So Hungry designer talks Wii U plans and in-game survival themes: “You have to decide who to engage with, who to trust and who to avoid”

Jose Cardoso August 16, 2013 - 8:20 pm

Homeless. Without money. And hungry. Oh so hungry. Byron Atkinson-Jones of Xiotex Studios describes for BeefJack how these and other related themes will be explored in his upcoming game, So Hungry, as well as his excitement about the game being announced for Wii U.

So Hungry Nintendo Wii U Xiotex Studios homeless interview header

“I’m a Nintendo fan, always have been. It’s the one platform where games can be games.”

Those are not only the words of an individual who holds Nintendo in high esteem; these are the words of an eager game designer, one who also happens to be market-conscious.

“I don’t always want to go around shooting things in a photo-realistic way and I know that on a Nintendo platform I can find more out-there games to just have fun with.”

Byron Atkinson-Jones’ comment on Nintendo’s climate resonates with his own game, So Hungry, an upcoming title that accesses homelessness as its central theme. Just recently, Wii U was confirmed as another destination for the game (joining PC and iOS platforms), to which Atkinson-Jones excitedly expressed, “I’m really happy to be asked to appear in Nintendo’s indie line-up.”

So Hungry is half parts “entertainment” and half parts “education,” for players are not only assuming a non-archetypal role, but as Atkinson-Jones related to BeefJack, players will also experience some of the baggage that comes with it. Destitution being one core factor, which in turn fosters a theme of survival – potentially the rattling sort. And by the sound of things, caution will play a great deal in how events unfold.

“The So hungry world is full of characters – some will be kind to you while others will try to rob you of what you have. You have to decide who to engage with, who to trust and who to avoid.”

Atkinson-Jones says that in order to impart something impactful, he’s had to broaden context. “There’s a background story as to why Dave is there and that is revealed through the collection of gold rings which can be found about the world at various times. These gold rings unlock memories and you can get a feel as to what might happen to somebody that is so bad it ends up with them being homeless.”

Base mechanics will include begging for money and finding odd jobs to sustain Dave, the main character. In doing so, Atkinson-Jones hopes to present a more positive view of homelessness against the think-the-worst mentality often adopted towards those in an unverifiable state.

“If you’ve been to any major city that has a visible homeless problem then you will have come across somebody asking for money. Most people’s excuse for not giving money is usually about not knowing what that money would be used for. It’s a fair enough concern but in So hungry, that money is used for a variety of things.”

Describing some of these, he continued: “The first and most important is to buy food so that Dave doesn’t starve to death. The other use is to save up in order to buy a place to live which is one of the win conditions in the game. You can also get jobs in the So hungry world. One of those jobs is to keep the streets clear of litter but how much you can clear is dependent upon your carrying capacity, which you can upgrade through the shop by spending some of your hard-earned in-game money.”

While Atkinson-Jones acknowledges that So Hungry isn’t a “laugh-out-loud game,” he describes the balance of translating difficulties attached to homelessness in conjunction with “recognizable mechanics” as being enough to consider it a game.

When asked about exclusive platform features for the Wii U version, it was indicated that these have yet to be finalized. “I’m still working through a variety of design ideas that will make best use of the kit,” he said, “but all will be revealed soon!”

Regardless of the platform of choice, he assures that a connection will exist between So Hungry’s features and “expectations of what being homeless might be.”

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