Examiner chats with the team behind “Cold Horizon,” Ray Willmott and Alex Burnett, Executive Producers, Sheraz Ali, Director and Elwira Kolber, the side-scrolling stealth game from Big Cake Games. Drawing their inspiration from “Metal Gear Solid,” as well as “Tomb Raider” and “Rayman,” “Cold Horizon” is a unique take on the stealth action genre.
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To view the “Cold Horizon” Kickstarter Page, Click Here.
Examiner: What has the development process been like this far?
Ray Willmott: We’ve all worked really hard on the game but have been trying to fill a full-time schedule into our spare time which has been a challenge. We first started working on this back late last year when it was just at the concept art stage, but have been developing ever since, putting together a build, creating in-game art and animations, developing sound effects and a musical score, guiding narrative direction. We’ve been working toward this campaign for many months now and have been looking forward to sharing our ambitions with the rest of the world. There have been bumps in the road, as with any game, but we’re looking forward to seeing how this campaign affects the next stages of that development process.
Examiner: What makes this game special?
Burnett: I think it’s a combination of things. We mention narrative quite a lot and appreciate no one has really had a chance to see that yet though the opening moments of our Kickstarter trailer are actually part of the Episode One prologue. Of course, the art and music have attracted people to the project. They’re both very distinctive and fresh, and I think that creates a distinctive and memorable atmosphere. There’s also the gameplay mechanics which change from episode to episode, and the way those mechanics will affect puzzle-solving throughout the game. Then the fact it’s an episodic platformer, which is rare. I genuinely feel that, whether you want to play the game in small chunks or in one go, the Cold Horizon experience can easily work its way into your game-time, however you choose to experience it. That kind of flexibility is so precious in this day and age.
Examiner: How does it feel to get so much positive feedback so far?
Elwira Kolber: It’s awesome! We are so grateful for the positive responses we’ve had. It shows that we are going in right direction with Cold Horizon. As the project is still in development, it’s also a show of trust from you, dear players. We acknowledge and appreciate that, so will do our very best to continue building the best possible experience we can, which, we hope, will only make Cold Horizon better. So, thank you!
Examiner: What games did you play as a kid? How did they influence this one?
Kolber: Metal Gear Solid is, of course, a big inspiration on our game. From the art-style to the music, the story, even the stealth and puzzle solving elements, you’ll definitely notice similarities there. This is why we’ve continued to emphasize our story and why we’ve made our characters and their backstories so deep. We want you to get to know our cast personally. That is why we have spent so much time hiring real actors for the VA roles. However, we see Cold Horizon as more of an homage to the Metal Gear games rather than a direct comparison, and our vision definitely has its own unique style and feel.
There is a ton of other influences in there. Probably too many to list, but there are the usual picks from the SNES and N64/PSX era. Super Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy, but also classic DOS titles like Doom, Quake, Monkey Island, Day of the Tentacle. Also games like Kao The Kangaroo, Rayman 2 or early Tomb Raiders. I suppose all games we played as kids had that “epic moment”. Whether it was the music, gameplay or graphics. We want to bring out those elements in Cold Horizon as well.
Examiner: Describe the art style. Why go in this direction?
Kolber: We wanted to hit the comic book style. There are lots of hand-painted games and they look awesome, but they aim for audiences who appreciate a more illustrative and lush style. From the outset, we decided to go with a more loose approach to the graphics but believe they can still be aesthetic in their own way. We see this style as still quite a niche for games and look forward to filling it with something quite different.
Examiner: How was the soundtrack put together?
Alex Burnett: We talk about the themes in the game and what kind of emotions we want to express through the music. We bounce ideas back and forth and try to complement our styles and the way we write music. However, it’s fair to say that the differing seasons and episodic nature of the game greatly influenced the soundtrack. For instance, we created a new sound palette for each of the seasons using a combination of traditional and ethnic instruments, synthesizers, and sound design. The jungle level, for instance, has a number of different African instruments whilst the winter level has more Nordic influences. We also had the pleasure of working with a talented vocalist (Harriet Kassner) who recorded a Nordic folksong/lullaby which acts as a theme throughout the game and connects the boy back to his mother and winter home at the beginning of the story. The narrative is a central part of Cold Horizon and the music is key to connecting people with all the various characters and story elements. In other words, the soundtrack is the heart of the game.
Examiner: How did you put the team together?
Willmott: The team came together mid-last year as Outer Haven Productions. Outer Haven worked on a proposed Metal Gear Remake and had the support of both Konami UK and David Hayter. Unfortunately, the project received a cease & desist and was completely scrapped which eventually led to the birth of Big Cake Games. The original members of Outer Haven remained, a few new team members came on board and development began on Cold Horizon.
Examiner: What makes your Kickstarter different?
Burnett: We’ve taken advantage of the art style that has captured so much attention and brought that to Kickstarter. As a result, the page looks really special and eye-catching, but it’s also full of information and detail. We’ve been as open and as transparent as possible, detailing our development intentions, the challenges we face, our goals and desires, and we’ve gone to great lengths to show off as much of the game as possible without spoiling the story or over-saturating content. But our campaign really separates itself from everything else because the game speaks to a wide audience. There’s magic and mysticism in Cold Horizon, but there’s also tales of the hardships of a post-apocalyptic wasteland and how that’s affected connections between humans and animals. Our game has a polar bear as a lead, which is almost unheard of. That alone makes it very different from anything else on the market right now. But more than that, we’re analyzing a connection between the bear, the boy and the player. We’re exploring the humanity of this graceful creature, what drives her connection to this infant, and helping the player understand how she can even begin to survive in the world where everything seems to be against her. The Kickstarter does a great job of setting a scene while also establishing a statement of intent for Cold Horizon. We believe all these factors will make the difference in getting us past our goal.
Examiner: What’s next?
Burnett: Well, ideally we will have a successful Kickstarter campaign. If not, we will be looking at other ways of funding the development of the game. We have had such an extraordinary response to Cold Horizon that we believe it would be a shame for the game not to be made. Many people have fallen in love with the story, the artwork, and the music. They want to see it made and actually play the game for themselves. So if you’re reading this, head to our Kickstarter page and help us make Cold Horizon a reality. There are many exciting rewards on offer in exchange for your support!
Examiner: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Burnett: For creating bonds between characters and the player. We want our players to come away from Cold Horizon remembering Eira or Rikard or Sycamore months, even years later. Whether it’s a piece of music that prompts them, or a line of dialogue, or some artwork, we are building our characters to make a lasting impression. And we want players to enjoy that journey, mixing it up with unique gameplay mechanics and compelling story, we are designing this game having enjoyed and played many other classics in the genre. We’re confident we know how to build a great platform action/adventure and we hope we get the chance to prove that off the back of this campaign.