Back in 2016, one of the games I came across on Kickstarter as part of my ongoing efforts to discover new and exciting gaming experiences and bring them even further attention, was Wandersong. Before it was funded, I reached out to the creator, Greg Lobanov, for an interview to ascertain more information about what looked like a truly promising title in the making:
And in the end, I was proven right. Ever since the release of the game, it has garnished universal acclaim from a great number of gamers and critics throughout the industry, including yours truly.
The game has intricate puzzle-solving, an extremely unique approach to combat and progression, and one of the most beautifully composed soundtrack to come out of the indie development community complete with a rollercoaster of a story chocked full of emotional moments of discovery, comedy, and drama. Eager to discover how the experience panned out for the development team on a personal level and what’s next for the people involved in the project, I got back in touch with Greg to find out more information about what more can be expected of this promising young developer and his team in the future, and exactly how the experience of developing this game impacted on their lives and his. Here’s what Greg Lobanov had to say about Wandersong, his new upcoming game Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and his experiences as a developer thus far:
How satisfied have you and the team been on a personal level to see Wandersong receive the overwhelmingly positive response it has done since its release?
It’s been very satisfying. 🙂 I always said at the outset that all I really wanted was for at least one person to really, really love the game a lot and we had that happen many times over. It’s very warm to put so much heart into something and see it resonate with people. I’ll be grateful forever that I got to have this experience.
How satisfied have Em and Gordon been with the positive response the game’s soundtrack has received?
Very happy, for sure. Gord uploaded all 100+ tracks to youtube and he still sees exuberant youtube comments come in every day and it warms his heart.
You came up with the idea for Wanderson following a cross-country biking trip you took across the US. Were there any particular locations you passed through or people you met that stand out as being more influential than the other?
There were a LOT of tiny pieces borrowed from a lot of places to patch together the diverse cast and world in Wandersong. I’ll mention that I named the first town, Langtree, after a tiny town in Texas called Langtry that only has a dozen people in it in the middle of the desert. I stayed there for a couple of nights through a hailstorm.
Of course, Gordon and Em had composed for video games before this. Were there any games that they had worked on that they kept in mind when composing the soundtrack for Wandersong?
Actually, Wandersong was Em’s first game project when she started out, although by the time it came out she had also started and finished working on Night in the Woods ;p In general I don’t think games were a key inspiration, instead we were looking at different musicians and bands and genres and instruments to get inspiration for the musical and audio touches.
The last time we spoke, you mentioned the most exciting and challenging aspects of developing the game were the color design and missing audio respectively. But did any of what the most exciting and challenging aspects of development were change later on throughout the process?
Oh, yes… I think at the time I was fixated on the immediate concerns, but once I had Em and Gord audio wasn’t a stress. I think ultimately the biggest challenge was telling a meaningful story. We really wanted the game and everything in it to matter, so we took great care in how we presented things. It’s a lot of careful, thoughtful work to do right.
Nintendo titles made up a great deal of the influence behind the game, such as Ocarina of Time and Kirby’s Epic Yarn. If you, Em, and Gordon were given the opportunity to work for Nintendo on one of their series of your choice, which one would it be, and why?
I don’t know about Em and Gord, who aren’t especially big Nintendo fans. But I would really like to work on a Pokemon game. I think it’s a really rich world and game concept that could be explored a lot of ways that haven’t been touched yet. And I just really love Pokemon.
Apparently, Steven Universe was a major inspiration for the game’s visual style. From one fan of the series to another, what is your favorite Steven Universe song, and why?
“Love Like You” is a pretty special song. I think I’d have to pick that one.
Were there any ideas at this stage of development that had been scrapped or reworked throughout?
A lot of small ideas came and went. I had in my notes for a long time that it would be cool to do a punk show/punk-themed section, and I was curious if there was a way to do something with rap/RnB as well. Neither of those ever found the right spot in the story, though.
You abandoned the initial idea early on of making a game about biking when it came to Wandersong. Is that a concept you think you would like to revisit at some point?
Maybe??? There would have to be something more to it for the idea to be interesting to me. There was a new game called “Season” announced recently which looks kind of like the game I would have made, probably.
If you could choose any video game character to make a cameo appearance in Wandersong, which one would it be, and why?
Well, we put Mr. Oshiro from Celeste and Ima from Ikenfell into Wandersong; those were my friends’ characters, and we started all our games together when we were roommates so I thought it would be fun to pay them an homage like that.
What lessons were learned by yourselves as developers throughout the entire process?
I think I refined my game writing skills a lot by sheer force of effort. Em was extremely maximalist and detailed with the sound design, but in her following projects, she learned to tone it down a bit and focus her effort in the most important places. And this game definitely took Gord on a crazy creative adventure, composing so many songs in so many styles and genres; I think it helped him find the confidence to be creative and try new things at a time when he was starting to feel like he was falling into a rut.
What’s next for Greg, Em & Gordon?
Em and I are finishing our next project, Chicory: A Colorful Tale. Em also released work on a lot of really cool indie titles since Wandersong came out a couple of years ago, including Untitled Goose Game and Ikenfell. Gord’s released some OSTs as well, including one for a game called Stela he’s quite proud of, but right now he’s working on his first solo album in many years and having a great time with it–watch for that in 2021.
Have there been any ideas contemplated to develop a sequel to Wandersong?
Maybe some passing thoughts, but there’s a lot of other things I want to do and I think the story of Wandersong is complete on its own.
What genre of gaming would you like to undertake that you haven’t tried?
That I haven’t tried? Hmm… I’ve tried so many, haha. I’m most interested in taking ‘creativity’ mechanics and combining those with other genres the way we did with platforming in Wandersong. I also have some other ideas for things I can’t talk about yet.
Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?
Try finishing something small so you can get into the practice of finishing things. 🙂 Find your peers and work together and learn from them, not from people like me.
Do you have anything else to add?
Video games are cool.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Greg for taking the time out to talk to me again about Wandersong and his own developmental experiences. Wandersong turned out to be every bit as wonderful, enjoyable, and innovative as I suspected it would be thanks to the successful Kickstarter project, the involvement of Humble Bundle, and of course, the love and attention that went into crafting this truly immersive and intricate title, and I on a personal level, also feel proud to have helped in my small part to bring this game to a wider audience earlier on throughout its development. In addition, I’m also very much looking forward to playing Chicory: A Colourful Tale, and I sincerely hope to work with Greg again in the future.
In the meantime, you can check out Greg’s website via the link below to keep up with the development of Chicory as well as any more new gaming ventures of his:
And if anyone hasn’t tried Wandersong, I highly recommend that you give this game a go; It’s available to download on a number of platforms, including Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. I also sincerely hope you guys enjoyed reading these articles with me and Greg and for those of you who played Wandersong, that you enjoyed playing it as much as I did.
Scouse Gamer 88