Haven Interview – Lost But Together

Creative director Emeric Thoa speaks with GamingBolt about their beautiful looking upcoming RPG.

Posted By | On 15th, Jul. 2019 Under Article, Interviews | Follow This Author @shubhankar2508


The Game Bakers released their action shooter Furi for the first time in 2016, and immediately caught the eye of countless people. Now, with their second project, they’re doing something completely different. Where Furi was fast, Haven is serene. Where Furi was frantic, Haven is meditative. Where Furi was intense, Haven is contemplative. One thing both games share- they both look gorgeous.

Recently, we sent across some of our questions about the beautiful looking upcoming RPG, looking to learn more (a lot more) about it and the ins and outs of the experience it promises to deliver. Scroll on to read our conversation with the game’s creative director and co-founder of The Game Bakers, Emeric Thoa.

Haven

"I have noticed that it’s more and more common to watch someone play. Haven extends that experience by inviting someone to participate, but it’s not a game designed around co-op on purpose."

You’ve mentioned that Haven is an RPG that can be played both solo and co-op, but given its premise, is it a game you would recommend for co-op play more?

Haven is first and foremost a solo game. But at any time, another player can jump in and share the experience (local). It’s a solo RPG first: everything is designed to be played solo, and there is some text to read. But it’s very welcoming to be played in duo. Combat requires synchronization from the two players, and exploration and story choices require the players to agree to move forward.

I have noticed that it’s more and more common to watch someone play. Haven extends that experience by inviting someone to participate, but it’s not a game designed around co-op on purpose. Games that rely on co-op have the tendency to put stress on the less skilled player. Overcooked is a masterpiece, but it brings its share of stress, right? I wanted to avoid that. Is Journey a co-op game? I don’t know, but Haven is probably closer to that kind of feeling: exploring and progressing together.

How did you land on what sort of an art style to go for with Haven (which looks absolutely incredible, by the way)?

For the characters, we wanted 2D portraits with a lot of expression. It’s not a common skill among artists to draw characters you feel empathy for. Most of the time, even super skilled artists who can make kick ass character design can’t draw faces that move you. Koyorin is very good at that and that’s why contacted them initially.

For the game world, we wanted to communicate a strong feeling of freedom. A valley of high grass and flying rocks. There are no trees or things that bring “noise” in the environment. You must feel free to glide without getting stuck on anything. And then there is the rust, the pink layer that covers the ground and that you can erase with flow. It brings contrast to the landscape and a very satisfying feeling when cleaning it.

Conceptually, Haven looks like a completely different beast that your previous game- is this an idea that’s been brewing for a long time?

I have always wanted to make a game that had a love story at its core. The characters are really important in the game. It’s really about them, about what they fight for. But as a game itself, Haven took its time to hatch. We started prototyping the gliding gameplay, then we cut it, and we brought it back a year later! For the best.

haven

"The biggest thing I have learned over the years is that we have to surprise players. If we are making something new, it must stand out. It’s almost an indie survival rule. Bigger teams are going to make bigger games, better production values, more content. It’s David versus Goliath, we can’t fight with the same weapons or we’ll loose. We must create something new, original, surprising, that will create long lasting memories for the players. Haven shares that intention with Furi."

Following on from the previous question, Haven is of course looking quite different from Furi, but is there anything you learned from the development of your previous title that you’ve applied here as well?

The biggest thing I have learned over the years is that we have to surprise players. If we are making something new, it must stand out. It’s almost an indie survival rule. Bigger teams are going to make bigger games, better production values, more content. It’s David versus Goliath, we can’t fight with the same weapons or we’ll loose. We must create something new, original, surprising, that will create long lasting memories for the players. Haven shares that intention with Furi. I have played a lot of games but I have never played a game with a relatable couple as its core. All the rest comes from that: exploration, combat, world building, music. And it makes something really unique.

Is this a game that will place much of a focus on exploration?

It kinda does. But exploration is a taboo word for me, because I don’t see that as a game mechanic. There is no skill involved, you can’t really explore well or badly, you can’t really improve at exploring. That’s why gliding was super important: even if you are a gold medalist skier, you can enjoy riding a blue track on a sunny day. Exploration in Haven is not about what you find, but about that satisfying feeling of moving forward smoothly.

What can you tell us about the combat mechanics in Haven?

You control both characters at the same time. It’s not turn-based, but not completely real time either. You load orders for each character by holding buttons, and they launch their action when you release. Playing well requires tactic and synchronization, to either chain attacks or combine them. Again, the inputs were designed around creating something with a satisfying rhythm. I like to say it is “sensual”.

haven

"The soundtrack is made by Danger, so yes, you can expect a very strong soundtrack. What’s really interesting is that it’s going to have a broader range of styles. All of it is electronic music with a little synthwave vibe, but not only that. Some tracks are have a disco-funk influence, some other a “dance” vibe."

Thanks to Furi, a strong soundtrack is something that people now expect from your games- what sort of an auditory experience is Haven going for, especially considering its setting and visual style?

The soundtrack is made by Danger, so yes, you can expect a very strong soundtrack. What’s really interesting is that it’s going to have a broader range of styles. All of it is electronic music with a little synthwave vibe, but not only that. Some tracks are have a disco-funk influence, some other a “dance” vibe. I’m really excited to share more of the music, I know the players are waiting for it!

Will Haven have any degree of character customization?

I’d love to bring the ability to choose different clothes, but it’s still in the backlog of features. Haven is the story of two very specific characters, so customization can break the consistency if we are not careful.

What resolution and frame rate does the game run at on Xbox One X and PS4 Pro?

I can’t commit to anything yet, because we have not finished the optimization yet, but on these specific consoles, I am 99% sure we can achieve 60 FPS at 1080p. The game does not support 4K but because of its art direction, wouldn’t really benefit from it (like a photo realistic game would, for instance).

Both the PS5 and Xbox Scarlett are now confirmed to have SSDs. How will this help you to improve game performance?

Well, I’m not used to design around technology. I focus on content and try to make it stand out with the technology I have. So to me, it’s not going to be a huge difference – as a developer. But as a player, faster loading times: I like.

The PS5 and Xbox Scarlett will both have a Zen 2 CPU processor, which is a major leap over the CPUs found in the PS4 and Xbox One. How will this help you in developing games of the future?

I can’t really tell yet. We’re probably going to put more stuff in the game until it’s 10 FPS and unplayable and then optimize, like always.

haven

"Fighting for the spotlight in the current generation of consoles is already tough, so I have no idea how we’ll be able to get visibility for games already on the store for years. I don’t think remasters will stop existing, and they’ll be new products. But I’m happy for backward compatibility, it’s really a great feature for the players and for niche games."

Backwards compatibility is a big feature for both new consoles. How will it help your past library to evolve and grow?

Well, fighting for the spotlight in the current generation of consoles is already tough, so I have no idea how we’ll be able to get visibility for games already on the store for years. I don’t think remasters will stop existing, and they’ll be new products. But I’m happy for backward compatibility, it’s really a great feature for the players and for niche games.


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