Jan Kavan – Someday You’ll Return interview - page 2

Ingmar: Please tell me more about the survival element. 

Jan: Daniel can’t fight, so he has to find creative ways to overcome everything the forest keeps throwing at him. He can craft items using the aforementioned workbench interface, and he will need herbalism to survive. There are traps and progressively nasty things so he has to be very careful and cautious where to step. Sometimes he just has to simply run away from danger.

There is no need to “drink or eat” in the context of survival, so for the vast majority of the game, players have all the time in the world to explore without feeling stressed that their food or time will run out.

Ingmar: Is the change between day and night-time going to have an impact on gameplay?

Jan: When night falls, apart from the fact that darkness can be more scary and disorienting, you need light to actually see around, otherwise some of the items or points of interest might remain hidden.

Ingmar: As I’m impressed by the visuals of Someday You’ll Return, it would be interesting to learn more about how you’re bringing real-life locations to life, and what experiences you’ve had with the Unreal Engine 4 so far.

Jan: Unreal Engine 4 is an incredible piece of software engineering. It allows us to use technology we never thought we would be able to – from motion capture to complex materials and lighting, the visual fidelity and the performance is stunning. We hope that when we tackle the PS4 and Xbox One versions, it will once again help as much as it does with the Windows build.

The downside is that for such a huge game trying to use the most of the engine, the learning curve is very steep and obviously not meant for a single person to know and understand everything. I am really glad that I learned C++ when I was still a kid.

Ingmar: The game involves an aspect local folklore. Please give us an idea of what that entails.

Jan: That’s a great question. The locations in our game are ancient. When Saints Cyril and Methodius came to Great Moravia in the 9th century, they walked the same paths you will be walking in the game. There are legends that the relics of Pope Klement I are buried beneath one of the game locations.

For quite some time in a pre-production phase, I was collecting folk tales and urban legends from the region. Strange apparitions, forest attacking people, you name it… The important part is that even the reason why we selected and use these tales in the story has a meaning.

Some of the NPCs you meet will also feel more like characters from the local folklore, but let’s keep this a secret for now.

Evidence of local folktales abound in the scenic countryside of Someday You'll Return

Ingmar: Can you give us a very rough idea of the game length you’re aiming for?

Jan: Not too long. I would say around 10 hours will be needed to play through the story. Of course, if someone will dedicate their time to search for all the secrets, it will be quite a bit longer. I obviously don’t include pure ‘walkthrough followers’. I have no idea how long the game will take for them. 

Ingmar: Your homepage mentions an estimated release date in 2019. What’s the current production and funding status?

Jan: We are sailing full speed ahead. At this point we don’t plan any crowdfunding campaign, if that’s why you ask. We just want to survive the development and let people enjoy the game.

Ingmar: Are you planning to work with a publisher at some point or are you planning to self-publish the game?

Jan: At this point, this is an open question, but there is no publisher so far.

Ingmar: What games do you consider an influence for Someday You’ll Return?

Jan: We have several titles which helped us form what we want to do. Namely Silent Hill 2 for the reasons of how it works with symbolism and meanings; there is of course Firewatch and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, because everyone seeing our game immediately gets a similar vibe. In our case we try to be more ‘interactive’ though. Outlast 2 and Resident Evil 7 helped us shape some dark aspects of the game.

Ingmar: Generally speaking, what games of the recent past have particularly impressed you because of their storytelling?

"So, here's why we shouldn't announce games years in advance..." Okay, not their real conversation, but Jan (right) enjoys a passionate discussion with Asylum's Agustín Cordes at Adventure-Treff's gamescom afterparty.

Jan: If there is one recent game which totally got me, it’s Kentucky Route Zero. The way the narrative unfolds and how your decisions subtly color the plot, instead of going down the pit of meaningless choices, really resonated with me. I practically don’t have time to play these days, but I know that when the last chapter comes out, I will play it right away.

This game was also basically one of the reasons we ditched the branching dialogues from Someday You’ll Return. We are unable to create meaningful consequences for each branch and the older I get, the more I see through many dialogue trees as an artificial hindrance to hide the right choice and thus delay player progression. Of course there are some exceptions, especially in non-adventure genres (Witcher 3 comes to mind).

And then … there’s Detroit: Become Human. I will be surely playing that game exactly for the reason of meaningful branching choices.

Ingmar: Jan, it’s been a pleasure once more. I hope that we’re going to be able to have a closer look at Someday You’ll Return at this year’s gamescom. Thanks much for your time!

Jan: Thank you so much, Ingmar! I can’t promise gamescom 2018 just yet. We’ve spent quite a lot of time at various conferences and we simply have to develop the game, but there are some things in motion now and I wouldn’t entirely rule out that possibility.

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