Small town, big secrets.
Last year, Hidetaka 'Swery' Suehiro--the creator of Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die--launched a crowdfunding campaign on Fig for a new project called The Good Life. Focusing on the exploits of a New York photojournalist in serious debt, the lead character Naomi travels to the secluded small town of Rainy Woods where she finds herself investigating the murder of one of the town's residents. Things aren't what they seem in the idyllic small town, with any one of the town's citizens being a suspect. Also, many of Rainy Woods' residents--including Naomi--just so happen to transform into animals on certain evenings.
As a quasi-open world RPG, you would be able to interact with many of the locals, learn their behaviors, and take pictures of the strange happenings around town. While the concept showed promise, the Fig crowdfunding campaign was unsuccessful. Undeterred by this, the developers at White Owls went back to work on the game, improving many of the in-game systems and mechanics, while also giving the game more detailed visuals that still retain the stylized look.
During GDC 2018, Hidetaka 'Swery' Suehiro gave GameSpot an advance look at the game before its relaunch on Kickstarter--which is now live. During our talk, he described just what changed after his last attempt, and how he determined he is to make The Good Life into a full game..
"The Good Life is a product of someone like me who likes to think about strange and weird ideas, but is still able to make them into real products that people can experience," said Suehiro. "One of the things I've been really surprised by in the current creative process is that I come up with some strange abstract idea, and the team can make it happen within a matter of days for our future planning on the game. There's a lot of aspects about this game that speak to me, but one thing that I like is that you can play as a cat. It's something I've always wanted to do in a game. Another thing I like is that you're playing as a female character, and that's something I haven't done for my previous games before. With Naomi, you can do all the mundane and strange things you want to do, which is what interests me. I've always had male leads in the past, so I'm glad to change things up for this game."
One thing that the developers felt they didn't succeed at with the previous campaign was offering a clear vision of what The Good Life is about. While the broader ideas were there, the creatives felt that the previous crowdfunding effort was too vague and didn't show enough of a materialized product. In the months after the previous attempt, White Owls spent time on developing the game into a playable state. This not only allowed them to create a more fully realized game, but also garnered the attention of outside partners to help fund the game. With a Kickstarter goal of $650,000--as opposed to the original Fig goal of $1,500,000--the developers feel that expectations are far more modest and realistic.
In addition to refining the base concept and vision, the developers also worked on improving the game's graphics and AI systems. Running on the Unity engine, the team behind The Good Life focused on creating a greater sense of visual fidelity for the game. With the expanded AI systems, Swery felt that this would give greater belieability to the town's dynamic. Moreover, the developers claim that the added interactions and NPCs with their own individual schedules will create more unique moments for players--potentially altering the true suspect of the game's murder-mystery plot. Also, the game's creator took the opportunity to add in the ability for the lead character Naomi to turn into a dog, instead of only just the cat--which he claimed was due to an outpouring of requests from his dog fans.
With the Kickstarter campaign now live, Suehiro and the developers at White Owls feel they have a better shot at making The Good Life happen. The game manages to bring in similar themes and motifs from past Swery titles--a small town, weird people, and an even weirder premise--while placing them in a setting that feels oddly charming. While the game is planned for a late 2019 release, this is all dependent on the Kickstarter's success. With that said, the developers still vow to continue on with the game even if the game doesn't succeed on Kickstarter. For Swery, he felt that the opportunity to make a game like this was too good to pass up.
"As a creator, I have this innate desire to make something," said Swery. "When I look back on the original crowdfunding campaign for The Good Life, we recognized we made a lot of mistakes. It would be a missed opportunity to just walk away from that as once time experience, and because we have that passion we're willing to come back to the table and state that this is the thing we're doing better, and these are the things we've learned. And another thing is that online community has been really inspiring for us, and they've really pushed us to move forward with this project. Even though the last campaign didn't succeed, it still excited a lot of people to the point where we're people are sending us pictures of their cats and dogs on twitter. I just feel very compelled to take this to the finish line."