Discover more from Hashtag Survival
"Creating a survival game is easy," said no developer ever.
Welcome to Acquired Tastes, our bi-weekly newsletter dedicated to the fascinating individuals in the Hashtag Survival community!
In this edition, we shine a spotlight on Romain, the mastermind behind Derelicts, one of the most highly anticipated survival games on Steam.
My name is Romain; I’m 34 and French. I studied for a master’s degree in geology and then found a job in France since then. I've always been a huge gamer and started playing on the original PlayStation back then. I also had a NES that I played a lot with my little brother.
My first contact with video games was watching my dad play Tomb Raider 2 and Doom. I wasn't supposed to witness him play Doom as I was around 8 or 9 and way too young to see demons being slayed by machine guns, but I quickly got used to it. Since my younger age, I've been playing most games on PS2 and PS3 and decided to go for PC gaming after that, as I had more budget and wanted to enjoy gaming with better graphics and more framerate.
I started working on Unreal Engine as a hobby around 4 years ago, starting with small projects to learn and improve my knowledge. I started with a small horror game that I quickly gave up because of a lack of drive on the theme. I then wanted to make a linear co-op FPS with a story, but I quickly understood that the scope was too high, especially to make something solo and look smooth. In the meantime, I played The Forest with friends and naturally shifted to making a survival game because I loved the theme and found it much easier to do solo than other game genres.
As I was communicating about Derelicts on social networks, showing my progress, the game gained traction progressively and ended up among Steam’s most awaited survival games. That's when I decided to strike while the iron was hot and take a year’s leave off my regular job, which transformed into 2 years later. I saved some money in order to be able to live off it for the whole period and decided to focus entirely on the game. This allowed me to work full-time on Derelicts and speed up its creation and development. During those 2 years, I lived on a budget and almost never went out. I avoided most invitations to restaurants or movies and only saw my friends at their places or mine. I didn't mind it too much as I've always been a bit of a loner appreciating the small things and enjoying living at home. Though it can be quite exhausting at some point, knowing it was temporary made it a bit easier to tackle, especially when enjoying things with friends.
The survival genre has been one of my favorites when it comes to video games, especially in co-op. I find this genre to be one of the most interesting in terms of strong immersion and awareness of your surroundings. I also love the sandbox aspect and gameplay loops.
I usually prefer to play them with friends to make the grinding/farming/looting phases more appreciable and fun. Nothing is funnier than building a base and defending it with your friends.
I also love solo survival games when there is a compelling story and interesting mechanics (The Long Dark and Stalker come to mind).
In terms of game development, I find that survival games are often more approachable in terms of scope and complexity. When making a survival game, you don't necessarily have to focus on writing a lot of quests or dialogs, as the core gameplay is often around building/crafting and fighting the threats around you. Before starting Derelicts as a project, I took some time to get the idea to sink in and see if I could tackle this kind of game. I still wanted to have a good story but mainly told through environments and visuals, with some clues here and there, like photographs and journals.
Check Out Some Games I Love!
I'm a big gamer and play every genre. It's hard to pick 5 games I love, as there are so many out there that I adore. But I tried to pick games I love and that I often advise people to try as they brought me more than just a gameplay experience.
Soma - I love narrative and contemplative games with strong stories, characters, and dialogs. Think of games like Firewatch or Journey. I've played almost every walking simulator, even the smallest indie ones. Soma is among the best games I've played in terms of scenarios and dialogs. By the time the end credits were rolling, I had an existential crisis with an empty look. The story and ending are just so good. It makes you think about many things and about the meaning of life. The setting is top-notch, and I won't spoil anything, but this game had me hooked from start to finish, thanks to its atmosphere and writing.
Outer Wilds - As I'm always saying, a game that makes me cry is often a game that will earn points instantly. The writing and/or setting are so good at conveying emotions that the player ends up being touched. In the case of Outer Wilds, it's about the incredible journey of survival, puzzles, and exploration. By the end of the game, my heart sank as I realized that this beautiful and epic adventure was coming to an end and that I would never be able to discover it for the first time ever again. I know this game has been divisive on the net, as it's a game you need to be in the right mood. But man, is it a masterpiece if you dive in and like it.
