Interview with Jasmine Ritchie CEO of Big Fat Alien and Designer of Rogue Islands

We discuss the current state and future of Big Fat Alien's Early Access FPS roguelike, Rogue Islands, with Jasmine Ritchie.

This week, we got the opportunity to interview Jasmine Ritchie, the CEO of indie developer Big Fat Alien and designer of their latest title, Rogue Islands, a roguelike FPS currently on Steam Early Access.

In the game, players take on the role of a Gnome who sets out to save the world from The Corruption by destroying the five Lords of Torment. It is a game that combines the visuals and mechanics of Minecraft with the fast paced action and gameplay of Ziggurat.

Throughout the interview, we discuss how Rogue Islands came to be, along with what is planned the game in the future.

GameSkinny: Rogue Islands is a game where plot and backstory take a backseat, while gameplay is the primary focus. For those looking for more details and information on the world and its creatures, will there be a journal or codex that players can unlock and read to their heart's content?

Jasmine Ritchie: We don't plan on having a journal, but we will probably do a wiki-style codex online. Any player who has been through several attempts [of Rogue Islands] will have the chance to see the story points multiple times. At some point, we'll probably compile the story as well.

GS: What can players expect to experience in the Hardcore/Hard game mode when it is implemented into the game?

JR: We've had feedback requesting a more beginner-friendly experience. So we added "Explorer Mode". This allows the player to easily craft nightmares where they take 25% less damage. This eases the pressure for those who just want to explore and enjoy the game's atmosphere.

Still, though, you can only carry two nightmares at once, and [the game] will delete your save game if you die without a Nightmare in your possession. Nightmare Mode will allow the player to store only one nightmare at a time and crafting them is much more difficult. Permadeath Mode will erase the player's saved game upon death.

You cannot gain Nightmares by any means in Permadeath mode. This is the true "Rogue" mode. Most Steam achievements will be limited to this mode. There will be a special Steam achievement for beating the game on each Explorer, Nightmare, and Permadeath Modes. 

GS: What kind of side effects are you planning on introducing to the food items in the game?

JR: We've just added passive effects in a recent update -- v.39 -- which are Hunger, Traumatised, and Poisoned. The Hunger effect will kick in when your stomach is empty and causes several detrimental effects; slower movement, no levitation, and you constantly lose health.

On top of keeping you from dying, certain foods can now cure poison and trauma. The rare Bloodcap will restore full health instantly! Or eat a Puffed Bean before jumping from a mountain top and take zero fall damage! The full range of food effects I'll leave for players to explore. 

GS: One of the stretch goals for Rogue Islands is a Creative Mode. If and when this is implemented into the game, what will players be able to do with it?

JR: We worked hard to make Rogue Islands beautiful and atmospheric. The creative mode, we imagined, would turn off the AIs and environmental hazards to have an actually relaxing place to explore and, of course, build what you like by adding and removing blocks.

You'll be able to start from any biome you've unlocked in the single-player campaign and build within that. You'll also be able to save and share your custom islands with others.

GS: The second stretch goal of Rogue Islands is online Co-Op Multiplayer. Could you explain how this mode would work, should it be implemented into the game at a later date?

JR: We hope to make online co-op, as well as a LAN, an option. We've always imagined Rogue Islands would be a very fun place to explore with a friend. Heck, we want to play together and with our kids someday. Co-operative multiplayer has a lot of potential in a game like Rogue Islands.

GS: The enemies and the game's AI are currently at 50% in progression. How will the enemies differ from now to when they are complete?

JR: We've just updated the roadmap; enemies are now at 80% progression. The completion of enemies will be when they are fully balanced and challenging to fight. Early in the game, we want players to feel like it is ok, maybe even necessary, to run away from a tough fight.

Later on, when you have upgraded a player, players should be able to have fun yet challenging battles. Our process of development is very fluid and we change things constantly!

GS: What kind of new quests can players expect to embark on throughout the game's development?

JR: Nothing is nailed down right now. We watch what players are doing on Youtube and Twitch and base our modifications on that. 

We take the early access players feedback to heart and listen to what they like and don't like. We added the demon portal quest as a response to some early critique about the first island not having enough to do. There will be more side quests in the future to help add variety.

GS: Originally, Rogue Islands was intended on being a whole different game called “Radium,” which was a sci-fi mining game. How did Radium evolve into what is now Rogue Islands?

JR: Our original concept had the player piloting a small spacecraft between large, randomly generated meteors and foraging for supplies. With gathered supplies, the player could craft upgrades for the ship and themselves. Travelling between meteors would be dangerous and we wanted to design space battles as a mini game between them. 

Ultimately, we found the sci-fi theme to be too limiting. There are so many cool gameplay ideas that work better, thematically, if you're coming from a fantasy perspective. I think the environments we have now are a lot more colourful and full of life than they would have been in a space game.

GS: On the development roadmap for Rogue Islands, there are a number of interestingly named enemies that are yet to be implemented. The Shambler and Thorny being particular names of interest. Could you tell us a bit about them?

JR: On the roadmap, enemies and hazards are listed together. We want hazards to be a big part of the game and we are adding more now. It's not just about being powerful enough to beat enemies. We want players to be constantly on the lookout and on the move. All the enemies waiting to be built are just concepts for now and we will keep their attacks a surprise for unsuspecting players! 

GS: With a call for more variety from the community, which was introduced in the V.39 patch, are there any more plans for even further variety to be included in the game throughout development? 

JR: We are going to pack all we can into this single player experience. With the eventual goal being that each island is absolutely packed with a unique mixture of hazards and enemies :)

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It is clear that there is a huge amount of creativity, imagination, passion, and dedication that's gone into Rogue Islands. At its core, Rogue Islands is a game that caters to both FPS fans and roguelike fans alike. 

Rogue Islands currently available on Steam under the Early Access program. There is currently no date for a full release, but the game is planned to release at some point this year.

GameSkinny would like to thank Jasmine for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish her and the rest of the team the very best of luck with Rogue Islands.

Published May. 26th 2017

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