Hidetaka “SWERY” Suehiro is a creator like none other, having brought titles like The Missing, D4, and of course, Deadly Premonition to gamers everywhere. It’s no secret that we here at GameCritics are huge fans of his work, and we’re thrilled to be able to present this interview focusing on his next title, The Good Life.
Described briefly in the PR materials:
Upon beginning her investigation, Naomi – camera in hand – soon realizes that the town and its eccentric residents are hiding all sorts of secrets. She discovers an inexplicable phenomenon in which the townspeople transform into cats and dogs as night falls. Then, just as she’s looking into that mystery, a murder occurs. The Good Life’s captivating adventure story will invite you to explore a large open world, following clues in conversations, tracing for pointers to uncover the town’s dirty secrets. You must eat, sleep, shop (using your skills as a professional photographer to earn money), and learn the arts of crafting, farming, and time management!
Dan Weissenberger: Many of your games (Deadly Premonition 1 & 2, The Missing, and now The Good Life) take place in rural or pastoral areas. Why do small towns appeal to you as settings for video games?
SWERY: In all my works, I usually strive to provide ‘experiences to the people who play them. I want people to be able to remember the towns and places they’ve visited in my games, as well as the characters they’ve met as if they were real-life experiences. That’s what I always aim to achieve when I create, so in that regard, (assuming that many gamers live in cities) I try to pick unique places that stand outside the common idea of ‘daily life’ to make people feel like they’re traveling somewhere new.
That’s the thought process I always use, so when I think about the settings for my game, I’m always fascinated by rural towns and other places surrounded by nature, small islands, or small, isolated locations such as inside an airplane or a single apartment (even though it’s inside the city – in other words, places where I can really focus on the details).
DW: Do you have a favorite side activity or minigame in the Good Life? Which minigame or side activity do you think will be the most popular among players?
S: My favorite are the in-game mechanics of taking photos and uploading them to Flamingo, a social media app in the game. When you use your camera, tags will appear to mark things that Naomi herself thinks will earn her a lot of likes on the platform.
From there, players rely on tags to take pictures that they’ll later upload to the social media app, which will result in them gaining a lot of likes, or “Emokes” as they’re known in the game. Boring photos won’t earn you much. Surprising things may end up creating buzz, and photos that you personally love may end up not generating very many likes. In that regard, it’s very true to real-life social media, which I love.
I really wanted to make it so that when you uploaded a photo to Flamingo, it’d also be uploaded to real-life social media such as Instagram, but we weren’t able to take it that far this time.
DW: How involved were you in the English localization of The Good Life – are there places where you wanted to see specific lines of dialogue or descriptions used?
S: First off, I should explain that all the scripts I’ve written recently (D4, The MISSING, and DP2) have been translated by my partner Dan. (He’s also the one translating this interview. Thanks, Dan!) He also made sure to have The Good Life’s English localization proofread by a British English native advisor that he personally hired.
After that process was complete, we went to our previous partner The Irregular Corporation (based in London), and had their localization manager proofread the British English once again, with Dan and myself approving the final changes. As a result, we worked with several talented people to complete the transition from Japanese to British English (and not just any British English, but unique northwestern British English).
Throughout the entire process, everyone made sure to check with me to see how I felt about everything, so I’m confident that nothing from the original Japanese was lost in translation.
DW: Do you have a favorite dog or cat in the game?
S: Oooh, this is a tough question. I love all cats and dogs, but if I had to pick, I’d say the design of the British Shorthair wearing armor is my favorite.
DW: Is the town of Rainy Woods inspired by a specific location in England?
S: On my location hunting trip, I mainly traveled around the Lake District. I visited Windermere, Grasmere, Skelwith Bridge, Hawkshead, Castlerigg, Wray Castle, Kendal, National Trust Sizergh, Clitheroe, Whalley, Osbaldeston, and Manchester, among other places. On a separate trip, I also visited London, Hitchin, Luton, Rye, and some other places. In the end, I feel like I visited so many places and covered so many areas that I can’t just say “Rainy Woods is based on THIS town!”
DW: What kind of research went into designing the traditionally rural English design of the town?
S: Atmosphere, scents, sounds, temperature and humidity, wind…the people who live there. I went there to find things that could never be felt from photos and videos.
DW: Were any of the game’s characters inspired by real people?
S: The inhabitants of Rainy Woods will seem even more bizarre than the characters that have appeared in my previous works. They may seem more like people who live in a fairy tale world or a dream world rather than people living in the real world. If I had to say, there’s a drunk pastor in the game who reminds me of a drunk monk that I know very well in real life.
DW: Beyond the name of the town, can we expect to find any other Deadly Premonition Easter Eggs in The Good Life?
Hahaha. It wouldn’t be a proper GameCritics interview without a question like this! But I don’t think it’d be very tactful for a creator to talk about easter eggs before people get a chance to play the game, so first I’d like everyone to play the game and try to discover some on their own.
DW: What was the most challenging gameplay mechanic to implement in the game?
S: In this game, there’s a system where you upload the photos you take to a social media app called Flamingo and earn money based on advertising. It was really difficult to balance this system with the existing economy system we used of also being able to earn money by selling materials/crops and completing side quests.
However, by working with Grounding, my new partner, I feel like I was able to make a game where all the moving parts are more tightly connected than any SWERY game thus far. Everything the player does will affect Naomi’s health, and you may need to find materials or run around the mountains finding things in order to fix certain problems you encounter… It was extremely difficult and challenging to tie all these different elements together.
DW: Can we expect the inhabitants of Rainy Woods to have full schedules they follow over the course of a day? If so, can interacting with them at different times lead to optional conversations and scenes?
S: Yes. The inhabitants of Rainy Woods all operate on their own schedules. Their schedules change depending on whether it’s raining or clear water, as well as whether it’s a full moon or a new moon…there’s a big secret behind that one.
Their dialog also changes depending on the above, as well as how far you’ve progressed through the story. It always takes a ton of work to implement this sort of thing, but I think it’s something that everyone always expects from my games, so I did my very best.
DW: Is there anything (a gameplay mechanic, a character, a plotline, etc…) you’d wanted to include in The Good Life but were unable to?
Being able to swim when you transform into a dog. I didn’t want it to just be a specific action, but something that could lead you to new stories or things that you could only acquire by swimming. Then I started thinking about what those would be and how you’d be able to use them…and things got bigger and bigger, so ultimately we were unable to implement it. I wanted to put in fishing as well. I thought about making it so that you’d be able to cook the fish you caught yourself, but ‘fishing’ is something that’s already in a ton of games, so it’s kind of old hat… In the end, I decided that it was more important to focus on implementing ‘new things’ and gave up on it.
Infinite thanks to SWERY for taking the time to chat with us here at GameCritics, and to his translator and the PR reps who were all necessary in making it happen!
Players interested in seeing the new world SWERY has created can check out The Good Life when it comes to PC, Switch, PlayStation and Xbox this fall.