While not a runaway hit, the debut game of French studio The Game Bakers, titled Furi, was received well both by critics (including our Kai) and fans, with an overwhelmingly positive user review score on Steam.
Four years later, the studio is preparing the release of a new game called Haven. However, whereas Furi was all about boss fights, Haven is an entirely different beast. It will be centered on the loving relationship between Yu and Kay, who have decided to elope but now find themselves stranded on a forgotten planet.
We interviewed Creative Director Emeric Thoa to discuss the new project from the French studio. Haven is set to release this year on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.
When trying to explain why you didn't just make a Furi sequel, you mentioned the goal to surprise players and to deliver innovative experiences. Does that mean you're not planning to ever make sequels to your games, as a general rule?
Precisely. Unless it is a game that is thought from scratch as a saga over several games, I don’t think sequels are creatively interesting. And I would even add that, unless your game is a really massive hit, they are not commercially interesting either. They are easy and sometimes cheap because you already have the tools and vision of the game, but they don’t stand out, which is the key to success in such a crowded environment.
Following the demo, what kind of improvements have you made to Haven, and which ones stemmed specifically from user feedback?
We mostly focused on finishing the rest of the game! We did listen to the player feedback though, and lots of small improvements regarding accessibility (difficulty tweaks, controls rebind, comfort options and so on), as well as polish the visuals and boost the performances. But players liked the demo, so there was nothing huge to change!
Will the dialogue choices eventually lead the relation and/or overall story in different directions?
The dialogue choices have consequences to the current dialogue itself, and some choices impact the ending, but it’s not a game with big story branchings. The choice for Haven was to have a well-written story about two “defined” characters, rather than go hard on interactive narration. To be honest, should it be for narration or level design, I’ve always preferred handcrafter over procedural.
Why do you think that relationship-focused games (with the exception of visual novels, perhaps) aren't really common?
That’s a mystery to me. When we pitched Haven to publishers, early on in development, some of them said to us that we should make it a “boy meets girl” story. They thought it had more tension, that it was stronger. They really missed the point that an established relationship story is strong precisely because it doesn’t exist. Yet, a lot of people can relate to that. I don’t understand why it’s not more present in video games or even movies.
How long will it take to complete Haven on average?
I’d say average 12 hours, for a normal playthrough without exploring everything. Initially, I wanted to make it a 6 hours game, because I think we need more “short and impactful games”. But hey, we had lots of ideas and it kinda stretched a little.
You recently announced that Haven will be available on PlayStation 5, too. Are you targeting the launch window for this platform?
We don’t know when it’s going to launch precisely. We are still aiming to launch Haven in 2020 so that might end up being a pretty good fit, yeah.
Having worked on the PlayStation 5, which do you believe to be the system's strengths and weaknesses (if any)? Also, are you going to enhance Haven through the PS5 hardware and if so, how?
We are at the veeeeery early steps of working on PS5. It’s a bit early for me to say. We will of course try to make the best use of the PS5 new hardware and features. One thing that’s the most exciting to me is to use the new gamepad haptic features and a 120FPS framerate to make gliding as smooth as possible.
How will the PS5 version of Haven stack up against the PC one at max settings?
I have no idea at the moment. Haven is not especially a “tech benchmark game”. So I guess the difference is going to be thin. It’s going to be a moving and unique story on all platforms!
The game is also coming to Xbox One. What about Xbox Series X, though?
We are aiming to bring Haven on as many platforms as we can.
Feel free to add anything else you might believe to be worth mentioning about Haven and The Game Bakers.
One thing I like to add about the game is that it’s a solo game designed to welcome a co-op partner. It’s not necessarily a co-op game. People tend to think they MUST play it co-op, but it is not mandatory. But of course, we’d love to hear that it’ll make couples share a moment together!
Thank you for your time.