Gameluster’s J.J. Evangelista had a chance to talk with White Paper Game’s Pete Bottomley about their company, why they got into video games, and about their recent release, Ether One.
J.J. Evangelista: Hello, my name’s J.J. Evangelista, and I represent Gameluster.com. Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview. Can you please tell me your name, and what you do at White Paper Games?
Pete Bottomley: Hey J.J., I’m Pete Bottomley, the Co-founder and Designer at WPG.
J.J. Evangelista: How did you get into the industry, and what made you want to get into this medium?
Pete Bottomley: From an early age I loved games like DOOM, Half-Life, and Thief. I never actually thought about going into games as a career choice until I was choosing what University I wanted to go to though. It was a choice between a Games Design or Business studies course and so I chose the thing I was more passionate about rather than what made sense as ‘a job’. Whilst on the course I fell in love with Unreal Technology and creating levels (I had only really dabbled in UT2004, Battlefield & Far Cry ED’s at the time). After the course I went on to do two work placements at TT Games where I learned a lot about what the industry was. I wanted to further my understanding, give myself more time to focus my skills, and get ready for a job, so I decided to enroll on the MA Games course. After completing the MA I was offered a job in the industry at a really great studio. It was an extremely hard decision to make, but I decided that I wanted to try and create my own games instead of going into AAA.
J.J. Evangelista: How did White Paper Games comes together?
Pete Bottomley: After finishing my studies, I was chatting with a friend, Benjamin Hill, about possibly wanting to start creating something myself. I was trying to decide whether to take the job security or whether to go independent. A friend of mine, Aaron Foster, was also just starting an independent game, Routine, at the time and I think his advice was the final nail on the decision! Benjamin Hill said that he would be interested in starting something with me and so White Paper Games was formed!
J.J. Evangelista: What inspires you, and your team, to create video games?
Pete Bottomley: Everything around us! It’s been so nice recently to see people playing a game I spent 3 years of my life working on and hearing how much people are enjoying it. That in itself inspires me. I also have two friends in particular that work in the industry that always work hard and produce great things. Seeing the type of work they produce and the ideas they have pushes me to better myself in everything I create. I try not to be inspired by video games too much but of course things such as Dishonoured, Bioshock, and Myst have a huge influence on who I am as a designer.
J.J. Evangelista: Ether One has an interesting concept of jumping into a character’s mind, and using fragments to cure medical ailments. How did you come up with that idea?
Pete Bottomley: It was actually Benjamin Hill that came up with that concept whilst I was working on the game design. We designed and built both elements in tangent constantly feeding off the design and narrative to create a coherent world. I think he enjoys a lot of 50’s-60’s sci-fi like Philip K. Dick and Orwell.
J.J. Evangelista: What was the inspiration behind Ether One?
Pete Bottomley: My main inspiration for creating Ether One was that I wanted to create an accessible puzzle game with a rich world. By accessible I mean that I didn’t want people to necessarily get stuck on puzzles. I wanted it to feel like a real village. If I was stopping players from progressing in the world because they were stuck on the puzzles, for me I felt that it would lose a lot of believability in the world. I love the idea of opening up a world and exploring all the parts and slowly unraveling parts of a story. I guess that would be the Myst influence.
J.J. Evangelista: What can you tell us about the choice to use the name Ether One?
Pete Bottomley: Ether One went through a few different naming alterations. It was actually called Aether at first! We decided on Ether and then came Ether One as we originally felt we had a larger story to tell that was unachievable. So we went with the approach of possibly releasing it in two parts. Since then, we’ve had a lot of support and help and we decided to take the hit and just spend longer to create the full game as one complete experience which is anywhere between 5-10hrs depending on how you play! We decided to keep the One mainly because people started to know our name Ether One (and it sounds better and stands out more!).
J.J. Evangelista: What engine does Ether One run on? And what difficulties arose for the game, because of this choice?
