One of the highlights of EA PLAY was a beautiful indie game, Fe. Developed by Zoink Games, a highly talented Swedish studio, Fe is set in a interactive forest with mystical creatures, deep meaningful story, and a lost young cub trying to find his way.
The game is inspired by classics like Super Metroid and Shadow of the Colossus.
We recently spoke with one of the creative directors on Fe – Hugo Bille. He gave us plenty of new information regarding Fe, its creatures, possible NX version, gameplay, and much more.
Segmentnext: Looking at Fe it reminded me of the time I first saw Unravel, not that they are similar games, but it shows just how well indie studios can do with support from big publishers like EA. Tell me, besides publishing the game, how involved is EA in the creative process of Fe? Or do you have complete control over the things and features you add and the direction you take?
Hugo Bille: “We had been working on Fe for a long time before EA entered the picture, and they have partnered with us because they believe in our vision for this game. The folks at EA have experience from an unimaginable amount of game projects though, and we trust them to give us sound advice. But at the end of the day the creative control lies with us, and we will always strive to deliver on our original vision. That’s the whole point of EA Originals, to let independent voices be heard.”
SegmentNext: Tell us a little bit about the young cub, does he have a name?
Huge Bille: “You won’t hear any names in the game at all. Human language has no place in the forest. For convenience we call the cub Fe, but that’s probably not its real name, nor do we assume it’s a he. We created the cub in the player’s image; an innocent, curious creature with no knowledge of the forest. So while you won’t learn your true name, you will soon discover that there are others like you in the forest. Through them you will come to know your place in the world.”
SegmentNext: : Let’s talk inspiration; of course, ideas for games like Fe don’t come in a fortnight. What has been the inspiration behind Fe? What drives Zoink Games?
Hugo Bille: “Fe has indeed been with us for many years, and has taken very different forms before it finally took on the shape you see today. Through all these forms, however different, Fe has been about creating an authentic nature experience, to recreate the sense of uncertainty that most of us in the team remember from going out into the forest as kids. You know there is beauty in the forest, and you know there is danger, but what is what? There is something lurking beneath the surface, and you don’t know whether to embrace it or hide from it.
But over time, you will start to understand, and make the forest your home. We want you to experience that sense of adventure, of being thrown into a strange world and having to make your own discoveries to make sense of it all. We are inspired by games like Super Metroid and Shadow of the Colossus, which already do wordless storytelling and exploration really well, but we think we’re taking all that in a new direction.”
SegmentNext: Fe is about discovery and connecting with the world around us through learning different “songs.” We noticed that the young cub was able to control different creatures by connecting with them. How deep is that system integrated with Fe’s exploration and puzzle solving? The cub sends out these sound waves of sorts, is that how we’ll be able to communicate with the forest?
Hugo Billie: “Communicating with animals is a huge part of Fe, and you do it mainly through song. You can sing at any time with the press of a button, and we’re using the analog shoulder buttons to let you play around with different tones and intensities of the song, turning each one into its own musical instrument. As you learn new songs, you can switch between them, and ultimately you will be able to mimic every animal you meet in the game. Then it’s up to you to figure out how the various species of the forest react to the sounds you make, either by quietly observing how other animals communicate, or by trying your luck and hoping you don’t offend anyone. Most of the problems you face in the game can be solved in different ways, depending on what kinds of animals you’ve learned to befriend. You will also find that the different songs affect plants in the environment, and you can use that to reach new areas as well.”
SegmentNext: Tell us about the interactive forest of Fe and the creatures we should expect to see and face.
Hugo Bille: “Fe features a diverse array of animals; some eat other animals, some eat plants, some eat stranger things still. Some are mammals, some lay eggs, some reproduce in ways so unusual it would be a spoiler to talk about it. Some may try to eat you or get rid of you, others are more playful and easier to approach. We have chosen to work with a relatively small number of species so that you get time to really get to know them and all their complex behaviors, and you get to meet each species at different development stages, from the smallest hatchlings to the ancient elder deer. In the same way the forest itself is relatively small so you can learn to navigate it without maps or waypoints, and we are instead focusing on stuffing it with as much adventure as we can.”
SegmentNext: What are the release plans for Fe? How far is it in development and should we expect it this year?
Hugo Bille: “Sorry, it’s not coming out this year. One of the many blessings of working with EA is that we don’t have to rush the game. This is our chance to make the game we’ve dreamed about, so it might take some time.”
SegmentNext: Any plans for a Nintendo NX version?
Hugo Bille: “It’s certainly something we’ll be looking into, but it’s too early to say for sure.”
SegmentNext: My last question isn’t related to Fe but I would like to know what an indie studio thinks about PlayStation 4 Neo and Xbox 4K aka Project Scorpio? How do you think it would impact development in the future? Will it just be like creating different graphical setting options or is it more complicated than that?
Hugo Bille: “It all depends on how Sony and Microsoft implement it and what trends take hold, because that is going to decide how big a difference we as developers will be expected to make between the two versions. I hope that everyone involved is committed to making the “basic” versions play and look great first and foremost – if developers start to get sloppy and release games that are really intended for the upgraded machines, then we’re messing with the safe, convenient environment that is the whole point of playing on console to begin with. As long as it’s just a matter of scaling up the resolution for the upgraded consoles and enabling prettier VR, perhaps adding a few effects here and there, we’re absolutely on board.”
It is a disappointment that Fe won’t release this year but with a game as beautiful as this, it is crucial not to rush and take your time to bring out the best possible version.
Fe will release under EA’s EA Originals program where the company will bear publishing and marketing expenses of unique indie titles.