Xsolla continues its quest of discovering great Early Access games. We’ve talked with the developers of You Are Being Hunted. The alpha version of this project was very successful and allowed Big Robot studio to get the funding necessary for finishing the game.
The most peculiar thing about stealth/action/sandbox Sir, You Are Being Hunted are the mysterious British landscapes. Big Robot developed a neat engine that allows generating old secluded islands filled with dark forests, forgotten villages and endless swamps. The next great thing are robots dressed as Victorian gentlemen. Gamers need to escape from the island and collect pieces of ancient runes. Needless to say, these artifacts are guarded by your mechanical foes.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted’s lead programmer Tom Betts created a prototype of the engine called «sci-fi cover art generator». This piece of code allowed creating strange sci-fi landscapes, which looked as if they were created by illustrators from the 1970. However the fantastic setting was thrown out and the team went with the British vision of the game’s style.
Old British TV-shows from 60-70s (Doctor Who, Avengers) were the main source of inspiration for Sir, You Are Being Hunted. There programs had monsters which looked like simple rubber costumes but there was a certain air of threat around them. They were both comic and evil. Robots in Sir, You Are Being Hunted have the same quality. They look like characters form the Wizard of Oz but give them one reason and they will hunt you down!
After 6 moths of hard work Big Robot began its crowd funding campaing on Kickstarter. The feedback was incredible. Hoping to get £40k, developers got over £92k. Another 6 month later company began taking preorder for Sir, You Are Being Hunted and entered Steam Early Access. Game was also being sold through Humble Bundle and the studio’s official website.
«I can’t speak for other studios, but for us Early Access was the only option. We did a Kickstarter and when that money was gone we needed another stream of revenue. To complete our game Early Access was the only viable route. As such it probably does make a better game — I think many games that would have released buggy and unfinished in the past can now take time to reach maturity», — says gamedesigner Jim Rossignol from Big Robot.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted also has great AI. Robots will literally hunt for a player. Machines scout the woods, set traps and stationary turrets. Sometimes they get bored from constant chase and stop for a cup of tea and a chat. To get this level of detail in a game so small and cheap is impossible without proper feedback from the players.
«The main reason is feedback. The more people you can get playing your game, the more data you can feed into development. This is the most important aspect of Early Access: it provides testing and support in a way that most small studios cannot ever hope to achieve without the playerbase. Secondly there is an ongoing income that can support game development, although this has the downside of meaning you are spending money that could be saved for another project», — says Jim, who has been writing about games for Rock, Paper, Shotgun for years.
Early Access games are a tough sell. Developers have to prove that their unfinished game packs a great value and will provide hours of fun gameplay. While working with the community the main task of the developers is to persuade the community that the game is not ready yet and it will get better with their support:
«Getting people to realise it is unfinished is the main issue. People buying in at early access need to realise they are speculatively supporting a game. They’re not getting a finished product, instead they’re gambling that buying in now will help them support and influence the finished thing. Hopefully they get to see a bit of how game development works along the way, too!», — Jim Rossignol says.
Sir, You Are Being Hunted is a fine example of a small indie project that got the most of its alpha sales. Such games as Starbound, DayZ, Sir, You Are Being Hunted and Novus AEterno show that today’s game market has changed a lot. What you need to have — is a great product and the money will always follow.