At the end of my first day of PAX Aus, I happened to be walking passed the PAX Rising area towards the exit, intent on getting back to the room, putting my feet up and writing the next chapter of my Journey. As I was passing, I happened to catch a poster for an indie game out of the corner of my eye that just stuck with me. That game was Primordials: Fireborn, and I made it my mission to go say G’Day to the team behind it the next day.
Josh: So here I Am, back down in the PAX Rising area on second day of PAX. I was walking passed yesterday, and something just jumped out and caught my eye. A little game called Primordials: Fireborn. So I’m here with Tyson to learn a bit more. How are you?
Tyson: I’m doing fantastic. I’m currently running off adrenaline at this point. We are very tired, all of the team, but no it’s good. We love it, it’s been excellent.
Josh: So mate as I said, I was walking passed and saw the sign out of the corner of my eye. It’s striking and vivid. But I know pretty much nothing about the game. What can you tell me?
Tyson: Cool. Let me lay the spiel on you. So Primordials: Fireborn is made here in Melbourne and we are very proud of that. It’s a third person action-adventure game, heavily story driven, where you play as a fiery young protagonist named Ash who has awoke with amnesia at the start of the game.It is your job as the player to guide him through the beautiful world of Eridal that we are attempting to create, in an attempt to unlock the lost secrets of his past. If I was to give a visual description to help people, we are heavily inspired by old games like Banjo-Kazooie where they take a linear approach but are still explorative. So we have taken that and are trying to bring it into the modern world with a new character, interesting visuals. We are using Unreal, so that allows us to create very visually impressive fidelity based graphics. We have been developing for about two years, and have recently received some Film Victoria funding, so we are getting a lot of backing which is awesome. A lot of people are interested in it. So yea, that’s the game in a nutshell.
Josh: So, tell me about Toybox Games Studios and how it started.
Tyson: So yea, we are all here. The name comes from the fact that we all met at University, and for our major project made a game called Toybox. We sort of went our separate ways after Uni. I personally went and did a Master’s Degree, others sort of went and did some work and made websites and games and stuff. Then we came together and decided ‘Look, we really want to make our own thing. We are good friends, we all have similar interests. Lets just do it.’ So we thoughts about it and decided to make Toybox Games Studios, after much collaboration we sort of fell upon that name. Two years later, we are a proprietary limited company, and yea we just work hard. We are best mates, we fight as you do but nah we love each other and we are pretty much a family.So it’s been good yea.
Josh: Sweet. So how many in the team?
Tyson: There is seven of us. Obviously, we all wear different hats.. We have two designers in myself and Yasin, who is over there. We’ve got three artists, and audio composer and a programmer. We all currently work when we can, obviously we have other jobs to make sure we can pay rent and the like. But we work one day a week guaranteed, hopefully two. So over two years we are pretty happy with what we have been able to achieve, considering it is super part-time that we are able to work on it.
Josh: So standing here looking at the game, it is a vividly gorgeous game. I don’t know how else to describe it.
Tyson: Thank you! Yeah no, good!
Josh: So where did the idea for the game come from? Where Did the idea for Ash come from, and the name and the story?
Tyson: Funnily enough, during original concepts and stuff like that we were actually planning on making a Tron-esque MOBA. Now, I know that sounds way beyond what you are looking at right now, which is a single player experience. Look, we’ve been making games for awhile and I think initially our imaginations went a bit wild. We had these ideas for these characters, these animals that can control the elements and all that sort of stuff, but we realised the type of game which was a multiplayer MOBA sort of thing would probably be a bit outside of our scope. We want to make a big, impressive game but we want to be able to make a big impressive game. We don’t want to blow it out of proportion and do something that’s completely beyond our skillset. We realised we had already had success with making interesting single player experiences during Uni and afterwards when we released a couple of mobile games together. So we decided to stick with the idea. We liked the idea of the animals and all that sort of stuff, we liked the elements. But let’s go for a single player experience. We took our idea, Ash here, who is like an anthropomorphic bird who can manipulate fire. I don’t want to give any any of the animals we talked about in the concept because they are what make up the Primordials. They are legendary creatures in this world that can manipulate the elements around them. Fireborn is obviously a reference to Ash himself, who is a Phoenix-like character that can bring himself back from death in a similar way a Phoenix would. He’s basically born of fire.It’s kind of on the nose in terms of the way the name was made, but is very much stored in the loe similar to how you might look at games like Skyrim. For example, the Elder Scrolls are part of the lore, but they are not really the primary thing and Skyrim is the region. Well, same for us. Primordials are the thing that is important in the world, but Fireborn is very much focused on Ash, who is our main character.
Josh: So, you said you have been working really part-time. The team has got 9 to 5’s that you have to do to eat and be able to do this. Obviously it’s a labour of love. So what are your plans? Are you hoping to get it to a release stage within the next year or two years?
