Usually, when I conduct interviews, they are of the audio variety. Due to schedules and what not, I conducted the following interview with the developers of Iron Fish via email.

iron_fish_gamersinbetaIron Fish is a psychological deep-sea thriller being developed by Dean Edwards, with the assistance of Beefjack. Inspired by games like Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark, Iron Fish will challenge gamers to face the unknown that lurks at the bottom of the ocean’s floor. While playing as the deep sea investigator Cerys, you’ll dive seven miles below the surface to gather intel for the elite British Naval group, with hopes to solve questions surrounding Cerys’ past.

Players should expect to enjoy the adventure of exploring lush coral reefs and conversely being mired in the pitch-black depths. You’ll discover recognizable creatures, new species, and lost civilizations. A core of the game will involve solving puzzles and attempting to survive the ever aggressive creatures of the dark. However, Dean Edwards and company promise more than just a game of exploration, as the game contains a strong narrative, with a promise of a “very interesting twist.”

Based on the discoveries you unlock, Iron Fish will make players question what they believe to be true, as the story “blurs the boundaries between science and the supernatural.”

Look for Iron Fish to be released on PC in the near future. More info can be found at: http://www.ironfishgame.com/

CapnMikeM: We’ve heard of the terms Iron Fist and Iron Chin, but never Iron Fish. Can you explain the meaning behind Iron Fish? provide a little more background on the story?

Dean: In Iron Fish, you play as Cerys – a specially trained oceanographer who has been sent to investigate reports of abnormal behavior in the wildlife. The name Iron fish refers to many themes such as the military background of Cerys, the strange nature of the sea creatures and the motives of a shady organization in the story.

Shaun: (Laughs) So unlike Iron Fist there are no juggles or combos or anything to that effect. In actual fact, Cerys has no attack mechanics whatsoever: she’s completely helpless and vulnerable, she’s only got self defense as a very very last resort. So Cerys’s world actually is a cautious one, she has to be very mindful of her environment, the creatures around her and places where she can take cover so that creates quite an intense mood, it keeps you on edge and as the game evolves and progresses we start to lay on more and more horror onto that as well… So that’s essentially Iron Fish.

CapnMikeM: Making a game that is largely under water, has to provide some challenges, have there been any significant design hurdles that you’ve had to overcome.

Shaun: Quite a few yes. So Unreal is a phenomenal engine and we are really happy to be using it though it is largely designed for games that have a ground that you are constantly attached to. So things like AI pathfinding, lots of navigational pieces like that actually, were often problems towards the beginning of the project. So we had to build some custom pieces to really make it work. We were lucky enough to get a slightly future-proofed version of Unreal – I think we were in the beta stages so we were a couple of versions ahead of people because we knew what features we needed. And we were constantly looking at the tech, how to improve it, monitoring Unreal and what they were up to as well, and supporting it that way.

Dean: One of the biggest challenges when designing Iron Fish was mobility. The level environments are huge so it was essential to ensure the player had adequate tools in order to navigate them. To address this, we have equipped Cerys with both a submarine and an aqua-jet. The submarine is the safer of the two, allowing Cerys to replenish her oxygen and travel lengthy distances. The aqua jet is Cerys fastest way to travel, best used to move quickly around your immediate area although it will not replenish your oxygen.

CapnMikeM: Is there a breathing mechanic, timed or otherwise, or you can you stay underwater for as long as you like?

Shaun: Good question. You can’t stay underwater for as long as you like in the way that you’d like, so often there’s a compromise with things. The submarine – I’d almost call it like a safe haven – then as soon as you leave your submarine you’re with your finite oxygen supplies, things become very limited. The user can have a variable portion of time that they’re out exploring the wild, ‘al fresco’ should we say, but equally they’re very vulnerable and it adds more to that piece of it because you’re constantly monitoring your oxygen, looking for creatures that can be threats, looking at where you parked your sub which is your safe bay, so how we play around with all these pieces. It should make it nice and balanced, but interesting.

CapnMikeM: When you’re creating an underwater exploration game like Iron Fish, how careful do you have to be to balance things between fiction and non-fiction? was there any research done to give an accurate representation of the deep sea, equipment, etc?

Dean: We have done a lot of research for Iron Fish, looking into both the science and mythology of the ocean. We wanted to give an accurate representation of what we already know about the ocean and its inhabitants while still leaving room to put our own spin on things. The mythology is definitely a strong core feature of the narrative, but we wanted a recognizable environment with known creatures to really enhance the abnormalities in the narrative.

Shaun: It’s true, it’s a really delicate line that we’ve always been cautious and respectful when crossing. Essentially this game is born out of the love of the deep sea, exploration and nature. And so in order to do that justice we wanted to keep it quite realistic, quite scientific in places, and that’s always been a strong theme throughout the project. But obviously we want it to be really entertaining as well, we want to capture people’s imaginations, and so as the game evolves and progresses, we’ll start to have fun with science and sort of tell a new and interesting story that you may not expect from those pieces as well. We’ve tried to be delicate with it. When we first started this off (and it’s always ongoing) we’ve had a massive learning about the deep sea diving, hydrogen narcosis, I guess pressure is something that we need to be mindful of, but then also how oxygen is mixed up, what creatures are likely to do at certain depths, how creatures behave as well – do they have a pack mentality, how do they hunt and attack… So I mean, there isn’t really a lot of games like this so we almost felt as if we’re starting from scratch, so the safest thing to do is learn everything about the sea and then we could start building. Even the foliage as well we’ve played around with a few different things as well to make sure it feels as genuine as possible.

CapnMikeM: (Piggybacking on the last question) Obviously, there are so many unknowns in these types of waters, have you let your mind run wild in terms of creatures/plant life/etc. Can you give us a sense of what one might encounter in a normal play session of the game?

Dean: You will certainly encounter lots of creatures you would expect to see; sharks, rays and even whales. You’ll also see common deep sea creatures like the angler fish and the giant squid. You will also see plenty of coral and other plants that you would expect to find. There will be plenty of things outside of the ordinary however and with this we want to add twists and turns to the game.

Shaun: Yes, we’ve had a lot of fun building the more interesting pieces of this product. Could we go into what they really are yet? Maybe not. But I do think that this game has a very interesting twist and starts to really evolve and it feels as though it gets more sinister as you progress through it. I’ve played a lot of games like Silent Hill and Alone in the Dark etc. Silent Hill in particular, how they managed horror and fear is an interesting point of reference.

CapnMikeM: Watching the trailer many times, can’t help but wonder what this game would be like in VR, is this something we might expect at some point?

Shaun: VR is a really interesting question. We’ve seen a lot of tech and information about VR as well, it’s something that at some point I’m sure we’d like to play around with. Right now we’re 100% focused on making sure this is an enjoyable, proper game that you want to spend many hours in.

CapnMikeM: Who will this game appeal to? Is this strictly for horror fans or does it have a broader appeal?

Dean: I think the game will definitely appeal to fans of the horror genre, but also I think anyone that enjoys puzzle, adventure and narrative driven games may also really enjoy Iron Fish.

Shaun: It definitely has a broader appeal. Horror fans are obviously going to cling to it because it has some really interesting moments. But I think if you have a fascination with the deep sea and what it would be like going down 100 meters and just a sense of exploration, you will get a kick out of it. A scary kick, so you might want to play with the lights on, but nevertheless there will definitely be something for everybody in there.