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E3 2019: Interview with Alex Hutchinson, Co-founder of Typhoon Studios

Here’s my interview with Alex Hutchinson, a co-founder of Typhoon Studios and a Creative Director on Journey to the Savage Planet. We talked about what it means to be a scientific explorer, inspiration for the game, the effects of colonization, how long the game is and more.

If you haven’t already read my impressions from playing an hour of Journey to the Savage Planet, I recommend doing that first.

*This conversation has been lightly edited, solely for the purpose of flow.*

Samuel: Alright. So, why don’t you introduce yourself?

Alex Hutchinson: My name is Alex Hutchinson. I am the Creative Director and co-founder of Typhoon Studios.

Samuel: Okay. Tell me about Typhoon Studios. When were you guys founded? How many of you are there?

Alex: We started the studio in February of 2017, all with, you know, well-paid jobs and foolishly embarked on this adventure. There are 24 of us at this point, which is a good number. It’s not so many that it becomes chaotic but it’s enough to make a mid-size game.

Samuel: Alright. So, speaking of said game, Journey to the Savage Planet. Tell me about it. What inspired this? What are you trying to accomplish?

Alex: Yeah, I have a deep love of golden age science fiction and that sense of adventure that they had, you know, the idea that you should pursue adventure for the sake of adventure, you know. There’s that great JFK speech, where we’re going to the moon not because it is easy but because it is hard. I think that is something that has been lost. You know, a lot of games are saving the world or fleeing the apocalypse and I think we can be more optimistic and more positive, so we started with that.

And that’s combined with the love of systemic gameplay and the realization that if we took it to space and science fiction, I could get away from designing human beings and how they might challenge a player and work on crazy creatures, because humans can duck or roll or run at a certain speed and that’s about it, and hold things, whereas crazy creatures can do all kinds of other stuff.

Samuel: Alright, so this whole alien ecology, right, you see some vague similarities maybe to a couple of creatures but for the most part, it’s like nothing on Earth.

Alex: Yep.

Samuel: When you go about designing that, there’s definitely a comical edge to it, which is one thing I noticed, like this is very tongue-in-cheek, the whole thing. Is there anything serious you want to convey or are you trying to keep players more lighthearted throughout the journey while simultaneously getting them to explore and push forward?

Alex: Yeah, we want them to explore and it’s definitely a satire, but I think all good satires are grounded in reality. So there is an undercurrent through the story, so I don’t want to spoil. You know, you always talk about meaning or what we are trying to achieve, and I really feel like it’s in the hands of the players, you know what I mean?

If we pull it off, then people will say it back to us. If I say it out front, then it sounds like sort of pompous and gross. *Samuel laughs* But, this is a game about being a potential colonizer and it is a game about arriving on an alien world that’s relatively pristine, and then, you know, how your actions affect it.

Samuel: That was definitely one thing that I got during my demo, which is I’m fighting two different halves of my brain, because on the one hand I just want to let loose and have fun and on the other hand, I’m like “You know, you’re kind of screwing around with the environment here, you’re kind of mucking everything up and is it going to be the same after you leave?”

Alex: Exactly. And I think then you’re hitting on the edge of what we’re trying to get to. Like, you’re trying to find a future home for humanity, but it’s already someone’s home. You know, like maybe someone else, something else is wandering the valley or there was once a form of intelligent life on the planet, so how all those ideas intermingle is the theme of the game.

Samuel: When I opened up my demo, it immediately had me crash-landed on the alien world. It – by the way, the world, does it have a name?

Alex: No, I like the way, you know in science fiction, we always say “the planet Zintar!” But like if you look how NASA names things, it’s like PJ2241, so this is ARY-26. You know, ‘cause in the story you’ve been sent out to just like a random world, and each explorer’s been sent to a different random world to assess whether this is, these are viable.

Samuel: Okay, okay. But, uh, when I crashed, opened up the demo and you’re crashed on the world, is there any additional context that we’re missing or is that how the game is going to open up?

Alex: Ah, no, there’s a bit more, there’s a few objectives that you had before this that establishes why you are there and opens it up a little bit more. We just wanted to jump ahead of it and not make people essentially just play through tutorials *Alex chuckles* for 45 minutes.

Samuel: Sure, that makes sense. Okay, that’s good to hear. Now, in terms of game length, are we talking something like a No Man’s Sky, are we talking like hundreds of hours or is this something a little more contained and more reasonable in terms of goals?

Alex: No like…yea, yea, it’s the opposite. There’s no algorithmic content. It’s sort of 10 hours long, 12 probably if you explore everything.

Samuel: Okay 10 – 12 hours. All handcrafted?

Alex: All handcrafted, and we want to be, you know, generous with people’s time and there’s no sort of grind element and all that sort of stuff. It’s a game for old people. *Samuel laughs* If you have kids or you know, like a busy job, but you still love games, this is the game for you. *Both laugh*

Samuel:  That’s perfect. That’s a very compelling –

Alex: Pitch *laughing*

Samuel: – speech and pitch. I’m trying to say two things at once there. *laughs*. So it’s available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC through the Epic Games Store. Any details on price?

Alex: Mid-priced. Not a full-priced game at all. I don’t think 505 Games has quite settled on that last little bit but it’ll be mid-priced for sure.

Samuel: Perfect. One last question. Can you give me a perhaps out-of-context teaser for something later in the game?

Alex: How should I say this? Your employer, who comes across as a very jolly individual all the time in the game, may not actually be that nice.

Samuel: Oh dear. Well thank you for your time, I really appreciated it, this has been a pleasure.

Alex: No worries at all, thank you.

If you’d like to read my other E3 2019 coverage, you can check out the links below:
Samuel Tolbert
Samuel Tolberthttp://Ticgamesnetwork.com
Hello, I'm Samuel. I'm the News Editor for TiC Games Network. I've loved video games for most of my life. I also enjoy writing about them. If you like what I write, feel free to follow me on Twitter. Also enjoy talking about tech, movies and other geeky stuff.

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