a good balance! It was also hard trying to build a studio as well as a game at the same time. Hopefully most of the learning of how to do all the business side of things is over and I can focus more of my time into designing games now.

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What is the biggest thing you've learnt that you would advise for someone in your position about to release their first game?

I think the main I would say that you can only release your game once. It sounds like an obvious thing to say, but sometimes you need reminding of it. This is your stamp on the world and the day that you release will represent the last 2-3 years of your life. Make sure don't rush to get the game out. Even if there are a few small things you would fix, spend time fixing them because those small fixes become the major flaws of the game when 100(0)'s of people are playing your game.  

Make sure you give yourself at least a month after finishing the game to release it. There are so many factors that you will not account for that crop up, and you don't want to be rushing to get those done whilst finishing a game too. Make sure journalists have at least a month to review your game - set an embargo if you need to. Even if you feel you have a decent game, you are unfortunately at the end of the day, unknown. So give people lots of time to review your game.

The subject line of an email is sometimes more important than the email content! Know that even once the game is done, the work is not over. Don't fatigue yourself  & crunch until the release date because you've still got a lot of work to do after that. Make sure you're in the right frame of mind to make the hard decisions that you will need to.  

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What is next for White Paper Games?

We're still working quite hard on Ether One support. We also have a Mac version coming out soon (no confirmed date yet) which we're working on currently. We're also hopefully going to start work on a PlayStation version of Ether One in the next month or so if we can get the right things in place. We've spoken with Sony and they're interested, but it's a case of making sure we have the licensing and money in place.

As for a new game, we've been prototyping and throwing about lots of ideas. We all seem to be heading in the same general direction which is great. Whatever it turns out to be at the other end, I hope it's another interesting narrative experience where you feel part of a world. The gameplay may possibly be slightly more complex, not in terms of player skill, but in terms of what you can do in the world.

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WPG: Twitter | Website / Ether One: Website | Facebook

If you’ve not yet played Ether One, then I suggest you grab it immediately. You can download it through Steam for $19.99 / R208 here for more options see here. You can also check out the “Ether One review round-up – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.“

Last but not least, a big shoutout to Mr Bottomley for the interview and to the WPG team, when can we play the next game?

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Han’s Twitter / MWEB GameZone Twitter | Facebook

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Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not MWEB Connect (Pty) Ltd

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