Deadly Premonition And Panzer Dragoon Creators Talk The Good Life

by Brian Shea on Sep 07, 2017 at 05:45 PM

Last month, Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die creator Hidetaka Suehiro (aka Swery65), announced that his recently founded studio, White Owls, was launching a crowdfunding campaign for a new project called The Good Life. The game has you taking control of Naomi, a New York City photographer, as you investigate a murder mystery in what is billed as the happiest town in the world. In addition to solving a mysterious death, you must dive into why the residents of Rainy Woods turn into cats at night. 

At PAX West 2017, Swery invited Grounding co-founder Yukio Futatsugi (known as the creator of the Panzer Dragoon series) on stage to announce a partnership for the game. The team then debuted a trailer, which you can see below.

I recently sat down with Swery and Futatsugi to discuss the team's vision for The Good Life, the partnership between White Owls and Grounding, and their approach to crowdfunding.

For more on The Good Life, or to back the project, head to the game's crowdfunding page on Fig.

What was your initial idea behind the concept of a town where its residents turn into cats at night?

Swery: The idea for The Good Life has been ruminating in my mind for a long time. Even when I was working on Deadly Premonition, I was thinking on different ideas. One thing that happened during the development of that game was a producer on the project had to be sent off to England to do a different job. It was only supposed to be a few months, but it ended up becoming a few years. In a lot of ways, he was just trapped in a foreign country. That idea, and me thinking about what it would be like to be a foreigner in an unknown country and having to stay there for a long time for work might be sort of an interesting setup for a game, so I took that idea with me and I've been carrying it for a while. I thought that the idea of taking the murder mystery elements of Deadly Premonition and mixing that with a British landscape sounds like fun, but maybe not a surprising twist for fans of Agatha Christie. As I was trying to think about "What is the big twist for this game?" it definitely came out of the fact that maybe next to koalas, my favorite animals are cats. At one point, I had 12 of them and I thought that maybe if we add that to the mix, that's the special missing item in the formula to make this a really interesting game concept.

What interesting mechanics do the cats add to the gameplay?

Swery: We're having a lot of fun thinking about the different elements that will come out of the cat side of the game. The core fundamental approach from a gameplay perspective when it comes to the cats is to give them game actions that are not available to the player when they're in human form. Specifically jumping on top of the roofs of buildings or hiding in crevices or going into these close-quarters areas where only cats can gain access and picking up items that are in those hard-to-reach spots. We're having a lot of fun thinking about the different game mechanics that we can unlock because of this interesting twist.

What kinds of activities should players expect to encounter in The Good Life?

Swery: There are four different ways we're thinking about the player's activities. The main game mechanic is as a photojournalist, Naomi must take different photos of the village and collect comments from different villagers about the case she's investigating, and those elements go into her report, which she submits to her New York newspaper at night, which is how she earns her normal stipend. Beyond that, there's also the main story that the player will start unraveling, specifically related to the murder of Elizabeth in that world. Beyond that, there's sidequests that the NPC characters grant the player, which will help flesh out the story, but also give them more activities and other ways to earn money. Finally, there's a bunch of part-time jobs that they can also do.

What element of The Good Life are you particularly interested to pursue?

Swery: One thing that's important to bring up is that if you look from afar, The Good Life might appear as though it's a game for kids given the art-style. A lot of my fans have already noticed that there's an underlying uniqueness or twist to the overall aesthetic and that's going to carry through throughout development. In a way that will excite fans and also newcomers to my games. It's important for me not to betray the fans. Fans of Deadly Premonition and D4 should feel right at home with The Good Life despite its kind of cutesy aesthetic.

Development for the Switch was announced as a stretch goal for your Fig campaign. What does this new potential platform impact your development plans?

Futatsugi: In the event that the game gets funded to the point where the Nintendo Switch SKU gets unlocked, our approach is going to be to target the Switch as the main platform when it comes to performance and the graphical style, then on the PC and PS4 versions to maybe add some additional post-effects and some more bells and whistles. The target would be on the Switch. This game in particular, our goal is to make it so that it is played by as many people as possible as opposed to pushing the hardware to see how far it can go.

What does this partnership with Grounding enable you to do with The Good Life?

Swery: The reason that we're in partnership with Grounding is that they have over 10 years of experience and have a team with a lot of very experienced developers. You can see their talents demonstrated in our most recent trailer where you see the early prototype work that we've done. That was all created by Futatsugi-san's team. As far as what White Owls' responsibility is with The Good Life, it's mainly focused on game direction, game design, concept art, and also the story development, which are the core elements of the game division, which then goes over to Grounding to be fully realized as an actual game.

Futatsugi: Most recently, Grounding has been very focused on developing for smartphones, which has allowed us to gain a lot of knowhow as it relates to different game design that encourages repeated play. Not only that, but our team has a really great art team and art direction, which we feel melds well with what Swery and White Owls are interested in. The art that you're starting to see come out for The Good Life is our collaboration and our shared inspiration that we're trying to move forward with for the game.

Why did you choose Fig as your crowdfunding website for The Good Life?

Swery: The reason we decided to partner with Fig on The Good Life is because a few months back at BitSummit, I was able to meet with the head of Fig, Justin Bailey. He convinced me of the merits of Fig because it's based on the idea of two things: one being that the projects that they want to promote are all about supporting the creator's vision and not getting in the way of that and that making sure that whatever game White Owls wants to make, they would ensure that they're 100-percent behind whatever that ends up being. Fig is also sort of like a publisher in that they don't pursue all projects; they're just looking for a quality over quantity type of approach, which as a creator is also important to me. They can also make sure that Fig, as a company, is behind us.

We see crowdfunded projects like Shenmue III come out of Japan every so often, but is it a common practice in Japan?

Swery: There really is very little movement for crowdfunding in Japan. Sure, there are projects that come out of Japan like you mentioned, but as far as Japanese folks pledging towards crowdfunding campaigns is rare. A big reason for that is the sheer fact that a lot of Japanese folks don't own credit cards.

Futatsugi: Also, another element of that from a cultural perspective is that crowdfunding and the concept of paying upfront before you receive something is a foreign concept for a lot of Japanese folks. That may be another reason that crowdfunding hasn't picked up just yet in Japan. In Japan, it's a lot more common for users to pay money for a product that a lot of effort has been put into it. The monetary value is in exchange for that hard work. The idea of exchanging monetary value for something where the hard work is just about to begin is a little bit of a different concept. It's not uncommon for some interesting phenomena to come out of North America when it comes to different business styles and then for it to catch on in Japan, and vice-versa.

What do you want your fans to know most about The Good Life?

Swery: The town of Rainy Woods that we're creating is the happiest town in the world and we're doing everything we possibly can to make this an interesting space for players to exist. We really want players to come and join us in the world that we're creating. There may be some areas that are inconvenient or maybe some areas where that happy town that are going to upset people, but that's all going to be a part of that interesting cocktail of game design we're thinking of for this game. We're working our hardest to make this a really special type of game, and for all those that are supporting us through our crowdfunding campaign on Fig, I want to say that if you ever see me, you can just show me your screen that proves you backed our campaign, I will give you super hug!