We know the internet and new video game platforms have changed the relationship between players and game designers. Everything is much closer now. Since the player can leave an appraisal of the work of the developers, their opinion has come to the forefront. It can be heard.
Indie developers are active on social networks. They usually have the time and the attitude to listen and, above all, to answer to the players’ comments.
“The main aim for the project was to generate discussion and different levels of reading from the events it shows”
This way I started to chat with Pehesse, creator of Honey Rose. This is a game I knew quite randomly, thanks to the work of Niko and Dawn (NeedtoKnow Gaming). I was immediately interested in its aesthetic, which I found to be completely original.
Later, speaking with Pehesse, I realized that Honey Rose is not about masked warriors, but has a hidden meaning. I also noticed about the ideas of its developer, who is trying to go a step further in the rules that mark the relationship between players and developers.
In essence, no matter how much things have changed, the essential rule remains strong: video game developers create a product and players pay and consume it. Apparently, Pehesse has different ideas about this. But you better let him tell yourself, so let’s read it!
VIC: Hello there, Pehesse. First of all, tell us a little about the game you released to the market this last September.
PEHESSE: While I’ve touched on the subject in private with a number of people, I feel laying out the complete keys out in the open would be tantamount to ending the game and admitting defeat, as the main aim for the project was to generate discussion and different levels of reading from the events it shows.
For that reason, I’m still unwilling to go into too much detail, if just for a while longer, but I’ll say this: this game, to me and as I intended it, is not about masked fighters, a tournament, or a band or university students. It is primarily about two people: myself, as a game maker, and yourself, as a player. From there, make of that what you will!
My aim isn’t to impose my own intentions and readings onto all players, but to offer a variety of possible experiences. Having a reading and experience tied to the game’s surface presentation is absolutely fine, and I’m sure there are also a number of other readings I hadn’t planned for and counted on. I’d be interested to hear about those!
VIC: What’s your story? How is it that you found yourself in the middle of your life designing videogames?
PEHESSE: I wish I had a more exciting story to share, as those make for the best “origin” tales, but unfortunately, it’s one you probably have heard a number of times before!
I’ve always been into designing games ever since I found my first Gameboy under the Christmas tree at the age of 3. My first two games were Tetris and Duck Tales, and I finished neither until years later – time enough to dream about what the games actually contained beyond what I had seen.
VIC: Had both too!
PEHESSE: I started making paper mockup for the games I played showcasing the levels I was hoping to be in, then eventually moving on to drafting whole games that I wanted to play.
A few years later I moved to actually making them using a number of different tools and software: an ultima-like role-playing making engine on x486, a short detour with BASIC with my father’s help, and eventually landing on RPG Maker which I used for most of my teenage years.
My goal then was to enter the videogame industry, and as there was no formal education or formation to get in that I knew of, I thought my best bet would be to go through art school as I strongly equate the two. And so, I did. It was certainly an education, but it also left me with a lot of frustrations, complexes and an unwillingness to design games by myself again, as I was taught I was doing it wrong. I enrolled into an actual game design school that had opened in the meantime and started making games “the proper way” with proper people, still with the intent of joining the industry.
When the time came to do that, I was faced with the reality I was neither good enough, nor willing enough to compromise with what I believed in to actually make it in. I still tried for a few years, before eventually moving back to smaller scale projects with a number of teams which all failed for a number of reasons, and finally moving back to my last chance: one last game by myself, to see if I could make it, or if everyone had been right all along and I simply didn’t get it.
That game was Honey Rose, and my whole purpose for making it was to make it to the end by myself according to the values I hold dear: that games are an important medium for self expression and a powerful tool to communicate and convey values and worldviews with others. That interactivity can translate emotions not directly related to the basic level of entertainment, and that player’s time should be valued above all by making the experience they play something they can remember and build themselves upon. I only wish I had managed to be faster, as I believe artists have a responsibility and a role to play in the current crisis of values we face, and games, along with all other media, have a responsibility to teach and spread societal values. Entertainment is both a reflection of society, and helps mold it, and we as game makers (or any kind of content) have a duty to our audiences to reach out and treat it with respect and responsibility, and showcase what we believe is, or should be right!
“Games are an important medium for self expression. Artists have responsibility and a role to play in the current crisis of values we face”
VIC: For those who do not know, the game is available on Steam paying the sum that the user sees fit. Why this system of payment?
