Explore Maya’s world in Ever Forward with producer Bin Yang
In a world fraught with uncertainty at every turn, life can be frightening — especially for a little girl. Such is Maya’s existence — forced to be indoors due to a nebulous calamity and desperate for her inattentive mother’s care, the imaginative 12-year-old switches between her reality and her subconscious to make sense of it all. Can she solve the puzzles plaguing her mind and unlock the secrets buried in her heart?
So begins Ever Forward, the latest title from My Time At Portia developers Pathea Games. After three years of development, Ever Forward is finally inching its way to players hands with a release date set for July 2020. Those wanting to experience the game sooner can do so with the demo, which features 40% of the game.
Having been able to play and thoroughly enjoy the demo myself, I was excited for the opportunity to interview the producer of Ever Forward, Bin Yang, on all things development. And while the gamedev in me laugh/cried at some answers, the gamer in me learned a lot. Check it out below:
1. What inspired Ever Forward?
“The love of game making. Next!”
2. Are any of the characters based on people you know?
“As a developer, when I build a character, it needs to come from places of inspiration: someone I know, a character from a book, or even another game, etc. When I search through a few of these places, I can combine these inspirations into something new.
“In this case, however, Maya and Ann aren’t based on anyone I know. Fun fact — the name ‘Ann’ was chosen because this word sounds like ‘relief’ or ‘safety’ in Chinese, so that seemed like an apt choice.”
3. The robots don’t immediately jump out at me as something that intuitively connects to what’s happening in Maya’s world. What do they represent?
“Those who are paying close attention in the prologue may have noticed that the robots in Maya’s world were actually created by her at some point in her memory…”
4. What’s been the hardest part of development?
“Well, each stage of development has its own difficulties. In the beginning, we struggled with designing puzzles, creating a satisfying feedback loop, and coming up with a story. As these things began to take shape, more difficulties would arise in different areas, such as art, then again in the same places, such as more puzzle design.
“In short, the whole process is difficult, although the burden falls on different members of the team more during certain stages of development. For me personally, the greatest difficulty was always in the puzzle design. Luckily, I took a page out of Maya’s book and never gave up!”
5. What is your favorite aspect of Ever Forward?
“Despite the difficulty, definitely the puzzles. When I was super concentrated on the development of Ever Forward, sometimes I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. What helped me really find the center of Ever Forward and really enjoy making it was testing good puzzles on players and friends; sometimes they would find the solution I’d designed, other times they’d find something I never planned for. It was really funny to see the crazy solutions people would come up with.”
6. How does this project compare to other games you’ve made? Has it been easier to make? Harder? More fulfilling?
“This is my first time directing a commercial game. I knew it would be hard, but it was still harder than that. Being the director means at the end of the day you’re in charge of everything. That includes things you don’t have much experience with, like marketing or team building. Lots of other little things that you never think about. But it’s all been a great experience, I’ve learned a ton.”
7. Early on in the story, Maya and others are forced to stay indoors and I found some parallels to COVID-19. Was that intentional, or were you taken aback by what happened in real life? Did you find similarities to current events as well?
“Maya’s story was determined long before any of this happened. It’s a very unfortunate coincidence, and our hearts go out to those affected directly by the crisis. There were talks of making changes, but the isolation aspect of our game is a key part of the narrative and couldn’t be remedied in any reasonable time frame. Our greatest hope is that people will find some solace in playing our game and it can help people through these troubled times in some way.”
8. What’s a really funny/frustrating bug you’ve found during development, and how did you fix it?
“Bug, you say?
“Well, I did create a secret achievement called ‘This is not a BUG,’ a special Easter egg type challenge that would require dedicated players to think — let’s say, laterally — to discover. On the Chinese side, I offered up 1000 RMB to the first person to earn the achievement, feeling pretty confident I’d never have to part ways with the money.
“Sure enough, the achievement was earned by a player within 24 hours of release, and not even by using my intended method, but by using … A BUG! They unlocked my ‘This is not a BUG’ achievement with a bug!
“I guess all you can say is, never underestimate the player!”
9. Anything else you want players to know?
“For dedicated prologue players, we will be releasing special challenge puzzles, also for free, for continuing to support us during our start-up period. Check our updates!”