Interview with Vessel Developer, Strange Loop Games
What’s the story behind Vessel?
Vessel has a somewhat unique story that follows a man with a dream and explores his hunger for knowledge and his relationship with his creation.
Travel back to the time of industrial revolution, and imagine a strange, intelligent man with a vision, named Arkwright, doing his fluid sculpting and animation experiments. Imagine him discovering the force that can compress and animate a limited quantity of fluid into the shape of a simple creature and then figure out how to instruct his creation to perform simple tasks. An automation that he calls “Fluro”. Once Arkwright did as much testing as possible and he reached a point at which he believed his creature to be reliable, harmless, and capable of performing useful tasks, he introduced the Fluro to the world.
Realizing the potential of this cheap, easy way to produce labor, Fluro was quickly accepted by the business world and adopted in a manufacturing process.
Now take that world ten years forward. Fluro has been utilized everywhere, Fluro generators- machines that create Fluros, have been mass produced and used all over the world, and Arkwright, the man who started the revolution was already deep into work on his next great creation. However, things start going wrong. Fluros started changing and adapting to their environments and “malfunctioning” too often. There have been reports of strange and mysterious variations of the existing design, some of which have altered their behavior in various ways to the point where people felt threatened and ran away in panic. So, Arkwright, feeling the burden of responsibility, must go into the world, find out what is wrong and fix it…discovering some amazing facts about the capabilities of his creation in the process and using his newly gained knowledge to finish off his new creation.
And that, in a theoretical nutshell, is the story of the Vessel.
What should players know going into the game?
What players should know is that Vessel is a gentle game that gets you sucked in, and, if treated with love, will love you back in spades.
As a co creator, it is really hard to be objective about the game or the experience it delivers. I have played through the game so many times I have lost every perspective and can not judge it any more. All I know is that I like it. In my career so far, I have worked on many games, both published an unpublished, and for some decent-sized studios too. By the time any of those games were finished, I was so sick of them that I never even opened my complementary copy, let alone played the game. With Vessel though, my experience is different. I play through the game often and, even though by now I can solve every puzzle with my eyes closed, I still enjoy picking up controller and having a run around.
What about Strangeloop Games? How did you guys get started?
Strange Loop is a unique studio, in the sense that it consists of as many studios and working models as there are people in the company (4 founders and 2 external- whom we love very much). Everyone works their own hours when and how they prefer, and you know that there’s nothing wrong with that model when you hit each milestone without hassle and when everything comes together on time and looks good.
Mark Filippeli Is doing his art thing while wrestling crocodiles and demonstrating to people what is considered a knife somewhere in Queensland’s north.
Kieran Lord ( or Lord Kieran as I like to call him) wanders between various coffee shops, coding on his laptop and leaving when people start to look at him weirdly, only to move to the next coffee shop and repeat the process. Then he goes home, makes and eats some pancakes late at night, and does some more work ( his nocturnal productivity is directly proportional to the the volume of coffee he consumes on his daily quests).
I (Milenko) work from my basement in the southern suburbs of the Australian City, Brisbane. It is dark here so I hit the wrong keyboard keys often when chatting to the guys, to everyone’s amusement but mine, and have developped light sensitivity, so I shriek when exposed to the sun..
John K is in Seattle, working from his apartment and spending his days fixing bugs, polishing the game, and practicing his “bedtime Storytelling voice”.
Maritn, eh I do not even know where Martin is at the moment. He is like the company ninja, moving between Seattle and Florida. A master of blending with his surroundings and often hard to spot. His Graphics programming is top notch, and many things in the game look beautiful thanks to him.
And Leonard. I think he lives somewhere else, Canada or something. He probably spends his days recording waterfalls and clock towers and somehow mixing it all together and cramming it somehow into the game.I do not know how he does it but it happens and game sounds great. I like the guy.
Most of us have not meet face to face in over two years now, and up until a couple of months ago, when we started using Goggle Hangout, We were just voices on Skype, discussing the game and dividing tasks and then going off and doing what had to be done each week.
As for the start of Strange Loop, it was interesting.
In the later stage of our careers, we all found ourselves working at Pandemic Studios in Australia, which eventually became part of EA. That is where we met and got to know each other and that is where the “Vessel” dream began.
John and Martin started working on the engine and the prototype a bit before everyone else and the rest of us stepped into our places as we were reaching that point in our lives where it seemed like a natural next step.
The core team got together and stated cranking on Vessel full time since June 2010 and we have been working together ever since. Kieran and Leonard joined full time to help some 8-9 months ago.
What’s the one feature you believe that players will really love about Vessel?
The gameplay in Vessel is unique. Most puzzles are based on behaviors of fluid-like creatures, materials they consist of, and the reactions those materials cause when mixed together. And there are physics and lights added to the puzzle mix. Puzzle solutions should come from people’s real life experiences and understanding of the world. For example, if you have a steam engine that you have to start and you know that the steam is a product of heated water, like in real life, in Vessel you will try to to find the way to cause the reaction by using elements at hand. Sometimes it is as simple as changing the water flow and making it run over lava, in other occasions it would involve choosing a particular Fluro type based on its behavior and lure it to walk on the hot surface for you. The game is always fun.
How much game will players get when they buy Vessel?
It takes me about 5 hours to play through the game with me knowing a solution to every puzzle and just cruising through them but that would be without getting every pick up and passing on complementary puzzles. I have heard form someone on the team they can speed run it in 4, but I doubt it. As there is a bit of trial and error required to move forward I would estimate average play time to be about 8 hours, maybe even 10 if you take your time to enjoy the experience.
Where and when can players get their hands on Vessel?
Vessel is getting released for PC on March 1st via Steam and through our website:
Console versions will follow.
A big thank you to Milenko and the rest of the Strange Loop team.