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Forever Skies Essays

Essays 24 January 2022, 17:29

author: Darius Matusiak

Survival in the Clouds - Interview With Forever Skies' Devs

Polish studio Far From Home creates an ambitious survival game set in a world obscured by deadly dust. What is Forever Skies? Why will the futuristic airship-base be the centerpiece of the game? We ask developers themselves.

What will Forever Skies be?
  1. a Polish survival game set in post-apocalyptic world destroyed by an ecological disaster;
  2. inspired by such works as Subnautica, Raft, as well as the films Martian or Annihilation;
  3. The airship will play central role as the base of operations, which can be improved and highly customized;
  4. plot will tie the gameplay together;
  5. solo mode or up to 4-player cooperation;
  6. first to appear in Early Access on Steam, later on next-gen consoles.

Polish games had a pretty good year 2021 – after all, many productions have been noticed in the world – and it's not about the hype around Cyberpunk 2077. Poland brought the eerie The Medium, and Chernobylite won the "Indie of the Year" award. There was also a lot of fun to be had in games like Sniper Ghost Warrior: Contracts 2, Gamedec, Rustler, Outriders, simulators of working at gas station or car garage, the return of classic RTS in the Commandos-style War Mongrels, and a few other good titles.

Dying Light 2 is about to join the fray, and among the games coming this year, there's also the Early Access of Forever Skies. A new production from a new studio, Far From Home, although the creators are not nearly greenhorns. Many of them have experience from Techland, Bloober Team, Farm 51, and Larian Studios, where they worked, for example, on Dead Island or Divinity: Original Sin. The upcoming Forever Skies will be a survival game set in the post-apocalyptic world of the future with emphasis on exploration, crafting, and action. As always with completely new IPs, there are many questions about what the game will actually be and what to expect from it.

The frequent comparisons to Subnautica are not enough to satisfy our curiosity, so we decided to ask the developers from Far From Home about the details of Forever Skies. Our questions were addressed by Andrzej Blumenfeld – the CEO & Gameplay Lead, and Pawel Jawor – the CMO.

Pillars of inspiration

Darius Matusiak – Gamepressure: The first information about Forever Skies includes the following simile: "Subnautica in the sky." How much would you agree with this, or how different will Forever Skies be from that game?

Andrzej Blumenfeld – Far From Home: The three main reference points of Forever Skies are The Raft, Green Hell and Subnautica. The significant difference from the latter is that in Forever Skies, we create our own mobile aircraft, which we will be able to expand, modernize and improve, and it will become our flying base. The Raft mentioned above was a great inspiration for this direction.

DM: What were your main inspirations when creating a general concept of the game world, its atmosphere? Any movies, books?

Pawel Jawor – Far From Home: The obligatory position that comes to mind is Ridley Scott's The Martian starring Matt Damon. Similarly to the movie, we want to move players to an environment where they will have to use all their knowledge to survive. A number of problems in the game can be solved in a scientific way by conducting experiments and using a number of machines. Quoting the film's protagonist: “In the face of overwhelming odds, I'm left with only one option, I'm gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

The second title is a movie with Natalie Portman – Annihilation. It inspired us because it portrayed an amazing and strange hybrid of life originating from our world, which at the same time was absolutely alien. In Forever Skies, the player does not return to the planet Earth they know, but rather to a place where life evolved in a different way. What they discover will be foreign, but at the same time, it will have the features of life that previously dominated the land.

The third movie is IO from Netflix. Here, the portrayal of the last moments of the ecological disaster were valuable to us, as was the scientific research and the subject of hiding in special, closed zones, allowing humans to survive in a world that's no longer habitable. The film itself and its plot may remain a bit of a background to the game, but for us, they were interesting in their own ways.

AB: I would add both the book and the movie I Am Legend, in which the scientist is coping alone in a post-apocalyptic world. Returning for a moment to survival games and inspirations, it's worth mentioning that both The Raft and Green Hell showed us how players can have a great time experiencing survival adventures together – that's why in Forever Skies, we will have a co-op mode for four players. It will be added after Early Access launches.

DM: Exactly! But aren't you afraid that the co-op and multiplayer lollygagging will destroy this climate of acting as a lone scientist, damage these attempts to build an atmosphere similar to the movies you mentioned?

