Interview: Waking Tides Developer Cut 30% Content To Ensure Captivating Experience

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Waking Tides - via AirshipFx

Waking Tides is a first-person atmospheric adventure video game from AirshipFx that expands the experience with gameplay merged with Augmented Reality aspects. The game puts players into a strange, eerie cold world, where they must explore and discover different items to solve object-type puzzles.

If you are into walking simulators, Waking Tides is a perfect choice to go for because of the neat AR implementation and a well-designed Lovecraftian world. To discuss more, we interviewed Dries “dsdesign” Schaballie, Digital Designer & Director of AirshipFx to expand on the development process and inspiration. 

Waking Tides - via AirshipFx
Waking Tides – via AirshipFx

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on Waking Tides.

Dries: Hello, I’m Dries “dsdesign” Schaballie, a Digital Designer & Director with a deep passion for 3D, an XR specialist, and an enthusiast of Unreal Engine. With over 15 years of industry experience, my expertise has largely been in creating digital productions for heritage sites across Europe.

This region is rich with museums and heritage sites eager to embrace 3D, AR, and VR technologies to animate their narratives. My portfolio includes projects like a VR recreation of medieval Bruges and an AR experience in Ghent.

While these projects on historical accuracy have been rewarding, my creative drive has been leaning towards crafting stories filled with fantasy and mystery. During my work on “Historium VR”, where visitors explore ancient water trading routes through VR, I delved into studying medieval maps.

The fascination began with the peculiar sea monsters that cartographers around the year 1530 included in their maps, sparking in me the idea that these drawings hold incredible stories waiting to be told.

Waking Tides seamlessly integrates webAR hints without requiring additional downloads. How did you achieve this technical feat, and what challenges did you overcome in creating this unique gameplay mechanic?

Dries: I’ve been experimenting with webXR/AR for several years now. Coming from a web development background, I’m quite familiar with HTML and the nuances of web technologies. While there are numerous frameworks available for developing webXR applications, integrating complex mechanics can be challenging.

My initial plan was to incorporate puzzle elements into the webXR experience, but I encountered significant compatibility issues, especially given the necessity for it to function smoothly on both iOS and Android platforms. Consequently, I opted for a simpler strategy, focusing on visual AR cues that are quicker to load across various devices and web browsers.

World of Waking Tides
Waking Tides – via AirshipFx

Can you share details on the reason behind using Unreal Engine 5 and not other engines like Unity 3D?

Dries: I’ve been using Unity for around eight years. However, I’ve always been drawn to Unreal Engine, primarily due to its powerful graphical capabilities. Unreal Engine simplifies the process of creating and rendering high-fidelity graphics, although it does introduce its own set of challenges, such as optimizing performance.

For games that depend greatly on environmental art, I would suggest Unreal Engine based on my experience, as it offers a more seamless world-building experience.

Ultimately, the choice between Unity and Unreal Engine reflects my personal preference and vision. Both engines provide robust tools that empower indie developers.

Waking Tides' world looks eerie and dark, perfectly depicting a loss. What kind of atmosphere are you setting with the fog, oil rig, and otherworldly objects?

Dries: My primary aim was to create an immersive experience that encapsulates the sensation of being adrift in the immense expansiveness of the sea while engaging with the ocean’s mysterious allure.

As a solo developer, I sought to convey the intrigue and the majesty of exploration, capturing the essence of the unknown that the ocean represents.

Waking Tides - via AirshipFx
Waking Tides – via AirshipFx

The game draws inspiration from Lovecraftian horror and walking simulators. How do these elements combine to shape the narrative and gameplay?

Dries: Blending Lovecraftian horror with walking simulator gameplay, our game crafts a narrative steeped in cosmic dread and exploration. This mix emphasizes atmosphere and storytelling, pushing players to uncover hidden truths within a world that’s both vast and filled with unknowable horrors, all while reinforcing their insignificance in the face of ancient, mysterious forces.

It’s an immersive journey through fear, curiosity, and the unknown, designed to provoke thought and evoke emotion with every step.

Waking Tides is described as a small but captivating game. What makes it stand out despite being a shorter experience?

Dries: Despite its shorter length, every element is crafted with precision and attention, ensuring a memorable, immersive experience that resonates long after the journey concludes.

Waking Tides - via AirshipFx
Waking Tides – via AirshipFx

What were some of the challenges you encountered when developing the game solo?

Dries: Mastering the art of developing a video game has been a significant journey for me, given my background is predominantly in crafting brief advertising games or short multimedia experiences.

Transitioning to create something more extensive and maintaining player engagement over a longer duration presented a unique challenge.

For example, I found myself deleting approximately 30% of the game towards its completion, focusing solely on retaining the most compelling aspects to ensure a captivating experience.

With the game now available to the community, how has the initial feedback been?

Dries: I’m really happy with the feedback; it’s gratifying to see that people are enjoying the environmental art and the atmosphere of the game.

Waking Tides - via AirshipFx
Waking Tides – via AirshipFx

Any plans to release the game on other platforms?

Dries: I’ve been advised to include full controller support, achievements, and multiple languages. That’s something I need to focus on first. Then Steam Deck compatibility and Linux support are also on my radar.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Dries: Thank you for your interest in Waking Tides. If you like the game, let me know by writing a review. That really helps.

Waking Tides is an Adventure, Lovecraftian Walking Simulator, developed and published by AirshipFx, on March 16, 2024, for PC.

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