Xbox One, PC Exclusive The Solus Project Interview with Sjoerd de Jong

Xbox One and PC Exclusive, The Solus Project launches for Game Preview and Early Access in early 2016, with a full release to come in the second quarter of the year. Developed by the team of Teotl Studios and Grip Games, The Solus Project is a single player game centred around an Astronauts mission to save mankind. When his spacecraft crashes down onto the planet Gliese-6143-C, he is forced to survive a number of different factors including hunger and weather conditions, with survival and exploration elements, The Solus Project looks to be one of the games of 2016 and was praised at E3 earlier this year.

We recently had the chance to catch up with the mastermind behind the game, Sjoerd de Jong, who is also the head of Teotl Studios to find out more about what we can expect from the exciting project.

The Solus Project

PressA2Join: Can you tell me a little about the story of Teotl Studios and Grip Games, how did the two studios come together for The Solus Project?

Sjoerd de Jong: We first worked together with Grip Games on our second title Unmechanical. We originally released that game for PC and mobile a couple of years ago, and then at some point Grip got in touch with us regarding to port it over to the console platforms. After that success story we decided to take our collaboration to the next level, and we partnered up to wrap up and ship our third game The Solus Project.

Gliese-6143-C appears to be a very diverse planet with certain elements such as dynamic weather affecting the game’s conditions, can you tell me a little about the planet’s size and terrain and how these elements will alter the experience?

Sjoerd: The planet is a water world that consists of millions of islands. It is a massive archipelago world basically. You crash land on one small island, and soon after find out that the shallow sea has many miles of caves and tunnels underneath. Through these dark passages you make your way to the other and larger islands.
Each island has some unique elements and challenges to it. One might be very vertically oriented and windy, another very warm.

Also the caves offer a radically different experience and challenge compared to the islands, so as you are playing you will often have to adjust your survival strategies and adapt to a new environment.
The planet as a whole is a planet in its early stages of development. It has all the right ingredients but it is still volatile. Earthquakes and freak weather events are frequent. Life has only began developing in the oceans yet, which you will see some rare signs of left and right. Otherwise the planet has some early forms of vegetation but all the vegetation is limited in size. There are no dense forests or jungles on this world. Circling the planet are two moons, and the planet orbits a relatively weak star.

The Solus Project

The Planet looks beautifully crafted with a wonderful mixture of light and dark textures, how much work has gone into the landscapes design and was there anything specific you had in mind when starting out with the project?

Sjoerd: When we started out we knew we wanted to create a barren alien planet with a vivid color palette, but at the same time also didn’t look too obviously alien. We wanted something that looked familiar to Earth, yet at the same time has some very recognizable elements that distinguish it from Earth. Two large moons and the red vegetation do that for example. The style was the very first thing we did when we began work on the game. A game like this is all about the visuals and the journey you make through the world so getting the world and atmosphere right was critical for us.

The Solus Project focuses on you as the player with no apparent enemies or friendlies around, why did you decide to go down this route as opposed to having people or foreign enemies to engage with?

Sjoerd: For two reasons. First of all it is partially down to my own background. I started out with level design and environment art long ago when I got into games, and it is still where my heart is. As an indie developer you can take two different approaches to making your own games. You can either create what you think the gamers want, but risk that you end up one out of the many games who are following the current hype. Or you can create the game you yourself want to play, and hope that the passion you put into it shines through and appeals to the gamers. I took the second option. My heart is in creating worlds and environments so I designed an entire game around just that. I want to create a game that is really focused entirely on the experience of being on an atmospheric alien planet. Having the player soak up the atmosphere and experience all the way through.

Secondly it is also about taking a stand. What makes the game different and unique is that you are absolutely utterly alone. Think the isolation portrayed in the movie Cast Away, but instead amplified by being light years away from home in an alien environment. Enemies and combat has obviously been done a lot already in games, in TSP we are after creating a new and different kind of journey.

The Solus Project

The game has large exploration elements to it, how much time do you think can be spent traversing the planets terrain?

Sjoerd: We are aiming for around 7 to 9 hours of exploration and game time, so it is quite large indeed. The game will have some bottlenecks everyone must pass, which are part of our linear story driven approach, but other than that areas can be traversed as players see fit. You can also always backtrack to any previously explored areas and look for more there. Over a hundred secrets have been hidden away in the world, some within large secret sections.

In total the planet has five different islands which are all connected by cave systems, can you tell me a little about the different islands and what difficulties players face when attempting to navigate the systems?

Sjoerd: We’ve got Landing, Crossroads, Flashpoint, Highpoint, and eventually Hotspot. Those are the five islands. They are all about the same size except for the smaller start island of Landing. While the first two islands are pretty standard, Flashpoint, Highpoint, and Hotspot each have unique characteristics. Highpoint is very vertical for example, and has a massive windmill built on its highest point. Lots of climbing in that level, and more wind than usual.

The caves are equally diverse. The miles of cave systems we got house all kinds of different dangers. The caves do not have much food available, so managing your food while underground will be crucial, and ensuring you got enough light with you is also vital. Losing your light underground will lead to a slow death. On top of that we got many challenges that are unique for the various locations you will visit. Some of our alien flora attacks, we have H2S gas here and there and there are a number of traps from the former inhabitants as well. Caves are also difficult to stay warm in, with a constant climate just above freezing.

The Solus Project

Players must deal with a range of differing factors that can affect in game health including thirst, hunger and body temperature, can you tell me a little about the items found on Gliese-6143-C that can help players with survival?

Sjoerd: There are about 40 items to find, some human, some alien. Some of our more unique items include beacons you can drop somewhere and they mark the location. We also got a solar powered flashlight, which you must recharge in the sunlight once it runs out of juice. Besides those we got various powerful alien devices that allow you to control the climate near you, and of course you can make torches and fires. We also got special items to dry yourself with, and many gimmick items as well. You can find a bottle of champagne somewhere, we’ve got Milson in there (Wilson’s brother, with a beard), a music player and so forth.

With the game due for release for the Xbox One and PC will you be looking to render the game in 1080p at 60fps?

Sjoerd: PC will certainly support 1080p and 60fps. On Xbox One, we will initially support lower framerate and sub-1080p to provide the best user experience, but as we progress through the Preview and deliver more content, we will also work on optimizations and are planning to constantly upgrade the visuals. 1080p is our goal.

The Solus Project

The Solus Project is due to launch through Xbox One’s game preview early 2016, what was the main reason for this decision?

Sjoerd: Yeah so we will be launching in episodes on Preview and Steam’s Early Access early next year. After a short but intense Preview period we hope to launch the full game 3-4 months later. The reason we are going for Preview/Early Access is that we want to find out how the players are experiencing our world. This is an exploration experience with no enemies of flesh and blood, and it has been a bit of a challenge to find the right balance between creating too open and vague an experience, and a too strict and obvious game. We would love to find out if what we’ve made needs to be clearer, or more open, and how we should balance those two extremes to each other.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the viewers about The Solus Project?

Sjoerd: It is important to note that TSP is a singleplayer game with survival elements. It is not a survival game like most other survival games out there. This is not a sandbox game, but a story driven singleplayer experience with a start and an end. In between those two points you got some freedom, but above all you are following the story and unraveling the mysteries of this strange planet. In that sense it is very much so alike our previous titles The Ball and Unmechanical, or like classics such as Unreal.

We would like to thank Sjoerd de Jong for taking time out to speak with us.

The Solus Project launches for the Xbox One Game Preview and STEAM’s Early Access in Q1 of 2016.

About Daniel Pitt

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Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.

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