The eccentric mind of Hidetaka Suehiro, better known as “Swery”, has producers some excellent video games over the years, telling riveting tales in unique ways, from Deadly Premonition to D4: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. He’s now opened up a new studio, called White Owls, and with his team he’s working on their debut project. The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Interviews is a beautiful looking side-scrolling platformer that seems to have the same narrative focus and tilt that Swery’s games are usually known for, but is also looking to introduce some unique gameplay mechanics as a means to tell its story. Recently, we conducted an interview with Swery about his upcoming game- here’s what he had to say about it.
"I was faced with many personal challenges within my life, which enlightened me to having an open mind and to see things from various perspectives. As a result, the concept of having someone/something “missing” became a sort of an objective within me that held many facets and complexities. This led me to incorporating this concept into the game."
What made you want to explore the concept of something/someone missing in the first place?
The Missing will mark our very first product to have ever been created entirely within my newly established studio, White Owls. With this being our first release, I wanted to create a game based on something which could offer depth and perspective.
I was faced with many personal challenges within my life, which enlightened me to having an open mind and to see things from various perspectives. As a result, the concept of having someone/something “missing” became a sort of an objective within me that held many facets and complexities. This led me to incorporating this concept into the game.
There’s a certain message I have in the game at the very beginning that may already have been read by those who have seen or played the game build. That particular message holds everything that I feel and hold towards the game.
What exactly will gameplay consist of in The Missing?
You will play a character who, for some reason, cannot be killed. You will be navigating this character using your body parts to explore and solve puzzles in a side-scrolling game world. You use various actions, such as using your dismembered arm to reach certain items, or navigate your head through narrow passages, to find your missing friend.
The character is able to use a special ability that allows you to fully recover yourself instantly, so you may encounter instances where you actually have to fall into traps in order to progress through the world.
What brought about the collaboration with Arc Systems for this project?
The very first person I discussed with when establishing my studio, White Owls, was none other than Arc System Works’ president, Mr. [Minoru] Kidooka. We knew each other from awhile back, and spoke about making a game together, so when I made my studio, I decided to go and take his word to make our very first game.
It wasn’t an easy task as I made quite a number of plans, but I wanted to make a game that would hallmark the coming of a “new SWERY,” so I crafted this project to show that I’m not concentrating on the story alone. The game would have to also have depth in its gameplay, but make it very easy for players to understand the game mechanics.
I believe that The Missing is a great representation of what the game world of SWERY is about, with a re-imagination of Arc System Works’ action games added to the fold.
From what we saw in the trailer for the game, it doesn’t seem like it fits neatly into any genre. Still, what genre would best describe the game?
The genre is “SWERISM”!
When can we expect to hear more about this project?
You can be sure that we will be releasing the game within 2018! So we will be making sure that more information goes out to everyone to get to know The Missing. Be sure to check out my Twitter account and The Missing’s official website, too!
What platforms do you plan to release this game on?
I’m very excited to say that the game will be released on all the major platforms – PC, PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch! This game also marks the first time I will be releasing a game across all major platforms, too!
Since the game was first revealed back in February, we haven’t heard much about it. Why have you held off on revealing more to the public?
As mentioned earlier, The Missing marks the very first game to be developed and released by my studio, White Owls. Because of being new to the scene, I wanted to showcase the game closer to completion so that everyone can get a better idea of what and who we are, and to get a glimpse into the kind of games and styles we are adopting.
The game is a bit “edgy,” so to speak, where you use your own body parts in order to clear various puzzles. Because of this, I decided now would be about the best time to start disclosing information by allowing the game to be played by some in the public. I wanted to avoid relaying what the game is about simply through words and visuals.
Are there any challenges you’ve faced during the game’s development?
This is the very first platformer I’ve developed, but I wanted to ensure that the game could be played with minimal cut scenes to keep the coherency of the game world. This led me to explore the concept of depicting emotions and expressions through the character’s movement and actions.
What this meant was that we needed to develop a huge amount of character actions and motions with the proper rigs on them for fluidity. It’s hard to explain, but in simplicity, just J.J., the player character, has 20 characters worth of motions that would be used in conventional action fighting games.
"I researched many other side-scrolling games and asked for advice from many of those within the field. I even got tips from Mr. [Koji] Igarashi, who worked on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, on making backgrounds that would scroll smoothly and beautifully in the game."
What are some of the main inspirations you’ve drawn from when creating this game?
I researched many other side-scrolling games and asked for advice from many of those within the field. I even got tips from Mr. [Koji] Igarashi, who worked on Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, on making backgrounds that would scroll smoothly and beautifully in the game.
I also made the story and theme of the game from various life experiences, extending from my family, my friends, my project team, and of course myself. In fact, you can say that all the games I have made and will make will stem from various approaches in what is found in life itself.