Well, not quite alone, from the comfort of our laptop we spoke with Benjamin Rivers about his Vita titles.
Benjamin Rivers is the developer of Home: A Unique Horror Adventure and he is currently working on Alone with You, so we spoke to him about his newest title and working with the Vita.
Hi Ben! Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. How did you get into developing games?
A whole bunch of would-be developers here in Toronto stumbled into a perfect storm of community support, new initiatives, availability of development middleware and burgeoning digital platforms back in 2007 and 2008. I was one of the foolhardy folks who thought they had a chance at finally being a game developer, and thankfully my stubbornness (along with the aforementioned factors) helped make it true.
Your next Vita project is Alone with You. What can you tell us about the game?
I’m calling it a “sci-fi romance adventure” — it’s an exploratory, narrative-focused adventure game with a very oddball dating element that I think people will find surprisingly intriguing. If my previous game, Home, was a monologue, then Alone With You is a conversation — between you and the AI you work with, as well as the holographic colonists with whom you share more intimate moments. Imagine playing a point-and-click adventure game with Persona Lite thrown in, and you’re halfway there. But true to form, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.
Can you tell us what to expect in terms of gameplay?
Similar to Home, Alone With You is all about exploring an environment. It’s less linear, though, and as you choose story-based missions, you learn more about the doomed terraforming colony you’re trying to escape, as well as the people who lived there. You’ll scan things using your trusty all-purpose scanning device, and the AI will synthesize that information and tell you more about whatever you’re looking at. But of course, since the colony is on its last legs, getting around won’t always be straightforward, so you’ll have to think your way through some obstacles to get the items you need. All the while, you’ll be chatting with the AI, answering questions and making decisions, and seeing the repercussions of those choices in, I hope, surprising ways.
You are also developing a PS4 version. Will there be any notable differences between the two? Will you be using any of the Vita inputs at all?
The structure of the game is being designed to feel comfortable both on the big screen and on Vita. So on Vita, its mission-based system means you can play in small chunks and not feel pressured to keep going if you want to put it down for a bit. I want the Vita version to feel like a good book that you chip away at when you have time (although it will be small enough that you can plow through the game in one longer sitting too — a real page-turner, I hope!). I am also hoping to throw a few surprises in there for Vita owners, but I don’t want to spoil anything just yet.
Lately we have experienced many delays to Vita versions of PSN games. Can we expect both versions of Alone with You together?
Oh boy! That’s a loaded question, and I honestly won’t be able to tell you until closer to launch. 🙂 The ideal is that both versions launch day and date with each other, but with such a small team, resources are precious, and it will all depend!
What games have inspired you during development?
Alone With You is meant to feel like a weird old Sega CD game, with its vibrant colour palette, full-screen cutscenes and unique take on 2D art. I am always and forever inspired by the laser-focused, mind-expanding narrative games of my youth, including obvious touchstones like Another World.
How have you found developing for the Vita? Would you recommend it to other developers that have not brought any titles over yet?
Well, the game is being developed as PS4 first (because it’s just easier to test on), but because I’m using Game Maker Studio, playing it on Vita is, for the most part, just a compile button away. The Vita is a wonderful little system, but of course developers have to be careful of where they place their resources, and what they’re making. I think a PS4/Vita combo is the way to go. Having those PlayStation-quality controls and that nice big screen sure make it a wonderful system to play your own game on.
Home has recently launched. How have you found the reception to the game?
Fantastic! Home on PlayStation, as you know, is not the first iteration of that game, but I was honestly surprised at the appetite for it from the PlayStation community. Vita owners seem to really love it — I mean, they are very passionate about it — although it’s on PS4 where it’s seeing the lion’s share of sales. Compared to other platforms, the positive vibes and genuine curiosity in the game has been a very pleasant discovery.
Is there anything you have learned from Home’s release that will help with Alone with You?
Ohhhh yes. Everything. What to do, what not to do — that, especially. Home was a hilarious comedy of errors as I ran the trials of becoming a game developer live, in real time. With Alone With You I have been much more prepared and organized, although it too is providing lots of curveballs and challenges. The biggest lesson I learned was that working with a team may prevent possible madness. Ask your doctor.
What Vita experiences have impressed you the most?
I was surprised how much I enjoyed zoning out to Proteus on my Vita with headphones, especially in a crowded environment, or at a park. And of course, my 60+ hours in Persona 4 Golden represent my best moments with the system.
Will we see any more Vita games from you in the future?
That certainly depends! I love the little guy and I hope there’s a place for original independent titles on it for a long time to come. The idea of making games that feel different depending on location is one that continues to interest me, so I hope so!
We would like to thank Benjamin for his time! We will bring you more news as we have it, in the mean time stay tuned to the official website! Did you buy Home? Looking forward to Alone with You? Let us know in the comments!
This interview first appeared in the sixth issue of The Vita Lounge Magazine. Stay tuned to the magazine for more exclusive and magazine first content soon!