The Sailor’s Dream
Simogo embarks on a fresh voyage of discovery
A tiny voyage. A little ocean. A small world. Most developers boast about the size of their games, but then most developers aren’t Simogo. The Swedish studio has made its name by fashioning exquisitely compact games for iOS devices, each one meticulously crafted and with a tight focus on the elaborate and the intimate. Little wonder, then, that in a game set on a “wonderful but unmerciful” ocean, Simogo should choose to turn its gaze not to the horizons, but to the diminutive knickknacks discovered within buildings found on lonesome isles.
As should be apparent, The Sailor’s Dream is a very different proposition to Simogo’s previous two games, dark thriller Device 6 and wintry horror Year Walk. This will be a warmer, more human story, creative director Simon Flesser tells us, akin to rummaging through someone’s attic and finding their photographs, letters and old records, and then piecing together a narrative from those fragments. “I think creating things is always some sort of counter-reaction to what you’ve previously done,” he says. “Maybe it’s as simple as wanting to try something different, and not wade in the same types of emotions.”
The Sailor’s Dream follows a similar pattern of exploration to Simogo’s recent efforts, however, with you swiping to pan through environments. A small ocean is your hub, and you’ll move left or right across it, stopping as you glimpse islands in the distance. Travelling to them is instantaneous, and once you’ve moored your boat, you’ll navigate between a series of fragmented ‘dream rooms’. “We wanted to have this feeling of going deeper and deeper – on the ocean, into these serene structures, then finding old, [seemingly] meaningless objects and discovering what stories they hold,” says Flesser.
There will, Flesser explains, be no traditional puzzles in the game; The Sailor’s Dream will be an entirely challenge-free experience. It’s a more natural progression for Simogo than you might think. Consider, for example, the final two chapters of Device 6, where roadblocks are cast aside as the story accelerates toward its climax. Nonetheless, Flesser believes that a certain sense of progression and friction is a good thing. “The aim is to try to capture that even within the challenge-free concept,” he says.
Will there, we wonder, be a puzzle element to the narrative? “Not really. One thing Jonas [Tarestad, co-writer] and I are constantly talking about story-wise is how exciting that ‘secret file’ element is. It’s like getting a book with pages torn out of it. So most of the story will be there right at the start. But there is some kind of progress that is both tied to what items you’ve seen…” he pauses to consider his words carefully, “and another [form of] progress that isn’t directly tied to progress within the game.”
While it might seem as if Flesser is being coy, he’s simply keen to preserve as many of the game’s mysteries as he can until The Sailor’s Dream is released, a strategy that proved its worth for Year Walk and Device 6. What is clear is that the game has a strong musical component, with sounds often prompted by your interactions with what Flesser calls the game’s “dreamy toys”. “When we started the project, I had gotten a nice little mobile synth, and I realised as I spent time with it that I was basically playing with it for the sake of play,” he says. “That was very inspirational; the game takes place in this dreamy world, and playing with strange objects that just feel joyful to interact with – that are toys rather than puzzles – felt like a natural fit.”
We ask Flesser what he hopes players will take away from The Sailor’s Dream. He pauses once more. “I just hope that they’ll feel that they’ve experienced something special. That there are feelings in there they’ve felt or understood. Hopefully, something like hearing a beautiful song, [one] that’ll stay in your mind even when you’re not listening to it.”
FROM TOP Jonathan Eng, “troubadour extraordinaire” and regular collaborator, and Simon Flesser, one half of the studio, the other being Magnus Gardebäck