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

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