While not a runaway hit, French studio The Game Bakers’ debut game, Furi, was well received by critics (including our Kai) and fans alike, with an overwhelmingly positive user review score on Steam.
Four years later, the studio is preparing to release a new game called Haven. But while Furi was all about boss fights, Port is a completely different beast. It will be all about the loving relationship between Yu and Kay, who have decided to play chess but are now trapped on a forgotten planet.
We interviewed Creative Director Emeric Thoa to discuss the French studio’s new project. Haven will be released this year on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch.
When you tried to explain why you didn’t just make a Furi sequel, you mentioned the goal of surprising players and delivering innovative experiences. Does this mean that you generally don’t intend to ever follow up on your games?
Exactly. Unless it’s a game conceived from scratch as a multi-game saga, I don’t think sequel is creatively creative. And I would even add that unless your game is a huge hit, they are not commercially interesting either. They’re easy and sometimes cheap because you already have the game’s tools and vision, but they don’t stand out, which is the key to success in such a busy environment.
What improvements did you make in Haven after the demo, and which came specifically from user feedback?
We mainly focused on finishing the rest of the game! We did listen to the player’s feedback and many minor improvements related to accessibility (difficulty issues, rebind controls, comfort options and so on), as well as improving the visuals and improving performance. But players loved the demo, so there was nothing big to change!
Will the dialogue choices eventually lead the relationship and / or the overall story in different directions?
The dialogue choices have implications for the current dialogue itself, and some choices affect the ending, but it is not a game with ramifications of big stories. The choice for Haven was to have a well-written story about two ‘defined’ characters, rather than going for interactive narrative. To be honest, when it comes to narrative or level design, I’ve always preferred hand crafters over procedural.
Why do you think relationship-oriented games (with the exception of visual novels perhaps) aren’t really common?
That’s a mystery to me. When we pitch Haven for publishers early in development, some of us said we should turn it into 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 because it doesn’t exist. Yet many people can relate to that. I don’t understand why it is no longer present in video games or even movies.
How long does it take to complete Haven on average?
I’d say 12 hours on average, for a normal playthrough without researching everything. At first I wanted to make it a 6 hour game, because I think we need more “short and impressive games”. Anyway, we had a lot of ideas and it stretched a bit.
You recently announced that Haven will also be available on PlayStation 5. Are you targeting the launch pad for this platform?
We don’t know when exactly it will start. We are still striving to launch Haven in 2020, so that could be a good match, yes.
Have you worked on the PlayStation 5, what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of the system (if any)? Are you also going to improve Haven via the PS5 hardware and if so, how?
We are in the early stages of working on PS5. It is a little early for me to say. We will of course try to make the most of the PS5’s new hardware and features. One thing that is most exciting to me is to use the gamepad’s new haptic features and a frame rate of 120 FPS to make gliding as smooth as possible.
How does the PS5 version of Haven compare to the PC with maximum settings?
I have no idea at the moment. Haven is not exactly a “tech benchmark game”. So I think the difference will be thin. It will be a moving and unique story on all platforms!
The game is also coming to Xbox One. But what about Xbox Series X?
We strive to bring Haven on as many platforms as possible.
Feel free to add anything else you think is worth mentioning about Haven and The Game Bakers.
One thing I would like to add to the game is that it is a solo game designed to welcome a cooperative partner. It is not necessarily a co-op game. People often think they should play the cooperative, but it is not mandatory. But of course we would like to hear that couples will share a moment together!
Thank you for your time.