Today we’ve got an interview with Hiding Spot’s lead developer Matt Meyer who agreed to answer a few questions for me. This was the first time I’ve recorded an interview, so I not only messed up the audio once and we had to restart again… but I also forgot to change some settings and ended up recording it in 480p, so that’s not exactly optimal. On top of that, I was using a different position for my microphone at the time, which is why the audio on my end doesn’t sound as good as it could have been but I’ll improve that sorta stuff in the future when I do more of these video interviews.
STILL, I feel like it was quite a success with the flow of the questions and answers going well and us getting some interesting answers to some interesting questions. You can check out the full interview over here on my newly created YouTube channel! In this blog post, however, I’ll cover a lot but not all of the questions. Again, the bold text shows my questions, normal text shows Matt’s answers. :)
So what exactly do you do at Hiding Spot?
I’m sort of the lead at Hiding Spot. I work on programming, design, music, animation and for Beacon Pines, I’ve been working with two others: Ilse (hope it’s spelt right) who does all the art as well as helping with all the design and story and characters and then [there’s] Brent who also does the writing on the game. So yeah, it’s the three of us.
How would you summarise Beacon Pines? What’s it about?
It’s about a lot of things I guess. The story itself is one layer of that. It’s about some kids who are growing up around the ages of 10 to 15. This group of kids who are in a small town and their town are going through changes and there’s [this] Sci-Fi twist that is happening with the town and a lot of the game is about figuring out what’s going on in the town. The demo starts off by exposing the player to some of the mysterious things involved with the town which are seeming to come from this old fertilizer warehouse. So, a lot of the demo is about (…) poking around there and trying to figure out some of what’s happening. And then the other [layer] is the mechanic of using these word charms that you find through the exploration of the world to change how the story goes.
Where did you take inspiration from or what inspired you to make Beacon Pines?
Ilse is the only one who really played a lot of games in this genre (…) of sorta text-heavy games. Brent and I mostly play action games but when we started developing this game it just became more and more obvious that the characters are the most interesting part of the game and we just developed this more and more into this story-heavy game with no combat where it’s mostly about finding words and putting them in to change the outcome of the story. In terms of other influences, I definitely like a lot of games that have interesting or different mechanics in them. So, something like Journey was from the start of my game development career a big influence in the way that it sort of (…) takes a very different look at what a game can be, which one of the inspirations from the start for me which is why I did a very artsy musical game as my first game, very much in the spirit of journey. But thatgamecompany still makes a lot of things that give influence to what we do still. […] In terms of how we worked on things like the story and the mechanics, it really was sort of from the ground up. The game started out as a (…) rhythm-based RPG battle type game. Yes, it’s very very different from what it started but we’ve actually got video of it from back then and it was actually pretty polished at one point. And the mechanic just never really clicked and it sounds cool, like a rhythm-based – and again, I’m coming from a very musical background so I wanted to make a very musical game – but then, again, it just turned more and more into this game where the characters were making more sense than the mechanics of this rhythm game so we just started looking more and more at the characters and the exploration part of it and one day I just came up with this idea of […] instead of choosing lines of dialogue you’re just filling in a word. So that started out this whole journey of what does that mean and how does that work to the point where we’re at now where it’s sort of [a game] about finding these word charms and using them to change the story in these crazy ways and going back and trying something else.
I actually would love to see that rhythm-game RPG version of Beacon Pines.
Yeah, I can probably even point you to that video.
I personally really loved how puzzly the game was in a “what if I enter this word at that part” sort of way. Will the game branch out a lot?
Yeah, we like the idea of sort of the whole meta-structure being a puzzly itself but one thing we don’t wanna do is make players think that they have to see every part of the game. [Instead] we do make it so that you can easily see every part of the game, so it’s not only a choose your own adventure but also choose your own playstyle sort of deal. If we relate this to our team, I’m the sort of person that likes to go down one path entirely and maybe I’ll see other parts. Ilse is kind of a completionist. And this is the kind of person I see a lot from watching people play the demo now on Twitch and stuff. Like, people really like to go back immediately and trying different charms and see the different results. Which is cool because that’s why we made it that way. But yeah, it will definitely branch out quite a bit as we continue to develop it and that will not only be tricky for the player but also for us as developers to make that all work in a cohesive way. The idea is that a lot of the branches will end sooner but for the most part any given branch won’t necessarily give you all the information about the story. The plan now is to have a couple of major endings and they can each easily be seen as a resolution to the story but you can always go back and see a different ending that would also sort of resolve the story in the same world but maybe you would know more or less information depending on the branch you take.
Do you have an approximate release date?
The best way to get in trouble as a developer is to say when a game is gonna be released. As I mentioned we do have a pretty good handle on things now, and again, that’s a stupid thing to say because things come up and things change but we’re shooting for September but one of the problems is that there are a lot of potential things we could do to make the game [better] like translating it into other languages that would just take a lot of time but would be really great to bring more audience in. Things like that and to bring it to different consoles are things that could take a lot of time but we would also very much like to do. So, the problem with September is that if it gets delayed it probably will be delayed until early next year because at least as an Indie, you don’t wanna release anywhere near the holidays. So end of September and if it gets any later than that, we’ll just announce a month instead of delaying it a month and then delaying it again and delaying it again. We’d just push it off to a date where we know we can get it done… but we’re shooting for September! We’ll see! At the latest, I think we’ll have it out by early next year like February or March maybe.
Do you have any final thoughts or anything you want to say to my readers/viewers?
Anyone that supported the Kickstarter [campaign], we’re incredibly grateful for it. It’s like I said, we were about out of funds and then we had this successful Kickstarter, so it’s amazing being able to have all this runway now to finish the game and not worry about how we’re gonna eat. In terms of people that might be curious about the game, in addition to what we said so far, people that might be interested in games where (…) the characters are almost as important as the story itself [might like this one, too.] We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the characters and their backstories and their motivations, probably even more so than the overarching story itself. There is definitely a large portion of mystery and that’s important to us for things to be interesting and mysterious and wanting to figure things out as a player but it’s also important to the story and the game relating to the characters and we’ve gotten some great response from people (…) who are really into the characters which is amazing. Also the art’s amazing. Ilsa’s the artist and you can find her on Instagram. And not to brag too much by saying the music’s good, too. If anyone’s interested in story-based games, I think they’ll like it.
The game will be available on itch.io, Steam and the Switch for the initial release. And you can check out the links below for more information!
Back to me writing the post and finish it off. I hope you enjoyed this post and the questions I asked. I actually did ask a lot more in the full interview that you can find up there! There were questions about DLC or the narrator that is getting a voice as well now and there were also some interesting questions like who’s the favourite character or how the characters changed. I even asked Matt what animal he’d be if he was in the game and what sort of role he’d play. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, check out the full interview up there! I’m personally really excited about Beacon Pines. You can find my thoughts on the demo right here, as well, if you’re interested in that.