Tyson: Look, we personally decided very quickly this is going to be a ‘when it’s finished’ released game. We have been able to make this without any money. We have decided it’s more important for us to release a good game, that is at a level of polish that we are happy with, than try and force it out the door by crunching and getting everyone to hate game development and wanting to kill each other. It’s just not worth it. We are friends, we understand we are all human beings and need rest. But, at the same time we understand that it is a video game and if we want to do this, which is our life passion, then we need to make money. Herein lies our current strategy. We have just been to Film Victoria and they loved what we had. They funded us a small amount of money, which helps heaps leading into the next stage of development. We are working with Unreal and have met some wonderful people from Epic Games. Hopefully, we can go through their funding scheme and with that, the snowball effect begins and we are able to go away from our 9 to 5’s and focus on the game more. Ideally, if I was going to give you a very soft idea, we would like to have the game finished within the next 24 months but like I said that’s very soft and things can change. Ideally, the end game is to get this game to a level where we release it, and even if we don’t get that dream where we make millions or whatever, we make enough money that we can all then go leave our jobs and develop the next game full-time as a team. Hopefully we could bring on anyone else we need. Another programmer would be sweet, concept artist all that stuff that you need.
Josh: So what’s the target platform you have for the game?
Tyson: So we are definitely developing for PC. So Steam is pretty much what our goal has been from the get-go. But as you can see, we are using XBox controllers. We decided we would make this game that would work perfectly on keyboard and mouse, but we also developed in their for the idea experience to be the couch potato kind of thing. Where you flop back and you just enjoy the experience, the story and just get lost in that world. So, right now we are only looking at PC. But say, XBox, Sony, Nintendo someone like that approaches us and says ‘We like what you;ve got. Would you be interested in putting it on our platform?’ then yeah, we would be totally down. But yeah, consoles and PC is the dream, definitely PC right now.
Josh: So you said it’s going to be a fairly story-driven game. I take it you have all that sorted and planned out?
Tyson: Yeah absolutely. To put it bluntly the entire game is mapped out. What you are looking at here is obviously a very polished level. We have got a couple of levels at this level of polish, but in terms of mapping it out we know what the story point is. Very much a case of it’s ready to go, we just need to be able to keep working on assets and get it to that point where we are happy.
Josh: As I said, it looks phenomenal and what you have here is very eye-catching. How was the weekend been? Is this your first PAX with the game?
Tyson: I’ve been to every single PAX Australia, but usually as an attendee. This is the first time for the entire team showcasing a game. It’s been awesome. Like I said we are very tired. It’s been a long week as Melbourne International Games week usually is. We went to GCAP, Night Melbourne, the afterparties all that sort of thing. It’s just been fantastic to get feedback At the end of the day we came here to see and gauge how people thought and what they liked. Overall, it’s been super positive.You know, we have had a couple of moments where it’s been ‘Oh Crap, that’s a bug’ but it is pre-Alpha so that’s to be expected, you know what I mean? The weekend has been fantastic, and this has been our first true experience at a huge convention where we are here with an incredible Indie games all around us. The big guns are just over there with Ubisoft and Nintendo and all of that and to see that people are coming through and giving us the time of day. Then they love it, and it is really rewarding and kind of adds gasoline to the fire, so that passion just continues to grow. We are already talking about what our plans are on Monday in the studio and fixing this and this. We have got all our priorities going and we are just pumped.
Josh: So having mapped out the story, how big are you looking at making the game?
Tyson: We’ve done just some rough maps and playthroughs of the greyboxes. We are thinking for a person who doesn’t understand the levels perfectly and completes some of the side missions in our hub area called the Hollow, we are looking at about a 10 to 12 hour play through. Now that assuming that they’re pretty well versed in general platforming and combat based games. If you’re not interested in that sort of stuff and just the story, it might take a bit longer. Some people might do it a bit faster. But yeah, we are looking at a solid story experience. Something worth it’s money but obviously isn’t going to be 100 hours worth of content. Good enough that people are willing to spend $20 on this, and feel like they have their monies worth so that next time we release something, they buy it again. That’s the idea. At this point, obviously we are making the game so that we can continue working in the industry that we love, but we are also trying to prove a point and say ‘Hey, we might be a small team, but we can bring a level of quality that can compete with any games company out there’.
Josh: Fair enough. Well as I said, standing here watching the video playing I am keen to get my hands on it and get a feel for the game. Tyson, thank you very much for your time and I hope you have a ripper rest of the weekend and I look forward to learning more about it.
Tyson: It’s been a pleasure. Thank you very much. Cheers.
After the interview, I spent some time playing the pre-Alpha game they had. I gotta say, I am really interested to see what else these guys can do. This game just seems to tick all the right boxes for me, with what seems to be an interesting character and engaging story.
Make sure you check out their website at www.toyboxgamesstudios.com for further updates on the game, or catch them on Facebook or Twitter. I will certainly be keeping a close eye on Primordials: Fireborn over the next two years.