Nightingale Q&A – Aaryn Flynn Talks About the Survival Game’s Future on the Eve of the Early Access Debut

Veloz Lamma

Nightingale Q&A – Aaryn Flynn Talks About the Survival Game’s Future on the Eve of the Early Access Debut

Nightingale, the debut title of Canadian studio Inflexion Games, is scheduled to launch on PC early access via Steam and the Epic Games Store next Tuesday.

It’s been a long road for the team founded by BioWare veteran and former General Manager Aaryn Flynn. After more than fifteen years and credits on masterpieces such as Baldur’s Gate II, Neverwinter Nights, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Jade Empire, Dragon Age: Origins, and the first two Mass Effect installments, Flynn left in 2017 and joined Improbable in September 2018. A few months later, it was announced that he would lead Improbable’s internal studio, back when the company was still trying to promote its SpatialOS technology through game development.

Back then, it was widely believed their first game would be an online RPG based on SpatialOS. However, when the team finally unveiled the project at The Game Awards 2021, a lot had changed. The game, called Nightingale, would be a shared world survival crafting title, with Flynn explaining the pivot in our interview published in early 2022. Improbable Canada became known as Inflexion Games, having been sold by Improbable to Tencent, and the studio also dropped the SpatialOS tech as it refocused on a tighter experience for smaller groups of players.

Despite all these sweeping changes, Nightingale remained squarely on our radar thanks to its distinctive Victorian Gaslamp Fae-inspired fantasy setting and unique features such as the Realm Card system. After a few delays and a transition from Unreal Engine 4 to Unreal Engine 5, the game is now less than a handful of days from its public debut. Following a recent media presentation, we also had the opportunity to once again interview Aaryn Flynn ahead of the upcoming launch, going through the game’s existing feature set and content while inquiring about what will be added throughout the early access phase.

You’ve confirmed there are two Fae Courts, Summer and Winter. According to traditional Fae lore, they are eternally locked in a power struggle, each faction trying to overcome the other. Is that also true in Nightingale? Will Summer and Winter ask players to help their faction against the other?

It’s great that you picked up on that. That’s certainly in the background of Nightingale’s world and story, but not something we’re exploring immediately when we launch into Early Access. We want to lay the breadcrumbs of where the story will go as we look to expand the narrative over the next year, heading into updates and, ultimately, 1.0. The Fae play a big part of that both in their relationships with humanity and each other. There’s a deep well of inspiration to draw from there, and we want players who engage with the narrative to be rewarded as the story continues to unfold.

Do you have any improvements planned for the User Interface?

We’re releasing into Early Access, so it’s the start of a new phase of the development journey, which means we’ll be listening to player feedback and continuing to iterate and evolve the experience during the Early Access period. We recently ran a stress test – which dropped players into more of a sandbox experience, skipping tutorials and equipping them with more advanced tools and weapons – and we received a lot of player feedback in regards to the UI, which we’ve taken steps to improve before our 20 Feb EA release date. Primarily, we’ve worked on the HUD to make it more streamlined and readable for players while hoping to retain some of the gaslamp flair that was previously present. We’ve done some other adjustments to menus as well but we fully intend to keep improving this in the coming months.

Do you plan to release building-specific content, such as decorations, tilesets, etc.? If so, would that be free or paid DLC?

We’ve got a lot of free content being added throughout the year. This includes new tilesets, weapons, tools, clothing, and decorations. We’re also working on several new biomes, as well as Major and Minor Realm Cards. One of the most exciting aspects of the world we’ve created is our vision for “Endless Adventures” – whether it’s new worlds to venture into or the type of abilities and modifiers players will be able to leverage via the Realm Card system. We’re really looking forward to getting more of that fun stuff out to players in the near future.

Is there a building limit in the game? If so, is it calculated in total objects or area?

We do have building limits. It’s calculated in a few different ways, which are the number of standalone structures (350), composite structures/incomplete buildings (100), and then pieces per composite structure (100). Obviously, you can go and build in multiple Realms and link them together via portals, so we feel there’s a lot of flexibility and scope in the system as it exists right now, but I also fully expect we’ll expand on those numbers in the future. As we grow the game, we’ll look to make further optimizations and improvements here to give players even more power to build.

Is it possible for people to focus on exploration while keeping the building at a minimum if they want?

Absolutely. We wanted to craft an experience that caters to a variety of playstyles. For players who want to explore, that can absolutely be their focus, and we wanted to have the gameplay to support that type of player. That’s one of the reasons that late-game activities were so important to us, so that players who aren’t as interested in building can continue to explore the world of Nightingale via our social hub, The Watch, where they can jump into Vaults and other challenges that are available to them.

Is there a chance that you would release the ability to tweak the rule set so that players can diminish or amplify the survival elements of the game to their liking and possibly tweak other parameters?

