A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeff Simmons, one of the founders of indie dev company, Revelation Games, over Skype. We first got connected through a post of his on our official Facebook community group, which consisted of content from their project, Rise of the King, to be released on PC. From Simmons’ post, I could see there was something special in the works, so I connected with him through Geeks Under Grace. Only a few days later, things came full circle and I was given the opportunity to conduct this interview.
A unique blend of the survival and mystery genres, Rise of the King is a project created from a Christian perspective. Jeff and the rest of the team aim to bring a Christian worldview to the industry by telling a story that symbolizes themes and values not often present in most of the video games we play.
Q: Before we dive into the details on your project, can you tell us how Revelation Games got started?
I was a sound designer in the industry for the last ten years, working on a lot of secular projects. Then, in 2011, I became a Christian and my worldview changed. I started to become conflicted with the kinds of jobs and general tone of a lot of the industry work out there.
So I began to seek out better ways where I could be creative in a redeeming, positive way. After reaching out to look for Christian game companies to maybe work with, I realized there were no Christian companies (for the most part) doing significant work in the industry. That’s when I came to the realization that if I wanted to work for a Christian company, I was going to have to start it myself. Not long after that I met Steven Little and we linked up together to start forming our little unit, developing concepts and ideas of what we could do to bring a Christian worldview into the gaming world.
Q: Tell us about your project, Rise of the King. What makes it stand out from other contemporary, fantasy games?
For myself and a lot of others, we love the medieval fantasy genre but have grown bored with the traditional mechanics associated with them. I’ll take The Witcher 3, for example. It’s a big, amazing, beautiful world in every area, but the amount of meaningful interactions you can have with it are very limited. I find a lot of the experiences of traditional roleplay come down to simply killing for skillpoints, in order to get better at killing for the sole purpose of loot. Repeating this cycle of crafting and looting just to make you a better killer. All the while, the world itself appears frozen from from any sort of meaningful experience. Survival games opened up to us the natural progression of making the world around you a viable piece of mechanical interaction to further the immersive experience as a whole. In Rise of the King, the world is more than a set piece; it’s a tool.
Q: From the footage we have seen, Rise of the King looks to be a survival game. How do you plan to mix that in with the story elements and what led you to choose that playstyle?
I’m a huge fan of survival games and other genres which offer more interesting ways you can immerse yourself in the world. However, as the industry discovered the potential for a more immersive experience in the genre, they let the mere goal of survival itself become the justification for the mechanic, rather than any real connection to story for its foundation.
For Rise of the King, survival was the most natural mechanic which helped us connect the player with the story we wanted to tell. The world itself is a character in our game and sometimes it’s the central antagonist.
But investigation is what sets us apart from the survival genre. Yes, it is primarily a survival experience but with aspects of investigation that give purpose to your journey to survive. It’s best described as the setting of Skyrim, with the mechanics of The Long Dark, meets Sherlock Holmes. You’re surviving in this difficult world, but you’re surviving for a purpose: the narrative.
Investigation allows you to have meaningful interactions with the story and allows you to critically think about where to go next as you track down the missing child. There’s no quest log or mini-map updater here. You’re on your own and your journal is your main tool to help you keep on track as you look for clues and talk to the locals along the way for information to find him. Critical thinking is vital to your success; interpret clues wrongly, and suffer the consequences from the unforgiving world around you.
Q: Since it is set is in the fantasy genre, what are some of Rise of the King’s biggest influences, whether they be movies, books, or other video games?
Chronicles of Narnia is a big one as far as the illustrative purpose in our title. It took Christian themes and illustrated them in a way that was simple for people to understand and grasp by giving people another picture to relate things from a different viewpoint. Game-wise, it’s very clear that we were inspired by Skyrim, we love the Elder Scrolls series—one of my favorite game series. We especially love Skyrim and also give a nod to the Frostfall mod; we loved that and thought it was great. Those are the things we pulled inspiration from.
Q: How will a Christian message show through to audiences who are believers and those who might not be?
With this project, it is kind of a Gospel illustrative title. We wanted to take big, spiritual concepts and illustrate them in ways that people can identify with. We are doing it in a way much like the Bible does, like how the Old Testament primarily uses things like the ark, the city of refuge, the scarlet thread, and the Passover lamb that all point to Christ.
Q: Like symbolism and parables?
Yeah absolutely. We want Christians to play this game and discover how we are spinning things, much like in Chronicles of Narnia how C.S. Lewis used Aslan, the sacrifice, the atonement, the law, and how these all things are necessary.
Q: You mentioned your upcoming Kickstarter in our previous conversations. What are some goals that you hope to achieve with that launch?
Well, our primary goal is to actually make the game. Our goals are pretty simple. We’d love to give Christians an opportunity to have a voice, too, and to be able to tell stories from a Christian worldview. That’s something you don’t see in the industry for the most part. It’s primarily a secular industry with one worldview. We want to open the door for other voices, stories, and perspectives out there so that people can explore other ways to think about the world, such as life, purpose, and meaning.
Q: Give us some more thoughts on how the gaming industry can improve and benefit from a Christian worldview, from a development or player standpoint.
It gives people a way to weigh out the existential realities and crises of our lives. Gamers are primarily shown a naturalist or secularist worldview. Whether they believe or not, they get the opportunity to hear things from a different perspective and another way to interpret realities that we all experience and struggle through. They can benefit in having this as a vehicle to spark conversation for an actual Faith discussion.
Q: Based on your previous response, would you say that video game evangelism is possible through storytelling?
Yeah, up to a certain extent, unless you’re making a Bible video game that is reflecting historical realities. I definitely think it’s possible to illustrate and point to just like God did throughout history. For example, we have the Gospel on our website. In that way, it’s more a means to influence culture rather than simple evangelism. It creates that conversation and presents an opportunity for someone to ask questions and explore through those pointers. Hopefully, those pointers inspire some consideration or pondering.
Geeks Under Grace would like to thank Jeff for his participation. Check out the links below for more information on Revelation Games and Rise of the King:
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