One of the games I encountered at Playcrafting's Spring Play 2017 Expo was Project Beach House, a work in progress by Glen Hosie. One of the interesting things about Playcrafting expos is that the displays will run the gamut. In this particular case, Glen Hosie had a laptop on a table and some nice postcard-sized flyers. What I saw on screen seemed intriguing, so I sat down and struck up a conversation with him about his game.
After our brief chat in person, I asked him to e-mail me to do a more detailed interview about his game as there's never enough time to do it properly at an expo. I heard back from him the next day and we got right to it. Take a peek at the temporary trailer if you like to get a feel for the game:
TechRaptor: Many (if not most) developers have a few game ideas bouncing around in their head. What led to the creation of Project Beach House? What was it about the concept behind the game that drove you to put the work in to make a finished product?
Glen Hosie: Great question. In an odd way, the concept sort of developed itself.
I first got the idea for Project Beach House after [Hurricane Sandy] hit my town and did some serious damage. My house was uninhabitable, so I was living in a friend’s basement. All I had on me was a [ThinkPad] laptop and some clothes, so if you can imagine; I was depressed and bored. I was using an ironing board as a desk (and sometimes a bed) and basically just did what came to mind.
As I started entertaining the idea in my head, more and more events in my life started to pop up that HEAVILY influenced concepts in the game, until we ended up with the [Project Beach House] we have today! The more I played around with game engines and drew character designs the more I enjoyed it, until at one point I just said “This is what I want to do with my life.” So, in a strange way I can’t really take all the credit for the concept.
TR: The concept of Project Beach House has been done in other genres of gaming, most notably first-person adventures like Outlast or Alien: Isolation. What led you to make a game in the Adventure genre as opposed to a different one?
GH: A lot of first-person modern games are almost streamlined to a fault. You can’t do a lot in these games other than run away, and sometimes attack depending on the game. By streamlining the mechanics so heavily, you remove the player’s inclination to think. Just about everything you do has the same solution and you establish dominant strategies really quickly.
In 9-verb style adventure games, you have multiple options from minute one, and it’s always clear that you have them. A lot of [Project Beach House’s] later puzzles are entirely context sensitive. There’s never going to be one solution that is the best course of action in any scenario. Also, it’s just a lot of fun to break down the genre and try something new!
TR: Why did you decide to go with Adventure Game Studio over other game engines?
GH: It’s limiting. If [I] were to be making this game in [Unity] or another engine, the game would never be done. I wouldn’t be able to help myself from adding new things. I think outside of the box, and [Adventure Game Studio] is a box I can put my ideas in. It’s a cardboard box, so you can bend the walls a bit to fit more stuff you wouldn’t normally expect, but otherwise it keeps me efficiently grounded. Also, [it] has an amazing dedicated community constantly dishing out awesome games, updating the engine, and always ready to help you if you’re in a pinch. It’s probably the best environment for a budding game dev. Finally, Low floors, and High ceilings. AGS in incredibly easy to use at the start, but once you master it, there’s a lot you can do!
TR: Is there any particular meaning behind the title Project Beach House? Will this definitely be the name of the game, or is it just a placeholder title for the moment? I ask only because a quick Google of "Project Beach House" will provide an awful lot of interesting DIY home renovation tips but not much in the way of information about your game.
GH: The “Beach House” in Project Beach House works in a lot of ways. There were a lot of beach houses and vacation homes that were destroyed by the hurricane. Seeing these places in the state that they were; broken and hollowed out really stuck with me. Especially the light, beachy tones they were painted with. They desaturated and cracked from all the sea water.
It mostly ties in with the theme of “Something was always fundamentally wrong, and after a major event that issue is all that’s left”, that appears in the game very often. Also, level two takes place in a beach house, which kicks the story off.
A major issue with me and working titles is I never want to let them go. I think Project Beach House is a cool name. We’ll see.
TR: What do you hope to deliver to gamers with your finished product? How long do you think the game will take to play from start to finish? How much replayability will the game have?
GH: When showing off this game at promotional events, there’s a noticeable trend in the people who see it. Either they’re REALLY into it, or not at all.
