We recently had an interview with Kan Gao, director, illustrator, and composer at Freebird Games. Freebird is widely known for To The Moon, which is one of the most popular indie games in existence. The studio is now working on a new video game, Impostor Factory and we wanted to know what his view on the indie game industry as well as their take on next-gen consoles and microtransactions.
Through the interview with Freebird Games, we also get to find out that the studio is working on new engines, new IPs as well as bringing some continuation to To The Moon.
Segmentnext: You were able to create what’s arguably a masterpiece in storytelling with To the Moon which was built on an RPG maker engine. Does this mean that you believe any great game can be made with the least amount of tools needed?
I do think great things can potentially be made with any tool, although the end products aimed for should fit the pros and cons of the tool. In my case, I focus mostly on story-driven games, so the technical limitations and hurdles of something like RPG Maker don’t hamper it much, yet its ease of use is a great benefit. (Also, thank you very much for the kind words!)
Segmentnext: Regarding that subject. If finance and deadlines weren’t an issue. How would you envision To the Moon being as a game? Would it be 2D? 3D? First-person? Oculus?
I think To the Moon would still fit best as 2D and pixel art in this case, although with better production quality. In its case, I believe the game’s themes match quite well with the kind of nostalgic longing good pixel art can evoke.
Segmentnext: Is there any project besides To the Moon that you’re satisfied with as well? Maybe something else you’d like to be known for? A title that’s even underrated maybe.
Yes, but it’s still being made and won’t see the light of day for a long time.
Segmentnext: When can we expect a sequel To the Moon? The game was transferred forward onto other platforms such as mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch. What about a continuation? The ending of the original did hint to one after all.
Actually, since its release, there have been 2 minisodes, as well as a full-fledged sequel, “Finding Paradise” (released around the end of 2017). More is coming soon as well, but I do think we’re nearing the end of this saga for a while.
Segmentnext: Besides the story aspect which you’ve obviously emphasized on. What other aspects of a game do you truly prioritize besides the story itself?
Atmosphere and immersion. Perhaps not the kind achieved by graphics, but by all the peripheral attributes, such as pacing, ambiance, and a general sense of consistency between all the elements of the presentation.
Segmentnext: In general, what do you think modern AAA games generally lack? The successful indie games usually have those sort of points that fans miss in AAA games, No?
I think it’s often a sense of focus and vision. This is understandable, though; as the size of a team expands and the number of stakeholders grows, it becomes more and more “necessary” to play on the safe side and try to satisfy an averaged consensus, as opposed to gambling on the intuition of a singular vision. On the other hand, with the usually smaller indie teams, it becomes much easier to achieve such an internal coherency of vision when there are only one or very few people directing all corners of the project.
Segmentnext: What lies in the future of FreeBird games? Will we see the experimentation of any new engines? Perhaps new IPs or sequels to the older ones?
Yes. To everything. And maybe it’s already happening.
Segmentnext: Are you guys developing anything for nex-generation of consoles?
Not specifically, but we are trying to future proof certain future development pipelines.
Segmentnext: What can you tell us about the upcoming Impostor Factory besides the release period of 2020 that we’ve already confirmed?
People will die. Holes once dug will be filled. The cat may be the culprit.
Segmentnext: How many people do you currently have working for Freebird games? And what’s the stance of the studio on crunch culture? How do you guys find a balance between work and life?
About 4 in-house, along with numerous long-distance folks from across the world. We haven’t been tested since the others came on board after the last big release (Finding Paradise in 2017), but I intend to keep crunch off the table for the other folks (I personally can’t help it sometimes, to be honest; but to me, working on the games can sometimes be my leisure as well as work).
Segmentnext: Do you think Lootboxes should be deemed illegal? Should the loot boxes have some sort of confirmation of what the fans will get? Should they be labeled as gambling?
I think it should be on a case-by-case basis – there is some fun to be had from non-guaranteed rolls and to remove such an element could be a bit of a big restriction. But of course, it can often be exploited by certain practices too much, which is when the issues become prominent. I sure hope the kind of loot boxes I once promised would come to fruition, though. ( To The Moon 2’s trailer promising more loot boxes).
This is it for our Freebird Games interview. Impostor Factory is “coming one day” as Freebird Games says on their official website. For the time being, you can experience To The Moon and Finding Paradise, both of which showcase the power of RPG maker, in a world where high-end graphics and intense battles rule the world of video games. The studio has some surprises for us, as it seems. To The Moon remaster, please?