9 jun 2017

Interview with Joel Staaf Hästö, creator of Kathy Rain and Clifftop Games

Joel Staaf Hästö is a swedish indie game programmer that worked for some well known games such as Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, the Syndicate 2012 reboot or Magicka: Wizard Wars before becoming a solo indie game developer and founding Clifftop Games studio.

Kathy Rain was his very first game developed on his own, a classic story driven point and click adventure that was released in 2016. El BloJ had the pleasure to ask him some questions about that game and future projects that he kindly answered. We thank him for taking some time to do that.

What do you think makes Kathy Rain different to other point and click adventure games?

It does tackle some controversial topics rarely explored in games, and I'd say Kathy herself is fairly unique as an adventure game protagonist.

When it comes to Kathy Rain, what were your main influences? Not only videogame influences but anything that could have inspired you to develop this game.

Twin Peaks, Gabriel Knight, Full Throttle, Veronica Mars. Also The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo books.

Is there any particular reason for Kathy Rain being set in the 90's?

There are several. I enjoy old school detective work much more in an older setting rather than in the current smartphone age, where anything can be looked up at a moment's notice. The 90s setting was also a nod to the adventure games classics, along with the 4:3 aspect ratio.

I've found relationships between the main character and the secondary ones are one of the pillars in Kathy Rain. There is an important contrast between Kathy and some characters like Eileen. Characters that seem to be from different worlds and yet they get along so very well. What do you think makes this kind of relationships so unique?

The unlikely friendship is practically an archetype these days, as the contrast between the two characters helps show their strengths and weaknesses, broadens their horizons and helps develop them as characters.

Kathy Rain was announced on July 17th, 2012 and was released May 5th, 2016. It's been a year since that. After four years of development, would you have changed anything?

I would've changed a number of things, fleshed out some of the story and reworked some narrative parts that were leftovers from previous versions of the script. The ending was a bit rushed too, mainly due to scheduling problems, so I would've taken more time to get that nice and tight. I would've also made the game in 16:9 rather than 4:3, since that has caused a lot of technical problems since release. I probably would've skipped the mobile release too, way too much hassle, given the number of sales and the state of the game engine at the time.

Are there any plans for a sequel?

I'd like to do one after WOAM (Whispers of a Machine, Joel's next project), but we'll see!

What can you tell us about Whispers of a Machine?

I can't tell you too much more about WOAM other than what is public information already, except that it's more focused on replayability than Kathy Rain, with multiple puzzle solutions and several distinct ways of playing the game.

Adventure games have been evolving in the late years due to companies like Telltale Games or Dontnod Entertainment to a new choice based/story driven genre. What is your opinion on this kind of games? Would we see some of their features in your games?

Since WOAM features story branching, I'm certainly a fan of that and would like to explore it in my own games!

How do you picture yourself in the long-term future regarding videogame developing?

I see myself creating story driven games as my bread and butter, but I'd like to branch out and experiment with a gameplay focused title or two at some point. I'm comfortable as a small indie though, I don't have any AAA aspirations, and I don't see myself working as an employee again, unless I'm forced to.

Here are some useful links for further information about Joel Staaf Hästö's recent work.

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