On a faraway, desolated planet, two lovers live completely by themselves and are in search of a new life. The Game Bakers' upcoming game Haven is all about Yu and Kay, an adorable couple that have escaped an unknown enemy so that they can live together on a deserted planet. I spoke with The Game Bakers Co-founder/Creative Director/Game Designer/Producer Emeric Thoa, a charming and affable man who clearly wears many hats. This is the first part of our Haven interview, and in this portion we'll be exploring the love story behind Yu and Kay and how you can play this game with someone special in your life or by your own lonesome self.
Haven first publicly debuted back in February of this year. The next upcoming title from The Game Bakers is very different from their previous creation Furi—and that's completely on purpose.
"It wasn't what it is now in one day," Mr. Thoa began. "It took a year and a half. The initial intention was to make a love story — that was a strong intention that I wanted to do. I wanted — after Furi, which was a very exhausting game to make (and a very exhausting game to play for those who played it). [It was] enjoyable and demanding."
"I needed a break and I was not interested in making another action game immediately after Furi," he continued. "And I have always love romantic comedies and love stories and I saw that it was something missing in the video game landscape. There are not so many good love stories and there [are none] (as far as I know) that is about two [people] who already love each other. This kind of relationship defines all [of] the story, the dialog, but also a lot of the gameplay in Haven. It's what makes it unique."
Haven is a game where the love between Yu and Kay is very clear. Take a look at the game's teaser trailer from back in February 2019, something that immediately caught my interest:
This game is inspired by many different works, and one of the points I wanted to hit in the first part of our Haven interview was what led to the creation of this world. Thankfully, The Game Bakers created a very helpful "Inspiration Map" that shows the works that influenced it.
I was familiar with many of the things on this list, but one in particular stood out: Saga. This came highly recommended to me by several of my colleagues at TechRaptor, so I decided to start reading it. And boy, does Saga get weird. Explicit sex scenes between television people, magic spells, dragon autofellatio—it has it all and then some. Naturally, my next concern was just exactly how romantic the relationship between Yu and Kay would get.
"I think Saga is a trademark that we cannot beat and we didn't really try to mimic," Thoa said. "It's not a reference because of [all of the strange depictions]. Saga is interesting because it's one of [those] rare comics that talk about a couple that are already together and because they're on the run and because it's also incredible in terms of character design, in terms of creature design, and it has a good plot overall. So there are lots of things, but [Haven] is not gonna be as weird."
"[Yu and Kay have been together for] a long time, they are 25-ish. They are having sex," he added. "It's not even — it's obvious. But, it's not shown explicitly, because it's not the subject. But, they talk about it sometimes and sometimes you just get that they've just done it or they're gonna or they want to do it. But, you never have the camera on them while they're doing that."
"It's made to make you feel like what sex is for a couple who's been together three years in a row, so. It's still important, it's part of their life, but it's not that big [of] a deal like when it's the first time you have sex with someone. It's just part of their love life."
Now that the somewhat awkward subject had been broached, I jokingly suggested that it wouldn't be a bad idea for a post-launch DLC. The thing is, I think the absolute madlad might actually do it if Haven sold amazingly well.
Haven is likely to be a game with a defined story, but that's not to say that there won't be choices. One of the elements highlighted in pre-release materials was choices made in dialog in the style of a visual novel. I had wondered if these would have any effect on the game's plot.
"Yes, but no. [laughs] Every choice leads to a different dialogue, a different piece of story," Thoa said. "It's interesting to me because it makes the player roleplay through the game. And then, after that: other bigger consequences? I won't tell."
Thoa further clarified things that it won't be "like a Telltale Game". There will be lots of little choices that players can make throughout the game, although they won't have any short-term consequences. And as for the long-term consequences, he honestly couldn't say—they're still working on polishing the game.
Play Together, Stay Together
Another interesting thing I wanted to touch upon in our Haven interview was the nature of co-op. While Thoa says that Haven leans more towards a single-player game than a co-op game, co-operative play is a core feature of this upcoming title.
