An "auteur" is commonly defined as someone whose aesthetic, style, and degree of control makes each of their projects utterly unique and unquestionably "theirs." Readers might think of Hideo Kojima, Suda51 or today's subject, Hidetaka Suehiro, also known as SWERY or Swery65. SWERY's newest project is The Good Life, described by its creators White Owls and G-rounding as a "debt repayment daily life RPG" and currently up for funding on Kickstarter. As such, I'd like to take it apart and see what makes it tick in today's Crowdfunding Spotlight.
The first thing to say about this idiosyncratic project is that it's not just SWERY's baby. Co-helming development is former Sega luminary Yukio Futatsugi, who eagle-eyed readers might recognize as the mastermind behind Panzer Dragoon and Phantom Dust (as the Kickstarter page reminds us). From a personal perspective, this makes me pretty excited from the outset, as I'm one of the seven people around the world who bought (and still very smugly owns) an English copy of the original Sega Saturn Panzer Dragoon Saga. That said, The Good Life already failed on Fig when it was originally pitched, so it's all to play for (although the current Kickstarter pitch is a lot "cleaner" than the Fig pitch and seems to have more of a clear idea of what it wants to be). Let's have a look at what The Good Life promises and whether it will live up to the absurdly high standards of its pedigree.
Story-wise, players will take control of Naomi, a photojournalist on assignment in the British town of Rainy Woods to pay off a debt she's accrued. In order to do so, she can take photographs of "anyone, anywhere," then choose where she wishes to sell them. That's not all, though. A murder has taken place in this town, and it's up to players to solve said murder, all while making sure they're earning enough money to pay their way. Of course, this wouldn't be a SWERY game without that unique, quirky hook (which he calls "SWERISM" on the Kickstarter page), so naturally, when night falls, everyone in Rainy Woods transforms into either a dog or a cat, including Naomi herself. True to its idiosyncratic premise, the Kickstarter page promises "mystery, horror, and good old charm," so it sounds like fans of SWERY's previous projects Deadly Premonition and D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die won't be disappointed.
In terms of gameplay, it seems like SWERY and Futatsugi are taking the broad approach. The main hook of the game is Naomi's photojournalism; players are able to sell photos either via an app on their in-game smartphone or to a local newspaper company depending on the subjects that appear in the photos. During a Reddit AMA conducted with SWERY on April 19th, he promised NPCs in The Good Life would be "even more unique than Deadly Premonition's," with G-rounding "working hard to give NPCs their own AIs that each have their own desires and parameters that determine their actions."
The Kickstarter page makes it sound like there will be a host of minigames on offer, too, as players can "make even more money with various part-time jobs." These include shearing sheep, delivering milk, gardening, and even "mining for cryptocurrency." Players can also expect to be able to explore Rainy Woods as a cat or dog (their choice), which will open up new exploration opportunities and allow Naomi access to photos she might not have been able to take while human. I have to admit, I've had an itch since Pokémon Snap, which this game might just scratch. Here's an utterly charming Let's Play video of SWERY himself playing a special PAX East build of the game, which may well seal the deal for you:
The Good Life has pledge levels ranging from $1 all the way up to $10,000, and depending on which level backers pledge at, they'll receive different rewards. All levels from $25 upwards will receive a digital copy of the game on Steam, while all pledges from $130 upwards will receive a physical collectors' edition. Some of the rewards are in-game, including an opportunity to have dinner with SWERY in-game, which will net players a huge cash bonus if they sell his picture to their in-game smartphone app. $10,000 nets backers the chance to actually meet SWERY and dine with him in Osaka, as well as a visit to White Owls' studio and a sign on their wall as a "Super Supporter". Travel and lodging fees are, naturally, not included, but if you're backing this project to the tune of $10,000, you're probably OK for cash.
SWERY and company are looking for 68 million yen, or around $633,000, to fund their project. Funding currently stands at around 48% with 14 days to go, so there's still time if you want to see this odd game come to fruition. White Owls and G-rounding are looking to ship backer rewards in November 2019, which gives the game around 18 months for development from funding to completion.
The project has a prominent partner in Sony Music's UNTIES indie publishing label, which is a cross-platform initiative from Sony Music looking to invest in indie titles. White Owls and G-rounding will supplement the funding received from Kickstarter with funding from UNTIES should the project be successful. A user on Reddit asked SWERY, during the aforementioned AMA, whether the game would be completed regardless of the success or failure of the Kickstarter campaign. His response was that he "[doesn't] want to think about that right now, but [he has] NO intention of ever giving up on this project". It's also worth noting that Boston's Video Game Orchestra is involved in the project's music and sound, so expect a certain pedigree there.
Currently, there are technically no stretch goals, although SWERY and company have detailed how the game's development scope will increase and change based on how much money the Kickstarter campaign is able to raise. There's a whole bunch more information over on the game's official Kickstarter page which I haven't even mentioned here, so if you feel like a deep dive or want to back the project, go check it out.
All in all, The Good Life certainly looks like an intriguing prospect. SWERY can always be relied upon to create unique experiences, and with the input of Panzer Dragoon's Yukio Futatsugi, this could be one to watch indeed.
How do you feel about The Good Life? Excited by the prospect of another SWERY game? Still waiting for the next episode of D4? Let us know in the comments below!