What follows below is a transcript of my interview with Steve Zimmermann, The Vice President of Marketing at E-Line Media
RS– Blue Planet II was a huge success it drew in a very big audience young and old, everybody loved it. Where did the idea for the game come about and how was important was the incorporation of the Blue Planet team?
SZ – The incorporation has been very important, I’ll get to that in a second. The game came about because E-Line Media made a game called Never Alone back in 2014 and from the success of that the BBC contacted us and let us know that they were going to do a follow up series for the original Blue Planet and they said would you be interested in making a game using a lot of the assets, footage and research that we’ve been collecting over all these years and how could we say no to something like that. So, we’ve been in a partnership and collaboration with them since, using a lot of the unused footage, the unused interviews that they’ve done with scientists and beginning to fold them into an evolving story and game that we’ve been creating for the last year and a half.
RS– Blue Planet II is an educational programme, to replicate the nature of the television show is there a lot of realism in Beyond Blue?
SZ– There is a lot of realism, we are setting the game about ten to fifteen years into the future so people aren’t going to have to worry about air tanks for example, but we have been talking to scientists about the real-world technology that exists now and what it’s going to look like in ten to fifteen years to say is this realistic, is this the direction we’re heading. From a scientific standpoint in terms of the creatures, the underwater typography and other things like that we’re trying to be as accurate here as possible. We have scientists embedded in our team they’re part of our stand-up meetings giving us feedback on how creatures move, their colour and shading, their behaviours and so we’re trying to make sure that everything that a player will see is true to real life as possible.
RS– Taking realism in mind then, the demo available at EGX is set in the South China Sea, is there a reason that the game is set there?
SZ– The South China sea is interesting from an oceanographic standpoint because there is an extremely high concentration of bio-diversity that already exists there and that’s one of the themes that we’re playing with in the game. All these different creatures and all these different species that are coming together and what do those interactions look like, how are they going to change their behaviour based on who else and what other creatures are around them. As well as this the South China Sea is super interesting geographic point for that because that’s where that’s already happening, so we wanted to build upon that story.
RS– Does this game have environmental themes if so, what environmental issues are you trying to tackle and is there a message Beyond Blue is trying to convey?
SZ – We’re not actually necessarily trying to tackle a lot of environmental issues, we’re not out there to make a statement about things, we understand that it’s a very hot topic and hot button issue right now however a lot of what we’re doing is speaking with the scientists about the direction that it’s heading and there is obviously controversy sometimes in terms of what people think is effecting things and what the solutions are. We’re trying to portray what we believe to be the most truthful of that and bring these issues to light, we’ve mentioned bio-diversity in the South China Sea and what it’s like when all of those creatures are being driven into an area either by climate change, waters heating up, lack of their food source, over-fishing, high traffic shipping lanes and other factors like that and looking at how that actually effects the environment. Not so much giving a soap boxy statement on what people should do about it but you will have the opportunity in the game as the researcher Mirai to make choices about what to do with the discovery of this information. Do you share it out with the world? Do you share it out with your colleagues? What’s the way that this information is presented?
RS– Is Beyond Blue a narrative driven game or is it just exploration based?
SZ– It’s definitely going to be a little column A and a little column B, there is a narrative driving the game. You’re playing as Mirai and the rest of your crew is on a ship on the surface you’ll be interacting with them as well as your close friends and family all in a very narrative strong environment so it’s a storytelling game with decision you must make. However, when you are swimming around we’ve made the choice to limit some of the dialogue and some of the choices you must make when you’re exploring outside of your submarine, so you’ll feel more immersed in the environment and then you’ll enjoy the exploration aspect a little bit more
RS– Is this going to be an open world game or semi open world with spacious free roaming sections?
SZ – We’re going to call it a semi open world, so the deal is in the demo you play at EGX 2018 you must fix one of the communications buoys. Each communication buoy basically covers a square kilometre, so in the beginning of the game we’re going to limit as to how far out you can go, you must stay in communication with your submarine. As the game progresses you’ll have the ability to explore more and even after one of the various endings of the game (the choices you make will affect the end) you’ll have the opportunity to go back and re-explore some things you missed before.
RS – The game looks great so last question, when can we roughly expect to see Beyond Blue and what systems are you planning release on?
SZ – Well we appreciate that you think it looks great, we’re working very hard and we have some very dedicated artists that are very much enjoying what they’re doing. We can expect to see this roughly in the spring of 2019 and we’re looking for a simultaneous release across all consoles and PC
RS– Thank you for your time.
Whilst your waiting to Beyond Blue’s 2019 release date you can keep an eye on the games development through E-Line Media’s twitter page which is @ELineMedia and Beyond Blue’s personal website which is https://www.beyondbluegame.com/