The life of a deer doesn’t sound easy. All these hunters want to kill you and make you into a steak, and you’ve got this god that isn’t exactly clear on what he’s into and what he isn’t. He will give you some sweet fire powers though.

Then, because your life as a deer is constantly on the verge of peril, you have to mate so that, if you’ve been good enough, you can be reincarnated as your offspring and return to this oppressive world.

All I’m saying is that I’d be happy with coming back as a rabbit or maybe a cat. If I’m looking for deer-related thrills, I’ll play Josh Presseisen’s new game The Deer God on Kickstarter. He’s already halfway to his $26,000 goal and has 16 days left on the campaign.

We asked him how he’s making his game about being a deer and he had a lot of answers.

152 Crafting nature: The Deer God

BitPulse: Looking at your Kickstarter page and the pitch video it’s very apparent there’s an appreciation for nature and animals. Where does that come from?

Josh Presseisen, founder and creative director: I spent a good deal of my youth in the forest, building forts, camping, adventuring with friends – I believe that the love of nature stems from this time in my life.

It looks like you’re drawing from Celtic mythology and the god Cernunnos, who is known as The Stag Lord, and the idea that white stag were messengers from the otherworld. The game is also about being chased, which seems to borrow from Hungarian mythology, where hunters chasing a white stag symbolized life and seeking new experiences and happiness. Can you elaborate on why and how you’re putting these things into the game?

Presseisen: The idea of the gameplay mechanics actually originate from me wanting to do something with reincarnation and karma in a game – the idea of The Deer God in the sense of the game is actually not taken from the mythology, but from the idea of an animal god which possesses power in the animal kingdom. This god reigned influence over its people – an ancient race of intelligent deer that lived on this earth a long time ago.

You said the game is inspired by things you loved when growing up: “Being outside in the woods, building forts, seeing deer standing motionless in the forest and chasing after them.” The idea of making a game about childhood curiosity strikes me as something very Miyamoto-esque. I’m curious if this is something you feel is lost in a lot of games now or, at least, why you think childhood memories are valuable when it comes to making games.

Presseisen: Taking inner inspiration from these things certainly helps to build a game like this, where you are relying on creativity and artfulness that has to come (at least partially) from inside. There are things in the natural world that inspired this game of course. One thing I keep going back to is a park that I visited as a child that is such a grand place of inspiration – Thacher Park in Upstate New York. Beautiful, naturally carved rock faces, waterfalls, hidden pathways, all kinds of wildlife and dark secrets flow through this place.

I’ve always found the idea of reincarnation in games fascinating because most games, without realizing it, end up addressing it in some way through respawns and lives. In The Deer God, you’re directly addressing it with the ability to have checkpoints by mating and creating offspring. First, can you explain exactly how the checkpoint system works and then, talk about why you chose to do it this way.

Presseisen: This was one of those ideas that sort of popped into my head when thinking about how you could do a game based on the lives of a deer. In the game, if you die, you will become one of your offspring. If you do not have any offspring, then you have to start over. Its sort of an ‘interactive’ checkpoint system. Where the checkpoints are actually alive and active. You will want to protect them as they follow you up to a certain point.

153 Crafting nature: The Deer God

The game has a karma system where if you do enough bad things you can be reincarnated as something weak and forced to start the game over again. Will there be a sort of push and pull of you trying to figure out what the deer god likes and dislikes or how are you going to communicate that to the player?

Presseisen: The progression of the game will be partially dictated by how you are punished. If you do things that injure others of your race, or harmless animals – this will bring punishment from the deer god, but also access to these destructive powers. I wanted the game to allow people to play however they wanted – be it evil (I liken that to stealing from friendly NPC’s in The Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim) or good, as in helping out or befriending other creatures. This will make for a very interesting mix of gameplay.

You will learn offensive powers throughout the game depending on your karmic standing. Can you give any examples of a good power and a bad power?

