Smalland: Survive The Wilds Interview: Plans For 2024, Originality & More

Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds

Smalland: Survive the Wilds is a big adventure on a tiny scale. It is a game where almost all the wildlife wants to eat you, and the weather conditions are rarely in your favor. As harsh as it all sounds, the game offers more than enough resources and recipes that players can master in order to conquer the world around them. And if you are still having trouble, the game supports up to 10 players in multiplayer mode.

Smalland had been in Early Access for quite some time and was only recently launched in v1.0. As such, the developers had primarily focused on polishing the title as much as possible and can now look forward to adding more content in the future. In order to learn more about what the developers have in store for the game, we spoke with Danny Aindow, Head of Marketing for Merge Games, over an email interview.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds – via Steam.
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Smalland: Survive the Wilds.
Danny: I’m Danny Aindow, Head of Marketing for Merge Games. I actually joined Merge as Community Manager, so my first year of work on Smalland focused on our social media presence and building up the community. Once my role changed, I guided the overall marketing campaign and worked closely with our Producer on what was coming from the development side and how we would communicate it. A big part of the role is ensuring that player feedback is well represented internally. It’s been a huge collaborative effort internally; everyone on the team has contributed in some way.
Considering how many people played the game in Early Access, what was their reception like? And what major changes have you made in v1.0 compared to the Early Access?
Danny: The Reception has been wonderful. Releasing into Early Access was a major milestone in a long journey for Smalland: Survive the Wilds, and the response blew us away. For us, both the positive and the critical feedback have been vital to see, and it is one of the reasons we launched into Early Access. We’ve been fortunate to develop a fantastic community over the course of development, and player feedback has been a key component of ongoing development.

In v1.0, aside from the addition of content update 4, Tyrant’s Perch. Bringing a conclusion to the current main quest and an epic boss fight, plus new enemies, armor & weapons, players will begin to see the foundations of deeper game systems that will be built upon beyond launch to add further depth and engagement to future updates.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds – via Steam.
Will the game have cross-play and cross-progression on console versions in the future?
Danny: Multiplatform cross-play is something we’re working on right now, we don’t have a date to share yet, but it’s firmly on our development roadmap. Cross-progression isn’t something we have plans for at the moment.
Many players have drawn comparisons of Smalland with other notable titles, like Grounded. Did you take any inspiration from Obsidian's title? If not, what would you say makes Smalland different from it?
Danny: Smalland as a concept was actually revealed over a year before Grounded was ever announced. The concept of Smalland began life with another developer, and we were so impressed with the idea that we acquired the IP and completely rebooted development from scratch, culminating in Smalland: Survive the Wilds as it is today. While it’s lovely to see other games out there exploring the idea of being tiny in a huge world in a different style, our inspirations always came from the original concept of Smalland, alongside player feedback; that’s always been what we developed towards.

In terms of differences, they’re actually quite different games, both playing with perspective, but Smalland is more akin to something like Valheim in terms of how it is to play. We often see the comment, “If Grounded and Valheim had a baby,” which definitely gives a good sense of what Smalland is. I can’t speak for the good folks at Obsidian, of course, but to me, in terms of the aesthetic, Grounded has a cool ‘Honey I shrunk the Kids’ sci-fi vibe, and we lean more into the fantasy side with a dash of whimsical charm!

Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds – via Steam.
How did the team research the many creatures in-game? Their models and behavior are commendable, so I am sure the team put a great deal of effort into them.
Danny: Whilst our game does have a fantasy twist, the creatures and environments have a firm root in reality, so the natural world of creepy crawlies provided a ton of inspiration for how to represent the many threats players will face in the world. Scale has always been a major focus during development, so when we’re working on creatures, we’re always mindful of how things look and act from the perspective of a tiny Smallfolk!
What was the biggest challenge that you encountered during development?
Danny: There have been a lot. If you ask the Programmers, it’s making trees look good at our unique scale. If you ask art, it’s making everything match the same aesthetic style and delivering the illusion of scale. Overall, the largest challenge was probably something that’s common for a lot of Early Access games – making two totally different audiences happy. During the Early Access cycle, periodic updates were released both in an effort to give even more gameplay to existing players and to develop what would ultimately be the 1.0 release. This means that we had to deliver awesome new content and systems mid-development that worked well for players at the time but might not have been the best end result for the final product. A good example might be the ridable Bluetit (in any other game… this is a dragon). We gave this to players mid-Early Access because they wanted it, which meant that the 1.0 version of the game generously gives you a dragon about 60% of the way through. It’s a little OP.
Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds – via Steam.
Was there any content that couldn't make it to the final cut? Could you tell us a bit about that?
Danny: Absolutely. Through Early Access, we were heavily engaged with our community and constantly strived to develop in a way that responded to our fans’ desires. Whilst we did end up changing our plans a lot through the course of Early Access as a result of this, there were hundreds of requests and suggestions that we couldn’t possibly deliver all of. We hope that as we continue to support the game past its 1.0 release, even more of the community’s dreams can be realized.
Will the game make full use of DualSense technology?
Danny: There aren’t any plans right now, but that’s not to say we might not revisit that in the future.
While it might be a bit too early to ask this, do you plan to support the game long-term and release major updates like DLCs?
Danny: We have a full development plan of support across at least 2024, continuing to add free updates to the game. We have lots of things that we want to do, and of course, with v1.0 and an influx of new players, especially console players joining us for the first time, we’re excited to see what players want, too.
Smalland: Survive the Wilds
Smalland: Survive the Wilds – via Steam.
Are there any plans to give the fans a detailed roadmap highlighting post-launch updates?
Danny: We have a roadmap available just ahead of launch day to give some insights into our current plans for post-launch support. Of course, there are some things we’re not ready to talk about just yet!
Anything else you would like to share with the readers?
Danny: We’re so excited to throw open the gates to the world of Smalland: Survive the Wilds to even more players with the v1.0 launch, we want to extend a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has supported us on the Smalland journey, and wish everyone the best of luck as they brave the wilds! The adventure doesn’t stop with v1.0; we have a lot of plans for the future of Smalland: Survive the Wilds.

Smalland: Survive the Wilds is an open-world multiplayer adventure developed by Merge Games and published by Maximum Entertainment. It was released in Early Access on PC on March 29, 2023, with the full release arriving on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, and PC on February 15, 2024.

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