PERISH Casts Death in a More Beautiful Light
“I don’t know that PERISH is THAT ambitious,” Anthony Richard told me in an email. “Given the scope of the game the amount of actual work coding and making content is totally doable by one person.” Watching the trailer though, I’m still amazed.
One person created all of this. As an action-rpg roguelike that revels in trial by death, the game is much narrower in scope than some of its more sprawling influences (The Legend of Zelda, Dark Souls), but PERISH nevertheless has a definite, eye-catching look that conveys so much with so little. And even Richard admits that while a good bit of the game is procedurally generated, the time required to develop those systems is a “huge investment.”
“Development has consumed my life, basically,” Richard confessed. “I work on it seven days a week, usually. My life outside of the development of the game is a shambles.” But the game, which Richard has been working on for over a year, is finally starting to come together, with its eventual completion and subsequent release planned for later this year.
That’s why Richard turned to crowdfunding during the last leg of development. Though entirely self-funded thus far, working full-time on PERISH was beginning to take its toll financially. By asking potential supporters for a modest $1,500 through his recently launched IndieGoGo campaign, Richard hoped to secure the funding he’d need to finish PERISH without delay.
“To cover those last few months of development I could have stopped working on the game full-time for a couple of months and done some freelance work, but the momentum of the development on PERISH would be broken and the game would have to come out that much later,” Richard told me.
So why choose IndieGoGo over Kickstarter? “Because Flexible Funding meant that even if I didn’t make my goal, the funds raised would still be helpful in reducing the amount of extra money I had to make up by doing freelance work,” Richard explained, adding how grateful he’s been for all of the support he’s received so far.
Rather than struggling to meet his original goal, PERISH‘s IndieGoGo campaign has already helped Richard raise just over $4,000 in funding with more than a week still left to go, giving him just the sort of “breathing room” he was hoping for.
The game is still working off of an ambitious blueprint, however. Pitched as “Dark Souls meets Spelunky,” Richard says that PERISH‘s combat is inspired by the former while its levels, and how they are structured, takes after the latter. “‘X meets Y’ shorthands are inherently a little silly, but it points to the right ballpark in terms of design-space.”
Between the game’s saturated colors and construction paper-like textures, not to mention its overall conceit, PERISH bears more than a passing resemblance to Capybara Games’s Below, another action-RPG roguelike drawing from a similar pool of influences. While he started working on PERISH before Below had been announced, Richard notes that both games “seem to be taking inspiration from similar places,” even if, he adds, they’re “coming at it from a completely different direction.”
Whereas Below has the player slowly explore an expansive landscape over consecutive playthroughs, Richard is aiming for something more holistic and bite-sized with PERISH. “I want a quick, but deep, experience. Every run should be able to surprise you and to feel like a complete experience.” Thus he imagines players first exploring the boundaries of the game, surveying the various environments and enemy types, before shifting their focus to mastering its systems, building up a “personal skill set” in order to “conquer whatever the game throws at them.”
Similarly, Richard says he’s employing a “soft touch” when it comes to any kind of narrative. “I have a story for the game, but I’m not especially interested in making sure everybody pays close attention to it.” Similar to Dark Souls, the aim is to give the game context without letting the surrounding narrative overshadow or distract from the survivalist combat mechanics that are at PERISH‘s core.
As the sole creative force behind the game, the weight of each of these design decisions is shouldered entirely by Richard. “I’m responsible for everything except the music, which in the trailer is a free Creative Commons track.”
The way he explains it, “Being solely responsible for nearly everything makes you notice how intertwined and interdependent every aspect of a creative work is and how any decision on any part will necessarily affect every other part.” With no barriers to negotiate between different members of a development team, Richard is able to keep adjusting each of PERISH‘s disparate elements as he thinks necessary, without necessarily having to negotiate the rival egos or competing objectives which sometimes come when collaborating in a group.
I imagine there must be something comforting about having this level of control. PERISH will be what Richard wants it to be, or at least hopes it will be, in part because of the outside funding he was able to crowdsource through IndieGoGo. And at least so far, the individual love, care, and unified intention exhibited in the trailer points to a unique and intimate take on a genre and its gameplay conceits that continues to show much promise.