That’s certainly good thinking and something we’ve discussed internally. Those types of conversations led us to adding difficulty settings to each Realm, which gives players some preference over how they explore the world. I think the next logical step there would be to allow player-run servers or private servers, recognizing that the technical challenge is more “these are entire shards of servers, not just single instance servers”. Ultimately, this could open the game up to modding and other features. That’s an area we’re definitely interested in and, once we’re in Early Access, something we intend to look into more closely.

How important are Vaults and Bunkers (dungeons) in Nightingale? What will players find there in terms of rewards?

You’ll find bunkers scattered throughout the Realms. Often, within them, you’ll find nests of challenging enemies, but clearing them out will lead to rarer resources that’ll help expand your crafting options and progress. Entrances to Vaults you can also find at the bottom of some bunkers – as well as in The Watch – which are challenging mazes of enemies and puzzles. Again, you’ll find items that will assist with advanced crafting, as well as means to unlock further portals (finding a Synchronous Lotus, for instance, which are needed to craft player-built portals) and new Realm Cards. We liked this idea of players stumbling upon random portals in the environment and not knowing where they might lead or what dangers could be waiting for them on the other side, and the concept of Vaults grew from that notion into what I think is a really fun challenge for players to dig into.

The shared social space called The Watch was a nice surprise from the presentation. You said it was inspired by Destiny 2’s Tower and would be used as a meeting point to head to the Vaults. Did you also consider possibly adding larger Vaults, like Raids, for a greater number of players?

We have Apex Vaults available at The Watch. These are larger than the conventional Vaults that players can find entrances to in the Realms. The Apex Vaults, as you may guess, culminate in a boss battle with one of the Apex creatures featured in Nightingale. Some interesting feedback we received from the community was the desire to take on the Apex Vaults solo. They were designed as co-op experiences but, in the spirit of making everything available to players who prefer solo, players can now craft Apex Vault Realm Cards and access them from their own estate.

We definitely have ideas to further expand on the potential of The Watch. If you explore the tower further, you’ll come across portal archways that are currently closed, so I would expect that they will open at some point in the future leading to new experiences for players to jump into.

Similarly, would you be interested in eventually expanding the size of player servers, possibly by allowing players to rent private servers?

We’ve talked about both of those things. No plans right now, but we’ll definitely be exploring both expanding our 6-player server cap, as well as the possibility of private servers in the future. We know that it’s a much-requested feature in the community, and we want to do what we can when it comes to giving players options in how they want to experience Nightingale.

When do you plan to share a roadmap with the Nightingale community?

We’ll be sharing some thoughts and ideas just after the Early Access launch. Our immediate priority once we launch is to ensure we address any issues, bugs, etc. We’re also working hard on some QOL improvements to arrive around March, including crafting from storage. We’ll also be looking at some further UI refinements, queued crafting and more robust NPC controls.

Beyond that, we’ve got a pretty extensive content plan. As mentioned before, we’ll have new biomes, Realm Cards, weapons, tilesets, as well as continuing to expand the story and eventually return Realmwalkers to the city of Nightingale.

‘We definitely have ideas to further expand on the potential of The Watch’ – Aaryn Flynn

You said getting to the titular city would be a ‘big beat’. Are you considering adding it for update 1.0?

Absolutely. We’ll keep our cards close to our chest with that one but, as we’ve stated before, players won’t make their way to Nightingale at Early Access launch. Interestingly, the city itself was one of the first environments we built for the game back when it started life as an MMO. So we’ve spent many hours in the city and exploring. Our Art Director, Neil Thompson, used to give walking tours to new players entering the game – we’re not sure we’ll make that an official feature, though.

Since Nightingale is powered by Unreal Engine 5.3, are you using the new Procedural Generation Network framework to create the game’s Realms?

Great question. I think once we get past launch, we’ll have some time to look into it more deeply. Some of our developers were at UnrealFest last year where it was discussed.

Do you plan to add ray traced Lumen and shadows at some point?

Visually, we’d love to. We have to balance that against how it performs, and so we’ll keep an
eye on it!

Xbox allows early access games through Game Preview. Would you consider using that, or would you rather wait for version 1.0 before launching Nightingale on consoles?

We’ll discuss console plans at a later point, but we’re not discounting any options and Game Preview is a great option for Early Access games. Nothing to announce yet but we’re excited about bringing Nightingale to more players in the future.

Lastly, between the huge success of Palworld and the recent launch of Enshrouded, are you more worried that survival is at saturation or excited that the popularity of the genre is so high?

I think it’s an exciting opportunity. What we’re seeing right now is not a proliferation of the same ideas being recycled ad nauseam but these very distinct and unique perspectives of the genre being developed by incredibly talented teams. Palworld has its own take on the genre and Enshrouded, too, and we’ve seen both be hugely successful with their vision for what the genre can bring that’s interesting and differentiated to players. Our hope is that players see our perspective and what’s unique about our approach, particularly with our Realm Card system and expansive design possibilities, as we embrace the possibilities that the genre has to offer in our own gaslampian, Nightingale way. We’ve been saying internally that “The survival genre is having a moment”, and that’s great for everyone.

Thank you for your time.

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