Interview with Evergarden Co-Director and Associate Producer
Evergarden is a narrative puzzle game developed by Flipply LLC. This beautiful game finds a harmony between relaxing and stimulating. Players will find themselves soothed by the mystical forests and relaxing soundtrack, all the while solving challenging puzzles. I was fortunate enough to interview Evergardens Co-Director Aaron San Filippo, and Associate Producer Syrenne McNulty.
How long was the development and production for Evergarden?
Aaron: “We started development in 2012! We weren't working on it full-time during the period between the first prototype and the launch though; it was a thing we came back to occasionally while we worked on other projects, and went into full-time production in early 2018.”
What was the most challenging part of Evergarden’s development? How did you overcome these challenges?
Aaron: “The most challenging part was probably finding the core puzzle mechanic at the heart of the game. We wanted to invent something new, and it turns out that's pretty hard! Our strategy was to just take our time and try lots of things, keeping in mind a few core goals:
a. We wanted a game that was impossible to ‘finish’ - aka an ‘evergreen’ game that you could keep getting better at over time.
b. We also wanted it to be very accessible, without a lot of complex rules to understand on a basic level.
We always looked back at these goals while prototyping ideas, and often rejected possible design directions that were pretty fun, but perhaps too complex. We didn't finally nail down all of the rules of the game until just a few months before the launch.”
Evergarden is a gorgeous and mysterious game! What was its inspiration?
Aaron: “Thank you! Initially, the inspiration for the prototype came from a Ludum Dare game jam. I (Aaron) wanted to make a game involving a hexagon grid. After we decided to make the game into a full-fledged Flippfly product, Forest took on the role of directing the game's art and narrative. Then in the middle of development, we lost our mother to cancer, and that inspired us to dedicate the game to her, and to write a backstory for the game inspired by her life and her love of gardening.”
The soundtrack is beautiful and relaxing. Has the soundtrack changed a lot over the course of development?
Aaron: “Forest initially wrote all of the music and sound effects in the game, with a focus on subtlety. Towards the end of development, he became a little overwhelmed with the workload, which involved art, design, writing, sound effects, and promotional assets - so he brought on his brother-in-law Seth Waters to help write some additional music. This worked out really well for the game; Seth's short musical pieces are played when you unlock a new ‘song’ in the game, and he nailed the mysterious/solemn aesthetic perfectly.”
From what I’ve played of Evergarden. The main gameplay happens on one “map” or “garden”. Are there any future plans to create new gardens or maps for additional challenges?
Aaron: “It's a little hard to find at first, but beyond the main game board lies a pretty vast forest area with additional puzzles to unlock. After you finish the main content, a cave opens up with a daily challenge. We're definitely hoping to add additional content too!”
There are many creatures/critters in this game, which one is your favorite and why?
Aaron: “Fen, for sure! Fen is a guide creature with a mysterious past who serves as your guide creature through the game. She looks a bit like a Fennec Fox, which is why the original keepers of Evergarden named her Fen.”
Was there always a plan to have the game available in 11 different languages?
Syrenne: “Since the time I first learned about the project the plan had been to have it in multiple languages, but the decision on what languages to support was made in May, due to a variety of factors; languages that I already had translators for in my contacts list from previous projects, and languages for territories that we hoped the game would be received well. Outside of the standard EFIGS (English/French/Italian/German/Spanish) languages that are standard practice to translate to for a European release, this also meant translating the game into Brazilian Portuguese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Russian, and Japanese.”
Any advice you would give for those of us unskilled at puzzle games?
Aaron: “Sure, here are a few tips for Evergarden:
a. Evergarden has two main mechanics: You can combine flowers, or spread them to create new ones. New players often combine all of their flowers right away into the biggest possible flower - but a better strategy is to try to use more of the board, by balancing combining and planting on every turn.
b. Don't ignore the patterns that Fen presents to you! These are crucial to getting additional flower rewards and extending your game.
c. The stone monoliths have deep secrets that we don't present in a tutorial. Step one is learning to create them, but that's just the beginning! They can be activated and connected. I'll leave it to the readers to figure out how.”
Evergarden is available on iOS and Steam! Go check it out if you haven’t already!