Dawn of Pale Lands : concept and prototyping

Zombie Herd.pngSince the release of the Soft Launch is nearby, we have decided on how we can show ‘Pale Lands’ to mobile gamers worldwide. We have conducted some interviews with the people dedicated to producing ‘Pale Lands’. The whole making stories were beyond our expectations, and these will be posted in series twice a month on the blog before the global release. Also, we showcased the extraordinary people in BiNAREE, like developers, designers or artists. The first interview is about ‘Concept and Prototyping of Pale Lands’ with the CEO, CCO and Lead Game Designer of BiNAREE. We hope the interviews can give readers the deep insights of the game-play.

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Kyungheon Kim (aka KK), Founder and Chief Executive Officer
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Sunghoon Kim, Chief Creative Officer
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Daegon Kim, Lead Game Designer

town-based-keyart-final.pngTell me about the ‘Pale Lands’?

Daegon : Pale Lands is a mobile town-based strategy game where you accept and manage refugees and collect and weaponize zombies to survive.

Isn’t Town-based strategy game market saturated?

KK: Most town-based games in the market are either military or Fantasy. Having zombie as the main theme, Pale Lands can be still competitive because of its unique theme and unique system. It is the first town-based strategy game that combined people management system. Also, I strongly believe that Pale Lands can attract users with its engaging graphics and unique zombie’s movement. In the game, the zombies tries to depict and copy the motion of zombies from movies and TV shows. By having realistic movements, zombies in Pale Lands are irreplaceable unlike other zombie games. In my perspective, zombies in other games can be replaced by other monstrous creatures.

How did you come up with the idea of a zombie game? was there a specific reason behind it?

KK: First and foremost, BiNAREE people loves zombie genre.This is how I came up with the idea of a zombie game.20150717Also, It is not hard to find zombie games in the app store and google play store these recent years. In other way, this could mean that zombie has strong fan base. Also considering that zombie is predominant theme in movies and TV shows, the genre still has potential to expands its base to different types of entertainments. With the passion for the zombie genre, we strongly believe that Pale Lands can go big in a mobile game industry. In addition, We have an experience in launching a zombie game in 2015: Zap Zombies™. With the experience, we tried to make Pale Lands unique and highly marketable to be able to allure broader zombie fans.night-adWhat could be Pale Lands’ uniqueness?

KK: Once I played a human-unit controlling strategy game, and it got me thinking that ‘why would human act so stupid?’ That is how much a game simplifies human’s behavior and reaction in their strategy game. But, if you change the subject from human to Zombie, the stupidity becomes normal. Watching how zombie behaves, reacts and attack are pretty entertaining.%ec%9d%b4%eb%af%b8%ec%a7%80-20161206_001Before we start playing the game, I would like to know about the worldview of Pale Lands. Can you describe it?

Sunghoon: The game is taking place closer to Nevada, so you can expect to be seeing a desert-like setting across the game.In the post-apocalyptic era, refugees work hard to establish infrastructures with a hope to revive human civilization. Longing for peace and home makes refugees to eagerly manage what they have accomplished and to defend themselves from outside threats. Also, refugees raid and attack rival town to plunder resources for the reconstruction. Refugees bring zombie troops to opponent’s town to minimize the human casualty. But, killing people who belong to another town is necessary evil to survive in the post-zombie apocalypse. This is the whole worldview of Pale Lands, and we already set up the world view before we start gathering team.Hope ad.pngWhat is the most important keyword in Pale Lands?

Deagon: ‘Survival.’ In apocalyptic survival setting, it is extremely important to have a strategy. sort out what to abandon and what to focus. Build production buildings? Or Focus on attacking or defending? Or build the town in balanced way? In the early stage of game, I designed the game in a way that resource is essential condition for surviving. But, I designed in an opposite way that resource is nothing to do with survival, surplus resources.action-shot-adI am sure it was challenging to recap the zombie apocalypse in a mobile setting. Did you have clear art direction that applied or connected to the Pale Land’s worldview?  

