The Blogpost was created by Olov Redmalm, Creative Director and Lead Writer of Lost in Random. In this Blogpost he talks about the inspiration behind the title, the specifics of the different story elements and the unique motifs, characters and backgrounds that make the game so extraordinary.
In doing so, Olov also touches on some of the lesser-known elements that contribute to the game’s distinctive gameplay. These include the two personalities of the mayor of Two-Town, the huge board game arenas and the special features and characteristics of the world of Random.
Hey, Olov! Care to introduce yourself and tell us a bit about the team?
Hello! Yes, I’m Olov Redmalm, Creative Director and Lead Writer on Lost In Random. Our team is made up of 40-50 beautiful Zoinklings situated in our office in rainy Gothenburg. It’s the biggest team we’ve assembled so far for one project, going from 10-20 on our previous titles Fe and Ghost Giant. It’s been quite a ride and we’re all eager to let this bird fledge out into the world!
What led to you and the team wanting to make a game like Lost in Random?
During late development of our bright and colorful Ghost Giant, we realized we wanted to go someplace visually dark with our next project. At Zoink, we usually start out a project with setting, mood, and art; so we sat down with a couple of artists and started drawing characters and places out of context, inspired by fairytales old and new that we love. We studied the atmosphere and long shadows of paintings by Shaun Tan, looked at the materials and animation of Laika movies, and the matter-of-factness of the strange creatures of Studio Ghibli. Around that time, Art Director Victor Becker had joined our team and he was just a force of creativity that took us all to new and mind boggling places.
From the very beginning, the protagonist was a young girl making her way through a dark fairytale world, but we were of course missing a huge ingredient: What would the gameplay be about? So when Klaus Lyngeled, Head of Development at Zoink, showed us this drawing of a girl with a die wandering through a giant board game world, each and every one of our heads exploded with ideas. From there, everything quickly snow-balled into a world ruled by Random and living dice!
How would you define this kind of story to someone?
Set in a gothic fairytale world shaped around dice, giant tabletop games, and randomness, Lost In Random tells the story of two young sisters: Even and Odd. The world suffers under the rolls and rules of the Queen’s one True Dark Dice, and when a child turns 12, her Majesty comes to their village and makes them roll to see in which of the six realms of Random they’ll spend the rest of their life in.
When Even’s older sister Odd turns twelve, she gets to roll the Queen’s Dark Dice like everyone else…and rolls a six! That means she doesn’t have to toil in one of the five lower districts, but spend her life up in Sixtopia—in the dream realm of the Queen!
“What luck!” exclaims everyone as the Queen’s giant spider carriage leaves with Odd onboard. Everyone except Even, who is devastated by the kidnapping of her sister. Armed with nothing but a slingshot, she runs away from her district Onecroft to find her sister and bring her back home.
Very exciting! And you brought on some additional writing support from outside the studio, right? What was it about Ryan North that made you want to get him on the team for this game?
We’ve actually been working with him for a long time on several different projects! The relationship started (before I was working at Zoink) between him and Klaus when they were doing a mobile game based on Adventure Time and Klaus got the tip that Ryan had worked on some Adventure Time comics. After that, Klaus asked if he wanted to do some writing for the studio’s own original title Stick It to the Man! which went on to become Zoink’s first big indie hit.
When I joined Zoink, one of my first jobs was to write the story for Flipping Death together with him and Klaus, so that’s where I got to know him personally and his incredibly smart and funny way of writing dialogue. The world of Random is inhabited by beings with equally random and complicated minds, and we knew that Ryan had what it took to flesh out these characters! Every dialogue tree is like it’s own equation; a poem with its own dramatic curve, from the first “hello” to the very last “bye forever!” A writer as inventive as Ryan is really difficult to come by and you, your boss, your grandmother—everybody should hire him!! (Only please don’t hog him—we need him for our future titles. You hear that, Ryan? We’re coming for you.)
Ha! That’s lovely to hear! Alright, let’s get into the thick of it. Deep down, what’s Lost in Random about? And what inspired its themes and characters?
At its core, Lost In Random is a coming of age story about facing the fear of randomness. Everyone has uncertainty in their lives and we grasp at whatever control we can get, postponing the reality that everything changes. I was particularly drawn to the theme as I’m a pretty worried person myself, often trying to predict one “dice roll” after another to protect myself from harm. That’s insane! But so human and so common. I have many anxious friends, colleagues, and loved ones, so I wanted to explore that further in this story about the fear of losing control versus rolling with the punches and dealing with the hand you’ve been dealt. (We’ve got lots of these puns just piled up and waiting to be released to an unsuspecting public, so please excuse me.)
It’s also a story about siblinghood, taking inspiration from several stories from us developers at the studio of having siblings you look up to and the pressure of being an elder sibling. From the very first writers’ meetings, it was always about two sisters; one of them trying to reach the other, both literally and emotionally.
The world of Random is like a huge character on its own—like a complete person with all its different sides and moods. Hidden underneath it’s sometimes wacky or chaotic exterior, there’s a sorrow to the world over having lost its way, or having never found it to begin with. This thought process guided the writing of the characters and their stories.
We also looked at stories like Alice in Wonderland and other dark fairytales where every character the protagonist meets has their unique story and life without too much exposition. We have a dark folklore monster who cages children in his ribcage, a mayor whose second personality is literally growing out of his hat, and a dice with arms and legs as examples. All because it’s visually striking or adds to the sense of wonder for the player; the feeling of stepping into a fable! We’re an art driven studio and many of our stories and game designs begin with an artist drawing something odd we can’t help but want to explore further.
That’s wonderful! It sounds like there are a lot of things that make this game and story so special. An interesting choice was putting a sort of dialogue wheel into combat itself during part of the game. Can you tell us a bit about that and other experiences that make this game so unique?
At some point when exploring the character of Royam, the upside down evil mayor of Two-Town, we decided that he should be a bad rhymer and that the player would have to teach him to rhyme in order to get what they needed from him. I remember us joking about doing rhyme battle against him, which led to one of our Combat Designers, Alexander Linderson, actually researching if it was doable without having to bother our programmers for any additional tech—and it was!
Then of course we have the crown jewel of the Dice Battles: the giant board game arenas—one of the first gameplay ideas we knew we had to explore. We were really compelled with the sense of scale and the feeling of being really small—and really powerful—when defeating the big bads of the Queen against all odds. Historically, these things used to be colorful and epic tournaments that anyone could participate in, so we added this old wacky crier who announces what’s happening across the game according to the roll of the player’s dice.
My favorite board game is the one that turns into a kind of giant Roulette with big orbs rolling into the fight, reaping havoc across the arena. Wacky fun!
Dice are a huge part of the lore in Random, right? Can you tell us a bit about what the people of Random think about the magical dice?
For sure! Some say they were the creative life force of Random and that it’s a great sadness that they’ve been forever banned by the Queen. Many citizens, however, say dice are dangerous and rightfully banished, and some will even go as far as to report anyone who says otherwise to the authorities. Luckily for Even, many have stopped believing that dice other than the Queen’s even exist—all to the extent that they’ll mistake Dicey (Even’s partner dice) for a little creature dressed up in a dice costume.
Most people share the common belief that their kingdom is safe and fair under the rolls of the Queen’s dark dice. Everyone has an equal chance and no one has to make really difficult life decisions—like who to be and where to live. Her Majesty will do that for you! What luck!
In the end, though, this is also a story about two sisters and their bond. What makes their bond so special and unique?
Even is anything but even-tempered; full of fire and emotion. What she lacks in patience, she makes up for in grit and determination. While she acts tough and doesn’t mind getting into a fight or two, there’s anxiety, insecurity, and fear hidden underneath. Odd has always been her guiding star, so Even sees no other choice than to follow her. Who is she without Odd by her side and how does she fit into this random world?
Odd has always been the cautious one, continuously getting Even out of trouble in Onecroft. She’s always had a strong moral compass and—having been bullied herself—she’s vowed to be kind to the people who haven’t been dealt a fair hand. She’s more forgiving than her sister Even, that way.
But what’s especially unique about the bond these sisters share is how it connects them even over great distances. Not long after Odd has been taken away, Even has a dream of her so vivid and real that she knows in her heart that something is very wrong. The dreams are Even and Odd’s way of staying in touch, and it keeps Even on track and determined to save her sister from the Queen’s terrible embrace. What’s more, you’ll get to play through them!
Exciting! Thank you so much for answering all these questions, Olov! Is there anything else you want to say to the world on behalf of the team?
Just that I’m so happy that we’re here at this point, at the gates of Random—our game completed and ready to be released. 3-4 years in the making, I haven’t been able to fully grasp it until now! The gang at Zoink thanks you for your support and we hope that you’ll enjoy your journey through the chaotic world we’ve created for you (yes, YOU!) and that it’ll leave you longing for more. Because we have a lot more that we’d love to explore.
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