How do you make a game about rafting if you don't like rafting? How do you make one of the best selling survival games about rafting if you don't like rafting? Apparently all it takes is a team of dedicated Swedish students. Raft has been available for a little under 4 months and it's already turned the genre on its head --in a world of infinite expanses, raft dares to show restraint.
Unlike traditional survival games, Raft doesn't offer you the freedom to go wherever you like, at least not without some caveats. You're stuck on a raft (read: wooden square) roughly the size of a small sedan and are given nothing but a hook reminiscent of Roadhog's from Overwatch. There's no mining involved here, you have to reel in any of the flotsam you see to craft your upgrades. I recently chased down the developers at Redbeet Interactive and asked them about their runaway success.
[itch.io] The Survival genre has really exploded lately. What are you doing to set yourself apart from others in the space?
[Redbeet Interactive] Instead of being allowed to roam freely in an open world like in many other survival games, we limit the space the player can explore. In Raft, you can't just go out and get the resources whenever you want, you have to wait for them to come to you.
[itch.io] What was the reasoning behind going pay what you want?
[RI] As the game was developed during a university course, we had no initial plan to work on the game long term and had no option to pay for it. As we noticed a lot of people were interested in seeing Raft being further developed, we decided to let them donate to promote the production if they felt it was worthy. We still did not want the game to have a set price as it was just a prototype that we wanted as many people playing as possible.
[itch.io] How has Raft benefited from your status as students?
[RI] The primary benefit of being students when we developed the prototype for Raft was that we were basically funded by our student loans, as it was part of a course. Of course, we were also able to ask teachers and fellow students for feedback and help.
[itch.io] What inspired the hook as your primary way to interact with the world?
[RI] When the idea about surviving on a raft came up, we needed to find some kind of core mechanic of gathering supplies. First we thought about just picking stuff up that came close to the raft, but that felt a bit boring and that's when the idea of the hook came.
[itch.io] What made you want to develop a survival game on a raft? Are you rafting enthusiasts? Do you have personal connections to rafting?
[RI] We are not rafting enthusiasts. The idea actually came up during a brainstorm session for a previous project, but was put on hold.
[itch.io] You have a pretty active community here on itch.io what are you doing to foster this and how is it helping you build the game?
[RI] First of all, the community's feedback and praise has been amazing. It is the main reason we are continuing the development of Raft. We are trying our best to answer as many questions and comments as possible in order to stay in touch with our players. We also put a lot of thought into making the game for them by taking their ideas and feedback seriously when developing the game.
[itch.io] You've been updating pretty frequently. What else is on the horizon?
[RI] Right now we are still in university and are planning the future for the development of Raft. It's too early to say what is going to happen exactly, but we are still working on it and our plan is to work full time on it as soon as we can.