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Nightingale's Aaryn Flynn on giant monsters, and providing "more agency" in survival games

We talk to former Bioware manager Aaryn Flynn on what exactly sets Nightingale apart from its peers.

It already feels like an age since the Summer Game Fest peeled back the curtain on a sleek selection of upcoming game releases to get the pistons on everyone’s hype engines pumping again. Of the reveals, Nightingale certainly stood out thanks to its promise of bringing the survival genre to a more fantastical setting. But an interesting aesthetic can only get you so far – what exactly will set Nightingale apart from other titans in the scene right now?

To find out we talked with Aaryn Flynn, CEO of Inflexion Games and former Bioware general manager, to get to the bottom of what makes Nightingale special. We touch on unique features not found in other survival titles, the range of PvE encounters in the game, and how the studio plans to drag players away from their competitors.

Check out the world premiere trailer for Nightignale here.

VG247: You’re taking the survival genre to a more fantastical place than many of your peers. What unique selling point does that provide aside from a neat aesthetic?

Flynn: I think the realm card system is our biggest innovation; this notion that the player has agency over the spaces they go to. Survival crafting games are really cool in that they procedurally generate a big beautiful space for you, and then they seed that with adventures, resources, and interactions for you in the game. But what we get to do is we get to have players explore a space, and then play with the realm card system, and control and influence what space they're gonna go to next.

And so rather than say, “I'm gonna go to a different kind of forest or a cave,” we give you a lot of opportunities to control the biome and the resources and the creatures you're going to face and everything like that. I think that's going to be a very fun way for players to have more agency in the survival crafting genre.

VG247: So they kind of feel like they have that control over the experience?

Flynn: Certainly more control. And then, we want to enrich those realm cards over time with more realms, more biomes and more interactions.

VG247: So you've shown that one aspect players will have to deal with is assaults upon their bases and homes they work on within these realms. Is that central to the overall gameplay loop in Nightingale, or is it an occasional rarity players will have to look out for?

Flynn: It's not the thesis. So when you build your base, we don't want the player thinking job number one is "I've got to do everything I can to defend this thing", right? So, for example, when you log out of your realm, if no other players that you've invited in are there, everything's frozen. So, time is not ticking for you in your login.

A player sneaking behind a monster in Nightingale
You'll have to figure out the best way to take out the different ghouls and monsters that populate Nightingale.

Certainly, creatures come along, and they can attack your base. But it's not our intention to make base defence the fundamental focus. Now, as you go into harder and harder realms – if you decide to build your base in those harder realms – it's more likely you're going to get attacked, but that's a choice you make. That's something you might decide to engage in because you want to be in a realm that offers better resources and better rewards, but you can build your base anywhere you want.

VG247: So if you want, you can go out and set up shop in more dangerous realms for a hub near more valuable resources?

Flynn: Yeah, and you might enjoy that! “Come on, bring it on!” Or you might be like, “No, I don't want the stress, thank you very much”.

VG247: So then people can kind of make progress in the game without requiring pushing to establish a base in those more dangerous realms?

Flynn: Yes, absolutely.

Two players in an estate in Nightingale.
Building a home base, as is typical of the genre, is a crucial part of Nightingale.

VG247: So you've had the more gigantic monsters like front and centre since the game has been announced. Can you take me through how the kind of inclusion of the gigantic beasts differs from typical PvE combat and what unique rewards and opportunities come from hunting them down.

Flynn: Yeah, so all of the larger creatures you see, they have unique powers, unique abilities. It's also our hope that we offer for all those interactions a non-combat alternative, so you don't have to just go in and start shooting your guns. I think we'll be really happy when every one of those creatures has a different set of options for you to try.

Different approaches may lead to different results, really galvanising the choice for players, but at the same time, we want to make sure that when it comes to those big creatures, players get that get that ability to decide. Do I really want to fight this thing? Or maybe I can bargain with it, or maybe I can do something it needs instead so I don’t have to kill it.

But then of course, as you say, some of these giant creatures will be quest gates, they'll be important steps to get through to solve a quest, they'll have their own interesting, unique rewards when you interact with them. That's going to become part of the puzzle to keep progressing in the game.

When you see creatures we call The Bound, you don’t necessarily have to fight it. You might have a quest that says, “you need this thing from that creature”. So, you could go find where its lair is and find something like that, as opposed to just slaughtering it.

VG247: Was that like a central thing you wanted to do from the beginning? So much of games is combat and murder.

Flynn: Absolutely. From the very early days, we promised ourselves that – as much as possible – we'll have non-combat choices and non-combat paths through the various progression gates and stuff. We just wanted to respect that idea.

VG247: Could you go through the whole game without killing anything?

Flynn: No, you're gonna have to kill stuff. I mean, you can obviously avoid some of these creatures, you could run around them, or something. But then again, I don't think we have anything that's declaratively combative. I don't think there's some programmatic gate that says you can't progress without killing something. I mean, I think about the realm cards, you can craft realm cards without killing things – at least the ones I know of. So maybe it's possible. It just might be very difficult.

A giant in Nightingale
Maybe it's friendly?

VG247: So how would you describe the typical progression path the player would experience? Like, is it just a case of gradually expanding and improving your home and equipment? Like other stuff on survival? Or is there a more linear path?

Flynn: No, I think it's pretty gradual. You kind-of build it up over time with certain objectives, certain quests or interactions will grant you new building possibilities and new upgrades. There's going to be some quest lines that will offer more stepwise functions, but I think it's overall pretty gradual.

VG247: So talk me through the base construction aspect. It seems like it's more important than a place to drop off your loot. How is constructing a home in Nightingale different from other games?

Flynn: Our estate, like a lot of other games, is meant to be very customised to you. It's an expression of your creativity. It's where you keep a lot of your materials and resources. So, if you want it to look a certain way, we're giving you the pieces you can use to be creative. Another thing that I think we're really supportive of, and encouraging of, is players coming together to build out villages. So that opportunity for players to coalesce and then and then split up tasks is something we value.

VG247: Obviously, there are a lot of big hitters in this space, there's a lot of players who are already like, kind of quite committed to other other games to this time. What do you think you've got that will drag in fans embedded into other communities? Or are you aiming for people who've never played this type of game?

Flynn: I hope the world building pulls them in, to give them a rich new universe, of characters and stories and creatures and interactions and histories. Hopefully, we pull people in with that. And then I think that, from there, the moment-to-moment survival crafting gameplay is pretty fun.

You know, we're not aiming to be the most realistic survival crafting game out there. So we're just meant to have the environment give you interesting challenges, we’ve got some character management, and have layered a few RPG elements into that to give you some choice and give you some customization. But, I hope it's fundamentally the world building that pulls people in.

Nightingale is set to release on PC via Steam in Q4 2022. If it sounds like something you'd enjoy, you can wishlist it now!

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