Lone Survivor, the 2D psychological horror title by developer Jasper Byrne, turned ten years old this past weekend. For the anniversary, Byrne took the time to speak with us for a two-part interview series. In part one, we discussed the origins and challenges of the original Lone Survivor. Now in part two, we take a look at his plans for Super Lone Survivor and the new side story Lone Warrior.
Lone Survivor’s narrative so closely focuses on a deadly pandemic, which has taken on a totally different meaning now that the world has been living with the effects of Covid-19 for the past two years. According to Byrne, the pandemic played a big part in his decision to begin work on Super Lone Survivor, an update of the original game.
“When the pandemic started, I had been working on a game for eight and a half years by that point, and I just couldn’t take it any more. The stress of the pandemic, knowing that I would have to be indoors with nothing to look at but this game. I was just like, I need something different. I started on this racing game that I’m now using as a promo for an album I’m about to release. It’s a car racing game in space called Galaxy Racer. I just wanted to do something colorful and uplifting that would help people out during the pandemic. But as it wore on, my optimism went and I started to think, you know what, Lone Survivor might have something to say right now.”
Another big factor in wanting to remake the original was its origins as a Flash project. Byrne thought porting it to a more modern engine would be a good way to work on a project he could finish quickly, hopefully creating a version that could be appreciated by an entirely new audience.
“So I thought, well I’ll dig out this old Lone Survivor thing and see if I can get a quick remaster because a lot of people are talking about it again and it’s coming up on the ten-year anniversary. That Flash version of it won’t last much longer, so it’s time to update.”
Byrne didn’t want to just do a straight remake of the game. During the production of the original, he left many ideas on the cutting room floor in order to get it out in a timely manner. Super Lone Survivor gives him an opportunity to weave some of that back in, but he wants to do so in a way that doesn’t ruin the pacing of the original.
“With the new stuff, I thought of how I can adopt new things all along the way, so that it’s not just one side area that feels tacked on. I wanted to integrate it all along the way, while also making it optional. Everything I’ve added has come from an original note, I’m just cherry-picking things that I had to cut or didn’t have time for. I’m not trying to add any additional exposition, no lore or backstory that’s going to change the canon or explain too much, but I also want to enrich the feelings that were already there. How can I take the themes that were already there and reinforce them?”
Early on, he experimented with changing up the game’s signature visual style, but quickly realized that it was an integral part of the game’s experience.
“The first thing I did was draw the guy in double the resolution, just a very rough sketch, just to see what it would look like. I realized that’s not what Lone Survivor is, it’s a particular look. The pixels are so big they become a mosaic. I love the way you can’t tell exactly what certain things are, it leaves room for the imagination. The more I can hide stuff and leave room for you to fill in the gaps the better.”
Initially, Byrne intended to include a brand new scenario in the Super Lone Survivor package, but it quickly became clear that this new story, now called Lone Warrior, would need to be its own thing.
“What happened was, I was going to make a new scenario on top of the original game that’s like the version of Silent Hill 2 that had the Born from a Wish scenario. I realized that the new scenario was ballooning out of control, so Lone Warrior became its own thing. It’s not going to be as big a game as Super Lone Survivor; it’s going to be a short but intense game. I’m really excited about it. Very different in flavor from Lone Survivor, more thrilling, let’s say. Without giving too much away, it is related, though it’s not the same protagonist.”
Lone Survivor seems prophetic in some ways with its views of the importance of self-care and mental health during a deadly pandemic, but Lone Warrior was conceived of during the Covid-19 era and is directly influenced by it in tone and content.
“It’s an action horror vs a survival horror. I wanted to make one that was fun and visceral as a cathartic thing during the pandemic. I think Lone Warrior is more specifically about the pandemic because it was coming from that point where it was at its peak.”
While the world of games has changed a lot in the past ten years since Lone Survivor was released, Byrne still finds himself looking to classic games for inspiration on Lone Warrior.
“I played Super Metroid for the first time on the SNES, and it blew me away. I hadn’t been so hooked on a game for a long time, since earlier Souls games. It was just the flow and fluidity of that game, the way it always feels like it’s moving. Lone Survivor is deliberately a clunky game, the guy’s not meant to be able to handle a gun. For Lone Warrior, the character is quite different, so I wanted to look at those action games that are on a 2D plane.”
What’s next for Byrne after he finishes up his work on the new Lone Survivor games? He’s hoping to return to that secret project he had been working on for eight and a half years, which he’s been stealthily teasing for all this time.
“I was determined to do an anti-promotion. I am running a now 10 year alternative reality game which you can go out there and find if you look for it. I think when Lone Warrior is closer to coming out, I want to announce this game. I’ve never even admitted I’m working on it, but I like to drop hints that I’m working on this thing because I would like to build a following for it. I’m playing a role with the place that I’ve been sharing stuff, and it’s all tied into the game itself. The marketing is part of the game story I’m trying to tell. I’ve owned a website for 10 years that just hosts a single image on it, but it’s all part of the marketing.”
Byrne is looking forward to getting back to that project, and hopes that people start picking up the breadcrumbs he’s been laying down to build excitement for whatever his new project may be.