The amount of play time depends on the player; you can really go at your own pace. I can estimate you can get a solid 5 hours out of it once it’s finished, but still no promises. We’ve still got a lot of devving to do. The first three levels in the game are linear, but then it takes an interesting open-world turn from then on. At that point you meet the cultists, who greatly expand the player’s possibilities for decision making. You can befriend each cult, start an all-out war between them, assassinate the cult leaders, try to make peace, there’s no real right answer here. Depending on what you do, you’ll find different results, if you mix it up you’ll have a different experience every time you play it.
I really wanted to take the player on an adventure that they could write. I’ve made this really cool universe, so just dive in and have a good time with it! At the end of the day, PBH is a very [idiosyncratic] experience. It’s sort of in [its] own little world. Once the player realizes that, they’ll be all in.
TR: Please give our readers a brief synopsis of the plot and gameplay of Project Beach House in your own words.
GH: Project Beach House’s story follows Dan and his girlfriend Sarah, as they start investigating Dan’s estranged father, Bruce, and his mysterious past as a monster hunter. The first place they investigate is Bruce’s abandoned beach house. Here they discover a number of supernatural artifacts and remnants of creatures that aren’t of this world. The couple ends up getting kidnapped by a group of cult leaders who worship the monsters Bruce has slain in the past. They also have gained superhuman powers from being exposed to Bruce’s artifacts. Each cult worships its own respective monster, and they think that by sacrificing Dan, they can resurrect their god and wipe out the other cults. Luckily for [Dan], they let him tour each cult freely so he can choose which cult he sacrifices himself for; [it’s] time to find some answers.
The gameplay is a mix of modern mechanics wrapped in a classic adventure game. It features basic combat, crafting, and an equipment system alongside a classic 9-verb style interface. You’ll be solving [puzzles] but you’re never alone. Throughout each level there’s a [consistent] monster antagonist that makes you play by [its] rules. You’ll need to change up your strategies to succeed.
We have a lot more information on the game as well as more info on the cultists on our greenlight page.
TR: Is Project Beach House going to be your first completed game or have you worked on other projects in the past?
GH: I have worked on other tiny, sillier projects in the past. Nothing that I’d put my name on these days. PBH is definitely the first one I’m taking seriously.
TR: We had a conversation towards the end of Playcrafting's Spring Play Expo 2017 where you revealed that you were 18 years old. What got you into game development at such a young age?
GH: Yes, I’m but a wee laddie. Ever since I was little I’ve always dreamed of being a game dev.
I didn’t take the idea seriously until my photoshop teacher in freshman year of [high school] told me about a hackathon. I made a sh*tty game, like it was more of a slideshow than anything, but it made me realize that anybody can be a dev. Too many kids my age give up on their dreams, just because they’re young. It kills me; I’ve seen so many awesome concepts and potential wasted because people lose faith in their idea, or they give up hope in their ability to succeed.
I don’t want that to happen to PBH. I don’t care if it takes another 70 years and I’m on life support, this game’s coming out and it’s gonna be awesome if it kills me. As long as I put the care and polish into the game that it needs to be good, my age doesn’t matter.
TR: Is this a solo project or do you have other people working with you? As far as I could tell, you were flying solo at the expo.
GH: The team currently comprises [me], directing the project and making the art, Our amazing programmer who goes by “Slasher” in the AGS community, and a recent addition Devan Marotta, who’s making the game’s original soundtrack.
TR: Do you have any plans to go for formalized training or schooling in game development?
GH: As of right now I’m definitely 2cool4school. [It'll] be a while before I'm ready to put the time in.
TR: Once Project Beach House is completed to your satisfaction, will you continue to develop games? Do you have any particular ideas that you would like to tackle next?
GH: One of the main goals of PBH (besides telling the story and giving the player a fun experience) is to get my name out there and earn enough money to assemble a small team of extremely passionate and exceptional individuals to develop games with.
Welcome to the Glenjamin dis track:
Clearly, there’s something wrong with the gaming industry. This 5-year 40 million dollar cycle isn’t working anymore, or at least isn’t viable considering some of the games that’ve been coming out. Indie isn’t entirely on the ball either, considering the number of [Kickstarter] games that decided to put all my money into yacht parties and blow. I want to find a healthy middle ground, where the team is small enough to be sustainable, and we have a large enough fanbase so we can skirt around getting investors involved. There’s so many other ways you could go about games as a business, it’s time to start breaking a few eggs. Also I really want a left handed guitar.
