Castaway Paradise Designer On The Fine Line Between Clone And Inspiration



After launching it on iOS and Facebook, Stolen Couch Games has now brought its island life sim Castaway Paradise to Steam through its Early Access program. It allows you to decorate a house, complete quests, go fishing, talk to the anthropomorphic villagers, farm, and do plenty of other activities.


This will all seem very familiar (and look familiar) if you’ve played Animal Crossing and / or Harvest Moon before. Castaway Paradise is clearly inspired by both of these games and Stolen Couch hasn’t ever denied that. Despite that, the game has been accused of being a clone a number of times by various players.


It makes for an interesting point of discussion: at what point does a game become a clone? Is it okay to take inspiration from another game and rework it a little to deliver a similar experience to players on a different platform? These are the kinds of topics that Siliconera discussed with Eric Diepeveen, the game designer at Stolen Couch Games, when talking about Castaway Paradise.



You mention similar games such as Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon in Castaway Paradise’s description. But does your game have anything that sets it apart from those?


Eric Diepeveen, game designer:Both Animal Crossing and Harvest Moon are great games. But both of them have space to be made better. For example Animal Crossing is so open ended that a lot of people get underwhelmed rather quickly. They feel no purpose to the game and quit. Harvest Moon is often times pretty hardcore in its farming mechanics, which might alienate the more casual player. Castaway Paradise tries to strike a balance between those two games. We have the open endedness of Animal Crossing, but we combine that with story-driven quests. At any time the villagers on Castaway Paradise have quests for you to complete. This keeps the player engaged.


I’ve seen people criticize Castaway Paradise for being what they deem a clone of Animal Crossing. It seems that, to an extent, this is what you were after, so does this make you feel bad, accomplished, or maybe a mix of both? 


Animal Crossing is in a league of its own. There is nothing like it available anywhere. Making a game similar to it will draw comparisons. The same thing used to happen with the first FPS games. They were all considered clones of Wolfenstein 3D. But the FPS became a genre and now it’s totally accepted. Millions of people love Animal Crossing, why can’t the life simulator be a genre?


Obviously we’re looking at Animal Crossing for inspiration. When people look at our screenshots they know what type of game Castaway Paradise is. They will also immediately see that it is a different IP. We’re not fooling people into thinking this is Animal Crossing. We’re using the similarities to make people instantly recognise the meaning of the game.



How successful would you say that Castaway Paradise has been for you so far? How do you gauge that—profit, community interaction, design?


Stolen Couch Games truly believes in the ‘Games As A Service’ model. When we released Castaway Paradise on iOS at the end of 2013 the game was in a very early stage. We did this so that we could shape the game together with the players. Over the last 1.5 years we’ve released over 40 updates and have added more than 1500 items in the game. The same thing is happening with the premium Steam version. In the first week Castaway Paradise was in Early Access we removed features that players hated and added features they were asking for. Only by creating a game with the community can we create something that will last for years.


Why did you target mobile and Facebook before bringing Castaway Paradise to Steam?


First impressions are very important on Steam. So we decided that we would want to develop the game further before bringing it to Steam. The premium Steam version of Castaway Paradise isn’t a port of the mobile game. It was never a mobile game. Castaway Paradise is a multi platform game from the ground up. We haven’t even released the Android version yet. Store dynamics are also a factor. On mobile you can get a constant stream of new users. On Steam it’s a lot more spiky. You want to have momentum when you launch the game. You can’t launch a Steam version of the game that is half baked and hope sales will pick up in a few months. On mobile, however, you can do exactly that.



What, if anything, have you changed in the Steam version of Castaway Paradise when compared to its previous versions?


There’s a lot. First of all the Steam version is fully premium. There are no micro-transactions. Things like becoming VIP will be unlocked when you reach a certain level. Thanks to the early access players we removed mechanics like the dual currency system. Some mechanics like the ability to speed-up the growth of plants is also removed after feedback from players. We’ve also added lots of stuff. Keyboard controls, better graphics, new themed content, special themed events etc. We’re also introducing a new character later this year. This character will also have thousands of lines of dialogue, expanding the game tremendously. Steam users can also expect free DLC packs, the first one of which will be the Chinese theme pack.


In what various ways do you already interact with the Castaway Paradise community and how will transfer to the Steam version?


We’re taking this ‘Game As A Service’ really seriously. It’s almost like democratised game development. There is a button in the game you can press at any time. It’ll bring you to a website where you can contact us directly.

Chris Priestman