Ten Questions With… Ben Tester (Wales Interactive)

Ten Questions With… Ben Tester (Wales Interactive)

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One of the most promising titles that we checked out recently on Steam Early access is Soul Axiom from Wales Interactive. The developers already impressed us with their earlier title, Master Reboot, but with Soul Axiom they look set to raise the bar even further. To find out a little bit more about this intriguing title we got in touch with Ben Tester.

Can you give our readers a quick introduction of yourself and the studio?

Hello! My name is Ben Tester and although I’m often mistaken as the QA Tester, I’m in fact the Marketing and PR guy here at Wales Interactive. We are a BAFTA Cymru award winning Indie games developer based in Pencoed, Wales. You may have heard of us from some of our titles such as Infinity Runner, Master Reboot, Gravity Badgers and more recently, Soul Axiom, which has just been officially classified as one of the first British games by the BFI (British Film Institute). That happy chap on the left is me, then our Technical Director, Rich Pring and Managing Director, Dai ‘The Hulk’ Banner receiving the Best Indie Game Developer 2014 award at the Appsters Awards ceremony.

Why the choice to explore themes similar to Master Reboot instead of something brand-new?

We felt we had so much more to explore with the concept behind Master Reboot, so we re-visited the idea for some unfinished business! Despite Master Reboot gaining fans worldwide, it was a bit rough around the edges and by no means perfect. So we wanted to show we can make a really polished title which addresses all the issues with the first game as we have learnt a lot since then. The game is not a direct sequel either, it’s a spiritual successor that is set in the same universe that was built on better foundations and includes new characters, new game mechanics and a new thrilling storyline.

What are the inspirations behind the unique visual style of Soul Axiom?

Soul Axiom, like our other titles, has taken influence from various games, tv shows and films. I would say Bioshock has been quite a big influence as well as Dear Esther and Myst. We don’t try to copy these titles but you can see that these games have influenced our design. We have tried to push the atmospherics in Soul Axiom, so you’ll find some areas that we have purposely made dark, which is then highlighted by striking simplistic shapes, strong colours and shader effects. This coupled with some delicate or quirky soundtracks, creates a slightly creepy feeling to the game, similar to that in Master Reboot. We feel this combination works well for us and creates originality in our games.

What prompted the choice to make puzzles play a larger role in Soul Axiom than Master Reboot?

Master Reboot had some puzzles that were a hit and miss. So we listened to the gamers and focused on creating more interesting puzzles that took full advantage of our new hand power system. In this game, we give the player the ability to manipulate their surroundings to solve the puzzles and progress through the game. We like to call this “Dynamic Adaptive Environments”. The player must Phase, Play, Corrupt and Destroy their way through the game and this will also allow you to re-visit memories to unlock previously hidden areas.

The game is currently on Steam Early access, how is this helping with the development process?

This is the first time we have developed a game to be released on Steam Early Access and I can confidently say that so far it has been a real success for us. We’re only a month in so we still have a long way to go, but we have built up a community that really appreciates the work we are doing and actually enjoy being a part of the development. We regularly update the game and we always take the time to respond to our community. In fact, we have even set up a Top Contributors Thread, whereby we have promised to show our appreciation to the fans by including a select few names in the credits of the game for the players that contribute to the development the most.

What are some of the challenges when creating a game as ambitious as Soul Axiom?

Keeping up demand for regular Early Access updates is probably our biggest challenge at the moment, probably because our team is so ambitious in terms of the content they want to send out but also because Soul Axiom is indeed an ambitious project itself. It is aiming to be around three times as long as the average playing time for Master Reboot. So we are looking for around 12 hours of gameplay which is a big step up for us when you think we are also putting in around 40 unique locations with a handful of characters and cut scenes throughout the game. Not forgetting we are also working on porting our other games to new consoles. Thankfully, we have a really strong team that are proud of their work and committed to sending out new and improved content regularly for the Early Access development.

Do you have any advice for other developers who want to follow the indie route?

Sure. Creating a unique game is getting harder and harder these days with so many developers battling to get their games noticed. Take the time to plan a game that has something that’s not been done before. Whether you want a unique visual style or a story that’s out of this world, the worst thing you can do is create something that is boring and has been done time and time again as you’ll find your game being lost amongst the rest.

What are the future plans for Soul Axiom/Wales Interactive?

Soul Axiom is set to have its 1.0 release on Steam in spring 2015. Following that, we will be bringing Soul Axiom to the PS4, Xbox One and Wii U, so it will be a busy year for us. We are also very close to releasing our first PS4 game, Infinity Runner, which is a slick sci-fi action running game that features a multiplayer mode up to 32 players and fully supports the Oculus Rift DK1. People have asked us if we have plans to implement Rift support into Soul Axiom. This isn’t something we have planned before the 1.0 release, but it’s definitely something we will be discussing as we had a lot of fun working on that with Infinity Runner.

What is the most unusual thing on your desk right now?

My desk is currently filled with souvenirs from our recent expedition to the Tokyo Game Show where we were 1 of 4 UK indie devs to be invited to showcase their latest games. Over 300 UK developers applied for this, so it’s a huge privilege to have been chosen to attend the exhibition. Amongst the toys and sweets you’ll find one my favourites… SUPER LEMON CANDY!

Anything else you would like to add?

Actually, yes! I want to take this opportunity to thank all of our fans for the support they have given us over the past couple of years. We hope you are enjoying our games and we look forward to showing you what else Wales can bring to the games industry. I also want to thank GAMERamble for this opportunity 🙂

A big thanks to Ben for taking a break from his hectic schedule to chat with us about Soul Axiom. Anyone that want to know more about the game can check out our Early Access preview HERE or visit the official website.

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5 Comments

  1. ClearkillConfirmed December 11, 2014
    Reply

    I can see the Bioshock influences, but the more horror-ish tone is very cool. Does that robot thing in the screengrab attack? Or are there no enemies and only puzzles?

    • Ben December 15, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks for your comments! The robot in the museum does not attack as we like to find other ways of creating a sense of danger in certain levels. However, that isn’t to say we would never add in certain enemies you want to avoid. In fact, you may find one or two in our next level which is released this week!

  2. Vhyia December 11, 2014
    Reply

    Lemon Candy? !

  3. Avox-XxX December 11, 2014
    Reply

    At lest it looks better than Infinity Runner. I heard the vr mode in that game made lots of people sick.

  4. Timero December 15, 2014
    Reply

    Ha what a cool surname. Ill probably snap this one up when its done so I dont ruin any surprises playing it in early access. Sounds like it is on point so far.

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