I had the amazing opportunity to conduct an email interview with Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro, the White Owl Inc. CEO, about his debt repayment daily life RPG, The Good Life, that he’s hoping to bring to life via Kickstarter this month!
Welcome to Greenvale: This is your second crowdfunding campaign attempt for The Good Life as your first attempt through Fig was unfortunately unsuccessful. You’ve said that you learned quite a bit from that initial campaign how did your approach change with this second campaign through Kickstarter?
Swery: Embarrassingly, we didn’t know anything about crowdfunding when we started our previous campaign, so we made a lot of changes. There were four big ones, which I’ll talk about here.
Collaborating with partner companies: We’re now collaborating with several partners in order to ensure that we can develop and deliver a finished product to all our supporters. They aren’t just helping us gather funds, they’re also supporting us in a variety of ways, such as with PR, localization, debug, sales, and producing a Collector’s Edition. We believe that these partnerships will make our supporters feel more at ease and eager to participate in the campaign.
Currently, we’ve only announced our partnerships with Unties (Sony Music’s indies label) and Limited Run (announced on 4/4), but we intend to announce other powerful partners in the future.
A new initial goal: We decided to pursue funding in multiple ways, rather than solely relying on Kickstarter. This allowed us to set a more realistic goal this time around.
Improvements to graphics: We believe that we had completed a specific art style when we revealed it during our previous campaign. However, we received a lot of feedback, so we decided to pursue a beauty that would be more widely accepted. We also made big improvements to the graphics.
Normally, when you do crowdfunding for a game, you prepare one easy-to-understand concept. With the Good Life, however, we have multiple pillars that form a complex structure, because we’re trying to make a wholly unique game. Regretfully, in our previous campaign, we didn’t explain these in enough detail. Currently, we’re making preparations to explain the camera mechanics and the dog/cat transformation element in greater detail.
(via Armin Jaeger on Facebook): In retrospect, would you have preferred to use kickstarter in the first place already and why/why not?
Swery: I can’t really say I have a preference. If possible, I’d rather just fund my games completely with my own funds and not have to use crowdfunding at all.
Welcome to Greenvale: Just a few months after announcing your retirement from Access Games back in 2016 you started your own independent studio: White Owls Inc. What inspired you to return to game development so soon? Has running your own studio changed the way your approach making games?
Swery: I didn’t retire from Access Games because I didn’t enjoy making games anymore. Also, the period between that and me starting my new studio didn’t really feel that short to me. Finally, I have no intention to abandon my entire career and change the way I approach making games. I always approach creation from the same stance. But my ‘slogan’ now is that I just want to create new IP with White Owls and deliver games to everyone who’s waiting for them all over the world. Therefore, each White Owls staff member considers the games we make to be ‘theirs,’ and we put our hearts into every one of them. That’s a pretty big change, I think. I think it’s important that even staff members who only work on small parts of the game can proudly say that the game is theirs.
Welcome to Greenvale: You and Sharapova are quite a pair! How did you two meet?
Swery: That’s a private matter. (LOL) I’ll just say it was somewhere in Japan.
Welcome to Greenvale: I am a huge fan of Deadly Premonition and one of the main reasons why I keep returning to Greenvale after all these years is the staggering amount of details you put into the day to day lives of the town residents. In fact, I’m currently working on a “Let’s Play” of the Director’s Cut where I’m attempting to show off all the possible optional conversations you can have within the game…and man is there A LOT. I couldn’t believe how many conversations I’ve completely missed over the years just because I never thought to seek a character out in a particular chapter or weather condition!
So I was pretty damn excited to see that the lives of the townsfolk in The Good Life promise not only be similarly detailed but will also be be affected by the interactions with the player. The Kickstarter campaign mentioned that it’s possible to see a surprising couple start dating or see a certain character can become the mayor. Can you expand a bit on how this mechanic will work? Is the influence due to conversation choices you have with characters or is it a result of more indirect actions like where you spend most of your time and money within the town? Will Naomi also have an option to date any of the residents a feature seen in other life sim games?
