The recently launched Kickstarter campaign for The Seed is an unusual one. At first glance it looks pretty normal, popular MOD team MDT is attempting to create their own game; a post apocalyptic one that doesn’t stray too far from their familiar settings. However, when you read through the campaign you’ll find that The Seed is anything but normal. It’s a visual novel set in a post apocalyptic world of misery and pain straight out of Cormac McCarthy’s modern classic, The Road. Stepping beyond what you would expect of a typical visual novel, other than the setting that is, come a variety of role playing elements, tons of possible endings, and of course the very glum subject matter. Nicolai Aaroe, creative director on The Seed, was kind enough to answer some of our questions recently, and in doing so left us with what might go down as the most disturbing and depressing of interview haikus.
Cliqist : For anyone not familiar with your S.T.A.L.K.E.R. work, can you tell us about yourself, and your teams past work?
Nicolai Aaroe : “MISERY” is a full concept modification of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Call of Pripyat that changes everything in this FPS game, except for the main story line.
The mod has twice as much data as the original game and is being downloaded more than 1,000 times each day, despite the fact that the game itself was released in more than 4 years ago.
Under the name of MDT (or The MISERY Development Team) a large international group of modders cooperate in an effort to make the game reach its full potential.
We have people with very different backgrounds and skill sets and work on the mod 24/7 every single day, and have done so for years now.
Cliqist : The Seed is similar to your previous work in a number of ways, but also very different. Could you briefly describe the game?
Nicolai Aaroe : The similarities are found in aspects of isolation, survival, team work, psychology social skills and atmosphere. You will find the same qualities in The Seed but the similarities stop there. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a FPS game whereas The Seed is much deeper and based on your morale, mentality and imagination. If you love the slow paced, role playing elements of such games as Metro 2033, the Fallout series and the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series you will love The Seed.
Cliqist : Can you describe what a typical session of The Seed would be like for a player? Is it just reading text and looking at pretty pictures? How long do you expect a single playthrough to last
Nicolai Aaroe : A typical session would be going through a full chapter or two. You are reading an extremely captivating story and atmosphere and within each chapter you will have to make at least 1 well thought out decision.
This is not a simple matter of “Go left or right?” but rather moral grey zones where you, for example, would have to prioritize your survival chances or be very selfish towards the other people in your group. What would work best for you in the long run?
Each Act is a game on its own and a full playthrough would equal about the length of short novel. Then add to that inventory management and navigational decisions.
On your second playthrough you will have a completely different game and Act 1 has a staggering 50 possible endings in total.
Nicolai Aaroe : This is probably what’s to be expected from us, but why stick to this genre forever?
We put a lot of effort into adding immersion, psychology, micro management and depth to the game. But all in all we can’t deny the fact that STALKER is a First Person Shooter and as such the game mechanics are focused on this element. We needed a setup that allows for a much broader mental focus. Something that sticks to you a good while after, and we can do that with The Seed. Heavy Rain has some great player choices throughout and some of these can really add to your real life character in a way that killing mutants in a shooter game cannot.
Cliqist : Do people seem to get what you’re doing in The Seed, or has there been some confusion?
Nicolai Aaroe : I think that people seem to get this and more. We already had a good amount of cool suggestions and ideas for the game. Some people are disappointed that we are not doing a standalone first person shooter, but that is okay. If you hate the idea of reading a very good novel then probably The Seed will be less appealing to you. We consider this a product for the mature audience.
Young people are fully capable of endorsing good literature just as much, but the themes and the plot can potentially get very very dark and sinister if you move in that direction.
Cliqist : The Seed features an interesting take on the role of women in a post-apocalyptic world, one that’s not very politically correct. Do you worry that you’re courting potential controversy by not advertising a strong female character?
Nicolai Aaroe : The Seed feature men and women who constantly struggle to survive the harsh conditions, and for varied reasons. Women posses qualities that men do not and vice versa. There are lots of other movies and games where either men or women are the underdogs from time to time, such as the movie “Threads”. But we are very open and honest about the fact that we also deal with sensitive content and takes on some things. In the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. MISERY mod we added the book “Mein Kampf” to the game.
Luckily 99,9% of all gamers are fully aware that we didn’t do this because we endorse Nazism in any kind of way; In MISERY you tear out its pages for alternate purposes. There is no such attempt as portraying a world where women are less valued or important as men, In fact we delicately hint that women posses skills and qualities that are just as important as the male gender; if not more. Have you seen Children of Men? They kind of do the same thing, yet portraying this in a very discrete way. In Planet of The Apes the all men and women are underdogs and we hate the apes as the bad guys initially.
In The Seed you will hate some women just as much as some men. You will favor some female characters just as much as some male characters. We are not narrow minded or male chauvinists, but genuinely interested in sinister themes where you, as the player, will have to make a stand from time to time.
Cliqist : How do you want people to feel after playing a session of The Seed?
Nicolai Aaroe : The goal here is to provide a captivating story where you make some of the hard decisions and priorities. If we could get as far as having some people having to ‘sleep on it’ in terms of which decision they are going for then I think that we have come a really long way. Throughout your playthrough the decisions that you will have to make will be gradually harder for you to choose from.
Cliqist : Any final words for someone that might be on the fence about backing The Seed?
Nicolai Aaroe : We hope to have proven our potential through our past work on the MISERY mod. If we let you down on that, then okay, chances are that you might not like the theme of The Seed. But if you like the idea of supporting a hard working and devoted indie team then go for it. Our ambitions are high and we feel extremely passionate about this game and our plot.
Cliqist : Can you finish us up with a haiku inspired by The Seed?
Nicolai Aaroe :
Still a meal?
Would integrity be cut?
A stomach would not
You can learn more about The Seed by checking out its Kickstarter campaign that’s running until April 17th.