"Let me say it clearly: it's a solo game, first," he began. "It's a game that was designed to be enjoyed like any RPG. But, it's also very, very good at being enjoyed with someone else."
"If you want someone to join you or you want to play the game with someone, you just give them another controller — there is no menu to [get it started], you just press a button, activate the controller, and that's it, [the two of you] are in the game."
You'll be able to play together with someone else effectively from start-to-finish. Both Yu and Kay are going to have dialog choices, and two players in a co-op scenario must talk it out and agree on which choice needs to be made when they arise.
Will We See Online Multiplayer?
Thoa talked about the sort of people he had playtesting the game. Single people, couples, even a brother and sister all played through The Game Bakers' newest title and found it enjoyable. One thing I was curious about was whether or not he had played it with his spouse (who doesn't work at The Game Bakers with him). His answer? It's not finished and he doesn't want to show it off just yet.
Speaking of couples, I had found a few people lamenting the lack of online multiplayer in my research for the Haven interview. Some couples are in long-distance relationships and they'd want to be able to play Haven together, but that just isn't in the cards for its initial release.
Thoa initially said that online multiplayer is "never happening"; he did concede that it's something The Game Bakers would do if they sold what I categorized as "an absurd amount of copies." I pulled the number of 5 million out of the air and that seemed right to him. So, if you'd like to play online multiplayer in Haven, your best bet right now is to get together with a few million of your closest friends and buy it.
While we'll be addressing platforms in a future part of the Haven interview, it's worth mentioning one thing: the Nintendo Switch version will indeed work in handheld mode. If you're thinking about picking up a Nintendo Switch Lite or you just want to snuggle up on the couch with your significant other and keep things all cuddly, you'll totally be able to do that.
"If we hit 5 million copies in the first year, I will make online [multiplayer for Haven]." —Emeric Thoa
Love Conquers All
One can't write a love story without having to deal with criticism—and I'm not talking about the content of the story per se. No matter how well-written the story may be, you will inevitably deal with people who are unhappy that this character is with that character. Smaller still are the extreme fringe minorities of people who might be unhappy for other reasons.
In my research for the first part of this Haven interview, I had found a tiny number of people who were upset about the fact that the game has an interracial couple in a romance. Further still, some simply stated that they thought it might have been more interesting to see a lighter-skinned man and a darker-skinned woman. I asked Mr. Thoa what he thought about these opinions.
"Yes, I [expected] this kind of reaction," Thoa began, "and I don't give a f*ck at all!" [laughs]
I had figured I would get a response along those lines (although admittedly not such an amusing one), but I also had another question from the other side of the political spectrum, so to speak. There were also a few people complaining about the fact that Yu and Kay were a heterosexual couple rather than a homosexual couple. I had intended to ask Thoa about this next, but he began to answer my question before I had the opportunity to ask it.
"And I expected another reaction that is much more important to me, which is people are asking, 'Can we choose a gender? Can we be a gay couple, two men, two women?'" Mr. Thoa added. "And this is something that I thought about for a long time, but I couldn't find a way to make it available for players without [completely changing] the game experience."
"The game experience is, we tell the story of two characters that are very, very finely-detailed, very handcrafted, and you can't [clicks tongue] swap the gender, it doesn't work," he continued." It doesn't fit. It's not working. [We would probably have to increase the scope of the game by 3 times.] One for the hetero couple, one [each for the male homosexual couple and the female homosexual couple]. So, we didn't do that."
"But, interracial? That's our characters," he concluded. "Deal with it."
Thoa went on to say that he was open to the idea of creating some sort of DLC for a gay couple in the future, but future plans for Haven are still undecided. One thing that was certainly clear in our Haven interview was this: the game is still very much in progress, and Thoa and The Game Bakers are very passionate about their baby.
And that's it for now! This is the first part of a multi-part Haven interview with Emeric Thoa of The Game Bakers. In Part 2, we'll be answering some questions that I've seen a lot in my research. Is this a walking simulator? What's the gameplay like? We'll explore those things and more in the next part! Or, you can skip ahead to Part 3 and find out when Haven is coming out!