Premature Thoughts about Haven
So, the folks behind Furi are now working on a game called Haven. Details have been scarce but there’s now a gameplay trailer and press release with some more information. The game is definitely on my radar, but the aspect I want to focus on right now is this quote from creative director Emeric Thoa: “The story of a couple fighting for their freedom, an established relationship: what love looks like when you’ve moved past the early seduction phase, when you can be your true self with one another… I don’t think that’s been done much in video games.” I agree with this and I’m interested to see it done well. The plan for Haven is especially interesting given that Thoa describes the game as “Journey meets Persona.” It’s unclear yet what this means (if indeed it means anything; it’s very easy to just list some popular games without that proving anything about your own game) but I find the Persona comparison intriguing. Modern Persona games place a large emphasis on character relationships, and it looks like Haven will do the same. But where Persona provides a handful of varied characters with whom the player can establish relationships (in the game’s terminology, taking the “social link” from rank one to rank ten) it looks like Haven provides a single character with whom the player can explore an already established relationship (the social link starts at rank ten). This feels like a bit of a gamble - if I imagine a Persona game providing only one social link with the combined depth that’s currently spread across all social links, that’s an exciting idea if the expanded social link is with my favorite character and a disappointing idea if it’s with my least-favorite character. The depth really only pays off if the player likes the characters. But this isn’t really a fair comparison. Persona characters can be varied because there are several with the same depth. It’s good for the characters to have distinct personalities with traits that will endear them to some and put off others. No Persona character is everyone’s favorite, but every Persona character is somebody’s favorite. If you’re making a game with only one relationship, now the pressure’s on to make that character broadly likable, in a mass-market homogenization kind of way. So I’m a little concerned that the characters in Haven could end up generic with any controversial edges filed off - tolerable to everyone, but not anyone’s favorites. Unobjectionable but unremarkable. I hope this isn’t the case. There isn’t really anything in the trailer that makes it seem likely; I’m just concerned about the market forces involved. What is in the trailer, though, is a dialog choice. This seems like a possible solution, if done right - if there are many such choices and they don’t drastically change the story (so that there aren’t right and wrong choices) but do change the character personalities and interactions so they can be more extreme and more to the player’s liking. I’m not sure if that’s where Haven intends to take things, but I think it could be a great way to handle it.