Review Fix chats with Erik Johnson from Infinite Monkeys Entertainment to find out what makes the PlayStation 4 game a special one.
Review Fix: What inspired this game?
Erik Johnson: Life Goes On actually started at a game jam event. It was a local meetup for the 2012 Global Game Jam, an event where you are given a theme on Friday night, and you have 48 hours to make a game based on that theme. The theme that year was an image of a snake eating its own tail. This is known as an ouroboros, and it is a symbol with connotations of life and death, rebirth, and renewal.
We wanted to make gameplay that reflected these themes, and that’s where the idea sacrificing an endless stream of knights and using their dead bodies to solve puzzles came from.
Review Fix: What did you play as a kid? How did it influence this?
Johnson: I played a lot of NES and Super NES era Mario Brothers games, and I’ve always had a lot of love for platformers. And I also spent a lot of time on the Space Quest games as a kid. They had a great sense of humor, an approach to puzzles that I really enjoyed, and they had a lot of fun with making jokes about what happened when you failed and died. So there was definitely some influence there.
There were lots of different design influences from the other members of the team as well, though. I think Ian’s love of Monty Python shines through pretty strongly for example.
Review Fix: What do you want people to get from this experience?
Johnson: That’s actually a pretty long list!
– We definitely want people to have fun and enjoy solving puzzles.
– We want people to laugh at all of the craziness of the world of Life Goes On.
– We hope people get a sense of glee from killing knights is horrible ways.
– And maybe at the same, we hope that people feel a tiny bit of hesitation and remorse in sacrificing so many knights.
Review Fix: What was the developmental cycle like?
Johnson: It was a bit of a weird progression. The project started as a game jam demo made in a weekend. We had a super buggy and rough prototype at the end of the weekend, but people seemed to think that it was a really funny and interesting idea. That encouraged us to build a more polished demo. We kept getting positive feedback, and the project kept getting more serious and more ambitious.
This led us to show the game at PAX in 2013 and then release it on Steam in April of 2014. With that release, we were very proud of what we had done, but at the same time felt like there was more potential that we hadn’t quite achieved. We had been talking with Sony, and we knew we had the opportunity to bring the game to the PS4. We decided that we wanted to do more than just a port, and decided on an expansion to update the game. Our initial plans were for a relatively small expansion. But as we worked on it, we found there was a lot we wanted to do, and without planning of it initially we ended up working on it for almost two years. In the end, we made a major expansion, with a lot of extra content, new features, and a lot of new polish.
Review Fix: What makes this game stand out in the crowded indie waters?
Johnson: Well, we aren’t the only game to ever experiment with forcing you to kill your character to make progress, but I think we own our theme in a way that no one else really has. We’ve built all of our mechanics around the knights dying. All of the puzzles focus on using deaths and using bodies to move forward. Every level requires that you die at least once. We never require you to reset or restart if you make a mistake, instead we give you an unlimited number of knights to use. And, on top of that, Life Goes On kills more knights than Dark Souls does.
Review Fix: Bottom line, why should someone play this?
Johnson: It’s a game where you can only progress by dying. You sacrifice knight after knight and morbidly use dead bodies to solve puzzles. And while this may sound grim, it’s done in a comical way, where knights run around with silly hats and weapons and are subjected to over the top cartoon violence.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Johnson: We’ve all got our own ideas for games we want to pursue. As for Life Goes On, if it sells well, we’d like to see the game on more platforms. We’re not sure if we’ll do a sequel, but you never know.