Presseisen: A destructive power – for example, is fire. If fire is used offensively in the game, it is considered on the dark side of karma, where as defensive powers will be on the light side.

Why did you choose to include combat in the game?

Presseisen: I think combat is a part of life – even for a deer – and I did want to stay true to that. You must fight to survive throughout the game.

The game will have co-op. How will that work?

Presseisen: Another player will be allowed to join your game which is in progress, so you would essentially be helping each other survive. This is the first idea we have thought of – although we are considering other modes of multiplayer as well.

Evan Gipson is doing the music for the game. Did you give him any kind of direction for the soundtrack? What was it? If not, how is he going about making the music for it?

Presseisen: Evan’s music is well suited for the atmosphere of a game like this. He also did the music for Mines of Mars, which was a dark atmospheric game as well. I did give him some direction as to the particular style – to set it apart from the Mines of Marssoundtrack – its a bit more ‘free flowing’ and ambient.

The game’s pixel art is stunning, which I’d bet is nice to have for a Kickstarter campaign. How did you come up with the game’s art style and why did you choose to go 3D?

Presseisen: I had really wanted to do something different with pixel art – which I really enjoy. I wanted to see how it would be possible to make a 2.5d game with pixel art, and the first thing that came to mind was doing it with 3d chunks. Basically I take pixel art that I have created, then extrude it in 3d with 3d studio max. Then I put these pieces together in Unity3d (the game engine that I use) and it creates a wonderful mix of pixel art and depth, which comes from the lighting and natural parallax you get from the 3d elements.

154 Crafting nature: The Deer God

Browsing the website, it seems like you’ve only made iOS games before The Deer God, which will be available on PC, Mac, and Linux. What’s it like going from developing for hardware that is mostly the same, to hardware that can vary wildly and lacks its own unified ecosystem (except maybe something like Steam, but even that isn’t a guarantee)? I assume Unity helps a lot with this too.

Presseisen: We actually did release Ravensword on Steam – an open world RPG (almost like a mini Skyrim) and it was an interesting learning experience to see the expectations of PC users. Its definitely different than developing games for mobile, as people expect certain things built in that they do not on mobile. Just like mobile though – it has its own set of nuances. The Unity engine does do a great job of allowing your game to be cross platform with a bit of work. We are tailoring the game at first to the PC, then we intend to bring it to other platforms.

The game is in pre-alpha which is further along than a lot of Kickstarter games we see. How long have you been working on the game?

Presseisen: A few months – although we did suffer a pretty big setback before the Kickstarter started. We lost the programmer, who was too busy on other projects to continue with The Deer God. I had to search around for quite awhile with The Deer Godon hold until I found someone who could handle the task. The story is quite funny actually. I was going to attempt to do some programming myself using tools available on the Unity asset store, and I sort of gave up (programming is just not my thing) but the tools I was using seemed to be great, and a way for artists to develop prototypes themselves. I contacted the company (Cinopt Studios) and asked them if they would help me out. Turns out Kyle from Cinopt is now programming The Deer God!

Is the team located in a central place or have you been developing the game from different locations?

Presseisen: Different locations. Every single person in this team is in a different place! All of the communications are via Skype or email.

Crescent Moon Games publishes games too. How do you balance development and publishing with a six person team?

Presseisen: Crescent Moon Games is actually just me, I have no full-time employees. I do use contractors here and there when needed. It is quite a job balancing development and publishing (it just means I work a lot) I really do enjoy both sides of the industry though – never a dull moment here.

When I write this, you’re halfway funded. How are you feeling about the campaign so far? Have you encountered anything you weren’t expecting?

Presseisen: Really wasn’t sure what to expect. It seems like we are on track to get funded, and we’d even love to hit the stretch goals. If not, the progress will continue, just not as fast as it has been during the Kickstarter. I have to say – one great thing about Kickstarter is it really intensifies development. I have been working hard to keep the backers and potential pledgers interested while the campaign is running. We’ve been Greenlit on Steam as well – and I have to say that is probably partly to do with the Kickstarter.