Sunghoon: I wanted to capture a dramatic and desperate survival scene. Making a clear contrast based on a player’s action and representing the contrast visually emphasize the core message of the game: Survive. Drastic contrast and dramatic representation is well captured in ‘Refugee system’ and ‘Quarantine station’ building.img_2711The dramatic representation was intended to support game design. For instance, in Pale Lands, we don’t have iconic or refined-looking buildings that can easily be found in other strategy games. Buildings are rough, rusty and jagged. But at the same time, all the buildings look cohesive. I wanted to harmonize the conflicting elements. Intentionally, the shape and texture are designed in less-sophisticated way but in minimal and neat manner.background_Paleland_03.jpgWhat was the main focus of art team?

Sunghoon: We focused on the ‘Identity’. We try to be authentic and raise the visual quality within the subject of the game. Being unique and keeping BiNAREE’s identity were two most important missions. 

For example, container houses are common in games, but we kept the structure in simple and minimal way for mobile setting. There are limitation because art should go along with the game system, but we tried to get the best out of what we can create.

So I am guessing that the game design team brought up the concept.

Daegon: Yes and no. KK pitched his idea to NCSOFT, and the design team developed the concept and its details based upon his idea. In the early stage, I was thinking that ‘Zombie Strategy game might work since C.O.C had the world biggest hit.’ So, Joel from Tech team and Sunghoon, the art director, gathered and discussed about how to develop the concept. In the kick off meeting, there were two simple rules. One. the game should be minimal because we are using mobile device. Two, the PvP should be the main entertainment of this game.Hopeless ad.pngIs Prototyping preceded before production? What is prototyping? Could you explain?

Daegon: Prototype is preliminary model of a game. A prototyping period could be either long or short. In case of Pale Lands, it is hard to define the prototyping period. All the framework has done, but it is extremely difficult to define the standard and to set goals due to the genre’s complexity.

What about the Balancing?

Daegon: When it comes to PvP, it is hard to tell if the game is well-balanced or not till the actual players got matched and play against each other. Also, it is hard to make a perfect adjustment. Because of the circumstances, the balancing is constant battle after soft-launch. Even hard launching. Our strategy in the prototyping phase was having our own direction in balancing and change the game constantly.

Sunghoon: Like I said in the beginning, art team had everything planned out from the concepting period. To explain more about what was in my head, I wanted to show users the sharp contrast between two. Life and death or Hope and hopeless. In the game setting, hope is portrayed with strong sunlight, and hopeless is depicted with strong tonality.

KK: Joel leads the Tech team. He started to arrange unit interaction based upon AI mechanism. Daegon shared the game system with tech team. We had wild ideas but wasn’t selected.

What was the toughest decision that you had to make in the early designing stage?

Daegon: The toughest decision that I had to made… it was being able to put myself in user’s position. Especially those hard-core zombie fans. I kept on asking myself questions. What do they like? What will be the disappointing game elements for those core fans?

For some users, using zombie as a weapon can be tabooed. However, for some core fans, it can lure the core users. We classified behavior patterns of zombies from various genres and examined many zombie movies and tv shows for our reference. Zombies in some games are intelligent. They can shoot a gun and an arrow, but we wanted to keep the classic zombie’s characteristics; physically powerful but dumb.shot9_ch2.pngNormally, zombies are not capable of using tools. And we kept the part. Design team designed the game in a way that people are taking advantage of zombies strength by deceiving the zombies. In the concepting and prototyping period, we tried to come up with elements that can be accepted by users. We had to make sure that the weapons are zombies, and the action that zombie takes should be still harmful but limited. So zombie in Pale Lands earned skills to throw their bones and to spit.

How long did it take to build alpha-build?

Daegon: we started prototyping since August 2015. The Alpha build was out on September 2016. Approximately, it took us about an year, but there is no significant changes since the alpha build. Current tasks are mostly polishing works, meaning that completing the important tasks took us about a year.slack-for-ios-upload-11What kind of challenge does the game involve?

It is about the survival of survivors. The leader of the town manage his or her people to get through the apocalyptic world together. In such case, the leaders have to make a cruel judgement for his or her people.이미지 20161205_010.png

Are you ready to take the challenge?

For soft launch, the game will be only available in the App Store in the Netherlands and Finland. Please click on the country name to download the ‘Pale Lands’.

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