Swery: Each NPC will have several ‘motivation’ parameters that will influence their actions and preferences. For example, let’s take the three primitive desires: hunger, sleepiness, and lust. When they’re hungry, their hunger motivation will trigger an action, and they’ll eat. But if they’re sleepier while they’re hungry, the sleepiness will win out, and the character will sleep. We have a lot of motivations planned, (For example, ‘I want to work’ and ‘I want to visit ___’) so you can expect all their basic actions to come from these parameter changes. We’re also going to make it so that player actions, interference, and actions between NPCs will also influence the parameters, making it impossible for us to anticipate how the motivation values will change. That’s the basic structure. How you use your money, who you spend your time with, and many other factors will all influence the townspeople.
Welcome to Greenvale: I really enjoyed the peeking mechanic in Deadly Premonition as it was really fun to see what characters would do on their own without York in the room. Will The Good Life have a similar game mechanic?
Swery: In The Good Life, Naomi (the main character) can turn into a cat or a dog. In those forms, she’ll be able to get near people without being noticed and see expressions that she otherwise wouldn’t be able to see. Thus, depending on how you play, you’ll be able to enjoy some voyeurism.
Welcome to Greenvale: I got to say that I am loving the new visual style of the game, it still has the simplistic graphics but the new lighting and textures really make it pop. In the latest video with Naomi strolling through Rainy Woods the town gives off a very whimsical and inviting vibe it’s hard to believe that such a gruesome murder could have taken place is such a lovely place! Just how much of Rainy Woods is available for players explore and interact with? Will Naomi be able to enter most of the buildings we see in the video?
Swery: Thank you! Our graphics team and programming team worked very hard on. To answer your question. the size and interactivity of Rainy Woods will all depend on how much funds we’re able to gather. If we can hit the goal quickly and get even more funds, we’ll be able to make Rainy Woods into an even better town.
Welcome to Greenvale: Speaking of the town what inspired you to set the game in a small English village? Is Rainy Woods based on any real world location you’ve visited?
Swery: There are two reasoons. The first is that as I worked on other mystery titles, I started to feel like I wanted to work on a proper, traditional mystery. I wanted to challenge myself with a world similar to what you see in Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle stories. That’s why I decided to set it in a rural English town.
The other reason is that when I was making Deadly Premonition, my producer at the time was transferred to England. He said he would come back in a few months, but ended up getting stuck there for 4 years. That was a big influence on the game. In short, the games I make are heavily influenced by everything I’ve experienced up to now.
Welcome to Greenvale: Near the end of the Fig campaign a dog version of The Good Life was offered as a late addition to the perks. Was a dog version of the Good Life always part of the game plan or was this option inspired by fan reactions sometime during the first crowdfunding campaign? Which version of the town do you think players should experience first?
Swery: The version of The Good Life in this Kickstarter campaign allows players to turn into both cats and dogs. In the beginning of the game, you’ll need to decide which one you’d rather transform into, but as you proceed through the game, you’ll unlock the ability to transform into both. In other words, you’ll need to learn how to use two completely different abilities in conjunction, much like a Zelda game. You’re also free to choose whichever one you like and play the game how you want.
Welcome to Greenvale: I’ve seen it mentioned on the Kickstarter comments that The Good Life will have some form of online play. Does this mean we might be able to visit and interact with our friend’s version of Rainy Woods or will there just be some kind of leader board as seen in the initial release of Deadly Premonition?
Swery: You’ll be able to visit other people’s towns. I want to make it so that players can take pictures there, and transform into a cat and dog and play tricks on people.
I want to extend a big thank you to Swery for taking time out of his busy PAX East weekend to to answer my questions and another big thank you to everyone who sent in their questions!
Unfortunately Swery didn’t have enough time to answer all the questions I sent him this time around but I’m hoping I will be able to put up a “part two” interview answering the rest some time in the future!
[Update: 04/11/2018] Swery sent in some more answers 🙂
Welcome to Greenvale: I’m pretty excited about the seasonal changes during the course of the game but it does have me wondering a bit about the effect the passage of time will have during the game. How long will each season last? Is it something that occurs organically through out the game after a certain amount of in-game days or just something that changes in-between big game events?
Swery: Time will flow across the course of an in-game day, and by repeating that 30 times, one month will pass. If you repeat that 12 times, one year will pass, and every few months, the season will change.
Welcome to Greenvale: Will there be any in-game consequences for taking too long to repay Naomi’s debt or solving the murder or the mystery behind Rainy Woods?
