Yesterday was a big day for Insomniac Games. The studio behind Ratchet & Clank, Spyro the Dragon, Sunset Overdrive, and a number of other memorable gaming efforts decided to set their sights from the land to the sea, revealing an underwater Metroidvania known as Song of the Deep.
This is unlike many of Insomniac's previous efforts for several reasons. Near the top of those reasons is that this is a personal project for Chief Creative Officer Brian Hastings, who always imagined a fairy tale that would captivate his daughter and others like her. While Hastings is spending this weekend meeting and greeting fans at PAX South, Shacknews was able to sit down with Hastings, where we asked him about the game's background, as well as its heroine and how she and her story are unlike anything anyone has seen from Insomniac before.
Shacknews: You've mentioned wanting to capture the picture book aesthetic and the heroic tales of the sea, but you also mention Irish mythology as one of the game's inspirations. What particular aspects of Irish mythology inspired Song of the Deep?
Brian Hastings, Chief Creative Officer: I looked at a lot of them as I was researching ideas for our enemies. The Formori is actually part of Irish mythology, and the Merrow is part of Irish mythology. Little bits, like the Tyne energy, which is like a living energy that has a life of its own, that comes from the Gaelic word for "fire." That and Merryn's place where she lives, she lives off the northern coast of County Clare, along the cliffs off the northern coast. A lot of that helps define the look for me and the background of the story for her.
Shacknews: Take a moment to talk about Merryn and what makes her different from some of the other lead characters we've seen in Insomniac games.
Hastings: She's a 12-year-old girl, so I think what's interesting about her is that she's not super strong, she has no exceptional talents, she's not born into royalty, or anything like that. She's just a regular girl and what's interesting about her is that her actions are her very character. When her father doesn't come home and she thinks he's lost at sea, she goes to these extraordinary lengths to build a submarine and risk her life on the very slim chance that she may find her father down there. It's the eternal hope that can really exist and that a child can find really inspiring. It's the kind of thing you want to build a story around.
Shacknews: This is something of a departure from stories we've seen from Insomniac. What made you decide to go in something of a darker direction?
Hastings: It's just what felt right for this game, for the exploratory nature of it, the mood of the loneliness and isolation, the challenge of wanting to find her father and not knowing where he is. It felt like the right move. We started working on the color palettes to set the mood and when you first hear the music... it really just all fit. It all came together. It was a beautiful, cohesive kind of whole.
Shacknews: One of the other things I'm used to seeing from Insomniac games like Ratcher & Clank, Spyro, Sunset Overdrive, are characters. There are so many vibrant characters. But this is different in that it's just Merryn. Is that to say we won't meet any other characters along the way or will it be just her?
Hastings: She does meet some other characters. but there aren't dialogue trees or big conversations with them. We do want to focus on her journey. We want the player and Merryn to see that there are possibilities out there, that it is a big world that is alive with history. She's finding that there are ruins, she's finding terrible things that happened, and she's trying to piece them together. But she does find a few other characters that don't necessarily talk to her, but she finds ways to interact with.
Shacknews: You've mentioned previously that you wanted to tell Merryn's story in other ways, such as through the chapter book in the works. What other ways are you looking to establish this world?
Hastings: We're still thinking about that. Right now, we're putting all of our energy into making this a great game that people still talk about ten years from now. At the same time, we're making this a world bigger than just a single game. We're thinking about the way it expands, to have hints in this game about the greater expanses of this world, the greater possibilities. But right now, we're not thinking about things beyond that specifically.
Song of the Deep is coming later this year to PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One as a downloadable title. As part of Insomniac's publishing partnership with GameStop, look for the physical version of the game to be available exclusively at GameStop stores.