Studio Sai Talks Emotional Connection, Aesthetics, and Narrative Themes | Games Rants
Gaming News

Studio Sai Talks Emotional Connection, Aesthetics, and Narrative Themes | Games Rants

After three years of development, Jae Woo’s first game, Eternights, is finally about to arrive sooner than originally scheduled. Studio Sai, the developer and publisher of the dating sim/action RPG, recently announced that the indie title’s launch date was jumping ahead by nine days, and that fans would be able to purchase a special physical edition by the holidays. Eternights draws inspiration from the Persona franchise, structuring gameplay with a calendar system that forces players to divide their time between developing relationships and battling to survive.

Yoo recently spoke with Game Rant about the confidants, combat system, aesthetics, and narrative of Eternights, describing a title that fans of Persona and Scarlet Nexus will want to keep their eyes on. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.

RELATED: New 25th Anniversary Persona Merchandise Includes Household Items

Q: Please briefly introduce yourself, and describe Eternights for gamers who have yet to hear about it.

A: I’m Jae Yoo, founder of Studio Sai, developer of Eternights. I’m basically doing programming, art, story and producing the entire game. Eternights is a dating action game about a bunch of young people trying to survive the end of the world while forming deep relationships with each other. You have limited time to explore dungeons and make relationships with these characters, so you have to choose who you want to spend your time with.

Official splash art for indie RPG persona-like Eternights

Q: Can you explain the elements of Eternights’ combat system? Why did you settle on an action-oriented system as opposed to a tactical or turn-based RPG?

A: Actually, I had a debate on turn-based versus action at the very early stages of the game. This was mainly to emphasize the thrill of the apocalypse. I wanted everything to happen in real-time, so anything can happen at any time. For instance, monsters can attack as you are moving around the environment. Scavenging happens in real-time. That naturally flowed into designing combat to be in real-time. It felt more realistic in a way, and that was the main intention.

Q: The game’s Steam page says that players will gain new abilities and spells based on their relationship with the game’s confidants. Roughly how many different spells and abilities are players be able to obtain?

A: There are a lot of skills. There are both passive skills and active skills, as well as the players own elemental skills depending on how you level up. I can’t say what the actual skill count is, but each character contains a different set of passive skills, active supporting skills, elemental skills, and an ultimate skill that unlocks when you get a deeper bond with each character. The ultimate skills are very strong supportive skills that you don’t want to miss.

Q: Are there any other mechanical systems in Eternights apart from the game’s combat and dating elements?

A: The main game system that unifies combat and dating is the calendar system. You have a limited amount of days in the game, and each day you can choose whether to go to a dungeon, scavenge, train, or deepen your bond with your companions. You have to make the right choice for you, and spend the most time with the characters you enjoy the most. And that effects the story in the later chapters in the game, as well as the ending.

Q: The Persona series seems like a clear influence on Eternights. Did any other titles or franchises have an impact on the game’s development?

A: I would say I had played a lot of games as I was developing the game over the last three years, and all have had minor influences on the development of the game. But their influence was pretty minor, and I also converted them to suit Eternights, so I would say they aren’t good references to describe the game.

Persona 3 is the one that gave me a good influence for beginning this project, because I was really impressed by the character-driven story in a game medium. And after playing Persona 5, I felt the director of the modern Persona series did a really amazing job of getting a character-driven story in gameplay format. So I couldn’t stop playing Persona 5, and P4, and P3, and P3 became my favorite.

Other than Persona, the Devil May Cry series gave me a good intuition of the combat, but as the combat developed, the game became very different from DMC’s combat style. At the very early stages of the combat system, it was a good reference point, but now it’s too different. Now I wouldn’t make the reference.

Eternights Combat 1

Q: How long will a typical playthrough of Eternights take players? Does Eternights feature New Game Plus elements?

A: Eternights does not feature a new game plus mode. Without specifics, you have time to get to know each character and feel like you have made good friends with them over the course of the adventure. Other than new game plus, Eternight’s last chapter is completely different based on your choices in the preceding chapter, and I think that alone provides good replay value.

Q: What do you think the single most important element of a satisfying JRPG is?

A: I think what makes a satisfying JRPG is very, very personal. To me, I think it’s really about the characters. I have to be able to feel what the main character is feeling, so I can get into the world and really experience it from their perspective. Not just in JRPGs, but in general, I enjoy when the characters are relatable.

Q: Can you give us an overview of Eternights’ story? What sorts of topics and themes does the game tackle?

A: Eternights has both a bigger theme and smaller themes. And the bigger theme is finding out who you are; finding yourself. In terms of the more detailed topics, I would say you can fail and still move on. Whatever you do is you, so it’s not wrong. The theme is to keep going. The world’s theme is based on that.