PEHESSE: Many of my misgivings with our current society stem from our economic models and practices, and what they teach us about ourselves and our relationship to others. I believe our current business practices to be fundamentally flawed and unworkable for the increasing number of people, and the environment they create to be neutering for the medium itself going forward. Steam is a good representation of that: it’s the most widely known and accepted digital storefront, the only one for many, yet it still hasn’t implemented a number of user options and alternative economic models that should be considered standard, such as “pay-what-you-want”.
The first aim for the “Pay-What-You-Like” model, then, was to find a way to bring “pay-what-you-want” type models to Steam, and offer the chance to players to voice their support to this kind of model being there in the first place.
The second aim for “Pay-What-You-Like” is to dissociate “Pay” and “Play”: our current consumerist impulses tie the value of the experience we have with a game to the monetary value we pay to access it, which I believe fundamentally harms the perception we have of the work in the first place. I wish for players to make up their own mind about my work, and *then* willingly choose to pay for it after they’ve determined what their experience meant to them. I don’t consider my work to be free: it simply offers the chance to delay the remuneration and make an informed, responsible decision. Of course, many players take advantage of the situation, but I don’t believe we have much of a future going forward if we stick only to our current practices. If we want games to expand as a creative medium, we have to find alternatives, and I’m hoping enough players will voice and show support for alternative models such as “pay-what-you-liked” to make them viable and sustainable long term plans, enough to reconsider some of the most dangerous and predatory attitudes the current industry has towards its audience.
The aim for Pay-What-You-Like system is to dissociate “Pay” and “Play”
VIC: I know you are fundraising yourself freely, through donations in Patreon. I love this system, because it rescues the old-fashioned model of patron and artist (in spanish language its even more beautiful, because the common word for patron is “mecenas”, which recalls to the storycal patron of artist in ancient Rome).
Can you tell us how this page works?
Absolutely, and in fact, this directly ties in to what I was discussing above: the “pay-what-you-liked” model. As much as I wish I could develop free from all constraints, I still need a form of income to live, so I’m offering patrons a chance to directly support the work they believe in and want to participate in. The money that I make through Patreon is my wage as a game maker, and directly ties into the existence of the game itself.
No money, no game, it’s really that simple! If people are interested in my work and wish to support it, the Patreon campaign allows them to support it however they choose: either through one-offs acts of patronage (through patreon or paypal.me), or for a longer period of time. The patreon model is currently gaining traction for content creators whose work takes the shape of a regularly release piece of content (a video, a comic every week/month) – unfortunately, it still has a way to go with games and longer-term endeavours, as they’re year-spanning enterprises at best.
The money that I make through Patreon is my wage as a game maker, and directly ties into the existence of the game.
I willingly haven’t tied my Patreon campaign to short-term rewards to avoid preying on the “instant gratification” instincts currently widely encouraged, and to avoid diluting my focus from making the games themselves. I believe my patrons are best served by my full attention being on the object of their support. I also give them the chance to participate from the earliest stages of development to voice their thoughts and feedback, from simple design discussions to actually playing my test builds and prototypes almost as I’m making them. The overall intent for the campaign and the model is for the final result of the work to be “free to access for all”, or rather, “pay-what-you-liked”!
VIC: Let us drop a link to your Patron Page here:
Finally, I would like to ask you for your next project.
PEHESSE: The game I’m currently working on is titled Pachacuti, after the Incan concept of cyclic time and space. It stars the Daughter of the Sun on her quest to retake her home temple from the Spirit of the Moon. It plays as a 2D modular-action-platformer, meaning it will be a linear experience comprised of a sequence of predesigned levels, parts of which will adapt and change depending on the players actions and tracked style of play.
This should make the game replayable, and the overall intent is to make an experience enjoyable both for newcomers to the genre through engaging visuals, scenes and an entertaining and accessible gameplay at a basic level, while also being satisfying for skilled players and speedrunners through the different layers of strategizing for optimizing paths, and the overall versatility of the moveset available.
So far I’ve built the core moveset of one of two player character forms, and the prototype for that is already available on Patreon. I’ll be working now on the second moveset to have a build of the core concepts of the game as early as possible! The game itself is still very early, meaning it’ll take a few years to complete, but I believe it’s already at a stage where people can play it and have enough fun to understand where it’ll be headed, and want in turn to participate in making it happen!
And after that… who knows? I have a number of other projects I have already started to design. All I need is the player’s support to make them happen!
VIC: Thanks for your time, Pehesse.
So that’s all, folks. If you believe in this developer vision, you have some hints on how to support him. Since time and space are cyclical, I will be running in circles until the arrival of Pachacuti.