Xing: The Land Beyond from White Lotus Interactive has been around for a very long time in game development years. The Kickstarter campaign originally launched in 2013, raising $30,000. Now today, Xing is shaping up to be one of the most visually pleasing and highly anticipated new classical-style adventure games in some time. With the success of last year’s Obduction from Cyan Worlds, there is clearly still a market for these sorts of games.
Today, we finally found out the release date of Xing and can set aside the long 4+ year wait we’ve had to endure. Xing: The Land Beyond will officially release next month on September 18th, 2017, for Rift and Vive (as well as non-VR PCs.) You might recall our inclusion of Xing in the 50 Days of PSVR countdown, and the PlayStation VR version is still coming, just at a later date. You can see the new launch date trailer right here:
In anticipation of the upcoming release, we spoke with members of the development team to learn more about the game’s creation process, challenges, and inspirations over the years. You can read the full Q&A with White Lotus Interactive Co-Founder, Developer, and Artist, Koriel Venus Kruer, as well as Developer, John Torkington:
UploadVR: What are the biggest inspirations you had while working on XING?
Koriel Venus Kruer: Games that inspired us while working on XING include: Portal, Myst, the Zelda games, Golden Sun, and Dear Esther. I think we were also inspired by stories of small indie studios with few members (like us) actually releasing their games, because it made it all sound actually feasible. We also found inspiration in a lot of other media, like movies and TV shows. Some of those include The Lord of the Rings, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood.
John Torkington: We’ve all had our different influences. I’ve been moved by games since early childhood, so an appreciation for an earlier generation of games should be readily visible in XING. In some ways, the early days of VR remind me of the early days of 3D, where doing things like a 3D menu and emphasizing level design with vertical spaces were first explored.
UploadVR: How do you think the game compares to other VR adventure titles such as The Gallery and Obduction?
Kruer: Though all three games are within the first-person puzzle-adventure genre, XING sets itself apart in so much as how you play and interact with the world, through objects you pick up that have a variety of uses, burning fire mechanics, jumping (yes there’s some platforming), throwing etc.. Did I mention that in XING, you are dead? Though the stories that players follow throughout XING primarily deal with death, the world is vibrant and colorful, almost as a contrast between the beauty of nature and life, and the reality of mortality. So I suppose thematically it’s quite different too.
We are friends with both Cloudhead Games and Cyan, and have swapped lots of tips and tricks with both studios during development. Since Cyan is using UE4 for Obduction, we were able to talk to them about their solutions to tech art stuff, and vice versa. It’s actually been amazing. We wish for those studios all the best, as Cloudhead works on their release of the 2nd episode of The Gallery, and Cyan prepares for their PS4 and PS VR Port, both coming very soon!
Torkington: Funny story about Cyan – back in 2014 at PAX Prime we had a few people come up to our booth and exclaim “Oh, a Myst-like game”. Our friends who were hanging out with us there from Cyan turned to the attendees and told them that XING stands alone as something very different from Myst. I felt a great sense of validation hearing that from them, and while the similarities in genre are there, our approach to design, world building, and gameplay is very different from Obduction.
UploadVR: How does VR enhance a game genre like this and make it even more immersive for players?
Kruer: Virtual Reality is an exciting and incredible new medium that will surely bring about a multitude of changes in how we design and play games. For the first-person puzzle-adventure genre, it allows us to focus even more on atmosphere and mood within the game world, because the payoff seems to be even larger in VR versus playing on a standard screen. To truly feel like you are transported to another place, you need to feel the consistency in rules, design and visuals of the new world you are in. With XING, we have tried to make sure that we’ve added enough detail (and tested enough for consistency) to make the game as immersive as possible.
As far as the puzzle aspect, it’s been an interesting challenge to not have things like timed puzzles as part of our design language, to make it more open to wider audiences, and more playable for new-to-VR players. There are extra puzzles things put in the game for more hard-core fans too. It’s just been a matter of figuring out that balance.
Then there’s the adventure aspect, which I find to be the most appealing part in terms of VR. I believe most people naturally like to explore, especially when their exploration is rewarded with amazing new places they can run through, or fun little secrets they’ve discovered. This is something we’ve definitely put a lot of thought and effort into 🙂
UploadVR: What were the biggest challenges you faced when making a game like this?
Kruer: This biggest challenges have mostly had to deal with Scope, Time Management and Living Situations.
Scope because even though we have a vision, we have to constantly remember that we are just a 3 person team, and that we can only get so much done in the time we’ve given ourselves. Continually testing and then adding layers of depth, or adding/fixing mechanics to make the game better, or designing for VR and non-VR at the same time – all of these things have cost us a lot of extra time, and will hopefully show when the game comes out.
Time Management goes hand in hand with scope. For us, we started this game in a sort of crunch mode, and have tried over the years to get into a more “normal” schedule. Still, for the majority of making this game, our hours have been Sunday–Friday, 10/11 AM – 10 PM at night (Fridays till 4 PM). All in the name of getting the game out as fast as we can. Haha. It’s a rigorous schedule that I personally wouldn’t want to maintain again in my life for any longer than a month or 2, due to how time-consuming it is. I think that has taken a toll on us. The plus side of the situation is being able to take time off when we want to for some day or weekend events. Owning your own company can mean flexible hours for things like going to friends’ birthday parties and not having to “ask for time off”. Still, it’s important to maintain a certain level of discipline, because it’s easy to start sliding down that slippery slope.
Living Situations primarily have to do with us not having jobs that make us money. We all moved back in with our parents after college so we could devote ourselves more than the average “full-time” to working on XING. Of course, we never intended for it to be this long. Over time, our parents have become more and more skeptical about our release time tables and calendars we’ve made, and we can’t blame them. That backlash is of the reasons why, for the last year, we haven’t put anything out like that until today. Our inexperience has clearly been shown in the past through our public estimates of how long things would take, and even now we are still nervous about hitting all our goals. Living at home has benefits like not paying as much in rent as we might somewhere else, and having people around to take care of us. It also has the downside of us not being independent, and therefore not having the freedom (and responsibility) that that independence would bring.
UploadVR: Are there are any particular lessons or takeaways that you want players to have after playing XING?
Kruer: Perhaps the best takeaway we could hope for would be that people who play: enjoy themselves, are entertained, are challenged to think in new ways, and come away with the feeling that they want to show their friends or family this game too. There are a lot of little lessons in XING, similar to Aesop’s Fables, and we hope that people will enjoy that aspect of the game, and maybe even think about how those things might be relevant to their own struggles or experiences. Of course, we are just people who wrote this game, so it’s not like there are any divine revelations in the game about people or the afterlife (haha), but rather ways in which we try to relate to and understand one another, as human beings. For many people, gameplay is king, so we’ve also spent a lot of time making sure that the gameplay is interwoven with the narratives in ways that make sense and feel rewarding. Ultimately, everyone will have their own ideas about, experiences with, and interpretations of the game, so we are just excited (and maybe a little nervous) to see and read what people think.
For more details on Xing: The Land Beyond as we build up to the game’s release next month on September 18th for Rift, Vive, and PC, check back at UploadVR for the latest. Let us know what you think about Xing and any questions you have down in the comments below!