Introducing the Game: Failure

Interview by Ninichi | Contact | Follow

I'm delighted to have connected with justin french, the creator and founder of Dream Harvest. Together we took a deeper look at Failure - his latest game.

What inspired you to create this game?

'It all started with an internal game jam at the studio after a string of bad luck with artists. We needed to make something that wouldn't require an artist as we no longer had one on the team. After a few weeks of prototyping ideas, Milcho, our lead designer and game-play programmer came up with the idea for Failure.

Failure was originally in 2D and played top down. It was an RTS that removed the micromanagement of other RTS games and instead replaced it with the ability to manipulate the behaviors of AI controlled units by interacting with the world by placing and removing cubes.

It was basic, but we instantly realized how interesting it was trying to predict unit movements and attempting to win matches through such a simple mechanic. We're now one and half years into development (Part time) and things have changed considerably, there is much more to the game-play and a lot more depth as you'll see below, but even back then we knew we were onto something special. Things felt tactical and most importantly, fun.'

What is it about & how does it work?

'The basic premise is that you're a freelance hacker (or Slicers in the world of Failure). You build a deck of abilities, similar to a card game such as hearthstone, and then take missions for the three factions of the game and go into battle against both AI and human controlled opponents within an intertwined multiplayer and single player narrative driven campaign.

The abilities (we call scripts), are made up of units, buildings and hacking powers that allow you to change the world and influence both you and your enemy's units and buildings as well as set traps and raise and lower the hex based terrain. The gameplay is fast, highly tactical but also quite approachable. Matches last between 5 - 10 minutes and are really intense with you having to make plays and counter your enemy constantly.

It's a super fun experience and feels really fresh in comparison to other RTS games, that often seem to regurgitate the same sets of mechanics. We're doing a number of things that are unique to Failure so it really offers players a new set of challenges and a deep experience that I think people will really enjoy.'

What makes it different?

'One of the first things that you'll realize when playing Failure is that all your units are completely AI controlled. You don't need to give them commands and they're clever enough to determine their own objectives. This frees players up to take a look at the bigger picture.

Much of your time in the game is taken up predicting what your opponent is going to do next and countering their plays and trying to find ways to break their hold of the game board while also trying to push and find ways to out maneuver them. Timing your plays is super important as triggering a script too early or too late can completely mess up your play.

Territory is also super important. You can only play your scripts within your own territory and different buildings give you different amounts of territory, but the amount and shape of the territory you gain from a building varies. A good example of this is the Railgun. It gives you a long strip of territory which can be used to get closer to the enemy faster - however there is a risk factor involved with using such a strategy as the Railgun is useless at short range and there's a high likelihood that it can get destroyed. The other important factor with Territory is that it's tied to your resource gain, the more territory you have the more resource you'll generate per second and resource is used for playing and upgrading your scripts in game.

Failure is like a complex real-time version of chess, set in a super dark cyberspace world.'

Tell us about you and your team? 

'I'm Justin French, Creative Director and Founder of Dream Harvest. I spent many years working in both AAA and Indie as a Sound Designer and Composer and Audio Engineer and had the pleasure of working on some pretty big games.

Our core team includes:

  • Sven Herrmann - CTO and graphics / networking / audio programming wizard
  • Logic Bramoulle, ex-Ubisoft is our Art Director
  • Milch Milchev - Lead designer and gameplay / Ui programmer who joined us while still at University. Milcho actually released several indie games while at University and now splits his time between working with us and working for Edge Case Games on their super cool space moba, Fractured Space.

We also work with a number of freelancers including Antony Johnston, the writer of Dead Space (among quite a few other games, comics, etc) and Ryan Klaverweide who is a senior UI / UX designer at Bungie on their Destiny team, and a couple of recent graduates and interns. We're a remote team & it's a real mixture of cultures and nationalities at the studio; English, French, German, Bulgarian, American, Canadian. Gotta catch 'em all!''

Tell us about the music in the game?