AB: If someone wants to focus on the story and exploration alone – they will be able to do it in the single-player mode. On the other hand, we create the cooperative mode for players who prefer to experience adventures together. Personally, I find it very exciting that one player will be able to fly the airship, while the others will be collecting resources, doing experiments, crafting a cure, or upgrading and maintaining the ship.

PJ: In the co-op, the most important thing is that the players have fun together – the script and the background of the game should help them, not disturb them.

Climate catastrophe? Try winter in Krakow

DM: We know so far that the main plot is about searching for a cure for the hero's relatives. How significant will the plot be? Is it going to be just an excuse to explore the world and collect resources, or will it be more of an engaging, emotional journey?

AB: Our main focus at this point is to lay the foundations of the game. The most important thing is both to introduce the player to the Forever Skies universe and to create an engrossing survival loop. We are simultaneously working on the narrative and the story.

PJ: The plot will play an important role in the game, while the players will be able to decide whether they want to explore the history and expand the ship, or to search for the cure. A lot of inspiration for us came from other survival games, including Subnautica.

In addition, similarly to The Long Dark or The Raft, we plan to add more story elements both during Early Access and after. At first, players will receive an introduction and an interesting world to explore.

DM: Forever Skies is supposed to be about an environmental catastrophe. Are you going to include narration by environment, letting players in on the history of the world with diaries, notes, etc.?

AB: An important element of Forever Skies will be learning about the world and the history that led to the extinction of mankind. We want to build the feeling that it's an authentic world where real dramas take place. In the game, we will learn the history by means such as scattered notes, but it's too early to confirm whether they will be audiologs, journals or something else.

DM: Are you going to show off some locations based on real cities, landmarks and locations, similarly to what The Medium has offered?

AB: Forever Skies presents a vision of a world where there's no longer any trace of humans. We missed the chance and the planet has said "enough is enough." Certainly, characteristic locations or cities that the player knows and meets them in a dilapidated version, no longer suitable for life, could be very dramatic and strongly resonate with the keynote behind the game. However, we don't know yet whether such locations will be featured in the game.

However, I think it is worth mentioning that the game is inspired by authentic experiences. I mean, for example the air quality in our native city of Krakow can be so poor that not only outside activity is dangerous to health, but it's even inadvisable to open windows to let some air in. It was one of the things that spurred us to act in this direction. When we showcased the first game concept showing the main character sliding down a rope through a cloud of dust – our interlocutors often emphasized that the problem of smog is present not only in Krakow, but actually in most Polish cities.

The scientist doesn't always fight

DM: We will sometimes meet hostile beings in some locations. What is the combat system like? Will the player have a standard FPP arsenal, or will the elimination of enemies look a bit different?

AB: In Forever Skies, we play the role of a scientist, so hand-to-hand combat and shooting are not necessarily the basic activities that we will have to deal with. We want the player to first try and understand what kind of threat they will be facing, analyze how they can deal with it, and only then act.

We will fight not only with creatures from inside the cloud of dust, but also diseases and viruses. The latter will be able to be processed in the lab in order to use them to strengthen our body or produce weapons and special ammunition. The combat system in the game offers both ranged and melee combat.

DM: How big is the game world, considering that we'll be flying above the surface of the planet? Will the player have complete freedom of traveling, or is the order of visited locations predetermined?

AB: Forever Skies is an open-world game, which means it offers large, open environments. It is partly procedural, and some locations are created manually. We would like to provide players with a really interesting experience. We want them to experience the adventures at their own pace and in the preferred sequence. The same event can happen earlier or later in the game, depending on the paths you choose. The player may decide that at some point they want to get a specific upgrade, but others may find it in completely different circumstances, at a different stage of the game.

PJ: The unique gameplay experience is very important to us and it starts at the headquarters – the airship. We do not want to force the story into a specific shape. We hope that each of the airships will be unique and that players will share their projects with the community. We have already created some really impressive assets in internal tests. Starting with movies-inspired, as some people played around with building X-Wings or TIE Fighters, and ending with huge laboratories, where all kinds of research can be carried out. The airship will also be very customizable. In Forever Skies, we want players to be able to organize crew quarters, for example with a view on the setting sun and ruins in the distance, so that you can calmly contemplate the fall of civilization.

