We sat down for a chat with studio director and level designer Adam Simonar from NVYVE Studios to learn more about Pamela (or p.a.m.e.l.a. as it is sometimes written)
You are launching via Steam Early Access this week - why do you feel now is the time to launch into Early Access? Where is the game at?
We're in a pretty good spot in development right now where all of the core mechanics of the game - so the huge amount of weapons, armour, equipment, NPCs as well as building mechanics - are in a pretty good spot where you've got many hours of content to experience. We have even more in mind that we're going to be adding as Early Access continues. Aside from our own internal testing, we're really interested to see what the world is going to think of what we've done so far and get that feedback to guide where our focus should be in the following months.
Are you looking to see how the players will use the tools you've given them and how to best cater to that in terms of story?
Yeah, exactly. You're absolutely right, we have a huge sandbox of different things a player can find to do and explore in the world already. So we have our own ideas of what we think would be really interesting to add on top of that. We're interested to see what people are loving and want to see more of. For example, the base building mechanics. We've got a wide selection of items already in the game in terms of setting up a safe area, the fences, renewable food. What we could add on top of that, we've got a lot of ideas, and we're interested in having a dialog with the community so the things we're adding are things that we're excited about and they're excited about.
How would you describe the base building in the game?
It revolves around these power transmitters that you find which essentially create powered areas in the environment that you can place different objects within. So in the trailer you have to put a power cell into one of these objects which then shows you've got a certain area you can build around - a little like the pylons in StarCraft 2. You can then essentially place a manner of different items in that range including wall pylons which can block off areas to make your base more defendable; to turrets which will attack enemies that come near, to more standard things like a bed so you can sleep, as well as hydroponic farms so you can grow renewable food resources. Once you've got a base set up, you definitely have more options in terms of survival versus just having to loot what's in the environment. It's more of a longer term progression thing; you're probably not going to have a whole base set up within a few minutes of starting, but after a couple hours of exploring if you get lucky you might find some items sooner rather than later.
When you build a base if you have these resources, will you become a target for the afflicted?
We're trying to get the balance right. We don't want it to feel too frustrating but at the same time, yes we do have systems in place which will cause the afflicted to attack your base depending on what kind of defences you have available. They can attack your base while you're inside of it - you can come back and they might have been there while you were gone, or while you're there they can come take down the walls and destroy your stuff. It's definitely not something you can just set up and forget about.
Is there a viable way to avoid conflict with them and avoid killing them, or is the game about killing a lot of afflicted?
You can play either way to an extent. What we focused on so far with this initial launch on Early Access was making sure the core combat systems are solid and enjoyable. We focused somewhat more on the hostile aspect of the NPCs. That being said, some of them can also be fearful of you, you can also sneak past them. They have vision and hearing senses so you can use a stealthy playstyle. Something we want to be fleshing on a bit further during Early Access is adding a next layer of sophistication on top of their base AI. We targeted a nice solid base which should make most people happy.
Might it even be possible to lure them with food and domesticate them, if you will?
[laughs] That's a really interesting idea. Currently that's a little ways off from what we've done so far, but we definitely have some ideas sort of similar to that in term of what we can do to expand players' options in terms of dealing with them and potentially befriending or coexisting them.
What went into the design choice of the setting - what does the setting offer?
A couple of things really. Going back to when we first started figuring out what is Pamela, we loved survival games like the open world aspect of things and leaving people to their own devices. We knew we wanted to make something which had that as the core experience. But we also love games and settings like Mass Effect, Bioshock, these very well fleshed out fantasy worlds that are so believable. So we set out to say let's build this sort of survival game, but in the setting we feel really hasn't been done in the genre before. It's a handcrafted, highly detailed utopian city. While you can definitely draw similar comparisons to the core gameplay between many other games on Steam, the change in setting is pretty profound in that you're not walking around chopping down trees or finding berries to survive. You find yourself in this sci-fi apocalypse setting where you're needing to survive, but because it's a unique setting you don't understand all the rules. There's a lot you have to learn over time as you're playing. It's not necessarily just cut down a tree kind of thing, not that there's anything wrong with that, but people have much better pre-conceived notions of what they're doing in those types of games.