Experience games allow players the chance to go through the adventure of uncovering the depths of a story being told through visual interactive scenarios that each play their role in the grand scheme of the game. While there are many games like this, such as the recently released What Happened to Edith Finch, it is always great to go through another stories experience.
Coming as soon as May 16th is another adventure, experience game called Empathy: Path of Whispers which is being developed by Pixel Night and published by Iceberg Interactive! In this story, you will be tasked with recovering the lost memories and restoring them to help balance the society within.
Empathy takes place in a world made up of people’s emotions and memories, but something went missing from it, throwing the society into anarchy. You play as a lone child, guided through that surreal world by a mysterious voice on a quest to restore its lost emotional balance, and to uncover the cause behind it. Find the memories, restore them and see world change around you as you progress through the story as it happened.
Interview with Anton Pustovoyt
What inspired you to create your game?
“I’ve always been big fans of atmospheric games that allowed you to enjoy and explore their world, regardless of the genre they came it. I always first and foremost suck in the atmosphere of the games, its world and details. In fact, I played many games solely for their wonderful atmosphere rather than mechanics, it’s almost like enjoying a scenery for the sake of it.
Empathy is our take on presenting such a world to the player, combined with an intriguing story and new story-telling mechanics. We wanted to make a game in which simply being in the world is an experience of itself, game which invited you to explore itself, and rewarded you for doing so.”
Who is your target audience?
“Our target audience are adventure genre fans who love story-driven games such as Vanishing of Ethan Carter and Firewatch, ranging from young to old. There’s something for everyone – a complex and mature story, a beautiful and intriguing world, a mystery to unfold.“
How long has it been in development?
“The game started as a student graduation project in 2012. Then it been in on and off prototyping for a couple of years, where we tried different mechanics and approaches for the story we wanted to tell and the experience, In 2015 we signed publishing agreement with Iceberg Interactive, switched engines from UDK to unreal 4, and genres from point and click to first person. That’s when real development began and went on for another two years, with the game to be released now in May.”
What's your favorite part of the development process?
“When it comes to the actual practical development, it’s undoubtedly level design. I love sitting and thinking how the people that inhabit the world would behave and what kind of traces they would leave, how would a certain location or an object look during such circumstances. It’s rather entertaining.
Although if to approach the question in a more broad sense, then I have to say actually watch people play the game because you learn so much about player’s behavior and how they interpret your level design in practice. It’s impossible to guess up-front, and sometimes you even miss the most obvious things until you actually test them.
I recall us designing the first tutorial puzzle, where player has to repair a bridge. Everyone that seen it so far stopped and tried to figure out what they need to do in order to get to the other side. One player however just sprinted instead of jumping over the gap, continuing on his merry way. In our focus on the puzzle we never really considered to make sure players can’t simply jump over the gap. There’s of course other scenarios, where you see how lighting or scenery impacts player’s decision and navigation, and then you have to adapt to it.”
Do you think the story will have an impact on the players?
“Of course. We would not release a story we did not consider impactful enough, as we spent many months just refining and polishing it alone, before starting on level design. It’s a mature story, with both sad and happy parts to it, and lots of nuance as we wanted to showcase different sides of same conflicts.”
What games inspired you to make Empathy the game it is?
“Surprisingly, considering the differences in genre, games like STALKER with its eerie atmosphere, and more understandable inspirations such as Journey, with its relaxing cinematic experience.”
What genre does it fall under?
“We usually refer to Empathy as an adventure game, part of the new wave of first-person story-driven experiences with puzzle elements to them, in same vain as Firewatch, Vanishing of Ethan Carter and What Remains of Edith Finch.”