'One of the things we wanted to avoid with Failure's music is the 80s synth pop style that's a staple of Cyberpunk games, it's been done to death. The idea here was to make a modern take on Cyberpunk, a re-imagination if you will, so the music had to avoid a lot of those cliche elements, sounds, textures, arp driven and snare, kick, snare, kick drums.

Much of the influence has been taken from more glitch type music from artists such as Aphex Twin, Venetian Snares, Amon Tobin, etc. The issue, however, with the music from these artists is, at times, not very approachable to normal listeners and so we wanted to tone things down a bit and create something a bit more ambient that tied into how the world had become a desolate place filled only with the hackers and their machinations fighting over the data of the network.

Most of the in-level music is very ambient with many of the elements actually being triggered by the buildings you place on the board - this creates an ever evolving soundscape that grows in intensity as you and your opponents build more.

I thought this was an interesting way of approaching the in-level music as it meant that the layers of music are always a bit different, the musical experience is somewhat unique to each player but also from a narrative standpoint this ties quite nicely into what the network was and what it has become. Players are invading a network that was once dormant, well, it wasn't quite dormant, but if was performing a task that I imagine would have given off a very repetitive ambiance, here we have a player interacting with a world and bringing chaos (controlled) to this ambiance through their interaction with the world. It reminds me of a book I read a while ago which unfortunately I can't remember the name of, but within the book it discusses how back before cities and man there was a purity to the sound of nature, a clarity and resonance to the flow of frequencies and over time this sound has been lost in our modern world and been replaced by the sound of controlled chaos, the sounds of engines, car horns, drilling, people talking; through human interaction we've replaced the sounds of nature with our own chaotic symphony of sound. But there are places where these two still converge and at times it can be quite beautiful.

In a way this is what we're trying to do with Failure, create a convergence between the old and the new, the analogue and the digital. There is a constant battle between these two, in the music, in the narrative, in everything within the game.'

How important do you think the music is in games generally?

'Incredibly important. Sound and music are the glue that brings all the other elements of a game together. Music drives emotion, adds depth to gameplay and helps really immerse a player in a games, sometimes more so than art and sound design is just as important. I'm so glad that music and sound in games is being taken so much more seriously now; it does help that we're not as restricted as we used to be and we've seen a big convergence between film audio and game audio, especially for the cinematic quality that is expected from a game soundtrack.'

Do you have any favorite game music composers?

'For a couple of years now it's been Martin Stig Andersen, the composer of Limbo and the recently released Inside. I think I just really like his approach to writing music where he does things more from a sound designer point of view. I find musique concrete fascinating too, the idea of using recorded sound to create complex textures, ambiances and ultimately full musical pieces. In addition to Martin, I love the work of Floex (Tomas Dvorak) and C418. An there's also Disasterpiece, his soundtrack to Hyper Light Drifter is one of the most amazing soundtracks I've listened to in the last couple of months and of course Austin Wintory and his work on Horn, The Banner Saga 1 and 2 and his solo stuff. I buy all my music on vinyl nowadays, so happy to see most of these people with Vinyl releases.'

How do you want people to feel when they see and play your game?

'That's a really good question, and in all honesty a hard one to answer. I think most importantly we want players to feel engrossed in the narrative and we want them to feel challenged by the gameplay. We also want them to get excited when unlocking new abilities and blown away by the graphical style that we're going for with the game; there isn't another RTS that looks like or plays like Failure so we want players to get a lot of enjoyment from playing it.'

When will it be released?

'We're aiming to hit early access sometime in Q3 2017 and full release in Q1 2018. Failure will be available on Steam, Humble Store and G2A Direct. We're looking to do a closed Alpha sometime in the nearish future which we'll be announcing via the newsletter, so be sure to sign up if you're interested in being involved.'

To find out more about Failure and the Dream Harvest team, follow them on twitter @dream_harvest and on Facebookyou can also listen to some of their the music on our SoundCloud.

About the author: Ninichi is a game and film music composer. She is a great supporter of indie games and indie projects and is available to commission. If you would like some help with the music to your game or project: contact her now.

Learn more about Ninichi and have a listen to some of her game music. Follow her @ninichimusic