Corey Rollins chats about Klei Entertainment and ‘Don’t Starve’

The launch of PS4 back in November of last year was an exciting time despite the fact that there were not to many Sony Exclusives that launched with the...

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The launch of PS4 back in November of last year was an exciting time despite the fact that there were not to many Sony Exclusives that launched with the console.

What made up for this was the amount of imdie games that had been developed for the console. As many know Sony have launched an open door policy to Indie Game developers and their newest console launched with a fair few of these indie games. One that got a lot of positive feedback from fans was ‘Resogun,’ but in January the talk of the playstation village was ‘Don’t Starve’ a fun survival game from Kiei Entertainment.

I was recently fortunate enough to catch up with Corey Rollins the brains behind Kiei and one of the people behind ‘Don’t Starve.’

SciFiPulse: How did Kiei Entertainment come into being and how long have guys been creating games for?

Corey Rollins: Klei is an independent game development studio, proudly creating original products since 2005. We are best known for the original titles Shank, Mark of the Ninja, Don’t Starve, Eets and most recently Invisible, Inc.

In terms of our background, we’ve got quite the history. Polygon did an amazing job documenting it, much better than I could ever write it myself. They spent 2 weeks with us and their cameras and made an incredible video and written feature titled”The Birth and Re-Birth of Klei.” It answers this probably better than I ever could and includes opinions from multiple people in our studio team.

http://www.polygon.com/features/2013/5/29/4362838/the-birth-and-re-birth-of-klei

SFP: From what I can tell you have done a few games thus far, but ‘Don’t Starve’ is the only one that has crossed over from home computers to the Playstation 4 games console. What attracted you as a games creator to Playstation 4 as a platform for ‘Don’t Starve’?

Corey Rollins: We’ve done console releases before (Shank 1 & 2 PS3 // 360 // Steam, Mark of the Ninja on PC // 360) but Playstation 4’s Don’t Starve was indeed the first release on this generation of consoles. We’re always open to release our titles on as many platforms that we feel are a great fit, and Sony’s stance on PS4 looking to improve access, promotion and support for indie developers was a great fit for Don’t Starve.

SFP: How did you come up with the premise for ‘Don’t Starve’.  I mean as a premise its so simple its genius and in a way it has harkened back some of the puzzle games I remember playing in the 80s during the home computer boom.

Corey Rollins: Twice a year at Klei we have internal game jams. We shut down for 3 days and break off into teams of at max 3 people. Don’t Starve was a castaway simulator made by one team here that had players stuck on an island and foraging for food. Then weird little pig men would come and steal your food or mess with you. If you fed them, you could keep them happy, but at the expense of your own food. We thought this would be a neat idea to expand on and explore, so we did and it became Don’t Starve.

When flushing out the actual game you see released today, we had inspirations sparks by the first-night experience in Minecraft, although it rapidly diverged from there. Some of the mechanics were informed by Lost in Blue, and  there’s some Dark Souls and Monkey Island in there as well. From there it’s evolved into its own thing and we’re really happy with that.

SFP: I know a few folks involved in the UK comics industry who have commented on how much they liked the art style you use in ‘Don’t Starve’ how did you guys come up with that style. Was it the kind of art style you had in mind from the outset or did you throw around a few other ideas before settling on the look you achieved?

Corey Rollins: With the art style, we were going for something that is dark and creepy while still maintaining a strong sense of appeal and uniqueness. Kevin Forbes originally wrote a sort of “steampunk-horror” back-story and Jeff Agala (Klei’s lead creative director) gave it this great sketchy newspaper cartoon style. There are a lot of Burton and Edward Gorey images in our reference bin, and the actual animation is also partly inspired by the movement of classic WB cartoons.

SFP: You recently teased a new DLC for ‘Don’t Starve’ what can you tell us about it and will it be available across all formats that the game is currently on?

Corey Rollins: We’re going to be releasing trailers for the expansion that show off features and tease at the content, you can expect a new teaser every 2 weeks. The first one went out 2 weeks ago. The expansion is titled “Reign of Giants.” With each new trailer you’ll be getting a glimpse at what exactly the DLC holds in store for the player.

We’re going to be releasing it on PS4 and PC. PC will be first simply because the approval process for PS4 is much more intensive than PC. So we’ll be doing a short closed beta near the end and then publishing the final work on both platforms.

SFP: Will you be developing more games for the PS4 given that Sony really seem to be embracing indie game developers and if so what possibilities do you think the PS4 holds for the future of indie gaming from both creative and marketing sides?

Corey Rollins: Like I mentioned above, we kind of go where we think there’s a good fit. With our next title Invisible, Inc. we’re following a similar development path as we did with Don’t Starve. If you pre order the game now, you get access to the Alpha, the regular updates, future access to the beta and of course the full game at release. This really helps us develop alongside the feedback and comments of the core community and we really felt this was a major help with making Don’t Starve what it is today. So, once the game is closer to release we’ll start to look at what other platforms it would be a fit for. Like Don’t Starve, we’d probably investigate the possibility of Linux and Mac first, then look at consoles. But it’s too soon to tell for sure what’s going on with it.

SFP: Finally what games would you say inspired you the most as a kid growing up and what do you think is lacking in the current video games market place because it seems to me that ‘Don’t Starve’ has found a pretty good niche for itself.

Corey Rollins: I think that a lot of the fun of Don’t Starve comes from a sense of discovery. You are role playing as a someone who doesn’t know what’s going on, so it makes sense that you have to puzzle out things for yourself. Too many modern games try too hard to spell everything out to the player in excruciating detail – we wanted the learning experience in DS to be more like finding an old NES cartridge with no instruction manual.

I think people both consciously and subconsciously enjoy the feeling of discovery and not being told what’s right and wrong, given a tutorial and just figuring it out for themselves. That’s not something you really see common today. Exploring is fun.

In general, I think that indie games offer a new set of experiences for console gamers. Near the end of the last generation, many people here felt that AAA was stagnating a bit. Letting in a bunch of weird little games is a good way to shake things up. Maybe some of the ideas in today’s indie games will find their way into the mainstream in a couple of years, and AAA gaming will be richer for it.

We here at scifipulse thank Corey Rollins for his time and wish him and Kiei Entertainment well in their future ventures.

Ian Cullen is the founder of scifipulse.net and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: www.scifipulseradio.com When he is not writing for scifipulse.net Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of scifipulse.net You can contact ian at: ian@scifipulse.net
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