Written By: Erika Haase
Rain World has been growing by leaps and bounds over the past five years of its development. From an unknown project on an indie gaming forum, to an upcoming project that has won awards at GDC and being published by Adult Swim Games, it’s been a long road to say the least. With its endearing main character known as a “slug cat,” prepare to explore the world of 16-bit retro graphics in a survival platformer with highly intelligent AI systems, dynamic environments, and a physics engine that will make you realize this game isn’t as retro as it might look on the surface.
Outstanding music thuds and clunks in the background, setting the tone for the hunt, composed by the stellar chiptune audio engineer and composer, James Therrien (known to much of the world as James Primate of the chiptune band Bright Primate). Slug Cat is out to find his family in a cold and forlorn world that is often awash in color and frenetic lizard fights that challenge reaction times and force you to find alternative solutions if you’re backed into a corner.
Coming out this year, date TBA, for PS4 and PC as a digital release, Rain World promises to be everything that people have been hoping for. From an ultra-successful Kickstarter campaign that gained the game a loyal (and very patient) fan base, to new fans who have been discovering the game at conventions, there’s a lot we know about what the game is now.
What’s lesser known is where the game really came from, the arduous journey to turn it into a polished gem, and the lives of the two men originally behind it who founded development studio Videocult together to bring slug cat to life from opposite sides of the globe. Graphic designer, artist, and game developer Joar Jakobsson and audio engineer, composer, and game designer James Therrien have dedicated the past five years of their life to this project and in turn attracted the talents and abilities of artists and collaborators like lead artist Allegra “Del” Northern who has made the art of Rain World her own personal passion and given polished life to slug cat’s fuzzy features.
In this 45 minute long, pod-cast style interview, which felt far more like meeting new friends over digital coffee, I got the chance to speak with James and Joar about the entire process from start to finish, leaving no stone unturned in what is possibly the most comprehensive interview about Rain World currently in existence. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing about where this project came from and where it’s headed. If you choose to leave your browser open as you listen, you’ll be treated to gifs and art stills of Rain World in action, as well as Del’s much more recent concept art and creature designs for the title. I even got to talk to Joar about his own amazing talent as an artist in his own right and show off some of his most show stopping pieces.
If you choose to simply listen to the audio, fear not, you’ll still be able to enjoy the experience. The audio will play just like a podcast and it makes for a good listen during a commute or slow work day. I’ll include images and GIFs below, as well as links for you to stay up to date on everything Rain World in the days to come. James, Joar, and artist Del are currently at GDC 2017, so if you happen to see them wandering around say hi on behalf of Big Cheshire Grin!
Update 3/8/2017: Rain World has just been announced to be launching on Playstation 4 and PC on March 28th, 2017. Scroll down for the most recent launch trailer!
Interview Highlight Quotes & Pretty GIFs For The TL;DR Crowd –
“The reason it had that 16-bit look is not because we were applying a filter over a 3D game, working with modern engines. This is actually some old, outdated hardware. It was written in an old language called Lingo that was a precursor to Flash, it’s an old, abandoned programming language.”
– James Therrien discussing the origins of Rain World
“It runs pegged at 60FPS, everything is super locked down.”
– James Therrien about Rain World on PS4
“When people get it, it’s processor intensive. The world exists concurrently in the region – sometimes in hundreds of rooms – they’re all moving around and doing stuff constantly. …You’re not going to be able to run it on your TI-86 graphics calculator.”
– James Therrien discussing how processor intensive Rain World is
CREATIVE DECSIONS AND INTRODUCING EMPATHY
“It’s amazing, we don’t fight at all do we? It’s extraordinary.”
– Joar Jakobsson on working with James on Rain World over the years
“Even from the very early, early versions of Rain World to what we have now, we know what Rain World looks like and what the general feel is like. That’s been conserved for the five years of development.”
– Joar Jakobsson on preserving the art style of Rain World
“I think Del has her very own style that is reflecting a part of Rain World that doesn’t come from my art necessarily, she adds another aspect to it. I think the game is so much better because of that. I could never have made that happen myself.”
– Joar Jakobsson on the art of Del Northern
“It’s a bright fragile looking creature surrounded by a dark, gritty industrial environment and you just feel for it immediately. You want to keep it safe.”
— James Therrien on empathizing with Slug Cat
THE IMPACT ON LIFE IN THE REAL WORLD
“We sort of all put our lives on hold thinking we’d do it in six months or a year, but it’s turned into such a monster. The Rain World soundtrack is the best work I’ve done, I think. In the game, there are about 160 tracks. …It’s a really big chunk of me as an artist. Now, coming down from that, I’m going to have to figure out who I am. So much has changed in five years.”
– James Therrien on returning to music, or being “James Primate” after Rain World releases
“Rain World was the first real thing I did when I finished school, so it’s really the only thing I’ve done as an ‘adult’.”
– Joar Jakobsson on the impact Rain World has had on his life
SUPPORT WITHIN THE GAME DEV COMMUNITY:
“Adult Swim is like, “tell us what you need and tell us how we can help, and just pursue your vision.”
– James Therrien on working with Adult Swim Games
“When something in the game is bad, they’ll tell us “this doesn’t work” but when it comes to creative decisions, we’re free to do what we want and that’s amazing, it can’t be overstated, I think.”
– Joar Jakobsson on working with Adult Swim Games
“We were at E3 and someone stole all our Rain World plushies, and Harris from Team Sanshee was like “Yo, I’m on this!” and he called them and said to rush order, free of charge, five more Slug Cats, and had them show up. That was a really big deal because we were doing interviews, and he was on the phone handling it.”
– James Therrien on working with Team Sanshee on bringing Slug Cat to plush
CREATING A GAME THAT WILL GIVE YOU A “BIG CHESHIRE GRIN” MOMENT:
“We want to create an experience where you progress as you play. You don’t gain stats or equipment, but you gain knowledge. So those epiphany moments are supposed to be the fuel for your experience. …I’ve tried to make the AI smart enough so you can trick it.”
– Joar Jakobsson on creating moments for the player to feel clever and designing AI in Rain World
“If you can figure out a way to climb up a wall – than you can get up the wall. We’ve had a lot [of moments] in testing where people have solved our problems using completely different methods than we had designed for it. For me as a developer that’s the happiest I am [when that happens].”
– James Therrien on creating a clever game you can outsmart without breaking
Visit the Official Rain World website for the latest updates or follow along on Twitter @rainworldgame and be sure to stay tuned for its imminent release on Playstation 4 and PC this year. Slug Cat can’t wait to meet you.
Update 3/8/2017: Rain World has just been announced to be launching on Playstation 4 and PC on March 28th, 2017. New launch trailer is below!
*Disclaimer: I have contributed to the Kickstarter for Rain World, but have otherwise received no promotional merchandise or compensation for writing this article. I make no money if you click these links and I’m not officially sponsored by the creators or Adult Swim Games in any way.