Mike Bithell, creator of 2012’s PC platformer Thomas Was Alone, has been showing off his new stealth game Volume (for PC, PS4 and Vita) at Eurogamer Expo. We managed to snag a quick interview to see what Volume’s all about.
It’s been just over a year since Thomas Was Alone. Has making a stealth game been an idea for a long time, or was this a project that started after Thomas?
Actually it was ever since I was about thirteen. I played the original Metal Gear Solid, loved it, played it about 5 times through, got the bandana etc. and kind of went ‘oh it’d be cool if you could do this’ and ‘it’d be cool if you could do that’, and designed it all in my head just in the same way every kid does. Then I went about my life, got a degree, joined a games company, made a bunch of games, got bored of that, made Thomas Was Alone – and then there was that realisation that if I can make any game I want now, why don’t I make that game I’ve had bouncing around in my head for fifteen years?
So is Metal Gear Solid the main inspiration for Volume? Is the focus on slow, retro stealth, or does it try to blend with the faster paced stealth approach of recent games?
Well a lot of stealth now is about shadows, and it’s really not that, it’s more ‘corner stealth’. It’s still really quite fast paced, definitely a lot faster than those old games were, but it’s nostalgic. It looks like Metal Gear Solid, you know, it has that isometric camera angle, but there’s really lots of other stuff – it’s not in yet but for example there are disguises, so a bit of Hitman in there, and generally grabbing bits from all the stealth games I like and throwing them in to make what’s hopefully an awesome mix. But yes, it is arcadey, and definitely nostalgic and old-school in that sense.
What’s the context to Volume? It looks like futuristic sci-fi, is that the angle?
Well, we’re not talking about story yet, that’s going to be announced in about three weeks. We’re going to do an event at GameCity, we’ve got a secret location which is going to be ridiculous, but generally yes, it’s going to be near-future futuristic. It’s about a man in a warehouse using a hologram-projector-thing, but other than that, my lips are sealed!
With the nostalgic theme, is it also going to be just as hard as older stealth games? Does it prioritise mechanics and difficulty over story?
I don’t really see it as choosing between either ‘game’ or ‘story’, I think everyone has a level. It’s been interesting, a lot of the feedback today has either been people saying ‘it’s too easy!’ and some people going ‘it’s too hard!’ and plenty of people in between, it’s really been a mixture. Everyone has their own difficulty level, and I want to make a way for it to work for everyone. Because of the way stealth games work you can be pretty modular with difficulty settings, so you could do ‘instant kills’ or ‘everyone has ridiculous health’ – basically we want you to be able to choose the things that make it right for you. If you want the game to be easy, you can do that, if you want it to be the hardest thing ever, you can do that too.
Any inkling of a release date as of yet?
Before Half Life 3. Failing that, mid-to-late next year, unless it’s rubbish!