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Dean Hall and the Icarus team have been playing 'a lot' of Valheim

Icarus
(Image credit: RocketWerkz)

I recently got to play an hour of Icarus, the upcoming survival game from New Zealand developer RocketWerkz. Showing me the ropes during my first foray onto the alien planet was Dean Hall, founder of the studio (and formerly of Bohemia Interactive and DayZ).

In our session, Hall walked me through the early stages of survival on planet Icarus, which involved collecting resources, unlocking recipes, crafting tools, and inevitably, chopping down trees. As I hacked away at my first tree, Hall told me to "make sure it doesn't fall on anyone."

When we think of dangerous falling trees these days, our minds naturally turn to Valheim, so I asked Hall if he and his team at RocketWerkz had been playing the popular Viking survival game.

"Uh… A lot of Valheim," Hall said. "A lot of it. We're very happy with what it's introduced into the survival lexicon, for sure." 

Valheim came up a few times during the session, in fact—which makes sense since both games take place in a sprawling open world where you hunt deer, build bases, make dangerous expeditions out into the wilderness, and have to worry about trees falling on you.

"I really feel like the player story we're trying to create with Icarus, of you actually going in and surviving, you really get a sense of, with Valheim, how important the feeling is of everything," Hall said.

At the same time, Hall made a point of Icarus's map being hand-crafted with procedural elements, as opposed to Valheim's fully procedural map. "We really just wanted you to have that real sense of exploration and everywhere being different," he said.

"One of the challenges with procedural generation is once you've visited one [type of] biome, you've kind of visited them all. And that's why by hand-authoring the map, we really wanted to make it feel like you're actually exploring."

We also discussed another survival game, Ark: Survival Evolved, which Hall said he was a fan of playing solo. Making Icarus a co-op game you could still play on your own was extremely important to RocketWerkz, Hall said. "So one of our pillars was, it's fun to play alone. It was one of the first pillars we had, and that's that's how I'd often play Ark."

Hall also hopes the story of Icarus, involving the failed terraforming process related in the live-action lore trailer, would appeal to players as well.

"I just love the real zen aspect of, same with Ark or Valheim or Icarus, going and just build a cabin and just survive, go out and hunt a deer, but then being able to actually explore a story in a world that you don't know a lot about," he said.  "[The story] kind of takes you to this familiar place, but actually gently pulls you through into this whole other world. And that was what I was really looking for in a survival game, and what we're doing here."

Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring stories in RPGs so he can make up his own.