Earlier this year we sat down with The Outsiders CEO and co-founder Ben Cousins, a veteran game developer who has plied his trade at a selection of studios ranging from Lionhead to EA DICE, and later EA Easy Studios and more recently in the mobile space with Scattered Entertainment and DeNA. He founded The Outsiders with fellow DICE veteran David Goldfarb, whose career has seen him work as a writer and creative on highly successful games such as Killzone 2, Battlefield 3, and Payday 2 to name a few.
"We had been friends for about ten years before starting the company," says Cousins as we sit down for a chat in The Outsiders offices in central Stockholm. "We were both working at DICE and I actually brought Dave over to Sweden to work at DICE when I was working there. And we just got to that point where we were, luckily, both trying to find something to do. Both had left our previous jobs and were consulting and we just sat down and had some drinks together one evening. And David has had this unbroken chain of really successful first-person games if we go back in time - Payday 2, Battlefield 3, Bad Company 2, Bad Company 1, Mirror's Edge, Killzone 2.
"So a lot of people wanted to talk to him about the potential of starting a company and then helping him from a financial backing side. But he's not a business man, he recognises that he's a product guy, he's a game designer, not a business man, so we decided to start to work together and David had the idea for Project Wight at that time. But we kind of started the company cause we wanted to work together as friends and create a work environment which was fun and had the culture that we wanted. As much as it was about building that particular product, particular game."
Given the interest and both their backgrounds, Project Wight was perhaps not the path of least resistance, and it's certainly not a game that is reminiscent of the shooters Goldfarb has worked on.
"It would have been super easy for us right to say we're going to make the next killer mobile FPS or free-to-play FPS with my background in mobile and free-to-play and Dave's shooter background," says Cousins. "I think you're right in that there's no shooting, well, no there's no real shooting in the game, but a lot of the things you learn building first-person games we have. All of the locomotion the player uses, we're very focused on these creatures walking on all fours and having a feel of that they're in contact with the ground and touching the ground. That's something that we will have seen in Mirror's Edge. The way AI works in a first-person game is probably different from a third-person game. The way you build environments is kind of similar. And the way you work with first-person animation."
"We have two animators on the team, both of whom are DICE veterans, one of whom was the animation director on Mirror's Edge 2 and one of whom has worked on a lot of those really popular reload first-person animations in the Battlefield series, because we're making this creature and we're selling the idea that you're controlling a creature rather than a human, all of those things that you would learn building high-quality first-person animations for a shooter can also be applied in sort of selling that you're a non-human, that you're a monster, that you walk on all fours."
"There's not so much absolute direct experience that we can bring over, but we're certainly in the same ballpark. We're not making an isometric turn-based strategy game."
And don't expect a project like that from The Outsiders in the future either.
"Thinking of the company as well as me as CEO, one of the things we focus on and the companies I admire: the companies that stick to the same path. I think about Blizzard to a certain extent, maybe Overwatch is a change, Bioware, Naughty Dog, these companies know what their genre is and they try to excel at that genre rather than making a million things at once and that's something that we will try and do as we continue."
Project Wight lets us experience an alternate history take on the Viking era where humans are in competition with another intelligent species and the twist is that it's these creatures you'll play as. In a way, it reverses the situation you'd find in most action-RPGs. Crawling on all fours makes for a different camera perspective, closer to the ground, which also makes the game different.