141 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

Each and every year EA releases a new instalment in their FIFA franchise which always manages to give us pangs of déjà vu as we are reminded of the previous year’s game. This is just an inevitable part of a franchise which releases annually – it’s simply a case of evolution over revolution. The question is whether the changes are enough to justify parting with our annual ‘subscription fee’ or if it’s the same game in a different year with slightly crisper looking grass.

At EA’s E3 press conference a few days ago we were given a trailer which offered a first glimpse of FIFA 15 and its new features. Once you get past the hyperbole and overly-sentimentalised narration the trailer opens with, there seems to be a lot to be excited about going into FIFA 15. The ‘Living Pitch’, overhauled crowd visuals, and the intriguing player emotional intelligence upgrades all look particularly promising. However, realism doesn’t always translate to a more enjoyable playing experience and many of the so-called gameplay additions divulged by EA at E3 seem to be obvious rebrands of features implemented in past instalments.

The ‘Agility & Control’ just seems like an extension of FIFA 13’s complete dribbling, ‘Man-to-Man Battles’ are like the player impact engine and the ‘Team Tactics’ feature just sounds like going ultra-defensive or attacking. Many believe that by giving old features new titles they are trying to deceive fans into thinking they’ve reinvented the wheel, when the reality is they’ve just repainted it.

There is a plethora of features, tweaks and alterations that the fans have been demanding which seem to have fallen on deaf ears. Though EA have hinted that they still have some exciting announcements to come, these pleas have – as yet – gone unanswered. Here are the 10 fan demands still totally ignored by EA:

10. Dynamic Weather

142 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

Many of the updates announced by EA at E3 and demonstrated in their trailer have quite rightly caused a great deal of excitement in FIFA’s sizeable playing community. Finally giving the somewhat robotic, lifeless players some emotional depth and allowing for the field to degrade are both extremely exciting features which will certainly heighten the realism and immersion of FIFA 15. However, one feature which fans had been expecting EA to implement now that the franchise has made the leap to next-gen is dynamic weather.

In the E3 trailer we only really see heavy rainfall or dryness, which has led many to believe that FIFA 15 will have much the same presentation of weather as in last year’s title. In other words, the weather will either be a torrential downpour for the full 90 minutes or completely dry. With so much emphasis being place on realism in the new game, it is surprising that a broader range of weather hasn’t been introduced, with the potential for the meteorological scenario to vary mid-game and force you to consider a change in tactics. FIFA fans demand to see the ability for rain to range from an unobtrusive drizzle to a full-on monsoon and as yet EA haven’t confirmed if weather will be updated.

9. Goalkeeper AI

143 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

EA have given goalkeepers an incredibly bad name to those fans who play their game more than they watch real football. Indeed if you based your opinion of goalies on FIFA, you would think they were an incredibly stupid bunch who often seem to inexplicably want their team to lose. On more than one occasion every FIFA fanatic has been left scratching their head as to why the AI-controlled goal keeper has done something detrimental to the team.

One of the more irksome examples of a goalkeeper being brain-dead is when they are running for an inbound ball on the edge of their box. Rather than showing an ounce of intelligence and picking the ball up they will often boot the ball down the field. As they are running and off-balance, this powerful kick can result in a slice which sends the ball far into the air but not tremendously far downfield, meaning that an opponent’s striker has been gifted with the chance to punish you for your goalie’s stupidity. Sadly, this is certainly not the only example frequently seen of the last bastion of defence acting like a court jester. EA need to stop frustrating their fans by giving such poor AI to such a pivotal player – they may have promised emotional intelligence but now we need to see some actual intelligence.

8. Defence Speed

144 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

One of the major criticisms of FIFA 13 was that the more rapid players in the game – particularly forwards – were disproportionately overpowered, allowing them to blitz past an opposition’s defence and score a goal demanding fairly little of the player in control. This imbalance was shrewdly dealt with by EA as they slowed down the game for a more realistic experience in FIFA 14, though this has led to a whole new issue.