What Remains of Edith Finch - It's difficult to explain and advise someone to play WROEF as it's such a condensed and amazing game that will not necessarily talk to everyone. But for people who love good stories, experienced grief, or have children, this game is a must-play (especially since it's quite short). I had no idea what this game was when I first played it and went totally blind. To this day, it's in my Top 10 of games that affected me the most.
The Forest - I've mentioned The Forest a lot as one of my main inspirations for Derelicts. It's been my greatest experience in co-op to this day. Playing it with two of my best friends, exploring and finding out about the survival aspect and horror, was both nerve-wracking and exciting. What I felt and experienced playing this game with friends is what I'm trying to convey and replicate for my own game.
Dark Souls 3 - I love the Souls series, but Dark Souls 3 holds a special place for me as this game accompanied me during severe insomnias. At that time, I used to roll around in my bed, trying to catch sleep, and often ended up booting DS3 to wander around its desolate and gloomy world. Playing this game at 4 p.m. while exhausted and alone in my flat felt surreal. I still remember this period vividly. I was immersed in the game, and each fight was so intense.
5 THINGS I LOVE
Gaming - I know, it's a bit cliché, but I can't reasonably talk about things I love without mentioning gaming. Gaming has been my main activity since I was a little child, and to this day, I'm still trying to convince people that video games are the best media out there to convey emotions and immerse you in the world the writers and developers created from the ground up. I'm also fascinated by the amount of creativity and people required to make the truly magnificent games we get today. Technologies and teams truly leave me in awe of what we can get when talented people gather to create something. I've never taken games for granted, especially since I have seen and played former games from the 90s.
Game dev books & documentaries- As a game lover and developer, I could spend hours reading/watching people who worked in the industry, both in AAA or indie teams. I loved gathering anecdotes and advice and learning about why a game failed and what could have been done differently. One book I read and found amazing from a game developer's perspective is "Blood, Sweat and Pixels" by Jason Schreier. The author interviewed many veterans from the video game industry to gather a lot of feedback and anecdotes that are a gold mine in approaching and understanding game development. There are also good YouTube channels I like regarding this, like the series "What Happened" by Matt McMuscles, which puts the spotlight on high-budget games that usually fail and try to explain why. It's interesting to try to understand how publishers’ or developers' decisions can impact a specific game's fate. I also really like the channels No Clip and GDC (Game Developers Conferences), which talk about the "behind the scenes" of many famous games that we all love.
Reddit - I'm not proud to admit it, but I spend way too much time on Reddit, and I would consider it a hobby of mine. Sometimes, I use it to gather game development knowledge from post-mortems and other developer's experiences. Numerous solo indie developers are sharing their work and feelings there. But most of the time, I use it for anything. I love reading other people's stories and questions. I see Reddit as a huge forum where anyone can exchange and share their problems or state of mind. I love seeing people trying to help each other or give life advice there, from stranger to stranger. I also spend a lot of time at home and never watch the news, so Reddit is also a way to feel a bit closer to the world.
Movies & Series - Similar to video games, I have a huge respect and interest in movies as I'm fascinated by the amount of effort, talent, and money that most movies/series have always required. I'm not watching movies only as entertainment; I'm also watching them from a creator's perspective. And it's amazing. I really love the attention to detail in them, the background, the scenes, the crowd. I'm really curious about the field of cinema in general. I have a habit of checking out and watching all the movies from a specific director if I like one of their creation, going back to their oldest movies. This has allowed me to find out about many hidden gems that were not that popular but still really good. That's why I'm also really interested and fascinated by anecdotes and stories about the making of movies. I recommend watching:
The Fountain (2006) - Drama
Scott Pilgrim VS The World (2010) - Comedy
It Follows (2014) - Horror
Gone Girl (2014) - Thriller
Gattaca - (1997) - Science Fiction/Drama
Sleeping - I love sleeping, and I think it's one of the best things in life. Some people think sleeping is a waste of time, but I could sleep 10 hours every night. I have suffered from a lot of sleepless nights in my life, and only someone deprived of sleep knows how much sleep is the best thing ever. Of course, it's even better to sleep when you wake up near a loved one! The cherry on the cake.