Back when we started 1001-Up.com in February 2013, the Kickstarter campaign for Lucky Pause’s adventure game Homesick was the first we ever backed as a team. We were lucky enough to get the chance to have our questions answered by the team and they’ve reinforced the reasons why we backed this amazing project in the first place.
In Homesick, players will find themselves exploring an abandoned building, solving puzzles to open new rooms and being plagued by dark nightmares. They’ll discover the world and the meaning of the twisted dreams as they try to escape. There are themes of juxtaposition at work – dark versus light, peace versus fear – and we’re looking forward to seeing where these opposites take the game.
Barrett Meeker previously worked as an artist at Blur Studio in Venice, California and created computer-generated art for commercials, video games and films. He also co-directed the short-film Grounded before finally deciding to launch his own company in the form of Lucky Pause in November 2012. Morgan Wyenn is the Communications Director, working as an attorney by day and spreading the word about Homesick by night. Thank you to Barrett for taking the time to answer our questions.
How did the Lucky Pause team meet and what made you decide to start making Homesick?
“We actually met through my sister. Both my sister and Morgan work at environmental organizations in our area. My sister was staying with me for a while and invited Morgan over for a party at my place. So we actually met in my living room! I met Argon years earlier, when he was just a tiny puppy. Now he is a huge crazy dragon dog.
“I have been a CG artist for about nine years, most of that being at a studio working on game cinematics. The year before I started making Homesick I worked at a video game company as an environment artist. I learned Unreal and generally started to gain a better understanding of all that goes into making a game. Ever since I was a kid I wanted to make my own game someday. So after learning Unreal and working at a game company, it started to feel like maybe the timing was right to take a leap and do it.”
We backed last year’s Kickstarter campaign as soon as we heard that the game was inspired by some of our favourite adventures! Have any particular titles influenced your work?
“Dear Esther was the real catalyst in showing me how a game can just be this relatively small world, a space you can go into and it gives you an emotion, and it doesn’t really have to be more than that. Seeing that game made me think, hey I think could do something like that! But I also wanted to mix in puzzles that helped tell the story.”
Little has been revealed about the storyline so far but players will find themselves in an abandoned building, acting as a caretaker of sorts. Are you able to give us any further details?
“The story will be revealed as you play the game, which I think will be part of the fun of the game overall. So I don’t want to ruin it by giving it away!”
By day your character is at peace and will encounter puzzles, but by night they are plagued by nightmares and chased down dark corridors. Can you tell us about how these different mechanics will work and whether there will be any connections between both ‘worlds’?
“Yes, there is a connection. Certain things you do in one world will effect the other, and both play an important part of the story. If I said more than that it would spoil the exploration and discovery of these mechanics though, which I’m hoping to keep a surprise.”
The fact that the Kickstarter campaign reached over three times the target amount has meant that you’ve been able to incorporate stretch goals of a new roof level and prequel game. How much additional work has this added, and has it been hard not to get carried away?
“It has been impossible – I am getting carried away. It’s turning into a much bigger game than I expected, in a good way I think. At some point I may stop adding things to the list of ‘wouldn’t it be cool if…’, but for now the list of things I want to do is still growing. But the list of things I am getting done is growing too, so that is good at least.”
We were instantly reminded of Myst when we first saw the promo shots for Homesick: both titles have that abandoned, lonely feeling which seems to work so well in the adventure genre. Has this kind of atmosphere been difficult to achieve and how important is it to the game?
“I think the atmosphere is one of the key emotional drivers for the game. Homesick really centers around trying to create a space and atmosphere for you to really soak in and feel. The story will bring some structure to the atmosphere but really it’s probably the atmosphere that’s the main emotional driver, so it’s been very important. I think from when I first started working on the game I knew I could give it that sort of atmosphere. I try to reinforce it with every little detail, to try and maintain it throughout the game. I think that will be the tricky thing, keeping up the level of feeling throughout, and trying to get it all feeling spot on.”
Unfortunately Lucky Pause was involved in a copyright dispute with original composer Joy Autumn late last year. But the good news is that you’re now working with the talented Heather Schmidt! Has a new composer inspired any differences in direction?
“Things fell through with the first musician we were talking with so early on, that there wasn’t really anything going on musically at that point. Morgan and I always knew the feeling we wanted to get from the music, and that we really wanted a solo piano to play a major role, but aside from that, the music we have now is from working closely with Heather. So I wouldn’t say the direction changed, since we already knew from the start what direction we wanted to go in, but Heather has brought it to life better than we could have imagined. Working with Heather is so cool, how she can translate some concepts into such beautiful and touching music. It’s awesome.”
Are you a gamer yourself? If so, what’s your preferred genre and do you have a favourite game?
“This is not a fair question, I have so much trouble picking! I’ll cheat and give you a few: Monkey Island, Skyrim, Flower, Dawn of War. Weird mix, I know. Monkey Island was probably the first game I really truly loved. I love pirates and the humor, the story, the insane puzzles; it’s all so great. I love how well Skyrim creates a whole other world you can get lost in as a player. I think big single-player games like this have the advantage of being able to really create a more immersive world than an MMO can. In Flower, I love the simplicity and great subtle story of the man-made versus the natural. I really like strategy games sometimes and Dawn of War has been my favorite because of Warhammer40k’s satirical take on war and religion.”
What challenges did you face going down the Kickstarter route? Were you prepared for these when starting out?
“I would say our biggest challenge was that we were just figuring it all out as we went along. We were hopeful that it might be a successful campaign and we were really inspired by the community around crowdfunding. But we had never done anything like that before. We just tried our best to communicate our ideas and who we are. It was one of the most exciting months of our lives. Every aspect of it was new for us and totally mind-blowing. It is hard to explain how humbling and wonderful it feels to be getting such generous support, both financial and otherwise, from complete strangers, all around the globe. It still blows me away when I think about it now, a year later.”
Is there any advice you’d give to someone who’s thinking of making an indie game?
“Play to your strengths! There are so many different skills that go into making a game and making a game is such a big undertaking. Try to work with what you have. If you’re a good musician, then make music play a large role in your game. If you’ve been a watercolor painter for years, maybe you should consider painting your game artwork in watercolor. I tried to think of a game idea that really plays well off of my strengths, but is still an idea I feel really passionate about. I would also suggest doing as much as you can yourself, and paying to have work done that you can’t.”
Can you tell us which component of Homesick you’re currently working on?
“Yep, right now I’m working on the artwork. I want to have real diversity in the environment of the game to make the game world feel rich.”
What’s next for the Lucky Pause team?
“Once we’re done with Homesick, if it does well and we have the time and money we would really love to take it to some game conventions. We’ll be ready for a vacation and so far we’ve been skipping all the gaming conventions like PAX, GDC, etc so we can keep working, but I’d love to engage more with the community once we’re done. Also thanks to Kickstarter we’ll be making a little free DLC prequel for Homesick that will come out sometime after the game. After that and a small break we hope to keep making games, we already have an idea.”
One final question: can you give Argon a tickle behind the ears for us please?
“Ggggggggggguuurrraaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh (Argon makes funny noises sometimes…. some of which may make it into the game).”
Once again, thank you to Barrett (and Morgan for coordinating our emails – and Argon!) for taking the time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions. Homesick is due to be released later this year and we’re waiting with baited breath – as soon as we get our hands on our copy of the game we’ll be sure to bring you a review.