Phoning Home – Interview with Marko from Ion Lands

We got in touch with Marko who is creating the new great looking game with very nice looking and emotional robot. Let's talk about the game and find out more about Marko!

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Greetings! Can you begin this interview off with explaining who you guys are? 

Hello Karel, nice to meet you. My name is Marko and I’m the founder of Ion lands and the only one working fulltime for it (so far). But I’m not that mad doing everything on my own. So I have hired a range of freelancers to assist me with the tasks of 3D modeling and animating the key assets, storytelling and music. I’m in the games industry since 2001, worked on two MMO’s, a mobile game and more recently for Yager, a AAA studio based in Berlin, Germany.

Steam has Greenlit your game, Phoning Home, and many of us have watched the trailers for the game. What kind of gaming experience do you hope for players to have that pick up and play this game?

This project has been in my mind for a long time. Phoning Home is mainly about survival and exploration. Exploring the strange world and finding ways to leave it again. Part of this is also a “crafting system”, combining various elements that you find to improve yourself. It is also a journey, not just physically, but emotionally. I’m afraid I can’t tell much more about this aspect without revealing too much. But yes, there will be a story connecting all of the gameplay together.

Is there a planned release date?

There is no definitive release date yet, but I have aimed for a May/June 2016 release. I know that games can take quite long to make, even smaller games can take a year if you aim for something of value. And when I told my former colleagues about the planned development time, I saw it in their eyes that they think it’s ambitious 🙂

How much do you plan on listing the game price for? If you can tell us?

I think it wouldn’t be wise to talk about this before release.

Phoning Home - trailer

Phoning Home - trailer

Where did you get the idea for this lonely little robot on a dangerous planet? What inspired you? The game has WALL-E written all over it, but we would like to hear from your perspective what the inspiration was.

Well, WALL-E was left on Earth because Mankind needed to leave. Here the premise is an entirely different one. ION and his ship had to crash-land on an unknown planet. Faced by the near destruction of the ship, ION has to explore this strange world and survive long enough to be able to leave it again. How that can be done is one of the puzzles he has to solve. However, he is not entirely alone. His ship’s intelligence will guide him and he will find another robot to continue the journey together.

Nature has always been the main inspiration. I have always loved nature, from forests to deserts. I could stare endlessly at the various rock formations in Death Valley for example. It was very clear to me to do a game where the environment is more than just a nice backdrop. To increase this effect, the main character is not human but a self-conscious robot. He can portray the emotional aspect of all of this much better in my opinion. Plus, for the player controlling a robot, it means one more explorative element. Finding out how ION works, what he requires, managing his resources.

Loneliness is only one of the emotions. It drives the survival and exploration gameplay at the beginning. Later in the game that changes a bit and a range of other emotions are introduced. As you can see, experiencing strong emotions was another big inspiration.

Phoning Home - trailer

Phoning Home - trailer

What were some obstacles faced during the development process?

No doubt the main obstacle, as is the case with most indie game development projects, is securing the money. I started the project in my spare time and during holidays. Then I launched the Greenlight campaign to test how the game would be received, and it was awesome. I calculated the amount I needed to complete the game working on it fulltime, covering my own expenses, freelancers and some reserve budgets for emergencies. 

The development itself has been rather a breeze so far. I’m sure I will face more obstacles in the coming months, but I’m also certain to solve them. I can already foresee that physics and particle rendering will be a bottleneck, so I need to deal with those early on and not in the last minute.

What are some areas of development that you’ve accomplished and are satisfied with?

At the beginning I spent a lot of time getting the terrains right in the engine. They are essential and poor terrain rendering can totally blow the immersion. I’m really happy with how they turned out in combination with dynamic time of day lighting. As I said, the environment is very important to me and that includes lighting.

Phoning Home - trailer

Phoning Home - trailer

Do you ever plan on introducing multiplayer to this game?

For the initial release I have not planned multiplayer support. But I will not exclude this option for future updates. Many people told me the game would be nice for a 2-player coop and that might be an option later on.

Have you begun development on a Linux port of this game?

Luckily I don’t need to specifically work on a Linux port, because Unity supports Linux builds. I will, however, need a Linux to box to test it, preferably a Steam Machine if I can afford it.

Are there any last words you would like to speak to our readers?

Thanks for the interview. I hope you found it interesting. If you want to follow up on the development you can do so on Steam or our Facebook Page.

Thank you for your answers and we wish you luck and patience in the coming months and later on of course great success and even bigger sales! 🙂

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