Jan Kavan – Someday You’ll Return interview

Jan Kavan – Someday You’ll Return interview
Jan Kavan – Someday You’ll Return interview

If you have been following the social media channels of CBE Software throughout the last few years, you have probably noticed that the two-man team best known for its innovative sci-fi adventure J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars has been working on a new project for quite some time. Having previously teased the title but not much else, today the indie Czech development studio officially unveils its new psychological survival thriller. Eager to learn even more about the game, I caught up with CBE co-founder Jan Kavan to dig a little deeper. Read on as Jan takes us to the dark and mysterious woods of Moravia and shares some juicy details about Someday You’ll Return, which is currently slated for release in 2019.

Ingmar Böke: Hello Jan, it’s a pleasure to welcome you back to Adventure Gamers to discuss your new project Someday You’ll Return. Our last interview with you took place in March 2013, back when you were working on the enhanced edition of J.U.L.I.A. Please fill us in on what’s been happening between the release of that game and today's announcement of Someday You’ll Return

Jan Kavan: Hi Ingmar, it’s always a pleasure to answer your questions so thank you for inviting me back here!

When we launched J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars, many things kept us busy. We had to finalize the physical rewards for our amazing backers and prepare a fully localized German version, just to name a couple of things.

When the dust settled, we slowly started to think about what to do next. At that time the Unreal Engine 4 came out and we did some experimentation with it, which turned into an immediate love of the technology. As it happens with us, we just wanted to do a small game, which would allow us to rest a bit from the exhausting J.U.L.I.A. production. It turned out that we gave birth to an incredibly monstrous project, especially considering our core two-man team.

We’ve been lucky though, because during our development we applied for funding from Creative Europe Programme by MEDIA of the European Union. We were selected and the money involved helped us to seriously raise the quality bar of the game.

In previous years we’ve hinted here and there that we are working on a game and even, albeit not entirely officially, released a short teaser video featuring a Moravian folk song. Then we disappeared again and worked for years until we felt that we are ready for the real announcement. That time is now!

Ingmar: Please tell us something about the premise and concept of Someday You’ll Return.

Jan: Someday You’ll Return is a present day psychological horror game, where you assume role of Daniel, who arrives deep in the woods to search for his missing daughter. It’s obvious from the start that she didn’t just get lost, but she actually keeps running away for some reason. This time it’s different, though. She ran away to a place Daniel swore he would never return. It’s up to players to find out why.

Daniel enters the forest by his car and is convinced that his smartphone tracker will make this ordeal just a short errand. As the game progresses, things obviously get complicated and he is forced to exchange modern technology for tools of his childhood as he is confronted with things he kept running from.

Ingmar: When I first read about your new game, I remembered something you told me at gamescom many years back. Back then, we were discussing our individual experiences when playing Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain. You told me about the strong effect the game’s premise had on you as a father. So I can imagine that the creation of Someday You’ll Return must  be quite intense for you on a personal level, too. Is the idea behind this something along the lines of, “I’ll take my strongest fears, and turn them into a game?”

CBE co-founders Lukáš Medek (left) and Jan Kavan relax after a busy day at gamescom

Jan: That’s a great deduction. It’s indeed one of the core aspects driving the story: not only the horrors of what could happen to my kids, but also the fear how much, as a father, I can fail.

Speaking of horrors, the game relies deeply on symbolism, so you are not going to encounter just random scary or weird things. Everything has a deep meaning in the context of the story and the world.

Ingmar: Let’s talk more about the different gameplay elements involved.

Jan: As you might know, we always try to incorporate something new into our gameplay mechanics. In the case of Someday You’ll Return, we are adding quite a few novelties. First of all, we are using a specialized workbench interface for inventory and world item manipulation, which I call Inventory 2.0.

Take your standard adventure game: you grab a cat, combine her with a smartphone and voila! You have a spy device.

In our game, you have to actually find a way how to make that happen. You can turn and examine individual items, interact with individual hotspots within them. You also don’t only combine items, but also incorporate various tools (hammer with nails, pliers, wrench, screwdriver, knife or hand drill) to achieve your goals. Your actions are immediately visible, so for me it feels way more interactive.

You'll need to get your hands dirty with some old-fashioned workbench tools to survive in Someday You'll Return

We also have herbalism. You gather herbs and mushrooms to create potions according to an old (fictional, don’t try this at home) book. This also involves using the correct parts of the plants in the right order.

There is a karmic system. The way you play and the actions you do have a consequence in the grand scheme of the game. This won’t be immediately visible but players will eventually find out.

You are going to climb, having to find your way through the rocky terrain, you have a smartphone at your disposal, you can track footprints and sometimes you have to sneak.

You can’t fight back the horrors, so there’s no combat involved.

Ingmar: The game features a semi-open world. Please tell us more about this approach, and the aspect of non-linearity in Someday You’ll Return.

Jan: The beginning part is fairly linear, but even there, if you explore, you can go off the path to discover secrets. Then, as you become more knowledgeable of the surroundings, it opens and you can go various places as you see fit.

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