Call of the Sea director and Out of the Blue co-founder Tatiana Delgado speaks with GamingBolt about the narrative puzzle adventure title.
With its unique setting, an interesting narrative premise and a focus on character-driven storytelling, and a beautiful aesthetic, Call of the Sea makes a strong first impression. With its debut release, indie developer Out of the Blue has tried its hand at the narrative adventure style of games made popular by the likes of Firewatch in recent years, and Call of the Sea has certainly generated quite a lot of interest from players since its launch. Shortly before it released, we had the opportunity to shoot some of our questions about it to its developers, and learned quite a bit in the process. You can read our interview with director and Out of the Blue co-founder Tatiana Delgado below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"We were inspired by the strong visuals of games like Firewatch, The Witness, and Sea of Thieves. We wanted to create a beautiful place where people want to stay and enjoy spending hours solving puzzles and exploring every corner."
Call of the Sea sports a striking art style that makes a very strong first impression. Can you talk us through the process of how you landed on this aesthetic for the game?
As a small indie studio, we wanted to create a game that would be visually striking and unique. We wanted to stand out, particularly alongside the next-gen games that tend to be hyper realistic.
We were inspired by the strong visuals of games like Firewatch, The Witness, and Sea of Thieves. We wanted to create a beautiful place where people want to stay and enjoy spending hours solving puzzles and exploring every corner.
How much of an emphasis does Call of the Sea place on exploration? What kind of a balance does it strike between that and puzzle solving?
Exploration is strongly tied with puzzle solving. We are inspired by games like Myst or Riven, where you need to explore and gather as much information as possible to understand how the world and the mechanisms that you find work.
We put a lot of effort into environmental storytelling, and the player will have to find clues and put all of them together to figure out what happened to the expedition… On the other hand, when we design puzzles, we want them to be integrated into the world as part of the environment.
What’s your approach been to puzzle design in the game, especially when it comes to striking a balance between challenge and accessibility?
We wanted to make puzzles a bit easier than the ones you could find in the Myst series games, to make the game more accessible for a wider audience, while also keeping it challenging enough to be a strong puzzle game. To achieve that, we did a lot of internal playtesting to tune the difficulty as much as possible.
Although Call of the Sea is a puzzle game, I would also say it is the narrative that drives it. Therefore puzzles serve the narrative and advance the story as a reward for solving them.
What can you tell us about the island where the game is set, and what players can expect from it in terms of size and variety?
We have crafted very detailed environments for the players to explore at their own pace. In terms of the pacing and gameplay progression, we have divided the game into chapters to allow us to tune the environments and weather, and make the setting evolve as the story does. When we design games we have players’ emotions in mind. Although there is a linear story to be told, in each chapter there will be areas and environments that the player can explore as they want to.
"We have crafted very detailed environments for the players to explore at their own pace. In terms of the pacing and gameplay progression, we have divided the game into chapters to allow us to tune the environments and weather, and make the setting evolve as the story does."
Call of the Sea supposedly takes cues from H.P. Lovecraft’s works, but you’ve said that it’s not a horror game. What kind of influences, then, did you look to Lovecraft’s works for?
We wanted to keep the essence of the classic H.P. Lovecraft stories while at the same time giving it a different approach. Not a pulp one, like the Call of Cthulhu tabletop rpg, but not a cosmic horror either. So instead of having a passive subject that is drawn into madness by circumstances that he/she cannot control, our purpose is to tell a story of a resolute woman, involved in a mystery, and a journey of discovery and acceptance. While most Lovecraft stories are a descent to madness, Call of the Sea is a rise to sanity.
It seems like Call of the Sea’s narrative has two sides to it, with one focusing on Norah’s personal arc and character, and the other having this more mysterious tilt to it and its setting. How does the game balance those two sides?
As Norah explores the island she will learn things about the fate of the expedition, and what Harry learned about her illness. And in the process of understanding this, she will also learn things about herself. We could say that both stories unravel at the same time.
Cissy Jones, the voice actor for Nora, is an industry veteran with years of experience under her belt. What does her involvement in the game bring to the table, specifically where Nora’s character is concerned?
We adored her acting in Firewatch and her ability to create a strong presence with only her voice. She is an immensely talented actress and was able to build the complexity of a character and her emotional journey even if we never see her on screen. We already received many comments about how people cried because of the game, and I’m sure it is because of her fantastic performance.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Call of the Sea be?
It depends on how much time you dedicate to puzzles and to exploring all the environments, but we calculate that it will be between 5 to 7 hours.
"As Norah explores the island she will learn things about the fate of the expedition, and what Harry learned about her illness. And in the process of understanding this, she will also learn things about herself. We could say that both stories unravel at the same time."
Call of the Sea was one of the first games to be announced for the Xbox Series X, but it’s also coming to the Xbox One. What was the process like of optimizing the game for both machines, while also ensuring that the specs of Xbox One S didn’t limit your vision for a game that’s also coming to the far more powerful Series X?
The artists and programming team did a fantastic job optimizing the game for both consoles. We wanted the Xbox Series X to shine because we were allowed to add an incredible amount of details and richness to the environment. But always keeping an eye on the Xbox One version so it was still as beautiful as possible, as well. For us it is very important that every player has a good experience.
Call of the Sea is launching as an Xbox console exclusive, but do you have any plans to eventually bring the game to PlayStation 5?
Right now, we’re very much focused on our partnership with Microsoft for the Xbox range. We think the new generation of hardware brings amazing opportunities across the board however, and we never rule anything out.
What was the reason behind launching as an Xbox console exclusive?
We are happy to work with MS as a partner for bringing Call of the Sea to the world, and we are excited with the opportunities next-gen formats bring. We’re also very happy to be part of Xbox Game Pass; that has proven to give us a lot of visibility!
Can you talk about the resolutions and frame rates the game is targeting?
We are targeting 4k and 60fps on Xbox Series X.
"We are happy to work with MS as a partner for bringing Call of the Sea to the world, and we are excited with the opportunities next-gen formats bring."
The Xbox Series X has a ton of GPU horsepower and fast SSD. How do you think this will help developers as they develop games for the next 7-8 years?
It is always exciting to see how old limitations are overcome and try to find new ones. The feeling of adventure when exploring something new is what we like best.
Do you think Series S will limit game development given that it’s a technically inferior machine compared to Series X?
It depends on the game. I think in our case it hasn’t been a limitation at all.