The team at Mooneye Studios talks to us about its upcoming exploration based adventure title.
Lost Ember is a title that’s been pretty low-key in terms of the anticipation surrounding it so far, but everything we’ve seen of the upcoming exploration based, story-focused adventure title has left us very intrigued. It seems to be combining strengths in the visual department with a very interesting central premise, and all the elements are there for it to be a unique experience. Recently, we sent across some of the questions we had about Lost Ember to its developers, the German-based team at Mooneye Studios, asking about everything from how the game will execute its premise in both narrative and gameplay to how it’s shaping up on the technical side of things. The following questions were answered by Sinikka Compart (Project Manager) and Tobias and Pascal Müller (CEO/Programmer and Programmer respectively).
"The idea of playing an animal character was one of the first things we agreed on. When we first started pitching ideas to each other, we felt that it was significantly easier for us to think of cool concepts with non-human characters."
The concept of being able to transform into different animals and exploring the world from their perspective sounds quite interesting. How did the idea come to you?
The idea of playing an animal character was one of the first things we agreed on. When we first started pitching ideas to each other, we felt that it was significantly easier for us to think of cool concepts with non-human characters. The only thing that we never could agree on was which animal to play. Coincidentally, one of us was playing Driver: San Francisco at the time. Now, when you first see Lost Ember, you don’t necessarily think of a Driver game immediately. But the interesting thing about that one was that you could switch into other driver’s cars and control them. So we built a prototype in a couple of hours with four different animals in it and the ability to switch between them and we immediately fell in love with the idea, the different play styles and perspectives you got from that. So the following months we started to think about the world and a general setting that would be most interesting to explore from these different perspectives and which animals might be interesting for that and here we are.
How does that translate into gameplay though? How does it impact exploration and other elements?
It makes for very varied gameplay and a lot of freedom for the player in choosing how they decide to play. Some animals are good for getting an overview of certain areas, while overlooking smaller details, some are very good for finding small, hidden secrets that are scattered throughout the world. It also requires you to pay attention to your surroundings. Certain things might go overlooked if you don’t see the parrots sitting in the trees above you that allow you to fly to areas you didn’t even see as a wolf, for example.
And how is it explained from a narrative perspective? Given that the game seems to be a narrative-focused title, that’s something that many people might wonder.
How to explain without spoiling too much… This is obviously one of the first questions you might have, but one of the last ones we answer in the game. Let’s just say it is closely related to your relationship with your spirit companion that you meet at the beginning of the game and there is a reason why he has this specific gift for you.
How much do the animals differ from each other in terms of what players can do while playing as them?
You can explore underground as a pink fairy armadillo, underwater as a fish, roam the lands as several animals from wombat to wolf to buffalo or see the world from above as one of several birds. On top of that each kind of animal is going to have its own interactions to try out, little things like eating berries, shoving your fellow wombats or collapse bigger obstacles.
"It’s a story of a whole civilization, as well as a personal story."
How much of an impact do you think Kickstarter funding has on the entire process of the development of a game?
A lot. In so many ways. Seeing the interest in our project was very motivating and it made us want to make something that would be worth the wait for everyone who gave us their trust. Our campaign also gave us the most kind, patient and all-around lovely community. We could not be more thankful for them. But of course it also increases the pressure. We have all these people waiting for a game they have high hopes for and we of course don’t want to disappoint. But I think sometimes a bit of pressure is needed to just stay focused and motivated, so it’s a good kind of pressure, if that makes sense.
Can you tell us anything about Lost Ember’s story besides what we already know? Given its intriguing concept and setting, there’s a lot of curiosity about what kinds of a story and world the game will have.
It’s a story of a whole civilization, as well as a personal story. While the civilization is not around anymore when the player explores the lands, some personal memories still are. Those are the puzzle pieces we hand the player to piece together what happened way back when humans were still ruling the land.
In the absence of much combat or puzzles, how are you making sure that the game remains engaging and keeps players interested?
One aspect is obviously just piecing the story together, as a lot is up to the player to find and interpret. And if you’re not that much into story, you can use Lost Ember as a playground, trying out all the things you can do and the places you can go with all the different kinds of animals. There are lots of hidden things and areas to reward the explorers and cute little interactions for those who are most interested in just playing around with the animals.
Roughly how long will Lost Ember be?
That will very much depend on how you play and how much time you spend exploring and fooling around. On an average, straight forward playthrough, it’s gonna be around 5 hours. But if you’re trying to see everything there is, this can easily be double.
Do you have any plans to launch on Switch?
We do. But all we can say at this point is we want to see Lost Ember run on a Switch. That would make us very happy and quite a lot of people have been asking about it. We’ll do our best to make it happen, but haven’t yet had time to really look into how much extra work that entails.
"One aspect is obviously just piecing the story together, as a lot is up to the player to find and interpret. And if you’re not that much into story, you can use Lost Ember as a playground, trying out all the things you can do and the places you can go with all the different kinds of animals."
Will the game will feature Xbox One X specific enhancements? Is 4K/60fps on the cards?
Yes, there will be graphic improvements for the Xbox One X and we hope to get 4k/60fps, but haven’t done much testing yet, so we can’t promise that at the moment.
And how will the PS4 Pro version turn out in terms of resolution and frame rate?
Much like the Xbox One X, we cannot tell any final info here yet.
How is the game running on the original Xbox One and PS4, frame rate and resolution wise?
Our first tests ran quite smoothly on 1080p, but already lie a few months back. We’ve done a lot of optimizations since then, so I’m pretty excited to see how the console performance has (hopefully) improved.
Next gen is coming sooner or later. From a development perspective, what is your biggest expectation from PS5 and Xbox Scarlett?
To be totally honest, we are currently focusing on Lost Ember and not thinking too far ahead. Guess we can tell you more in a couple of months.
What is your take on the ongoing drama of loot boxes and microtransactions?
We are not big fans of loot boxes and microtransactions, and there will definitely be none in Lost Ember.