On so many occasions we see players with a supposedly decent amount of pace get beaten to the ball by a slower defender in a straight foot race. Though this is obviously a disadvantage which afflicts both competing players, you are forced to suspend your disbelief somewhat when you see the likes of Di Maria being beaten by Puyol in a foot race. It was nice to know that EA had been listening to the demands of their fans with FIFA 14 but they need to achieve a balance – nobody wants speedsters running the show but we still want them to be able to outstrip plodding players in chases to the ball.

7. Ultimate Team Friendlies

145 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

Since its induction, FIFA Ultimate Team has been the most widely played of the game’s many varied, addictive modes. While asking for a completely new game mode in FIFA 15 to rival Ultimate Team is probably demanding too much, there are several tweaks that could make the addictive feature even better.

Aside from the technical changes which need to be made to Ultimate Team to stop crippling network faults such as the game suddenly disconnecting as you’re about to receive 3 points for a win, many fans have been asking for the addition of a friendlies option. This would allow you to have matches against your friends with a system keeping track of who has amassed the most wins. Aside from resolving all manner of arguments about whose vision of the greatest team on the planet is more effective, it would a whole new layer of competition to an already hotly contested mode.

Without an established friendlies option, you are only as good as your last game so it is long overdue that EA should add this feature.

6. Champions League

146 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

The fierce war waged between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer has eased up somewhat in recent years. No longer is Konami’s football offering regarded as a legitimate alternative to FIFA – now it is a subcultural choice for those who have had enough of EA’s monopolising soccer game. With its bogus team names, inferior graphics and weird player ratings, it’s not hard to see why FIFA pulled away in the race to become the dominant title in the football-sim genre.

It comes as a great surprise that the globe’s second favourite football game should have exclusive rights to the biggest competition in club football, the Champions League. Knowing Pro Evo’s precarious position compared to FIFA, many people had expected EA to flex their muscles and liberate the Champions League from Pro Evo for their own use and reveal the news in a dramatic E3 announcement: no such thing occurred.

5. Offensive Aerial Might

147 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

When FIFA 14 first hit store shelves last year, by far the biggest gameplay criticism was the easy manner in which any player of any level was able to score a headed goal. Of course, it is impossible to deny that heading is a vital part of the modern game. Indeed, players like Radamel Falcao and Fernando Llorente have established their reputation on their ability to consistently score using their heads.

However, with FIFA 14, EA gave far too much power to strikers using their head. It wasn’t even the Falcaos and Llorentes of the world who were scoring headed goals left right and centre: it was possible to use 5’3” Sebastian Giovinco to miraculously leap over the back of a defender to bag an improbable goal.

Though they would downgrade the power of offensive heading in the World Cup edition of the game, heading still felt overpowered. With FIFA 15 fans have demanded that the mechanics of heading be overhauled to provide a more realistic, more balanced experience, though EA made no mention of this at their E3 conference.

4. The Top Dog

148 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

Though fans are mainly split into two separate camps over this issue, there are a growing number of impartial FIFA players going into FIFA 15 who are clamouring for a changing of the guard regarding who the best player on the game is statistically. For every FIFA instalment in recent memory, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi has deservedly been rated as being the best footballer on the planet. However, this year the little Argentine has been uncharacteristically quiet. He has still done more than enough to make a case that he should still be considered the greatest but there many fans who believe that based on their respective 2013/14 performances, Cristiano Ronaldo should be on top. Not only did Real Madrid’s superstar score more goals but he also received the much-coveted Ballon d’Or over the likes of Messi and Ribery. We understand that Messi is in cahoots with EA to help them market their FIFA franchise so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that they are inclined to favour Barcelona’s player.

