Another game seeking financial backing on Kickstarter that caught my attention this week was a title influenced by board games called Sumer. Developed by Studio Wumpus operating from New York City, Sumer has a look to it similar to the Metroidvania game Apotheon, but plays out much differently to the former, adopting a style of play combining the element of god games and real-time strategy, but heavily influenced by a game named M.U.L.E, which also had a massive impact on Sid Meier’s Civilization series. I approached the studio, and core game designer Sig Gunnarsson agreed to answer the questions I had about this extremely unique-looking title. These were his answers:
What were the influences behind your game?
Board games and local multiplayer games are the main inspirations behind Sumer. We really wanted to explore the space between board games and video games. We were playing a lot of games like Towerfall and Samurai Gun at the time, but then when we played the Yawhg, we saw that local games could be more than just action. We decided to use our experience in board game design to create a game that felt like a board game but was built from the ground up to be a video game. Big board game inspirations for us were games like Troyes, Caylus, and Lords of Waterdeep. Our biggest inspiration has to be M.U.L.E. a game from 1983 made by legendary game designer Dani Berry. M.U.L.E. is an amazing local multiplayer economic strategy game that is incredibly original and fun, but no one has really done anything like it since. It was even based on board games like Sumer.
What has the developmental process been like?
It has been really fun and interesting. We started designing the game while we were MFA students at the NYU Game Center. We had a strong support system and a lot of repeating playtesters. After we graduated we were accepted into the NYU Game Center Incubator where we got further support in development. At that point, we had a balanced playable game, but it just wasn’t polished enough to sell. Jet Landis joined the project and with her help, we developed the visual style we have today. We have been self-funded since September last year, and every week the game gets a little better.
How close are we to seeing the finished product?
If the Kickstarter succeeds we’ll be on Steam Early Access this summer! So it’s not long at all until people will be able to play the game. The game is balanced, playable, and works. We’ll continue to polish it and improve it and the full release will be when our online mode is ready.
What has been the most exciting aspect of development?
The most exciting part of the process is that no one has done something quite like this in recent years. We started by making paper prototypes but quickly translated them into digital prototypes. We were treading new ground. Another exciting aspect was building the community. New York is a great place to do that. There are a lot of events that are good for local multiplayer games in or near New York and people were excited to play Sumer.
What has been the most challenging aspect of development?
The fact that the game was so novel was both a blessing and a curse. It meant that there weren’t many games that we could look for to solutions to problems about UI, experience, and design. This meant we had to do more iterations and find more of our own solutions to test. We initially thought that making a digital board game would let us do a more complicated game. The opposite proved to be true! Because everyone has to have access to all information at the same time on the same screen and doing it real-time, everything had to be streamlined.
How well has the game been received so far?
People often don’t know quite what to expect when they hear about and see our game. But as soon as they try it they seem to fall in love with the mechanics and novelty. I’d say we’ve had a great reception so far!
What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?
Currently, the game is set to come out on Steam for Mac and Windows. Who knows what we’ll be able to do in the future.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
The biggest advice I can give is to test. Just test and test and test. Do it earlier than you think and keep doing it after you think you don’t need to test anymore. When testing initially, don’t be afraid to kill your darlings. You’ll always get new and better ideas. Be nice when taking criticism, listen to the playtester’s problem, and figure out the correct solution to it.
Where about on the Internet can people find you?
Find Sumer on www.sumergame.com and me on Twitter @SigGunnarsson. Don’t be afraid to ask me any questions you might have about the game or its design.
Do you have anything else to add?
Be sure to check out our Kickstarter!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Sig Gunnarsson and Studio Wumpus for agreeing to our Q&A, and to wish the team the best of luck with the game and the backing process. For anyone interested in this title, the Kickstarter page is accessible via the link below:
Thanks for reading.