I recently sat down Ben Rivers of Benjamin Rivers Inc to have a chat about his upcoming PS4 exclusive ‘Alone With You‘.
Console Monster: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me today! Let’s start off with some of the basics; Who are you and what do you do?
Benjamin Rivers: Why I’m Benjamin Rivers, of course! Just one of many independent game developers here in Toronto. I love games, comics and heavy metal—the only thing out of those three I don’t do myself is play in a metal band, which is unfortunate.
CM: You’re based in Toronto, right? How would you describe the company and has your location influenced your games in any way?
BR: Toronto’s independent gaming scene has blown up in the last seven years, and I was lucky to get involved near the beginning of this boom, which has led to where I am today. The community now is large enough that you don’t know who everyone is anymore, and there are many different interests and focuses. It couldn’t be a better environment, though, especially with our newly-revived IGDA chapter hosting all sorts of great events, and so many other community-led initiatives going on almost weekly. It feels a like a city built to make games now, which keeps things invigorating.
As for “the company,” it’s just my cat and me, and so far we’re doing quite well. One of us naps a bit too much, but I’ll let you decide who that is.
CM: Your upcoming release, ‘Alone With You’, is a sci-fi adventure with “a little bit of romance”. Can you tell us a little more about the title? And what sort of romance does that entail?
BR: Well, as the trailer explains, the romance in the game is a bit… unorthodox. It would be no fun to reveal too much at this stage, but like with games such as Persona, you have a main plot, and interactions with other characters that revolve around that. The game is very narrative-heavy, like Home, but also like with that title, the player is the one who makes the decisions.
CM: You’re previous game “Home” was critically acclaimed as a wonderfully crafted, fresh take on the horror game genre; what have you learned from your experience with that game and has that influenced any aspect of Alone With You?
BR: I learned lots of do’s, and many, many more don’ts. I mostly learned lessons in development—time management, programming and how to think more intelligently about how to construct the game itself. But most importantly, I learned that there is room for a laser-focused, no-nonsense narrative game among everything else, and to trust my instincts.
5. What are some of your favorite features or moments in the game? And is there anything that you had to leave out that you wish had made the final release?
My favourite moment in Home is when you finally (spoiler!) make it home and the ambient soundtrack is replaced by a single, oppressive rhythm. I thought about all sorts of ways to make that moment seem tense but in the end, the simplest choice seemed the best. As for features or content, I can honestly say the game is exactly how I wanted it! And thankfully, I’ve been able to add small bits of content since its initial release, which makes it a bit more interesting for people who replay the game.
CM: This is your first project ‘exclusively’ on the PlayStation 4 and PSVita, correct? What were some of the difficulties and/or benefits of working with this new hardware?
BR: Well, I’m still right in the middle of development, so I can’t say too much. To be honest, it’s nice to work on a single (well, sort of) platform and focus on that; what looks good on my test TV is what will look good on everyone’s. Working with mobile platforms such as iOS means you have a larger range of screen dimensions and memory configurations, etc., to configure. I know if the game runs on my dev system, it’ll work on everyone’s PS4, which feels like a treat.
CM: The PlayStation 4 has some very unique features such as the DS4’s touch pad, light bar and gyroscopic sensor, did you support any of these hardware features? If so, what purpose do they serve?
BR: Sorry, I can’t say anything just yet! All those choices will be made as the game progresses; I definitely have plans, but it all depends on what is supported by Game Maker Studio, which is the middleware I use to make games.
CM: Alone With You seems to have a very retro space-race art style to it, were there any particular influences to the way the game looks? Films, books or otherwise?
BR: The main influence is the look of Sega Genesis and Sega CD games! I love my Sega CDX and the crazy palettes employed by the creative developers of that era, both on cartridge and disc. Although I’m not being 100% faithful, AWY is mostly being drawn with a Sega Genesis colour palette, as a way to visually focus my art and provide creative limitations.
CM: What does the future hold for Benjamin Rivers Inc?
BR: With luck, my own awesome space ship and a cool AI companion with whom to share it.
CM: Speaking of other games, what are some of the current favorites of the you and team?
BR: I love GetSet Games’ Storm Casters for iOS, and I sure did love Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs earlier this year. Currently I’m playing Diablo III with my wife on PS4; it’s a real marriage-bonding game.
I’d like to thank Mr. Rivers for taking the time to talk with us today and we wish him the best of luck with his future endeavors.
If you wanna find out more about Alone With You, head over and check out the official site.