FERO: An Inside Look at a Game in the Making and the People Behind It

BY JONATHAN JENA

First, tell me a little bit about yourself:

My name is Louis Castricato, and I am the lead producer at WireZapp (the company behind Fero, our game). This is the fourth game I’ve worked on and the second open-world RPG that I’ve made. I hope to start a degree in applied mathematics within the next year, and work my way into doing Artificial Intelligence research for sociology and/or various other open world simulations.

What is Fero?

Fero is a fantasy open-world exploration game, oriented around story discovery. There isn't one set story, as the world is designed to let you make and craft your own story. Rather than giving a static set of plot points, every decision you make can affect the ending and outcome of the game.

When you say open world, what are some of the things that characters can do/be expected to encounter during gameplay?

As with most sandbox games, there really isn’t a limit to what the player can do within the confines of the game’s underlying rules. One second they can be catching up in a bar with a soldier they met weeks ago, the next they can be defending their village against an Orcish raid.  You can do anything within the limits of the game and your own imagination.

What if anything inspired you to create/work on this game/how did you go about reaching out new team members?

Most of the teammates were reached out to through “friends of friends”. Inspiration from the game came from No Man’s Sky and Fallout 3. Our art style is akin to Wild Star (ie: very playful bright colors). It creates a very childish environment, which has been proven to stimulate curiosity in adults and is fun to look at and interact with.

What makes this different than others games of its kind?

In Fero, unlike games before it, there is no story. We urge the player to explore, to learn everyone’s infinitely deep backstories. There is no “directive”, there is no “narrative”. The side you chose in the beginning may be the side that loses a war. Your kind may be forced into extinction. There’s no way to know.

What have you learned from this experience thus far and what do you think is the benefit of embarking on such an arduous task in an independent way with no/minimal funding?

Money definitely helps. I had thought that we could push a lot faster on such a tight budget, but to my surprise it has taken us nearly 4 months to complete what I had originally assumed to be a month of work. Development should most certainly pick up once we have some real funding coming in.

Do you plan on getting funding in the future?

Yes, we most certainly do. After doing a few price gauges, the game in total would come to near $300,000 to develop, and then another $300,000 to fine polish. We’re hoping that we can finish the Alpha stages on our shoestring budget, and then approach an investor and/or Kickstarter.

What platforms will the game be on?

PC, Windows, and Mac OSX. We aren’t aiming for high-end computers; we’re hoping that it can run on the highest settings on a medium range computer circa 2014.

We are also considering an Xbox One and PS4 port, however that is by no means confirmed.

How many people are working on the project/how far-reaching is it?  (As far as the places the team comes from)  How is it working with people from around the world?  

We currently have 15 teammates working a few hours a week on Fero. We have 4 designers, 6 artists, and 5 programmers. As for working with a variety of time-zones, it definitely makes scheduling meetings a hassle.

Expected release date?

Absolutely no idea at the moment, since the process takes a considerable amount of time, but for the final product, it would definitely be a matter of years.

How has the general response been so far to your product?

The response has been mostly positive. The occasional troll will show its face, but besides that, it’s mostly been design ideas, and ways to improve our current implementation.

What are your goals moving forward?

Immediate:

We want to move our AI system to a cluster logic architecture. This is a huge feat, as we’re currently as far from a cluster architecture as possible. To the non-technical, simply put this allows for a lot more NPCs (A.I.’s) with far less overhead. We should be able to lower our requirements to allow for consoles, as stated above, and it could potentially allow for modding support due to the system’s increased simplicity.

Long Term:

I’ve always wanted the ability to write a novel and have the computer turn said novel into a game for me. For a very long term goal (if this did happen, it would be at final release), I’d want to add some basic text language processing mechanics so that the player can talk to other NPCs with language more sophisticated than “NPC A did thing to NPC B”. The engine already supports communication like this.  I don’t expect the NPCs to understand novels, or even paragraphs for that matter, but if it can infer the player’s opinion about a certain thing in the universe from a sentence or two that they wrote as well keeping a log of all the players actions (a thing the system already does), it could add a lot more to the immersion of the communicative experience.

Are you looking/open to anyone else joining this project?

Certainly!  We are always open to more help if anyone has experience with design (either artistic or mechanical).  We need as many talented artists and programmers as we can get and any help would certainly be appreciated.

Contact Info:

If anyone has any questions, or are interested in being a part of this ground-breaking new game, please contact us at: projectferomine@gmail.com.

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