Pete Bottomley: So we’re using Unreal Technology – the UDK version to be specific. The main choice for that is because I’ve been using Unreal Technology for around 10 years now. I started with the UnrealEd 2004 version and went from there. I think the Unreal engine is great because it gives a designer so much freedom and access to things that a programmer might otherwise have to do. I don’t know too much programming myself and it allows me focus more on what I want to implemented rather than how. I definitely feel like it’s important for a designer to have technical experience and know how to implement whatever designs they think of themselves so Unreal is a great tool for that. I’m really looking forward to starting to use UE4 in a few weeks time once Ether One is released.
J.J. Evangelista: How long did it take to develop the concept of Ether One before you started moving into creating the actual game?
Pete Bottomley: It took about a year of prototyping before we had the direction of what Ether One was. We then spent another year developing the concept of exactly what world we wanted to create and fleshing out a world. Then we’ve spend the last year refining the design and making things look and feel really nice.
J.J. Evangelista: When creating Ether One, what made you decide to make the game first person?
Pete Bottomley: I personally love first person games. I’ve grown up playing them and I love to create worlds from the first person perspective. I love how immersive they are and how much it makes you feel like you’re a part of something. A more of a technical limitation would be that we don’t have any animators on the team, so doing a third person game was just not a viable option for us.
J.J. Evangelista: Ether One appears to have a slow, methodical pace. Will there be any action segments? And if not, what made you come to that decision?
Pete Bottomley: There will. We have tried to create a nice balance and pace to the game. There will be faster paced areas throughout the game but we also wanted to keep the focus on the players actions and allow them to explore at the speed they want. If someone wants to focus on just the narrative and go directly from point A to B, then you’re welcome to do that & you’ll still get a complete story. But there’s also a rich world to explore for the people (like us!) that like that type of thing with so much more of the story to unfold.
J.J. Evangelista: Are there any plans for future DLC?
Pete Bottomley: We won’t be doing any DLC for Ether One.
J.J. Evangelista: Will we be seeing Ether One on any other consoles?
Pete Bottomley: We’re hopefully going to start talking about console development after we’ve released Ether One on PC & Mac. We still need to figure out how affordable it will be and we don’t really want to outsource our game to another studio. We want to keep things as in house as possible, so it just depends how feasible it is for us.
J.J. Evangelista: Can you give a brief overview of the process your team uses to create your video games?
Pete Bottomley: Very hard to say in one paragraph but basically a lot of iteration! There isn’t just ‘a designer’ or ‘an artist’. Everyone has just as much input as everyone else in the game. We always say that the specific discipline will trump everyone else –so if an artist feels like something SHOULD be in the game but other people disagree, we leave it up to that specific discipline to make the best choice– but it’s never really come down to that. Apart from that, it’s just a lot of looking through a magnifying glass at the project. If something isn’t right or no longer fits, no matter how long it took someone to create, it gets scrapped! And then we repeat the process!
J.J. Evangelista: Do you have any advice for anyone trying to break into the game industry, or create their own game?
Pete Bottomley: Just do it! The technology is so accessible now for whatever engine you want to use. You don’t need anything else apart from a huge drive to create something truly unique. I will say though, it takes a lot of sacrifice and energy. It will consume your entire life! But if you work hard then this industry is one for recognizing that hard work. This team was formed entirely out of students fresh out of university with little industry experience so there’s no excuse not to get started!
J.J. Evangelista: What do you foresee for the future of White Paper Games?
Pete Bottomley: Hopefully more worlds to explore and more stories to tell!
J.J. Evangelista: I really appreciate you taking the time for this interview, Pete. I look forward to seeing more of your work in the future! Thank you very much.
Pete Bottomley: Thanks J.J., was great chatting with you!
You can learn more about Pete Bottomley, his team, and their games at www.whitepapergames.com. Ether One was released on Steam, gog.com, and the Oculus Rift on March 25th, 2014.