WIRED: Tell me about the evolution of the game from GIF-porn to what it is now.
Gregorios Kythreotis: In 2018 we showed the first trailer. And in some ways, we may have shown that too early. We were only three months into full development at that point. A month of that had been spent prepping that trailer in the demo. So you know, it was really early days.
The initial idea of the game, before we even signed with a publisher, was that it would be the kind of project that we liked, and we didn’t think it was going to be commercially viable. We were just going to work six months on it and put it out there. Then we got a publisher, and it turned into a slightly bigger project. We signed a deal for Game Pass, which gave us security to spend more time on the project. Also, we were a small team making an open-world game. That, in retrospect, was pretty shit decisionmaking. But I think it will hopefully pay off. We have been able to expand our internal team and bring on a lot of people. But we’re not a 20-person, full-time shooter or anything. It’s still very small scale.
We’ve always been wary of how much we talked about specific features. And again, like everything we’d show on Twitter, I would only show stuff that had already been in the game for at least a year. I wanted to keep the game a mystery for people. I want people to come to it with a kind of rash impression. But the flip side to that is, if you’re too vague or leave it too loose, people start projecting [additional features and gameplay] onto your project, and you have to be careful of that.
WIRED: Can you talk about releasing the game as a demo?
GK: A big benefit of having done the demo recently was being able to actually show people what the game is. Because, you know, in the beginning, people were like, “Oh, is this a racing game?” No, it’s not. Though it kind of was at the time of the first trailer’s release, because you couldn’t even get off the bike. We basically started an entirely different project to do the off-bike bits.
I think the demo is also a product of the Covid-19 pandemic. Otherwise, we would have gone to events and sat next to a build and been like: “Play for half an hour.” We probably wouldn’t have spent the time figuring out how to get this to run on other people’s machines. It’s a lot like a miniature game release.
WIRED: Other interviews compare Sable to Breath of the Wild. From the demo, I felt that they were actually quite different. How do you see the comparison?
GK: The core systems have a lot of similarities, and I think we learned a lot from the structure of BOTW. It’s a game that inspired us massively, because it does a lot of that exploration stuff really well. We don’t have any of the physics systems and combat systems. The atmosphere is a bit different. I think that makes it hard to talk about as well, because you don’t want to compare it too much to a game like that. Because, again, the expectations will be wrong.
Sable is more of an adventure game. It’s a bit more chilled. One of the things we really wanted to do was design a game whee players could get a real sense of mystery, and maybe that atmosphere that comes from Shadow of the Colossus, which is a lot quieter than something like Breath of the Wild. You can ride long distances and encounter very little and be at peace with that, but where they have these incredible boss sequences, we don’t even have that, and we have to rely more on the atmospherics. When you talk about inspiration, it’s just like, “What things do I like? And so what do I want to put in my life?”