Rat King and their break from the mainstream with Solitude!

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Photo Credit: Zuraida Buter (zo-ii.com)

 

Indie Developing team Rat King from Halle, Germany has been hard at work creating several games within the Mobile Market (iOS devices) and more! Jana Reinhardt and Friedrich Hanisch combine forces to create Rat King, an outlet for them to create unique first-person experiences. Originally meeting back in 2004 while studying multimedia design at the Burg Giebichenstein University of Art and Design, Jana and Friedrich worked together and formed Rat King several years later. With an emphasis on mainstream-incompatible designs, atmosphere and a love for working in an intense environment, these two show no signs of stopping anytime soon.

Today we get a chance to sit down with Rat King to talk to them about their newest game out, SOLITUDE!


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SGR –  With multiple games under your guys’ belt, what drove you to create a game like SOLITUDE? What sets it apart from anything you created before?

Rat King – Anybody who takes a look at our portfolio will notice that most of our games are game jam entries. Game jams are very compact experiences and/or game prototypes, made within short time frames (usually two days or a week). Only a few of them became bigger projects, with TRI being the most successful one.

SOLITUDE on the other hand has a completely different origin story. It is a game project sponsored by the local art foundation (Kunststiftung Sachsen-Anhalt). In 2015, Jana wrote a game proposal about becoming a shepherd and it got accepted. Afterwards she researched a lot and tried different styles. This year we assembled it; Jana created all the graphics in 3dsmax, and Friedrich wrote the scripts to bring it to life. Finally, in November of this year, we could show it at an art exhibition and also release it on itch.io.
Ultimately, the intention was to create a much more personal experience than people have come to expect from us. Our games were nearly always about having somewhat novel gameplay ideas but didn’t deliver much in terms of story or meaning. This time Jana wanted to concentrate on delivering a message. During the development of SOLITUDE, Friedrich tried something similar with his game jam entry Wood for the Trees. This is what makes these games special: they try to be less game-y, and make the experience more lasting as you (hopefully) think about them longer after you finished the game.

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SGR – With the drive to have the gameplay focused around escaping, what will players really be escaping from? What type of audience is this game meant to target mainly?

Rat King – We seldom think of narrow groups to target. Our game ideas come from our insides (figuratively), and not from the outside. Sometimes the target groups form naturally with the scope of the game, for example “people with friends who like local multiplayer” (see Farbenspiel). It might seem that we’re not very economic in this regard, but that we’re thinking more like artists.

Escaping from the current (often boring) life is pretty much the gist of SOLITUDE. It’s open enough that everybody can add their own interpretation, but it’s mostly about getting out of the treadmill, wandering into nature, and being accompanied by different people with different personalities who all happen to share similar feelings. I guess the target group here is everyone who likes short, artsy games without a hard challenge that keeps them from seeing the end of the experience.

SGR – Was developing SOLITUDE different then what you have experienced before? Do the different levels signify any level of importance with theme of the game?

Rat King – The development reminded us more of how we worked when we were in university studying multimedia design. Back then we didn’t have to look at profitability while doing our projects, and since SOLITUDE had been sponsored, we felt the same vibe. Overall it was a much more personal game, focusing less on one or two gameplay mechanics, but instead we focused on getting each single room to work properly. It was a bit like painting a picture, adding layer after layer.

It is also the very first game of ours that features sheep, I think.
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SGR – So I have to ask, what is the story with the sheep?

Rat King – A big inspiration for Jana was a local shepherd she knew from her home village. Although being a shepherd was her semi-serious escapist fantasy, we know that shepherding is actually hard work. Watching a herd of sheep invokes a sense of calmness, and a shepherd – always working outside on real grass and dirt – might be a symbol for freedom and nature. No wonder Christianity uses this symbolism so often!

We made another art game some years ago, with a smaller scope, but also inspired by animals around us: Rat Race. You would play a rat who’s kept alone in a cage. You could walk around, eat, and poop. It was surprisingly calming. After a few in-game days you’d die. Don’t ask me about the symbolism of that one, though! 😉

 

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SGR – Are there any future projects or game jams in development that we can look forward to? Which of the two would you say you guys prefer to work on more?

Rat King – It’s still in the planning / pre-production phase, but it will be a dungeon crawler with stealthly detective elements and a much deeper story than other games we’ve developed. We might do some private jams soon, but there’s nothing set in stone. If Friedrich has time, he might create something for the next Ludum Dare.

We still love game jams and participate in them occasionally. Working on real, longer games feels a bit more rewarding. Game jams are still a great opportunity for prototyping new ideas!

SOLITUDE is available for purchase on Itchi.io for the following platforms: Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Look forward to Super Game Review’s “Indie Game Spotlight” on it coming soon! Here is a trailer featuring the game about escapism!

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