Though it is as yet unconfirmed what the player ratings will be for FIFA 15, the trailer released at E3 makes it abundantly clear that it will again be Lionel. The Argentine is shown in the demo’s final segment of action scoring a thunderous goal over the head of Atletico Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois while Ronaldo doesn’t even feature in the trailer. Moreover, the fact that customers who pre-order FIFA 15 will have access to a Messi on loan for the first part of their Ultimate Team campaign corroborates the theory that Messi will once again be top dog, despite many fans believing that Ronaldo has done enough to at least be ranked as his rival’s equal.

3. Advantages

149 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

A gameplay element which certainly needed revision before EA ever started worrying about the need to feature Gerrard giving Sturridge a stern telling-off with every missed shot is the unreliable advantage system.

Oftentimes your defender will intercept a through ball to an opposition’s striker who was offside and you’re ready to try and push the advantage at the other end. However, for seemingly no reason at all, you will not be given the opportunity to play advantage and the referee will force you to take a free kick for the offside, giving your opponent time to reset his formation. Not only does this interrupt the flow of gameplay but it can be horrendously frustrating if you’re denied the opportunity to launch a potent counter-attack.

Even more frustratingly, on more than one occasion we have been fouled, played the advantage and scored a goal only for the moronic referee to use his infinite wisdom to decide that it was in your team’s interest to take the free-kick after all. To have a goal denied in this way – particularly in online play – is one of the most frustrating things in the whole game and desperately needed fixing.

Fans have called for these sketchy advantage decisions to be fixed for multiple installments and thus far there seems to be no change.

2. Wager Facility

150 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

Ever since mankind first became obsessed with sport, gambling has been an inseparable part of our favourite pastime. This is true of football as well, so it is only fitting that a wager function be added to the planet’s most popular football game to acknowledge that gambling is a big part of the sport.

On the most popular game mode on FIFA – Ultimate Team – players clamouring for the introduction of Wagers have taken matters into their own hands, heading to twitter to arrange high-stakes games for a mutually agreeable bounty of coins and/or players. It won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has interacted with the game’s online community to learn that players often don’t honour the bets they’ve made, conning their opponents out of the prize they fairly won. The introduction of a wager facility will mean that EA are free to govern these bets and ensure that they can eliminate the reprehensible work of the scammers. The thought of playing in a match with the promise of potentially winning a world-class player is an extremely exciting one; better yet, imagine scoring an 88th minute winner to bag the prize.

Fans have made their desire for a wager function extremely apparent so it is disappointing that EA made no mention of it at E3. It would make an already superb mode in Ultimate Team even better.

1. Passing Issues

151 FIFA 15: 10 Fan Demands Still Totally Ignored By EA

One of the more frustrating gameplay shortcomings of FIFA 14 is the temperamental nature of the passing. At times you and your team can be capable of exquisite passing that would have the likes of Xavi and Iniesta gawping in disbelief. You could zip the ball across the field with every pass perfectly weighted, directed and the feeling that you have complete control over the action on the field. However, on other occasions it can be quite the opposite – the fact that the passing system isn’t always broken makes matters worse as you know how good it can be.

Often, you can feel like you have absolutely no control of a player’s passing as the ball ends up being passed in a completely different direction to the one you had intended it to go (this has been a complaint levelled against every FIFA title in recent memory). Obviously this is infuriating as it can undo your offensive efforts in an instant and even lead to your opponent having the ball in an undesirable position. As well as this passing inaccuracy, sometimes your players embarrass themselves by lazily waiting for the pass to come to them rather than rushing forward to guarantee that they get the ball. Even players renowned for their work rate can often have the ball pinched from them as they were too lazy to run forward.

Passing is obviously one of the fundamentals of the game so it is essential that they improve on the mechanics seen in FIFA 14. The recent announcements about the ‘Emotion Intelligence’ upgrades are certainly promising, but it is hard to get too excited when such a pivotal part of the game is still so inconsistent. After avoiding the issue at E3, we hope EA ensure that FIFA 15’s passing makes some drastic improvements over the previous year’s installment.