Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Full Quiet director Greg Caldwell to find out what inspired this awesome new NES experience.
About Full Quiet:
In this open-world game of survival, mystery and adventure you must learn how Pap and his radio buddies maintained their radio grid, protected the lands they now walk and silenced the forest in order to find your missing son.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Greg Caldwell: It started out as two different ideas dovetailing into the kernel of the game – a bigfoot hunting game and a forest exploration game. Tim and I were tossing around ideas for tracking and hunting bigfoots and other cryptids, and near that time Zack and I were talking about a forest exploration game based on a background mockup he created while we were working on a previous game. Once we were in a position to start on a new game, we got together and started outlining the world, the radio lore, and the objectives within; which is what we wanted the game to be about more so than just the protagonist. Then Thomas found the term “fully quieted” on a website discussing ham radios and that was that, Full Quiet was born and we nurtured it from there.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Caldwell: My primary role is the director, or project manager, maybe. I don’t know enough about gaming to really define my role. I guess I’m also the lead designer of the character sprites, the puzzles and the lore in the game, as well as laying out the world with the help of Zack and Thomas. We have plenty of crossover in our dev cycle so it’s tough to put boundaries on things. Everyone contributes in multiple ways but we do try to maintain some level of autonomy for our primary roles. As Zack said early on, “let the bass player play bass”. That’s something that really stuck with me. As the director, it’s important for me to know when to get out of the way and let the team’s individual talents shine.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Caldwell: Difficult. Long. Arduous. But ultimately rewarding in a lot of ways. Many moving parts and real-world obstacles proved to be too much for us to keep our initial projections, and as the project manager, that’s entirely on me. We have a pretty diverse team and through the development of Full Quiet we really learned how best to work together around life’s challenges. We battled through things like changing day jobs, loss of family members, depression and anxiety, housing displacements, and of course a global pandemic. In the end though, we’re proud of what we made; I know I can speak for the team on that. And now we feel way more poised to push Retrotainment to the next level.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Caldwell: I think it’s a unique combination of game play features, especially for the NES. That’s what we set out to do… make something different for the NES so that players could experience a new kind of game on their favorite console. It’s got a lot packed into it and it challenges the player in several different ways. We wanted to make it akin to games of the past where you’re on your own to figure things out but without rehashing elements from older games; it had to feel like a new kind of experience. It’s not for everyone, we understood that from the get, but we wanted to make something that we felt would resonate with people interested in the lore, the mechanics, the puzzles and/or the game world.
Additionally, the game will play out differently for everyone. It’s an open world, you can approach it however you’d like. There’s roadblocks along the way but not many hard lock-and-key scenarios; it’s up to you to figure out how to approach the obstacles in your way. Information and clues are doled out incrementally as you unlock things, so everyone will have their own experience and path through the game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Caldwell: Probably Resident Evil and maybe Metal Gear. That’s a tough one to answer because we didn’t look to any other games as a road map, we just set out to make Full Quiet its own thing.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Caldwell: I think the most fun thing along the way was meeting Ham radio operators from across the country at the various conventions where we showcased the game’s development. Now that the game is out, several of us plan to get our “ticket” (a Ham radio license) and set up our own in-home stations. It’s a fascinating world full of awesome, unique folks.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Caldwell: Regarding the team – time management and teamwork. Regarding the game – player expectations. Game dev is tough and working with a team is challenging, but we think we’ve learned and grown a tremendous amount from this experience. As for player expectations – one of the biggest question marks was what different players would be bringing to the game. We assumed different types of players would approach it differently since we don’t directly lead people through it, and we tried to account for that in how the game could play out in various ways. We also understood that some players just wouldn’t accept the game for what it is, they’d want it to be something else, which is understandable. And while I hate to let people down, we didn’t want to compromise our vision and start adding traditional things into the game just to make it more universally comfortable. So it’s been very informative to watch how things have played out and how players have reacted to the game. When trying to make something non-traditional, there’s just such a fine line you have to walk between giving people what they’re familiar with and pushing them into something new.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Caldwell: Definitely. My opinion is that gaming should be wildly diverse, just like gamers are diverse. I like to see old mechanics mixed with new and old kept with old but used in different ways. Modern gaming is remarkable, but it’s also overwhelming in ways, so a healthy dose of old school can be a good thing for people.
Old School Gamer Magazine: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think you stand out?
Caldwell: We try to mix it up and make interesting things. Obviously, we make NES games and that helps us stand out in the modern gaming world. Within the retro world we try to make games that are at least somewhat different from the games of the past. We also love to collaborate with others on things, like the Chip Maestro and Garbage Pail Kids, so look for more of that in our future 🙂
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in industry helped this game?
Caldwell: We have three other games we’ve released, none of which translated much to helping the design of Full Quiet. However, we built tools along the way that have helped tremendously and have shown us the importance of having a good toolkit tailored to your dev process.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Caldwell: As a game that expanded the NES catalog in a unique way. We hope we added something worthwhile overall. There will be likes and dislikes and in-betweens throughout a player’s experience in Full Quiet, all of which can be discussed if people care enough to do so. Hopefully it will lead to more interesting developments in the community.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Caldwell: We want to get back to our Haunted series, get back into the Halloween Spirit 😉
We plan to finish the trilogy as well as start focusing on a few other games we have in the works. We’re also open to collab on projects so if anything interesting comes our way, we’ll try to make something fun out of it. And if we can expand our team a little, I see 16-Bits creeping up over the horizon.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Caldwell: We always want to thank the NES Dev community. I may sound like a broken record, but it cannot be overstated how important the community is. We hope it continues to grow and thrive and create new things for fellow nerds to experience. And thanks to you and others who help spread the word about what the community is up to.