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Unravel’s Martin Sahlin on Yarny and the connection already formed with fans

While speaking with Unravel’s Martin Sahlin’s at PAX AUS, the developer stressed just how important Yarny is to the game.

Playing Unravel for the first time, I noted that the game featured a darker tone than I originally thought; Yarny himself isn’t immune to this either. When stretched thin – quite literally, when he’s almost out of yarn himself – the poor li’l fella looks emaciated and horribly depressed. Sahlin said that was definitely intentional.

“The design was on purpose,” Sahlin began. “Yarny is the link to the game; where the connection happens. The game is very much about empathy and love, and Yarny is that bond. We’ve done so much to do that; there are so many layers to make Yarny a living, breathing character.”

As in life, poor Yarny has to take the good with the bad.

“One of my favourite stories to tell happened at Gamescom, where Brian [Houston was demoing the game and] killed Yarny on stage,” Sahlin said. “It wasn’t part of the plan, but it was good. Everyone in the audience gasped when [Yarny] was in danger.”

The fact that the audience cared so much about the character – especially before the game he’s in has even been released – means that Coldwood is doing their job. But, truthfully – the audience didn’t form that connection Sahlin speaks of at Gamescom – it was formed all the way back at Yarny’s introduction at E3 this year.

“It was overwhelming,” Sahlin said of the Unravel reveal.

“I mean, leading up to that moment, I kind of figured people would like it. I knew it was good; I knew it was pretty nice,” he said, adding that he knew just how humble he was sounding.

“At E3, people got it and then some. I thought it would be well-received, but there’s no way to prepare for that. People were drawing fan art; I had to turn all the notifications on my phones off because the notifications wouldn’t stop, and each one was nicer than the last.”

I couldn’t help but remark that scenario is unheard of on the internet – usually, people are forced to turn their phones off due to abuse rather than praise.

Regardless, Sahlin was visibly excited about being able to show off the game, taking to the PAX AUS show floor as often as possible just to interact with fans. Selfies with Yarny were a hot ticket this past weekend.

“For me, it’s been such a long journey; working on it for two years, I had to carry it close to my heart. When I finally got to show it off, it was like Christmas morning – look at this beautiful gift I made for you,” Sahlin summarised. “Game development is a very emotional process – you put so much of yourself into it. Every game is a journey. I love playing games, but I really love making them because of that journey; that experience.”

Unravel will be available next year on Xbox One and PS4.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for the past ten years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.

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