The Wandering Village, the latest from the lovely folk over at Stray Fawn Studio, scratched a recurring itch we have for a good city survival sim. As demos generally become scarce in the modern gaming space, we still adore the traditional game demo here at The Young Folks. It’s thrilling to see a vertical slice of a game, and what a studio wants it to say about the final product, which is why the Steam NEXT Fest is such a great innovation in the modern games space. Stray Fawn’s city-builder survival indie release, The Wandering Village, presented us exactly that, and we’re grateful that they were so generous as to follow up with details in an interview following our gameplay preview.
Steam NEXT Fest
Unlike the modern two-hour free trial of the full product, a properly curated demo can give you a true taste of what the game’s creatives are trying to put out there as the thesis statement of their work; an amuse-bouche that they believe shows all the mechanics and thematic. It runs at full tilt to get across not only how the game plays, but also how it feels to play. Maybe that sounds pretentious, and it very likely is, but it’s undeniable the bygone era of on-disk demos from publications like OXM and Playstation magazine were some of the best advertising a game could have (ie. Doom’s shareware revolution). This love of game demos has not just been a personal fixation, however, as it seems there is enough love to warrant the Steam NEXT Fest, a game demo jam where everyone from AAA publishers to indie darlings let people have a crack at their next big project. To us enthusiasts, this might as well be a whole week where I get nothing else done. Among the demos played by The Young Folks team, we couldn’t resist but reach out to the developers of The Wandering Village to find out more about the game.
The Wandering Village Demo
The Wandering Village recalls a personal favorite game from the past few years has been Frostpunk, a post-apocalyptic community survival game about a city vs the ever encroaching cold of permanent winter. City survival games usually have a rather grim tone and setting. Therefore, what makes The Wandering Village stand out is just how colorful and expressive everything is. The human villagers of The Wandering Village are still fighting for their very existence in a unknown world, but the designs of the people are so expressive and cute, it’s hard to not immediately root for their survival, and mourn their somewhat inevitable loss.
The world is just as expressive as the people inhabiting it, as the game primarily takes place on the back of a giant Dinosaur/Lizard/Salamander thing. Think of the Great World Bearing Turtle myth, but more literal. The Onbu, as the game calls it, is a giant wandering beast that just so happens to have a perfectly livable biome on its back, so the villagers decide to hop on for a ride. The crux of The Wandering Village is not only that you have to make sure your human villagers survive, but also the Onbu as well. As the Onbu Wanders through the world, it passes through neighboring towns, deserts, forests and mountains in search of food and to get away from the game’s antagonistic force, a toxic spore fog that makes land uninhabitable and spreads like wildfire.
As your village grows and develops, it also figures out how to engage with the Onbu, whether it be symbiotically, like using Onbu treats to lead it away from the Toxic spore clouds and keeping it happy and fed, or parasitically, like harvesting its very lifeblood for fuel. After a few rounds of playing through the demo, the game truly gets its hooks into players when trying to make their new village outlast each previous round.
Interviewing Philomena Schwab, Software Engineer at Stray Fawn
TYF: The wandering village’s central theme seems to be centered around symbiosis, of the mutual relationship between the human villagers and the Onbu. What inspired such a unique setting for a survival management sim?
Philomena Schwab: I’m personally a huge biology/ecology fan. So if you let me take the lead on a game, that is likely what it will be about.
Our first game ’Niche – a genetics survival game’ is a simulation game about population genetics for example.
Also in the times we live in, reminding players to take care of their world is a valuable lesson that games can help to teach.
The wandering village was a standout title from the previous Steam Next fest, garnering seemingly universal praise from both players and press. How is the team feeling after such a big public showing of your game? Has the feedback you’ve received changed anything about the development of the game; difficulty, pacing, etc.?
Before the Next fest I was super unsure if the Steam audience would enjoy the game. Our whole team was really happy with the feedback we received.
Many people pointed out that the villager prios and the poison system need improvement, so we’re currently reworking them.
This has led us to push back the release by a few months, but other than that we’re still on track.
The wandering village will be Stray fawn studio’s 4th published game, but the first in the city building sim genre. Where there any unique challenges or difficulties brought on when tackling a new game type?
Yes, there are always new challenges that come with every genre. Luckily there are many city-building enthusiasts in our team, so we can draw from everybody’s experience.
Yet we still analyzed about 15 other city-builders to make sure to get the controls right. The art style is an other challenge that we’re constantly struggling with as it is pretty complex to handle.
And a quick 4th that my editor is dying to know, will there be a Onbu plushie and how soon can we order a dozen?
We’re currently running a Kickstarter for a plushie our of first game Niche: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/strayfawnstudio/adam-plushies
So hopefully we can do the same for an Onbu plush in the future.
The Wandering Village launches later this summer on Steam and Xbox.