PAX East Hands-On: The Wild at Heart

 

Hi, this is [Robert J. Kijowski] and I am speaking with Alex Atkins.

Alex Atkins: Hello. I’m the head writer for The Moonlight Kids and our newest game, The Wild at Heart.

RJ: The game itself is stunning, the artwork, beautiful. What’s a bit of the synopsis behind the game?

AA: It’s about a boy named Wake who runs away from home and into the woods behind his house and kind of gets lost. He stumbles upon a pocket-dimension, you know, almost kind of like a Neverland, where he meets these little nature-based creatures called Spritelings. They’re interested in him, curious about him and they follow him about. Wake figures out that he can utilize them to interact with the environment in addition to building things, breaking things and carrying things. He also possesses this self-constructed vacuum that he uses in tandem with his newfound friends to interact with his surroundings as well. Going into the forest, Wake interacts with this secret society of humans called the Greenshields, who are responsible for taking care of their magical creatures in this land called the Deep Woods. However, these Greenshields are not exactly doing the best job of it at the moment, having lost their way for a while. The Deep Woods also serves as a prison for something evil that is growing stronger. The Greenshields is now ineffective for many reasons. {laughs}

O, Serpent, My Serpent!

RJ: Because of the Greenshields having lost their way and dropped the ball, it is up to Wake to help them pick it back up and become once again forte, strong. I’m visually loving the feeling of the game.

AA: Thank you.

RJ: I’m really feeling the narrative of escapism into the woods because as a kid, I LOVED venturing into the woods.

AA: Me too.

RJ: Especially to escape problems. The great with about the woods as a backdrop is that they are so vast and it’s so easy to literally and figuratively lose your way.

AA: Absolutely.

RJ: What was the inspiration behind the woods setting?

AA: Conceptually, the artist and I used to get lost in the woods but with this, we’re all pulling from nostalgia, like Where The Wild Things Are, getting lost in that way and finding yourself in a new world. It’s really an amalgamation of our childhoods and things that we enjoyed when we were young.

RJ: I am a fan that the two things on your side in the game are creative ingenuity in crafting a vacuum and the Spritelings themselves. I truly like there exists this peaceful element while playing the demo in using your vacuum in creative ways along with using your squad, the Spritelings in moving the pace along.

AA: Thank you!

RJ: I’ll be honest. The look and flavor of the game remind me a little of Wes Anderson due to the nascent brilliance in a kid’s mind. As a writer, were there any cinematic inspirations?

AA: Wes Anderson is one that I haven’t really thought of, but I’m sure he’s one of my favorite directors. A lot of influence behind this was Studio Ghibli stuff. I like the blending of humor and heart that they do and art-wise as well, as you can see. But yeah, lots of anime, I would say serve as inspiration behind the game.

RJ: In terms of characters, for me as a screenwriter, there are a few characters I really get hung up on writing for a lot. As the writer of this game, were there any particular ones that you just went to town on that you loved?

AA: Yeah. I’m not sure how much I wanna say-

RJ: Oh, you can be totally vague!

AA: There’s a lot of other Greenshields that you meet, each with their own quirks. There are these twins in the game and that’s all I’m gonna say. (laughs)

RJ: (laughs) Oh, that sounds great! Interplay is fun because you can go as quirky as you wanna. So what platforms is this out for now?

AA: We are still in development and about the first Quarter of 2021 is what we’re shooting for which will be released on Steam and Xbox One.

RJ: Awesome! Do you have any plans for the future without giving too much away in terms of possible additional story content or additional gameplay?

AA: It’s certainly on our minds. Nothing we’re workshopping on right now, but we’d certainly love to.

RJ: I will say that the demo so far is great, so artwork beautiful- I love the writing on it-

“The Woods are lovely, dark and deep..”

AA: Oh, thank you!

RJ: It’s cute, quirky, fun. It’s something I would easily pick up and play if I was having a bad day.

AA: Oh, awesome! That’s kind of why we wanted to create it. Honestly, we wanted something very chill. It’s very combat-light and we wanted more environmental puzzle-solving rather than a straight shoot-em-up. Kind of like a Miyazaki movie, it’s very ambient.

RJ: As a writer for a video game, what’s the hardest process?

AA: Probably making sure that I have the right story to get across because it’s kind of hard to tell what one player will do from another. It’s up to choice a lot and making certain that I give them room to breathe and interpret in specific ways. It’s not like writing for a movie where the engaged is watching something linearly. Here, there are other elements for approaching things from another side and thinking of how you can

approach it from other angles is really fun but also challenging.

RJ: Lastly, what’s the most rewarding thing about watching people play your game?

AA: It’s just weird that I’m at PAX right now and people are watching my words and story on the screen in front of thousands of people.

RJ: And you can see people play ‘em and have fun. That’s so awesome!

AA: I get a real kick from when the funny lines hit and you can see the player’s shoulder tilt a little for a chuckle. That’s a good feeling.

RJ: So this is coming out again, in the First Quarter of 2021.

AA: Yeah, you can follow us on social media [@moonlightkids_ , IG: wildatheartgame], Moonlightkids.co , we have a Discord as well. You can follow us there. We answer questions, sometimes do live Q & A’s, live streams like the demo and Wish list us on Steam.

RJ: Sweet! So check this out people, this is one to watch, check it out! Ya won’t regret it!

Now having played the hands-on, it’s very intuitive and is one of those games that anybody could pick up a controller and play. To me, this seems like a game made for the young and young at heart. Nothing ever slows down and is always rewarding, either through dialogue, story or accomplishment on moving the narrative forward. Eight out of eight Spritelings.

P.S. A huge shout out to Moonlight Kids and Alex Atkins for taking out the time for being so fucking cool and letting both Norton and I try out this game. It’s a story of his creation and you guys should check it out! You won’t regret it.

About Robert Kijowski

Robert J. Kijowski is a screenwriter who enjoys a good chuckle and an even better weep when indulging in art both good and even better bad. He enjoys the company of strangers in a theatre but adores the camaraderie of friends watching Netflix. He also loves to talk- a lot. This can be read through his recaps and reviews on the Workprint or heard through his weekly movie podcast, After the Credits. His presence can be felt through Facebook, Spotify or Ouija. Don’t use the latter though- he almost always ghosts people.

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