Will O’Neill is the developer behind the adult-themed and extremely emotive Actual Sunlight. We spoke to him about his inspiration for the game and working with the Vita.
Hi Will! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us! Can you tell us a little bit about why you got into developing games?
I’ve been a pretty hardcore PC gamer since the early 90s, as well as a writer. It was a combination that was a long time in the making, and certainly depended on the emergence of tools that made it very easy to get started in game development, but I felt strongly that a game was the right medium for this story. I hope others will agree!
Actual Sunlight has recently launched for the Vita. Can you explain what the game is about?
Actual Sunlight is thematically about love, depression and the corporation. Up close, however, it’s an interactive character study of Evan Winter – the main character – and the life that he lives. Topics like video game addiction, unsatisfying work and difficulties in relationships are at the forefront of it. It involves a lot of reading, but I think a lot of it is stuff that players will relate to immediately.
What games, if any, did you draw on when creating Actual Sunlight?
I’m a big fan of the oppressive atmospheres of games like Silent Hill 2, but games like Christine Love’s Digital: A Love Story were the kinds of things that convinced me that a game with such an overwhelming amount of reading could be effective while also featuring great art and music.
The game has some very strong emotive narration. Was there a reason you chose to go down this road?
The story is essentially autobiographical. I was really motivated by not feeling like the experience of being the kind of person I am – overweight, disengaged from close relationships, and more – was realistically represented in media across the board. I want to show it with as much rawness and honesty as possible.
What made you want to bring the game to the PS Vita?
I love how the Vita has become a friendly harbour for visual novels, adventure games and other narrative-intensive genres. I also like the idea of Actual Sunlight as something you can take to a comfortable spot, sit down, and go through the entire thing in a single session.
The game has so far only been released in the NA market. Are you working on bringing it to other regions?
Because it was released on Steam already, I think I have a decent sense of how the game will do in Europe based on how it does in North America. If it makes sense to do, I’d love to do it! I don’t foresee bringing it to Japan unless it performs spectacularly well, as that would require undertaking a Japanese translation.
since this interview was completed, the game received a release date and is now available in certain EU regions.
How did you find developing for the Vita?
It was challenging – especially given that I navigated the vast majority of the process on my own! – but Sony was an excellent partner. Nick Suttner in particular is probably a name you hear a lot when talking to indies about publishing to PS, and let me say: He is the real deal. An amazing guy who genuinely advocates for indie development over there.
What games have impressed you on the handheld? Is there anything that you are looking forward to?
I love a lot of games on Vita and PSP alike. Obvious ones are story-driven titles like P4 Golden, Danganronpa, Virtue’s Last Reward and Sweet Fuse. Still, if I’m being honest, my favourite PS Vita game of all time would be Valkyria Chronicles 2! Jeanne D’Arc is boss, too.
Are you working on anything new? And would you want to bring your next game to the Vita?
My next game is entitled Little Red Lie, and it’s a contemporary adventure game about debt, family, and the truth about honesty. Definitely another heavy, harsh and reading-intensive title. It’s too early to say where it’ll go after its PC foundation, but I would love to bring it to a Sony console!
Do you have anything that you want to say to the Vita audience?
I’d like to say thanks! Since announcing the game, the Vita audience has been extremely receptive to the concept of the game, and I’ve received many messages of support. It’s a very different and unique experience than what you may be used to, but I firmly believe this is the first game quite like it that has ever been released on a major console. Pick it up and settle in for a little footnote in history!
We would like to thank Will for his time. You can follow him on Twitter! Actual Sunlight is out now on the NA Store, and certain EU regions.
This interview first appeared in issue five of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more exclusive content soon!