TR: What's your favorite adventure game and why?
GH: Shoutouts to I have no mouth and I must scream by [The Dreamer’s Guild]. This is the game that made me say “That’s the genre, That’s PBH.” It’s dark, uncomfortable, claustrophobic and cold. It really sucks you into this vile world, every pixel is meticulously placed to make you feel anxious. The entire game is about a super intelligent robot encasing the world in itself and then engineering it into the last 5 remaining human being’s personal hells. It’s metal as f*ck.
It also showed me that you can achieve a dark atmosphere in what is a traditionally more [light-hearted] genre.
TR: What do you suppose has been the most difficult part about developing a game? What has been the easiest? Are there any particular advantages or challenges to using Adventure Game Studio?
GH: One of the most difficult parts of developing the game is actually developing it. It’s so easy to just put it off a day or do something unproductive. I’ve managed to maintain a lifestyle where I remain [on] a neat schedule which lets me put a large amount of work into the game every day.
The easiest part about developing (for me at least) is directing the game. That’s all thanks to my programmer. He’s able to do just about anything with the engine, which is awesome considering how far we’re pushing it sometimes.
AGS is very limiting. Features were cut here and there and things were downsized because the engine can only do so much. That being said, it mostly improved the game since it made the features work better for an adventure game.
TR: Why did you decide to go with a more traditional user interface for Project Beach House when so many adventure games seem to be moving away from the style to a simpler UI?
GH: I think there’s something very important to the psychology of having the verbs right in front of you all the time. People tend to experiment more when they’ve got the verbs in front of them, which is important when [there are] so many options. I wanted to break down the walls of traditional puzzles. Sure there’s some old school stuff, but the entire game is a lot more open, especially with the cult interactions.
TR: What led you to exhibit your game at Playcrafting? How did you find out about the organization?
GH: I genuinely love exhibiting the game. It’s my bread and butter. Every now and then it’s easy to think “What if this game has been god awful all along and I just can’t see it?”, so it’s very reassuring to see people enjoy playing your game. Also from a business standpoint[,] the publicity is important, besides being a lot of fun.
I don’t remember at all how I found out about [Playcrafting], but I’m glad I did. It’s nice to know you’re not alone in the uphill battle that is developing a game.
TR: When do you expect Project Beach House to be feature complete?
GH: 2018 is the goal for now. A lot of the major features are already implemented, so we mostly have to focus on level design and the extensive web of variables that is the cultists. One thing is for certain, we’re not rushing the game no matter what. The quality is more important to us than the release date.
TR: What platforms and operating systems do you hope to distribute your game on? How [much] is Project Beach House going to retail for?
GH: [Adventure Game Studio] recently had built in functionalities for Linux ports. I’m not sure about [Mac].
We definitely won’t go higher than $15.00. The game is a bit bigger than your average adventure game, we’ll see.
TR: Anything else you'd like to say? Any final words for our readers?
GH: Come check out our [Steam Greenlight], and if PBH isn’t as great as I planned it to be I’ll cut my head off with a chainsaw.
I've played a handful of adventure games, so I can't honestly say that I'm an authority on the subject. If experience with games translated to police work, I wouldn't even qualify to be a crossing guard. With that important context in mind, I think that Project Beach House looks like a particularly interesting title, if only for the purported open-ended nature of it. So many adventure games have strictly linear stories, and sometimes the railroading can feel really awful for player agency (I'm looking at you, Telltale Games).
If this seems like your kind of jam, you'll have to wait a bit to play it as Glen Hosie and his team is still working on the game. You can help things along by voting for Project Beach House in their Steam Greenlight campaign. You can also check them out on Twitter, Facebook, and their official website.
What do you think of Glen Hosie & Co.'s Project Beach House? Do you think a non-linear adventure game can work well? Do you think a "nine verbs" style adventure game can still work today or do you feel it's a regression compared to the more streamlined interfaces of modern games in the genre? Let us know in the comments below!