Swery: The story won’t move forward, so no more big events will happen. We also plan to add abilities and camera options that won’t become available until you push the story forward. But this game is a game filled with freedom. You can your life at your own pace and you’ll never be forced to progress the story. I want to let players play however they want to.
Welcome to Greenvale: Even though your game concepts can be categorized as unconventional they are actually grounded pretty firmly in reality when it comes to the little details. For example, during The Good Life’s first campaign the need for Naomi to buy sanitary goods once a month was mentioned as a “special expense” players will have to consider. It’s a normal expense in my own life but it’s something I’ve NEVER seen mentioned let alone forced on a player to even consider while in control of a female protagonist before.
Additionally the way alcohol consumption is handled is pretty unique as well. There’s a high rewards but if the player over indulges Naomi will develop a dependency for it. I’ve seen the short term effects of alcohol portrayed in games like blurry vision and being unsteady but I’ve never seen something like the long term consequence of “player chosen” alcoholism in a video game ever portrayed before.
It’s the highlight of these types of details usually ignored or glossed over in other games in your own games is part of the reason why I think a “Swery” game will always stands out in a crowd. What inspired you to include in these sort unconventional details in your games?
Swery: What inspired me? That’s a difficult question. When I was trying to add the beard growth element to Deadly Premonition, a lot of my staff members were against it. “There’s no point!” But in the end, it became a really fun element of the game. I guess that’s the answer. You’ll never know until you try it. Because it’s fun.
Welcome to Greenvale: Will The Good Life be fully voice acted?
Swery: No. Voices will only appear in a limited capacity, during cutscenes. Much like The Legend of Zelda, basic emotion voices and text dialog will be the basic structure of the game.
(via aliciasbakery on tumblr): Will the Good Life be connected to Deadly Premonition or D4 in any way?
Swery: “SWERY is the director.” There’s one connection.
(via MaxMoney on the “Friendly Premonition Discord”): Will there be any cooking mini games?
Swery: We haven’t decided on the details of any mini game yet. Currently, we’re planning to put in sheep shearing, mining, and bartending, but we’re going to have meetings and decide on more details in the future.
(via ‘MrWils’ ask Forrest Kaysen on the “Friendly Premonition Discord”): Will The Good Life get Linux support? (Since it’s made with unity)
Swery: No. We don’t have any plans for that at this time. It’ll only be compatible with Windows (STEAM).
(via Juliet Davie on Facebook): What will be included with the collectors edition of The Good Life?
Swery: We recently announced this, but here are the details:
- Kickstarter Exclusive Box (Embossed, with a completely unique design)
- Physical Game Disc (your choice of a PS4 or a PC version; PC version comes with a Steam key)
- Post Card (Scenery of Rainy Woods)
- Post Card (Letter from the team with SWERY’s & Mr. Futatsugi’s signatures)
- Rainy Woods Tourist Guide Leaflet (A4 size, tri-fold)
- Artbook (A bit smaller than A5)
- Trading Cards (Characters / Dogs / Cats)
- Soundtrack CD
Welcome to Greenvale: The plot of The Good Life actually sounds a lot like the murder mystery novel you’ve been working on: I am Not a Cat (Working Title). Any updates on the status of the novel? Can we expect publication any time soon?
Swery: The second draft of my novel is finished, but I’m currently discussing the content with my current publisher. Once I get more news, I’ll let you know.
(via Greenvale on tumblr): Are there any characters from other media who had an influence on Naomi’s personality or design?
Swery: It’s hard to pin down a character as an influence. Rose, the pizza delivery lady from “Oscar and the Lady in Pink” really had an impact on me. I think she’s a great character, so try giving that film a watch.
(via Armin Jaeger on Facebook): As Forrest Kaysen is a recurring character in some of your games, can we expect to meet him in The Good Life as well?
Swery: Once this campaign hits its goal and gets released, try searching for him.
(via Armin Jaeger on Facebook): Compared to your previous works, The Good Life looks like it might be intended for a younger audience as well. Will there – again – be more adult oriented themes as well, or will it indeed be more lighthearted and less dark compared to the previous games?
Swery: By deftly mixing cute graphics, a deep story, and reality, I’m trying to create a new type of SWERY story. That’s why I started a tag team with Grounding, a very powerful partner. Their dev abilities and art are truly amazing. I can really count on them.