Interview: ‘Thomas Was Alone’ Creator Talks ‘Volume’
Thomas Was Alone was one of those special games that combined an amazingly deep story, beautiful soundtrack and entertaining gameplay to create one of my favourite titles. So my excitement level was through the roof when the games talented creator Mike Bithell announced his latest project Volume. After creating such a well-renowned title, hopes for his stealth-based follow-up are raised extremely high.
I recently had the chance to speak with Bithell regarding his inspirations for creating Volume, whether the game’s narrative will follow a similar meaningful tone as Thomas Was Alone, further information on the games fully-featured level editor and much more.
AA: It must be an exciting time for you, being able to finally talk about your latest project Volume. How long has the title been in development?
Mike Bithell: I began work on Volume in February, so around 7 months at this point. It’s been a mad dash to get everything together, but we’re getting there.
AA: Thomas Was Alone was a platformer at heart, what gave you the idea to move into a top-down stealth-based adventure? Did you feel confident to step away from that genre after its success?
Mike Bithell: I’ve been designing games in a bunch of different genres for many years, while Thomas was my first indie game, I didn’t want it to define any of the rest, so switching genres made a lot of sense. Always fun to mix things up.
AA: Was the idea for Volume something you have always wanted to do? Or was this an idea that was inspired by other titles?
Mike Bithell: I was a massive Metal Gear Solid fan as a kid, and always wanted to design my own game in the stealth genre. The game’s roots definitely lie in that more old-school approach to sneaking about. Making that player editable and accessible to everyone was a cool way of turning it into something that 15 year old me would have loved.
AA: What I truly loved about Thomas Was Alone, was its ability to tell a deep story through nothing but a variety of different shapes. Can players expect to find an over-arching narrative in a similar vein?
Mike Bithell: Absolutely. We’re playing our cards pretty close to our chests for now, but there will be a pretty substantial narrative, which will hopefully not disappoint fans of Thomas.
AA: From the handful of screenshots and videos you have released, the game looks brimming with bright colours. It is unusual to see a stealth-based title with so many vibrant colours, was this a decision that was made early on? And were there any influences towards the design?
Mike Bithell: I like bright colours art wise, but more importantly, they keep everything clear and readable. It’ll be interesting to see if the community shares my taste, or will change them.
AA: One of the main features announced for Volume, was the fully-featured level editor. Was this a tough process to implement?
Mike Bithell: There’s a lot of up front work involved in getting the editor made, but it actually speeds things up down the line, as I can get levels made really quickly. I use the tool myself, so it’s handy to have.
AA: As for sharing content amongst users, will there be a system in-place to allow players to rate levels so the best levels rise to the top of the community?
Mike Bithell: This is still being worked out, but we will be investigating ways to ensure good stuff is visible to players, and also to share things specifically with their friends.
AA: During your level-editor walkthrough we were given an explanation into two items our character can use to his advantage(Blackjack, Bugal). Will there be many more items throughout the game?
Mike Bithell: There’ll be loads of items! We’ll be expanding this list over the next year, and if the game proves popular, we’ll probably continue after release. It’s all about giving players cool opportunities to try different tactics to get through levels.
AA: You confirmed David Housden will be working on the score for Volume, was this an obvious choice after the beautiful soundtrack he provided for Thomas Was Alone?
Mike Bithell: I aim to work with David for many projects to come, he’s a bit of genius, and a pleasure to work with. He brought an amazing level of emotion to Thomas, and it looks like he’s going to bring the same to Volume.
AA: The announcement trailer states Volume will release in 2014, though no platforms have been confirmed. With your previous work with Sony to implement Thomas Was Alone on PlayStation consoles, are you looking to expand to other platforms for Volume’s release?
Mike Bithell: Not talking platforms for now I’m afraid.
AA: Well Mike thank you very much for your time. For those interested in Volume, where can they go to get all the details as they are released?
Are you excited to see Bithell’s Metal Gear Solid inspired stealth-title? Were you a big fan of Thomas Was Alone? Which platforms would you like to see Volume launch on? Let us know in the comments below and a massive thank you to Mike Bithell for taking the time to answer our questions.
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