Weird West is, as you might imagine, a strange game: an immersive, systems-dependent isometric simulator that evokes the original Fallout games if its combat were in real time, as well as the excellent Dishonored. The latter really shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering Dishonored co-creator (and Arkane Studios co-founder) Raph Colantonio made Weird West with his new indie outfit WolfEye Studios.
It wasn’t a smooth pitch for Weird West seven months ago. Bugs and assorted other quirks meant that the game’s early review scores, while still firmly in the “good” group, reflected a game that some felt could have used a little more time in the oven. But Weird West has come a long way in a short space of time. In close collaboration with the community, WolfEye has not only fixed the game, but also significantly improved it. evolved adding new systems and mechanics, as well as dozens of little touches that really put the ‘immersion’ into the ‘sim’.
Colantonio is an industry veteran, having created his first game with Arkane Studios, Arx Fatalis, back in 2002. And yet, Weird West’s journey has been a learning experience for him. With Arkane being owned by Bethesda since 2009, and the ‘indie’ publication looking very different than it is today, Colantonio hadn’t worked independently in a strange new game world where concepts like ‘Early Access’ and ‘Pass Pass’ game’ are the norm. In fact, he admits that he had some prejudices about early access and that, looking back, Weird West could have benefited from going that route.
“We never looked at things like early access because we thought it was just a way for developers to pre-sell their game and start funding it with the money they make,” he tells me. “But it’s much more than that. He also helps people create the game, which gives you access to a wide variety of opinions. For our next game, we’ll probably involve the community at a very early stage.”
Weird West is a system-based game – the kind of game that is vulnerable to a problem many immersive sims face, which is that players can either interact with those systems to create awesome moments and spawn pop-up stories, or they can play the game while completely bypassing the systemic magic of the game.
For example, at the beginning of Weird West you can bury your son, come back later to dig the grave, and then use a bone from your son’s body as a weapon to get revenge on the people involved in his death (a pop-up B-movie) . tale of revenge right there). It’s a game where cities can prosper or be overrun by demons depending on your actions, and where random NPCs you save early in the game can come back later to save you in a firefight, perhaps even sacrificing themselves in the process. It’s deep, but Raph suggests that the future of these games is to “keep the depth and remove the complexity.”
“I think there’s the core of the game and the presentation, and sometimes the presentation prevents people from seeing the core,” says Raph. “Some gamers aren’t used to being left alone with a bunch of systems and figuring out what they have. We did our best to mentor Weird West, but I think we can do better, and by testing very early with the community, we can do it in better ways and include people from the start.”
Rather than lament Weird West’s missed opportunity to evolve as an Early Access game alongside the community, Raph and WolfEye moved quickly after Weird West’s release to make up for lost time with the game’s fans. The developers set a suggestion board for Weird Westwhere the community (and anyone who visits the page) can vote and discuss new features to be added to the game.
“I personally don’t like the Game Pass buffet business model, but I can’t go against it.”
With the help of this dashboard, significant updates have been added, from big things like a much improved stealth system, alternate fire modes, and a Reputation tab where you can track your reputation and relationships in the world, to finer details. . For example, according to a highly voted suggestion, when you knock out an enemy in Weird West and throw them on a bed, their friends will simply assume that enemy is asleep instead of automatically knowing that they’ve been knocked out. Upcoming changes to the game suggested by users include the ability to freely switch between characters once you complete the story, as well as a sandbox mode that allows you to freely roam the west (with an increased number of activities and random missions planned). for that mode). through the pipe).
The continued evolution of the game reflects Raph and WolfEye’s open-minded and open-minded approach to game development. “We are open to anything,” he begins. “The game is showing that it has a long tail and we definitely have more things in the oven. I don’t know how long, we’ve got three big things planned right now and after that it’s like ‘let’s see what happens’.”
In the time since Weird West entered development some four years ago, Microsoft’s Game Pass has become the ‘Netflix of gaming’ that many had been anticipating for years, and a few months before the release of Weird West, the game was presented as a Day One. Title of the game pass. Many indie developers, particularly new studios, have praised Game Pass as a great way to bring more attention to their games while also not having to worry too much about marketing or sales of a game. Weird West has apparently done well on Game Pass, with nearly a million downloads according to Raph, but despite this, he doesn’t think such subscription-based services are necessarily a good thing.
“I personally don’t like the buffet business model, but I can’t object to it, so as a company we have to find what it means to navigate a world where it will be a subscription buffet for everyone.” Raph tells me. “It eliminates consumer investment. It is true for music too. I used to buy a CD of a song from the album, but listening to that album over and over again, I found that the song I used to hate would now be my favorite from the album. On Spotify it’s like five seconds, ‘I don’t like the intro,’ next.”
But with an indie studio under his belt, Raph appreciates that he can’t let idealism get in the way of pragmatism, and would even put his next game on Game Pass “if the money is right.” He concludes, “At the end of the day, it’s about what serves the game best and what serves our ability to do so.”
Weird West’s myriad updates speak to the game’s modular infrastructure, in that it’s relatively easy to add layers of mechanics and systems to the game. That’s because Weird West was always designed with modding in mind, and one of the next major updates will release the game’s robust modding tools to the community. “I’ve never made a game that has modding, so it was always kind of a personal wish that I had,” says Raph. “You can create your own entire story if you want, either using your own models or our own models or some additional models that we’ll be releasing as well. I think people will be pleased and have fun with it.”
The development of Weird West, like its narrative structure, has involved multiple journeys. There was his journey into development and his journey since, which opened Colantonio’s eyes to the value of community involvement, especially for the kind of complex system-based games he specializes in. The game’s own journey shows that if a developer has a vision that speaks to the community, they will always be ready to step up and help bring that game’s vision to life, before or after release.
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