DM: Survival usually involves obtaining resources. Will Forever Skies require any form of grind in order to complete certain levels, or is it something you want to iron out as much as possible?

AB: We are constantly trying to balance the game and find the right proportions. We try to constantly feed the player with something new: a new device, discovering new mechanics or locations, so that they can feel motivated and enjoy the discovery. The satisfaction from solving problems is also important. Forever Skies is a survival game and we want the player to really feel that they're progressing into more effective characters, that they gain more and more time and opportunities to discover and explore the world. Resource gathering items are sure to make an appearance in the game as well, but we hope to avoid the bad, monotonous grind.

PJ: Lack of bad grind may mean that we will not have axes for felling trees.

Real challenge is the release

DM: What was the biggest challenge in developing the game – or is it yet to come? What was the most difficult phase of Forever Skies' development?

AB: We were concerned with how the game would be received and whether Forever Skies would generate enough interest. Right now, a week after the announcement, we can say that we're actually a bit intimidated by the reception. We get a lot of feedback and positive opinions that motivate the entire team. The direction is set, we've got wind in our sails.

I believe that the most difficult period in production is the one around the release date. You press the button and you release the game, and suddenly there's no turning back. After a while, feedback begins to come in, the first reviews appear, and even though you can try hard to dot all the i's and cross all the t's, you never know what to expect in the end. Years of your work are being evaluated.

For me, this is where the most difficult moment in creating the game begins – the release!

DM: So the game will spend some time in early access on PC, and the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S versions will be released later on?

AB: We want to start creating Forever Skies together with the players as early as possible. As we mentioned before, the right balance is one of the most important things in survival games, and who, if not the players, can better show the developers what mechanics are still missing, or inspire gameplay improvements? Early Access seems a perfect fit for such a collaborative effort.

Additionally, we decided that our first priority is to deliver the best possible quality. Therefore, we decided to focus on one platform, but of course, we remember about console players and test all the mechanics with a gamepad already at this stage of production.

DM: What part of the game are you proudest of? What promises to be the mainstay of Forever Skies?

PJ: The experience of flying the airship above the infinite cloud of dust may become the hallmark of the game. There will be ruins of the old world in the background, mysterious anomalies, and we will walk around our ship, upgrading and decorating it as we see fit, creating something truly unique and personal.

AB: I'm very proud of the building system. Enhancing the ship's quarters is hugely satisfying. We have also recently expanded the mechanics of flying. The ship flight experience is much more immersive now, and I think it will be a strong and engaging element of the game.

PJ: I am very curious about how the players will develop their airships, how they will change them, combine them to solve the problems that we present them with, how they will explore the world. I can't wait to see their creations!

DM: So is there a chance that the game will support mods created by players?

AB: We would absolutely love that! However, it's a bit too early to judge the probability of that. This is one of the topics in our bag of ideas, but for now, we have to finish building the foundations.

Gamedev with community participation

DM: It's going to be a really interesting game! Finally, is there anything else you would like to share with future Forever Skies' audience? Why is it worth the wait?

AB: We would definitely like to invite everyone to our Discord channel at this point. Although we are just warming up, we are already publishing exclusive production materials there, and our community is growing quite quickly. Soon, there will also be questions about the direction of development of some mechanics, so if anyone wants to help us in creating Forever Skies, please feel free to do so.

PJ: We also recommend visiting our Steam page. In addition to a comprehensive description of the game, there are also some Forever Skies goodies you can get.

On behalf of the entire Far From Home team, I would like to thank the players for the support so far and the warm welcome of Forever Skies. The interest is enormous and we will try to keep you posted about further work progress.

DM: Thank you very much for the interview and good luck with the further work! We're looking forward for the premiere!

  1. Forever Skies on Steam
  2. Forever Skies in our encyclopedia
  3. Official Discord server of the game

Darius Matusiak | Gamepressure.com

Darius Matusiak

Darius Matusiak

A wannabe fighter pilot, racing driver, and a spec-op; an adventurer and a space marine – hence, a gamer. I’ve been playing games since Wing Commander, and writing since Destiny.

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