APGNation’s Nick Bayer had the pleasure of speaking with Pontus Lundén of Double Zero One Zero, Swedish developer of the upcoming newspaper simulation game, The Westport Independent. In this exclusive interview, Pontus Lundén talks about the creative process and inspirations for the historically-based game. Check it out below:
APGNation: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer some questions regarding your upcoming game, The Westport Independent. Can you introduce the members of the Westport team and the roles each of you fill?
Pontus Lundén: My name is Pontus Lundén, I’m a designer, artist, composer and writer at Double Zero One Zero. The second fellow in the team is Kristian Brodal, who programs about as regularly as other people breathe. Then we have Chris Albin, who does a lot of the writing while I’m busy “working” with other stuff. And lastly we have Gustav Rangmar, who will be with us for a few months to help with some of the art.
APGNation: The original Westport Independent was made in three days for Ludum Dare 48 game jam. How did you come up with the concept?
Pontus Lundén: The theme of that Ludum Dare was “Beneath the Surface”. Now, we live in Sweden. This means that for Ludum Dare, we wake up a few hours after the jam has started. So what we did when we got in to the office was checking up on what other people had done. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the games were either about digging or diving. We quickly decided not to do that.
After some discussion, and agreeing that a spy game would be a lot of work to make good, and by being inspired by Lucas Pope’s fantastic title Papers, Please, we made a game about playing an editor whose job was to censor articles.
APGNation: The Westport Independent has some serious themes of corruption and censorship. Why did your team decide on the setting and themes?
Pontus Lundén: Well, we found the theme interesting. And there aren’t many games that talk about it, even though the subject matter is still relevant today.
APGNation: What are some major challenges your team has faced during development of The Westport Independent?
Pontus Lundén: Well before we got a publisher things were… Interesting. That wasn’t so much related to development itself though. That was more about being able to afford food. Of course, if we ran out of money we wouldn’t have been able to keep on developing the game… So I suppose that it is related to development.
APGNation: The game takes place during the Cold War era of the late sixties. What is the significance of the 1960’s?
Pontus Lundén: Haha, actually it takes place during the late 1940’s. We made one spelling error in the beginning of the alpha preview, and of course it’s the date that people remember. It’ll be fixed in the final version.
So why did we choose the late 1940’s? First of all, it’s close to the end of WW2. While the game takes place in a fictional world with fictional people and fictional countries, and WW2 itself is never mentioned, the scars of a war is prevalent in the game. Secondly, it’s around the time when the Cold War began, and the Red Scare was a big thing in the states. It was also John McCarthy’s prime time, which is you know modern american history, is very relevant to politics vs. news media.
APGNation: Why did your team decide on the 8-bit graphical style for the The Westport Independent?
Pontus Lundén: Haha, we decided to use a pixelated style because I’m the main artist and that’s what I can do. So really, it’s all my fault!
APGNation: I have had a chance to play though the alpha and had to laugh at some of the stories the player is presented with. How did your team come up with the various stories the player is presented with?
Pontus Lundén: It varies. Sometimes it’s based on real life news, sometimes it’s written to enhance other aspects of the game (like when a different independent newspaper in Westport is shut down, warning the player what happens if he/she goes against the government), and sometimes we just come up with something interesting that we want to write about.
APGNation: Was it difficult to balance the more serious and heavy stories with the light and comical stories the player is presented with?
Pontus Lundén: So far we haven’t had too much trouble, at least that we know of. It’s hard to know if it properly balances seriousness and lightheartedness until we’ve tested on just about everyone who’d be interested in the game.
APGNation: Is there anything you wish for our readers to know about your upcoming title?
Pontus Lundén: Buy it. Or don’t. Whatever you choose, you should play Lucas Pope’s games Papers, Please and Republia Times while waiting for our release. They’re both games that inspired us (Papers, Please especially), and more people need to get them.
APGNation: When can our readers look forward to the upcoming release?
Pontus Lundén: The [REDACTED] of [REDACTED], 2015.
So there you have it gamers, by the end of the year you too can enjoy the full emotional tug-of-war between personal beliefs and an oppressive government! For more news on The Westport Independent check back here on APGNation, as well check out the alpha on Double Zero One Zero’s webpage!