Interview | Lake

Interview | Lake

Dae Jim had a chat with Jos from Gamious, they are bringing out Lake for Xbox and pc this year.

Lake isn’t a stranger for Xbox fans, as it was posted on XboxWire’s games coming exclusively to Xbox in 2021 article. For those that missed it, could you please explain what Lake is about? What sets it apart and why should gamers buy it.

Lake is a game that plays in 1986. You take on the role of Meredith Weiss, who takes a break from her big city career to become a mail carrier in a quiet little town. It’s a very relaxing game without dangers or time pressure. You drive around a beautiful lake, deliver mail, and meet lots of people. You get to decide who to talk to, who to befriend and perhaps even start a romantic relationship with. At the end of her break, Meredith has to decide if she will go back to her normal life or stay in the town she grew up in.

If you’re looking for a chill experience in the 80’s without internet and mobile phones, but with dialogues, beautiful surroundings, and a mature, ‘slice-of-life’ storyline with lots of player agency, Lake might be the game for you.

So Lake is about delivering packages, I really wonder did you get some advice from mail carriers?

We did not get advice from mail carriers, to be honest. But we did receive some feedback from them. And we weren’t surprised to hear that a real-life mail carrier job is much more demanding than we portray it. Maybe we should add some sort of disclaimer in the game!

I’m aware that this is a very story-driven game but can a player simply launch Lake to deliver some packages without progressing in the story?

We try to give the player as much agency as possible in Lake. So while it’s sometimes unavoidable to talk to someone that you’re delivering a parcel to, you do have the option to not get further involved with them. For instance, they might ask you to help out with things, or ask to meet up after work, but you can choose to decline that. So the story progresses, but those characters will then just play a much smaller role in it.

Looking at Gamious previous games I think it is fair to say that Lake has a lot more ambition, right? Respectfully speaking but previous released games are quite different.

That’s true. Lake is our biggest project to date. We’ve made puzzle games, oil-drilling simulation Turmoil, and a team-based race game, but Lake’s scope is bigger than those. It’s not something we planned on, it got bigger and bigger along the way. Our confidence in the game grew each time we had breakthroughs in areas like character modeling and animation, voice-over, surroundings, and narrative structure. We just couldn’t imagine Lake without it, so once these cats were out of the bag, we decided to go all the way. Early reactions to Lake were also very positive, which helped as well.

There is a big shift in working from home because of Covid. Gamious is based in The Netherlands, which had some strict working from home policies. Did this have any kind of effect for the development from Lake?

We were lucky that we tackled most important creative challenges before the whole Covid thing started. It would have been much more difficult to decide on storylines without the occasional writers meetup. Getting our head around the narrative structure would also have been difficult without the big whiteboard calendar with the first two weeks of September 1986 on it. We spent lots of time in front of it, moving around magnetic labels with character names on them. The same goes for designing other things like the map, the right visual style, and the UI. So in terms of getting stuff done, the focus had already shifted to finishing the game. So we weren’t affected too much. But we all miss working together at the office. Looking at other industries however, the games industry can’t complain too much.

We’re having this interview because of LudoNarraCon, a digital convention. Something else Covid has a strong impact on, physical conventions. For indies, getting the game in players hands is a great way of collecting feedback and getting the word out. Do you feel that you’re missing out now or is there enough online to compensate?

Before the outbreak, we already had been at Indigo in Utrecht and AdventureX in London. This gave us valuable insights to how players enjoyed driving around, dialogues, and delivering mail. And we were already at a point where we felt that new (more in-depth) player feedback would not be convenient to collect at physical conventions, as that would need playing sessions of at least an hour. For online testing, we recently we made good use of Steam Playtest, a new feature that allows you to set up and invite players to playtest your game via your Steam store page.

We ask each one we interview to write something nice about a LudoNarraCon game. For you, this is Tunic from Finji. What do you think about this cute little fox?

Thanks for choosing Tunic for me! It’s almost impossible to not write something nice about it. It looks absolutely amazing and incredibly charming and inviting to play. I’m looking forward to checking out the LudoNarraCon demo!

Thanks for your time, I hope our LifeisXbox audience is as interested as I am for Lake!

Thank you too!

This interview was part of LifeisXbox’s LudoNarraCon coverage.