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An inside look at World's Dawn: Interview with Wayward Prophet's David Grund

David Grund provides us with insight on solo game development and his current project, World's Dawn

Earlier this week, GameSkinny was able to sit down and chat with David Grund, the sole member of indie game studio, Wayward Prophet. This one-man operation is the developer behind World's Dawn, a beautiful life sim based off of the beloved Harvest Moon. World's Dawn has reached its Kickstarter goal with 384 backers, pledging $6,689. The game is a vibrant, 2D simulation game that is available on the PC for free. World's Dawn is split up into four seasons. So far Grund has created Autumn, Spring and Summer. Winter is to be released in January 2016.

World's Dawn has been praised by PC Gamer and Indie Game Magazine for its intricate and well-written narrative. It pulls from the parts we loved in Harvest Moon and amps it up with a more in-depth story and dynamic characters. Want to see what life is like in Sugar Blossom Village? Download the seasons here and let your adventure commence. 

GameSkinny: Tell us a little about yourself as a game dev. What inspires you and how did you get into creating games?

David Grund: I've been making games for as long as I can remember. As a kid I loved tinkering with rulesets and mechanics, and would force my friends to sit down and play all these intricate board games and backyard sports I'd come up with. Discovering computers and the endless possibilities of the Internet was really exciting for me because suddenly, I had hundreds of new ways to make and share games. My childhood was spent designing everything from interactive role-playing communities to point-and-click adventures in Powerpoint.

GS: Is World’s Dawn the first game you’ve worked on, or have you collaborated with others?

DG: I've collaborated on a number of indie games, most notably SPERO, an eco-friendly children's adventure that went on to win Microsoft's national Imagine Cup competition in 2011. My own first official title was Prophecy, a traditional, character-driven RPG I would love to revisit somewhere down the line.

A scene from Prophecy

GS: World’s Dawn has been inspired by the Harvest Moon series. What elements of Harvest Moon appealed to you, and what else motivated you for this develop this concept?

DG: I absolutely loved Harvest Moon growing up. Those games were fascinating to me because they were so different than anything I'd seen before — they had this lazy, relaxed pace that was somehow able to make a mundane farming lifestyle really captivating. However, the worlds and characters always felt a bit shallow and simplistic, so when I decided to tackle the genre myself, creating an interesting village full of dynamic personalities was top priority.

GS: Let’s dive into the story. How did you come up with the story of Sugar Blossom?

DG: The actual story of the game came about after the map of the village and the cast of characters were already in place. It's a tough balancing act for this sort of game. The story has to lay down a set of goals to give structure to the gameplay, but it can't feel too dire or immediate. If you're constantly pushing these intrusive demands on the player, you lose the relaxed vibe that's so vital to the genre. So in World's Dawn, the story involves tracking down five nature spirits and bringing magic back to Sugar Blossom Village... but that broader narrative takes a backseat to the charming day-to-day gameplay

GS: We've read online that the writing/narrative for World’s Dawn is very unique and well-written. And you have 32 playable characters (WOW!) Where did the inspiration for these characters come from?

DG: It's not 32 playable characters, it's 32 character in total who populate Sugar Blossom Village. Sorry for the confusion! I sat down at the very beginning of the project and laid out each character to be a unique presence in the village. What role did they serve in town, where did they come from, what are their interests, what makes them stand out from everyone else...

Filling Sugar Blossom with a ton of interesting personalities and writing them to be dynamic and relatable was extremely important to me. Each character has hundreds of lines of conditional dialogue, meaning they actually react to whatever is going on in town. You can talk to any Sugar Blossom villager 10 times in a row and get 10 different responses, ranging from comments on the weather to observations on your choice of outfit to random musings on the state of the village.

GS: What obstacles do you face in working on this game alone? Do you prefer it, or would you rather have a team?

DG: There are advantages and disadvantages to working on a team. I was lucky because since the very beginning of the project, I've been able to bounce ideas off some really creative friends and family members. The biggest obstacle in actually developing the game on my own came from playtesting. World's Dawn is so nonlinear and open to different play-styles that it's impossible to predict the exact experience any given player will have with it, and what little bugs will pop up as a result of their unique choices.

GS: When did this project initially begin and what motivates you to keep working on it?

DG: The project initially began way back in 2010 as little more than a farming-themed demo in RPG Maker. It's been tough to stay motivated throughout the entire development process, but I have a lot of passion for this game and for the genre itself. I know there are tons of people like me out there who have warm childhood memories of playing Harvest Moon, and are looking for a game like World's Dawn to come along and reignite that flame.

GS: While scrolling through some gameplay, we noticed some of your art resembles the 2D Pokémon games, in a great way. Did that vibe serve as an inspiration to you for your art style?

DG: Pokémon was a definite inspiration in terms of the top-down perspective, as well as 16-bit RPGs like Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VI. And while World's Dawn obviously isn't cell-shaded, I took a lot of visual inspiration from the saturated blocks of color and bright, painterly style found in games like Okami and The Wind Waker.

GS: If you had to sum up World’s Dawn in one promoting sentence, what would you say?

DG: The tagline I've been using is: "Bring life back to a sleepy seaside town by planting crops, tending livestock, fishing, flirting, cooking, mining and more." Though it's tough to summarize everything Sugar Blossom Village has to offer in a single sentence!

GS: It is our understanding that this game is available for free download on the PC. Do you plan on sending it in to Steam, or any other online places to be available for sale?

DG: I'm aiming to bring the game to Steam (and possibly other marketplaces) as a final, polished product in January 2016. Until then, you can play through Spring, Summer and Autumn for free at worldsdawn.com.

GS: Lastly, anything else you would like us to know about this project or Wayward Prophet as a studio?

DG: World's Dawn is a passion project, carefully crafted by someone who's loved designing games my whole life. Because of that, I believe there's charm and depth to it that you don't always find with this style of game. If you've been put off the farming sim genre by microtransactions and shallow Farmville knockoffs, I think World's Dawn has a cheerful energy and a loving attention to detail that might just win you back.

 For more information on World's Dawn or Wayward Prophet, visit David's homepage.
Published Jul. 4th 2015

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