"Studio Ghibli had a huge influence on the appearance and atmosphere of the game," producer Terra Nil said about the sources of inspiration

At the beginning of 2023, Terra Nil, an inversion construction simulator about ecology, will be released on Steam. We publish an interview with the producer of the project Ruan Rothmann (Ruan Rothmann).

Evgeny Obedkov, author App2Top.ru : Hello! Please tell us first a little about yourself and the team behind Terra Nil.

Ruan Rothmann

RUAN: Hello. My name is Ruan Rothmann, I’m a producer at Free Lives Studio. We are in Cape Town, it’s in South Africa. This year we turned 10 years old.

A decent amount of time.

RUAN: Oh, yes. But we also managed to do a lot. They have also released such hits as Broforce, GORN and Genital Jousting.

By the way, you just remembered that the company was founded 10 years ago, and how did you get into game dev yourself?

Rouen: Everything is simple here. Like most game developers, I grew up playing games. But, you know, I’ve also always enjoyed messing with computers, learning programming languages.

In Terra Nil, the player will have to revive dead worlds

At the same time, you grew up in Cape Town.

RUAN: Yes, that was the problem. I’ve wanted to make games since I was a kid, but it was impossible to develop games professionally here. The situation changed in the tenth, when the development of the indie sector in the gaming industry began.

And as soon as the first game studio appeared in the city, and you immediately found yourself in it? And you’re still working here! What’s been keeping you in it for ten years now?

Ruan: You see, since its foundation, Free Lives has been a company that puts the interests of its employees first. We try to make our working atmosphere help in creativity. As far as possible, everyone’s ideas are given the same attention.

I want to say that the company was born out of a love of creating games and the creative process, and today we still put it first.

You won’t be able to admire such beauty a lot. This is the final to which each puzzle card must be brought

Creativity is wonderful. However, both you and the company have been developing for ten years. And you continue to offer new mechanics, new concepts, when other game holdings sometimes cannot implement minimal changes in the formula of their games for years. How did you manage to maintain your enthusiasm for experiments?

Ruan: It’s simple. We like to make games. We also love gamejems. The fact that you are constantly working on something new definitely helps to burn your favorite thing.

And now you’re burning with Terra Nil development. A lot of people are waiting for the game (after all, it is in the top 30 titles with the most vishlist on Steam), but let’s still give a little digression.

RUAN: Of course, no problem. The main feature of Terra Nil, which distinguishes it from any other construction games, is its reversible nature. The player eliminates the damage caused to the environment, restores the ecosystem.

At the start , the locations of the game look like this

The concept of the game is very relevant in the light of climate change and other environmental problems. How did you come up with this idea?

Ruan: Honestly, we really like games like Factorio. But also in the game of the guys from Wube Software, and in many others… The player turns the pristine world into an industrial nightmare. It always confused us a little and at some point we thought: maybe it would be interesting for the player to go another way? As it turned out, it is!

And what inspired you?

Rouen: From a visual point of view, Studio Ghibli had a huge impact on the appearance and atmosphere of the game.

I didn’t think about it, but, indeed, there is something of Miyazaki’s work in the game. By the way, how long has Terra Nil been in development?

Ruan: The very first version of the game was made as part of the Ludum Dare game jam in October 2019. It turns out that by now our journey has been dragging on for three years. However, direct production goes a little less.

About the first version of Terra Nil

The first version of Terra Nil was created by Sam Alfred, Jonathan Hau-Yoon and Jarred Lunt. In 2020, they joined the Free Lives team and set about creating a larger version of the game.

The Terra Nil prototype looks pretty good too

By the way, you can still download the prototype from itch.io . The future game borrows all the basic mechanics and logic from it. Although, of course, the current version of Terra Nil is far from the original.

What turned out to be the most difficult to develop?

Ruan: Due to the external contractors with whom we work, the time to prepare for the delivery of the project turned out to be much less than usual. Because of this, the development turned out to be somewhat stressful. Anyway, the project team is very talented and otherwise everything is going very smoothly.

You just said that the development turned out to be stressful this time. Burn out? How do you deal with it?

Ruan: The fact that at some moments there is inspiration and motivation, and at others they are not – it’s natural.

The game has a very simple interface

However, it is important to understand that forcing yourself to go to excessive loads at a time when there is no inspiration or motivation is just a short road to burnout.

How are we coping? It’s very simple: we take time off when necessary, if possible, we take breaks between project releases.

At the same time, as far as I understand, you leave all the marketing work to the publisher — Devolver Digital?

Ruan: Literally every Free Lives game is published by them. During the 10 years that we have been working together, we have developed a very close relationship.

First of all, they take care of all the difficult negotiations with partners, marketing and advertising, so that we can focus exclusively on creating the game!

Peat formation is an important stage in Terra Nil

I see. By the way, how do you cooperate with the local gaming community? It’s probably already in Cape Town.

Rouen: Oh yeah. We hold game jams and lectures on game design, we even organize a festival called Playtopia. Of course, South Africa’s gaming industry is small in size, but vibrant.

Great! Thanks for the interview!

The initial interview was published on Game World Observer in the format of an article. You can get to know her here.

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