An intriguing new indie game with extremely lofty influences is storming away on Kickstarter. We spoke to the people behind it
Ambitious, beautiful-looking and developed by just three people, few indie projects capture the imagination as powerfully as No Matter Studios’ forthcoming adventure Prey For The Gods.
But perhaps that’s not surprising.
With its atmospheric open world, and hulking centrepiece bosses which must be scaled strategically as they tower above their surroundings, the most obvious comparison point is clearly Shadow Of The Colossus: Team Ico’s beautiful, breathtaking and beloved 2005 epic.
But while Prey For The Gods director Brian Parnell is happy to cite that seminal title as a key influence on his creation, he is also aware that hype can be a dangerous thing.
In particular, he’s wary of the fact that some people are already touting this as the sequel to Shadow Of The Colossus that never was.
“That is very stressful to be honest!” he says. “The game plays so differently. I think we all want more Shadow Of The Colossus, but trying to make us into that is really not what we’re intending.
“I hope people can admire what we’re doing and not come expecting this to pick up where Shadow Of The Colossus ended.”
Prey For The Gods takes place on a frozen island where “countless heroes have landed, but never returned”.
Armed with a trusty bow and grappling hook among other things, the player must locate and destroy the gigantic aforementioned creatures. But, according to Brian, there’s an awful lot going on here besides.
Players will loot items, deal with hostile smaller foes and environmental hazards, and thoroughly explore their surroundings in any order they like.
“The world you arrive in is not happy you are there. Every step you are shown failure from past heroes and hostility is all around you.
“We really want the player to explore, and think about what they are doing and why.”
With features including non-linear gameplay, dynamic weather, and a day/night cycle, the experience certainly seems to have found favour with the online community.
At the time of writing the project has almost reached its initial $300,000 crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter [UPDATE: it has now reached that goal] which – with 11 days still to run – bodes well for the stretch goals that the team has laid out.
No Matter cite post-apocalyptic hit DayZ has another central influence. But said influence goes far beyond the survival elements.
Indeed, perhaps the most fascinating driving force behind Prey For The Gods is the desire to create a game where player experiences vary wildly, and generate a wealth of discussion, story-telling and wider mythology online.
“To me, the reason why we fell in love with DayZ was that every time we played the game it was so unique,” explains Brian. “Every playthrough was so varied. We would spend hours playing and come out with radically different stories that we’d share.
“[With Prey For The Gods] we didn’t want everyone experiencing the bosses and world in the same way. We want the player to experience the game in their own unique way based on choices they make. We want them to share how they managed the cards they were dealt, and information they uncovered.”
Interestingly, that extends to the inspiration provided by Shadow Of The Colossus too. It’s not just giant bosses that Brian seeks to take a cue from.
“I didn’t own a PS2. So for me Shadow Of The Colossus was always this mysterious game that I never got a chance to play. When I finally did, the story had been told to me countless times.
“I am completely fascinated with the stories outside of the game. Finding the hidden boss, the culture and cult following. It reminded me of my favourite game, Deus Ex.”
No Matter Studios is comprised of Brian, who started as a play-tester at Nintendo before working on such titles as Titan Quest and Rock Band 2; artist and programmer Tim Wiese; and 3D graphics whizz and software engineer Hung-Chien Liao.
The trio had all found themselves working on mobile games – and missed traditional development.
“It’s always been in me to someday make my own game,” explains Brian. “That’s the dream right?
“I’d rather make a game and fail, than never do it at all.”
He can still remember the night when the specific spark of inspiration for Prey For The Gods struck.
“It was late. Very late. Probably 2-3am – when the best ideas present themselves. And the worst!
“I was typing out to Tim just my thought on how it could work. Initially, we were going with a desert theme, but it just didn’t feel quite right. I’ve always loved snow levels, and snow in general can just be so haunting.
“We were able to come up with some interesting gameplay, plus the idea of a path in the snow really stuck. At the core it was always about one person dealing with impossible odds.”
No Matter are hoping to have the game out for PC in December 2017, with the process of porting the title to PS4 and Xbox One to begin soon after. But Brian is clear that getting the project absolutely right is paramount.
“We aren’t going to ship a turd because of a date. That’s terrible for everyone and so far our backers have actually asked us to take our time and not worry about hitting the date. It’s been pretty surprising.
“We know there are risks with game development. We want to be aggressive with our schedule so that we can spend more time polishing at the end. I’d rather get boss battles in early, then polish them in parallel, than work one boss after another.”
Prey For The Gods has already proven a considerable undertaking for the central trio.
Unable to spare his daylight hours to the project for the first eighteen months, Brian worked on it until 2am in the morning every night from the summer of 2014 until going full-time in January this year, with 12-16 hour days being the norm since then.
It’s hard not to wonder how such an ambitious title can be completed by such a tiny team, but crucially, it won’t just be the three central designers who are lending their talents to the game.
Music will be provided by award-winning composer Ian Dorsch, whose work encompasses ethereal, epic soundscapes. And the near-iconic Zero Punctuation rock intro.
Added to that, new personnel will almost certainly come on board too.
“We’d like to hire an animator and a world builder to help offset Tim’s time, and my time. So technically, that’s practically doubling the team size!
“We can do this with three people. We’ve been doing it with three people so far. But it would be faster and with a bit more polish with the additional support.”
Brian is also adamant about another potential concern.
There are currently five bosses planned for the game (though more are promised if No Matter hit stretch goals on Kickstarter).
Is Brian not worried that five may be too few, given this is a title where some will see those encounters as the core attraction?
“Not at all, seeing as you can choose how to approach them and there is quite a bit to do in between the encounters.
“There’s some other things too that I’m not really ready to discuss – but we’ve always wanted a small scope high quality experience.”
It’ll be interesting to see how the final experience turns out. And we have another 17 months to wait at least.
But for now, the initial gameplay footage, not to mention No Matter’s lofty aims and inspirations, suggest this will be one indie project well worth keeping an eye on.
Prey For The Gods is coming to PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4. You can check out and donate to the Kickstarter here.