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Floodland: Interview With Director Kacper Kwiatkowski

An Interview with Floodland director Kacper Kwiatkowski. Floodland is releasing on november 15th and it's promising to be a great survival and city building game with a twist on the setting, as it is not post-apocalyptic like you may expect, but in words of its director, is actually post-catastrophic. What should we expect from a game grounded on some seemingly real future problems?

Ahead of its release on November 15th, Floodland’s Game Director, Kacper Kwiatkowski, has granted KeenGamer an interview about this upcoming post-catastrophic survival game with a grim and realistic, albeit extreme message: rising sea levels. Kacper agreed to answer some of the burning questions about this game, which we have already previewed

According to Climate Change data, the rate of global sea rising levels was more than double in the 2006 – 2015 years than throughout most of the 20th century, with a total of sea average level increase of 8-9 inches since 1880.  Also, high-tide flooding is 300% more common now than it was 50 years ago. These little highlights from the data are just a small part of the issue of rising sea levels that developer Vile Monarch uses as a frame for Floodland. 

I probably won’t see the profound impact of sea level rises in my lifetime, but my kids might and their kids certainly will.

But it is not all gloom and pessimism to be had with Floodland, as it also offers complex game mechanics and a challenging survival experience for all of you, survival fans. They have also teamed up with oceanographer and top sea level rise expert John Englander to distribute some of his works to schools around the world in an attempt to make more younger people aware of the dangers of sea level rising.

If your interest has been piqued by this title, then this interview with the game’s director can give you some more information directly from the top in case you are still in the fence about getting it when it comes out next week. 

Floodland – Gameplay Trailer

Without anything further, and letting the game do the rest of the talking, which we’ll be sure to review as well, I thank Kacper Kwiatkowski for the opportunity and UberStrategist for coordinating. And now to the interview.

KeenGamer – Was Floodland conceived to be specifically about the dangers of rising sea levels? Or did it begin as something else that evolved into what it is now?

Kacper Kwiatkowski – Surprisingly enough, the first iteration of the game wasn’t even called Floodland, and the setting wasn’t specifically focused on the effects of climate change. Our starting point was “let’s have a believable, grounded post-apocalyptic scenario,” but it eventually made the concept feel all over the place, and honestly a bit too generic. As we kept developing the game, we gravitated towards climate change as the most probable “apocalypse” and while researching it, the images of flooded cities stuck with us the most.

KG – How realistic of a scenario, climate-wise, would you say Floodland is?

Kacper – We’ve been saying that it’s the worst case scenario, slightly exaggerated even. But when talking to some scientists, like John Englander, we often hear that they don’t see the exaggeration in what we portray… The main difference between the real world predictions and Floodland is that in reality we’ll be gradually adjusting to the situation — which may still be catastrophic, but won’t be a singular hit. We needed this “hit” to make the setup in the game more contained and therefore more effective in dramatic terms, so we added an additional phenomenon that’s still realistic, but much less expected. What it is exactly, is something for the most insightful players to figure out.

KG – Is the main intention of the game to create awareness about climate change or is it to be a fun, entertaining game? Would you rather your players have fun with it, or really think about the possibilities it possess?

Kacper – “Fun” isn’t the first word that’d come to our minds because we didn’t want it to be a happy, joyful experience. We want the game to be engaging and enjoyed as a well-designed video game and to carry a message. We thought that the latter doesn’t make sense without the first. No one likes being “educated”, no one likes being force-fed morals. We thought the only way for the message to be effective is for it to emerge naturally in players’ heads.

We’ve actually gone as far as to avoid mentioning climate change directly in the game. We want the players to focus on their people, their survival, their day-to-day lives, and the place they inhabit (which is a flooded city). The cause of all of this is written between lines.

Rebuilding civilization on step at a time

Rebuilding civilization on step at a time

KG – I know that Ravenscourt has partnered with John Englander. What did he bring to the table for the game and the players?

Kacper – We’ve partnered with John Englander recently, so he didn’t have a chance to contribute to the game directly (we had a different consultant, a climate scientist Dr. William Brocas, who coincidentally happens to work as our Community Manager). John reassured us that what the game presents is indeed grounded in reality — but it’s not the most important aspect of our collaboration. Together with him, our team will be donating copies of his book to school libraries across the world to spread the knowledge about climate change to the next generation.

KG – You’re working with Mr. Englander to get his works about rising sea levels to underserved communities around the globe. Has that been advancing in any significant way? Are these communities in danger from rising sea levels?

Kacper – We’re sending John’s books to schools across North America, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. I probably won’t see the profound impact of sea level rises in my lifetime, but my kids might and their kids certainly will. So this is about helping the next generation inform themselves about what the future may well have in store and to act accordingly. Some of these schools are on the coast, others inland. But the long term consequences of rising sea levels will impact everyone, no matter where they live.

KG – In what way is Floodland unique to the post-apocalyptic setting so many other games have approached?

Kacper – We avoid calling it post-apocalyptic and rather call it post-catastrophic, to manage the audience’s expectations. They won’t deal with mutants, zombies, dangerous radiation, or biker gangs. Our focus is on societies seen through a lens of extreme — but realistic — conditions. Though we have taken inspiration from many brilliant works of fiction in the post-apocalyptic genre that successfully explored this theme, just without the climate angle, like The Walking Dead or The Road.

A real possibility or just an exaggeration?

A real possibility or just an exaggeration?

KG – In what way is Floodland unique to the survival genre?

Kacper – In strictly game terms, its focus on exploration of the surroundings and handling social dynamics in your community makes the experience very different from other survival city building games.

KG – I hear the society-building of the game is going to be pretty detailed. What can you tell me about these mechanics and how they’ll affect the game? How much time have you spent designing them to not make them game-breaking?

Kacper – The last part of the question hits a little too close to home! The social layer has been the biggest challenge and started “clicking” quite late into the development. Ultimately, we succeeded at making it intertwine with the city-building and survival aspects, and even enriching them. The basic assumption is that your population is not a singular entity. Rather, it consists of different groups with different beliefs, skills, and agendas. Their relations greatly impact the game; if they don’t get along, they might not be effective. It’s up to the player if they want to work around these social issues (for example by making the economy so effective that it’s not hindered by unhappiness of the people), avoid them (for example, by isolating incompatible groups), or try to solve them (for example by enacting laws that support peaceful coexistence).

KG – Are there any actions a regular gamer can take to help with climate change and rising sea levels?

Kacper – If there’s a single message in the game, it’s that even in the most dire situation, there’s hope for better tomorrow. One that relies on each and every one of us working together. What kind of real actions it exactly means, is the hard part — and I’m afraid no one on the Floodland team has the perfect answer. But here’s my personal attempt at giving one.

We can start by trying to reduce our personal carbon footprint (like avoiding driving a car or flying, eating less meat, producing less waste), which won’t do any harm but most likely won’t be enough, even if done at large. What’s more needed is a systemic change that requires action from the most powerful: politicians and corporations. And they need to be kept being reminded that they serve us and not the other way around. We can elect politicians that respect science, we can make more informed consumer choices, we can write petitions, organize protests, and talk with our local government representatives directly. We need to demand smarter investments and better regulations. We can also keep talking about all of it and use the tools at our disposal to reach more people and make them aware of the threat. Floodland is our humble contribution to this.

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