Creative director Patrice Désilets recounts his team's journey to create a new type of survival experience.
It has now been 10 years since I have shipped a game on PlayStation. Back then, it was on the PS3. Can you imagine! Needless to say, I am extremely proud today to bring Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey to PS4 players around the world.
When I decided to start my own indie studio, Panache Digital Games, back in 2014, we were a mere handful of people and one thing was clear to me: I wanted to do things differently and to be bold. I wanted to do things with panache! Fast-forward five years later and this is exactly what my clan of now thirty-something game developers and I have accomplished with Ancestors. It is unique, refreshing, and most of all ambitious.
With this open-world survival game, I wanted to put players in the shoes of our early ancestors in Africa 10 million years ago. We have come so far as a species over the millions of years of evolution that we are now somewhat disconnected from our roots. This game brings you back to your primal instincts and what makes us all human.
To do so, I couldn’t make a game that was about chasing green dots on a map. I had to create systems that would let you write your own story; forge your own path to evolution. The original story of how you survived and came to evolve as a pre-human in a dangerous and menacing environment. Your survival as a lineage depends on the decisions you make. The four core systems of the game (senses, intelligence, communication and motricity) were built to support exploration so that you can develop your clan and your species through generations. That is how Ancestors lets you make surprising discoveries and be much more than a player. In Ancestors, you become your character and evolve along with your clan.
Eureka moments in games usually come in the form of a story, a clever twist in the narrative that amazes us at the end of a playthrough. This time, my team and I tried something drastically different. With no narrative, eureka moments in Ancestors are sprinkled through your journey and occur as you experiment with known skills to attain new and novel results as you explore, expand and evolve. These skills and knowledge will be transmitted to your fellow tribe members, to your little ones, to your whole lineage. Yes, something as simple as cracking open a coconut, crafting a tool or finding an ointment to heal your wounds can result in an eureka moment in Ancestors. Because we don’t tell you how to do it, you have to figure it out on your own. So be curious, be creative, be adventurous. The game will notice your out of-the-box playstyle and will respond to it by granting you new ways to progress.
Every one of us here at Panache hope you will lose yourself in the game, letting your instinct guide you. At the beginning, we warn you that we won’t help you much, and we don’t; we’d rather see how your ingenuity leads you through the uncharted territory and helps you conquer your fear of the unknown. You, Homo sapiens, can you survive like our ancestors did before us? How are you measuring compared to science? Are you better than our ancestors?
With that said, good luck on your journey to evolution. Take your time. Be patient. Follow your instincts.