Interview: Daniele Ferraro Discusses Survival Simulation Game DinoSystem
Have you ever wondered if you have what it takes to survive among dinosaurs? Do you want complete control over an island climate? DinoSystem gives players both opportunities. The 2D ecosystem and survival simulation take place in real time, with seasonal and weather models as well as lifestyle-based character progression.
DinoSystem has been up and running on Steam for well over a year now. The game, currently in Early Access, receives frequent updates from developer Daniele Ferraro, one-half of the Capri-based Capribyte Studios. GameSkinny spoke with Daniele about his favorite aspects of the game and how he is working to develop the island further.
GameSkinny: What was the rationale behind the creation of DinoSystem? What kind of experience do you hope to provide for gamers?
Daniele Ferraro: I've always been a big fan of games with real ecosystems. Usually, in most games, elements (like resources or enemies) are spawned so that the player can interact with them, that's their final purpose. I love games where it is the other way around, where things "live their own lives" even if the player isn't there. I wanted to create one of those games, and wanted everything to be "emergent" in that sense: from plants spreading seeds, to water holes forming from rain and evaporating. I wanted the player realizing that as she/he plays the game, feeling only partially responsible for the island ecology fate, while at the same time being overwhelmed by the changing environment.
GS: The game is an Early Access game, meaning gamers are playing as the game is being developed. You have provided a list of changes made and possible changes to come on the game's Steam page. Which changes have you been most excited to implement? Which changes are you prioritizing for the future, and which player suggestions intrigue you most?
DF: The addition I'm really excited to implement in the very short term (actually a few days from this interview), is the ability to name island zones, which will boost the exploration aspect of the game quite a lot. Imagine finding a big forest near a lake and naming it "Beautiful Forest," then, returning there after a dry summer, finding a desert. About the priorities, the current ones are content, meaning new items (both craftable and natural resources like new foods), and new animals. I honestly prefer working on new mechanics instead, as creating content is boring! Players in the forum make tons of great suggestions, many of which I've implemented, but there are still quite a lot in my list. My favorite one is the addition of a principle of evolution by natural selection, which means making animals capable of "mutating" and pass the mutation to their offspring! This would be a big mechanic to work on and would have a major impact on the game, so it's not one of my priorities, but the idea is fascinating.
GS: The game has several realistic elements, including weather changes and character progression according to lifestyle. What specific aspect of this realism is your favorite, and why?
DF: Probably the terrain fertility/aridity system, which includes water holes forming and evaporating. I love it because it is the backbone of the island ecology, and I also enjoy working on it! I also love the character body mechanics, which are extremely hard to balance.
GS: If you had to play either God mode or Survival mode, which would you pick, and why? How do you see each mode, in terms of their unique appeals?
DF: In the current stage, God mode is much less developed than Survival mode. This means the ecosystem mechanics, animal AI, etc. are in place and fully operational, but the player in God mode has very few tools to interact with the simulation. I would say I'd prefer playing Survival mode at this time. When God mode will be expanded I may reconsider this, though! God mode is meant for players that enjoy the natural aspect of the game instead of the survival experience. It's not really a game, but an ecology sandbox to experiment with, or just watch and root for a particular species.
GS: What is your single favorite aspect of the game?
DF: Hard to tell! I love how the character body (in Survival mode) adapts to your lifestyle over time. I tried to consider every variable that would influence it in real life: for example, hair growth is partially influenced by metabolism, and metabolism itself is influenced by tons of things. I know that overcomplexity is never good, but most of these mechanics are "hidden", so that the player can experience their results and never be bothered by them.
GS: Are you planning on ever making a sequel to the game, or will you continue to update the current game? Will there be an end point to the updates, or will they continue indefinitely?
DF: Both are true: There is a sequel in mind set in a different (pre)historical setting, which will be based on DinoSystem, but will expand on many aspects and introduce new features. At the same time, once DinoSystem is "complete" mechanics and content wise, I'll continue improving and fixing it indefinitely, and possibly adding something new.
GS: Are you working on any other projects that you would like to discuss?
DF: There is a side project I'm working on in my spare time which is more an experiment than an actual project: it's a gym simulation. Think of "Prison Architect" but with a gym to manage instead of a prison. I don't really know how far I'll bring this idea, as my current priority is DinoSystem.
Thanks so much to Daniele Ferraro for taking the time to do this interview. The Early Access version of DinoSystem is currently available on Steam. You can also check out the game's Twitter @DinoSystemGame, as well as DinoSystem's official website.