So far, we've learned that Haven is a game brimming with a powerful love story and that it's not going to be a walking simulator. It's nice to talk about the meatier aspects of the game, but I'm sure there are plenty of players who are wondering about practical concerns. When is the Haven release date? Is it going to be an Epic Games Store exclusive? Here's the conclusion of our conversation with Emeric Thoa of developer The Game Bakers.
While the previous two pieces fit a coherent theme, we're closing on a sort of mish-mash of all the other bits I couldn't quite cover in either of those. There's also the matter of the voice actors behind the game, something I tried terribly hard to learn more about and got nowhere fast. It's a secret for now and will likely remain so until Haven is released. I did, however, discover that they're doing something a little different: The voice actors for Yu and Kay are doing their recording sessions together rather than separately.
With that said, let's find out about the Haven release date, play time, platforms, and the potential for Epic Game Store exclusivity!
Let's start with one of the more obvious questions: how long will it take to beat Haven? If you're expected some epic 80-hour saga, you're going to be disappointed.
It's important to note that right now, Haven is still very much in development. That's not to say that they don't have a clear picture of where they're going; it's more that things may very well end up getting cut (or even added!) before the Haven release date sometime in 2020.
For now, Thoa estimated that players should expect a solid 6–10 hours of gameplay in total.
On the Haven release date, you'll be able to get the game for PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. You'll note that a major console is missing from this list: the Xbox One. Was there a greater reason behind this decision? Apparently, there was.
"There are two reasons. I think the market for Japanese-friendly game design is more on Japanese consoles, simply," Mr. Thoa said. "So, Persona 5 is a Sony exclusive. I don't know, Japanese RPGs are not big on Xbox. That's one point."
"And then, the second reason is that, if the PS4, because it's the leader, because it's a Japanese console and so on, it's obvious — then who do we choose between Switch and Xbox? And Switch is — it has two controllers, it's just there on the console."
So yeah, for those of you who might have thought the detachable Joy-Cons were just a gimmick, here's a bit of proof that game developers think about these things when making platform decisions.
As for the Xbox One, we'll probably see it come onto that console, although it's possible that it will be arriving later than the official Haven release date for all of the other platforms.
One final thing I'd like to touch on for the platforms: with the worrying amount of censorship on the PS4, I had wondered what The Game Bakers would do if they had to make changes for that console (or just for a particular reason). Thoa told me that they encountered this exact scenario with Furi in China with a mildly risqué outfit for one of the characters.
While they'll deal with things on a case-by-case basis, he said that they'll aim to only make these changes where they're required to be made and only after considering it for a very long time. He also said that they have had difficulties in the past with ratings boards; in those cases, the game could potentially be delayed in those regions depending on how things play out.
Haven Epic Games Store Exclusivity
Like it or hate it, the Epic Games Store has been snapping up games and securing exclusivity deals for more than six months. Titles exclusively available on the platform include Metro Exodus, Shenmue III, Borderlands 3, and dozens of others. What about Haven?
"Okay, my point of view is that it's a good thing that there is competition with Steam," Thoa said. "I'm not saying Steam players don't have the right to feel that they want their games on their store. I'm not saying 'exclusive is a good strategy' because it's always a bit annoying, for sure."
"If Epic offered us tons of money, I don't know what I would say, but for now, it's not the plan," he continued. "The plan is to release on Steam."
The first part of that second sentence caught my attention and I pressed Thoa further. Thanks to legally required disclosures, some folks over at ResetEra were able to calculate that Phoenix Point received approximately $2.25 million from Epic Games for their exclusivity deal. I asked the two million dollar question.
"I think it's good that we talk about these kinds of things," Thoa said. "This amount of money, we need to think about it. It's not [an] immediate answer and it's not... it's not a yes and it's not a no."