It’s set in an apocalyptic environment, which is very high-pressure. So you get to stick with your companions together for a long time in that very limited place. As a result, you and your companions get to interact more than usual. In normal life, you only have time between school and home. So there are fewer opportunities to meet people frequently.

Each act, a new friend will join your team, and you get to delve into each of their stories. You find out what their problems are, what they are trying to solve, and what is important to them.

RELATED: Official Persona 5 Roayl Poll Reveals Fans’ Favorite Characters

There are four different love interests in the game, and you have five different confidants total.

Yuna is a pop star at the peak of her popularity! When people see her, they only seem to see a pretty face or a weak girl, but behind those looks is a strong, rational, and intelligent woman. She is also a person with a strong sense of justice who is more than happy to help anyone in need. She has a habit of ironing things when things aren’t going very well or her life is simply complicated. In fact, due to the high stress and busy life of a pop-star, ironing has evolved from a habit to a favorite hobby of hers. Even though she is living the pop-star dream, she yearns to have a normal school life.

Sia is a genius researcher who loves science. She loves science so much that she considers everything around as something that could be worthy of study, which can lead to people feeling awkward around her. She has been traumatized by her past, but she hides it well. So, when people interact with her, they just think that she is a crazy eccentric who is obsessed with science.

Min is a shy and introverted girl that is able to achieve what she sets her mind to. She is a character that does not understand her own strength because of her lack of self-confidence. However, as the story and her relationship with the player progresses, she ends up realizing that strength. In short, Min has a strong will and a warm heart.

Chani is the player’s best friend from childhood. Even the day before the world ended, they were spending time together and hanging out. There is a rascal energy to them when they’re together. Chani is the player’s number one friend; he has his back no matter what.

And Yohan is a mysterious and handsome man who is rumored to be hundreds of years old. He is trying very hard to stop the end of the world, but no one knows why that is or what his true intentions are. Nobody even knows what kind of past he has.

Q: Establishing an emotional connection with characters is crucial in dating games. How do you go about designing love interests who will resonate with players?

A: For Eternights, it was definitely a challenge to have the player gain an emotional connection with the characters. In the end, I resolved that by having characters make certain immoral actions. I don’t mean anything deeply immoral, but little things. Sometimes we can be selfish. Sometimes we say offensive stuff to people because we are feeling bad that day. And those immoral actions open up the players mind because we all do that in life. That moral dilemma is a good way to make players feel like they have been there too. Once the player feels this character is similar to me, it opens that connection. You listen to the characters’ stories more carefully, and want to help them solve their problems.

Eternights Min Romance

Q: Eternights has a number of 2D-animated cinema scenes. How did you decide which scenes should receive animation versus in-engine representation?

A: First, Eternights was planned with a scene list from the beginning towards the end of the game. When I first listed all the scenes needed for the game, it needed a lot of cinematics. As a third-person action game, Eternights requires more assets and resources than other genres of games. A lot of things are happening in a short amount of time, and they are not abstracted. Everything needs to be animated in the right way, so people don’t misunderstand what’s going on. I was able to do some cinematics in 3D. Like, if it is not a big scene that requires liquid VFX, or close-ups—because the character models were not designed to support close-up camera angles, they were designed for a distance of say, ten meters. So for scenes that would take too much time in 3D—because I have to build every other aspect of the game—to save time, I would go to 2D animation. That was my first intuition.

My second intuition, was that scenes that needed a lot of facial animations to convey emotional impact, were better in 2D. I mentioned the last chapter is very different based on the player’s choices, and that chapter has a good amount of 2D animation. Again, it’s to emphasize what the characters are feeling and going through. So to get those facial expressions right, it was much better off in 2D. And those are the two main factors that I can think of.

Q: How did you settle on Eternights unique indigo, purple, and magenta color palette?

A: Oh! It’s a color palate that I enjoyed. In my previous project—I was working on a little indie game before—and it had the same color palette. That was a game about a dream, and Eternights is also somewhat dream-like. The title is supposed to refer to an eternal night, or endless dream/nightmare. It’s a kind of melancholy dream. I hope the whole experience, even in the daytime, is like a dream, and when the game ends, you wake up from the dream. And that was the mood I hope Eternights conveys to the player. That is why the color choices are vivid and dreamlike. Purple, magenta, and some sunset orange.

Q: Is there anything else you would like readers to know?

A: We are moving the release date of Eternights forward to September 12, and we will also be releasing physical copies of the title. To wrap up, I really enjoyed working on Eternights for the past three years. I learned a lot. This is my first very long game. Everything was my first time, and it was interesting to learn a whole bunch of different stuff. I’m looking forward to working on the second game right away. I cannot wait to apply everything I have learned from Eternights to the second game. To follow up, I hope people enjoy the title and have a great adventure with Eternights.


Eternights is available for PC, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5 on September 12.

MORE: Inkbound Interview: Dev Talks Starship of Terror’s Trinket System, Seasonal Mechanics, and More

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *