Building Better Sandboxes: An Interview with Aleš Ulm of Ylands

We recently chatted with Aleš Ulm, the Project Lead for Ylands, a new sandbox game from Bohemia Interactive, makers of Arma and DayZ.

Written by Steve Cullum / Published on May 10, 2017

We recently chatted with Aleš Ulm, the Project Lead for Ylands, a new sandbox game from Bohemia Interactive, makers of Arma and DayZ. Ylands is both a sandbox game and a platform for making custom scenarios, ranging from simple levels to sophisticated adventures. Some examples of what can be achieved with Ylands’ Scenario Editor can be seen here.

 

What is Ylands?

Ylands is a sandbox game where you can explore various islands and build but it’s also a platformer where you can create your own games. It has visual scripting which lets you create your own skirmishes and scenarios—basically we give players the tools to create their own games.

 

What separates it from similar games like Minecraft?

"I want players to start thinking, ‘I could create something like this. I could even do something better.’"
The editor is super easy to use. Also the level of interactivity we provide is pretty unique—we created visual scripting that is really powerful and yet easy to use so you can pretty much affect everything in the game. You can do crazy stuff like placing a trigger zone in your level so that when you enter it you can make all trees grow or buildings appear—there are all kinds of possibilities.

 

Am I right in thinking that the game is designed to get young people thinking about making games?

The CEO of Bohemia Interactive and I both have kids and we thought it would be cool to play something with them. Something that lets them be creative and think about game design without all the technical vocabulary. We like the idea of games that both kids and adults can play. It’s even better if they can play together. I’ve already created some things for my kids and it’s great to see them enjoy it. It’s also helpful for me as a designer—particularly when they struggle with things which often helps me to see that I designed something poorly.

 

If there was one thing you hope players get out of their time with Ylands, what would it be?

I would like them to begin playing the game without thinking about the editing part. After some time with the game, I want players to start thinking, “I could create something like this. I could even do something better.” We expect them to do stuff that would surprise us. There are definitely players out there who can design better scenarios than we can with our own tools—we are looking forward to seeing and playing those.

 

It’s all about putting the tools the in the players hands and see what happens?

Exactly.

 

So a little more personal question. Why do you make games?

I always wanted to make games. I started with Commodore 64 and got hooked. At some point as I was deciding whether I would get a regular job, and I decided with a friend to try and make a game. We didn’t have any experience—he was an artist but we didn’t know anything about programming so I started learning.  We got some money from our parents and ever since then we’ve been making games. As we have done so, the games have gotten bigger and bigger and we moved through different companies and now we are with Bohemia Interactive.

You can do a lot with these games but I think its quite interesting when I show some of the old Commodore 64 games to my kids, they still enjoy it. They look different. Todays games look better but I guess its still about fun.

 

When can we expect Ylands to hit PC?

Right now you can get the game on our online store: Ylands.com. This summer we are heading to Steam—we will shoot for 3-6 months in early access and hope to have the full game release sometime in the winter.

 

Will there be future expansions?
It doesn’t end for us with the game being released, that is just when it starts. We have a huge list of features that we want to implement. This is really just the beginning. We are just scratching the surface of what we want to do.

About the Author:

Steve is a youth pastor as well as a gamer. You can find more from him on Twitter (@stevecullum), as a senior editor of NintendoFuse.com, and on his personal/ministry blog at stevecullum.com.