I asked what would happen if he were offered a truly insane sum like $50 million and he indicated that he and the entire dev team would probably take a vacation for a few years. (And honestly, I probably would, too.) But as for Haven Epic Games Store exclusivity, it's an offer that The Game Bakers would at least consider.
"It's not about money for me, it's about... if the game is profitable, whatever the reason, this means that I can make another game and my twenty people, twenty families company can make five more years of happiness," he explained. "That's absolutely true. So, when you have the opportunity to secure five years of happiness for twenty families, you take it.
"If it's just securing the next game, it's already something big for me. Because there is absolutely no way that I can be certain that Haven is gonna secure the next game for us. It's been the same thing [for] nine years since we started [The Game Bakers]. It's always been an 'all-in.' We are all-in in each game, we put all our money into it, and if it doesn't break even, it's the end of the adventure. Or if it's not the end, then we have to get rid of 80% of the team and find money somewhere else and we're gonna be very sad about it."
As far as I could tell, Haven has not yet been offered to become an Epic Games Store exclusive and the plan is to launch on Steam. If they do get an offer from Epic Games, however, they're at least going to give it serious consideration.
Haven Release Date, Price, and Post-Launch Content
The Haven release date is currently listed as "2020," but I did my best to get Thoa to get down to something firmer. They're still too far away from a finished product to give an exact date, but I was able to get him to provide me with a release window.
"What we are targeting very, very seriously is between February and June ," he stated simply.
I went on to ask if he could estimate roughly how much of the game is done. Essentially, all of the core systems have been made; now it's all about actual content creation. Models need high-quality textures instead of placeholders. The UI needs better graphics. Dialogue needs to be plugged into the game. All sorts of things are coming together in the final months of polishing Haven.
Now that we know roughly when The Game Bakers would like to launch this game, the next question is this: What is it gonna cost us? Here, too, Thoa was a bit vague and I once again managed to at least get some kind of range.
"I have a very precise idea, but I want to keep the freedom to change it," he said. "But it is gonna be very good indeed."
I then asked if it would more likely be over €30 or under €30 and Thoa indicated that it's probably going to be under €30—for a digital release. When I asked about the possibility of a physical version, he stated that he would "love" for that to happen, but that there are also no firm plans just yet.
We know all we can hope to know about the game itself now, but what about afterward? Is there going to be any post-launch DLC or additional content? Will it be free, paid, or both? This, too, is something that just hasn't yet been decided.
"There is nothing firm," he began as he laughed. "We would like to make additional content, but we don't what, we don't know when, and we don't know if it's going to be free or paid."
Closing Words on Haven
"I think I've said everything, but...," Thoa began, "if I had to repeat myself, I would say: Don't worry if you don't have a special someone, you can play solo. Don't worry if you are not finding yourselves in our two characters initially because it's a white girl with blond hair a a guy with dark skin and short hair or your wanted it to be two women or two guys or two [people] of the same color. If you worry too much about that, you're just missing out.
"The characters are relatable because [of] what they say, not what they look [like]. That's really important. And then don't worry if you feel the gameplay is not gonna be deep enough. It's not gonna be a walking simulator. It's gonna be a game with a lot of story but very interesting interaction.
"I design all my games from the inputs. I take a gamepad, I press the buttons, and I imagine, 'For this intention, what button do I want to press?' So, it's never gonna be a walking simulator. It's always gonna be a game where pushing the buttons is gonna be fun."
I'd like to thank Emeric Thoa of The Game Bakers for taking his time to speak with me about their upcoming game Haven. The teaser trailer had my interest, and the gameplay trailer had my attention; having talked to him for nearly two hours, I'm confident that this is a game that I'm going to be looking forward to playing. Do make sure to check out the first part and second part of our interview with him!
Now if I only had someone to play it with.
Haven will be coming out sometime in 2020 (hopefully in Thoa's ideal window of February–June). For now, you can add it to your wishlist on Steam. Don't forget to check out The Game Bakers on Twitter and on its official website!