The Natural Disasters update adds a watery foe--a geisha named Catherine Imamura--for Death to face.
Have a Nice Death has had a substantial early access period, launching as an already fairly challenging, albeit entertaining roguelike experience and then expanding to incorporate more areas and bosses, like the war-torn wasteland of the Modern Warfare Department. The game is scheduled to get one more area ahead of the launch of its 1.0 build, which is themed around the concept of Natural Disasters.
Ahead of the release of the Natural Disasters update, GameSpot had an email interview with Have a Nice Death narrative designer and marketing coordinator Mérédith Alfroy, lead game designer Simon Dutertre, and creative director and animation director Nico Léger. Their answers are transcribed below.
In Have a Nice Death, you play as the titular Death, who rules over the different departments of Death, Inc. His subordinates have grown lazy and greedy over time, leading to an influx of souls that has resulted in so much paperwork, Death is burning out fast. He finally snaps and goes on a rampage through the company, whipping his employees back into shape, one department at a time.
How does the work process for the creation of new bosses coincide with the themes of a level? Are they developed side-by-side, for example, or are bosses made first and level themes created to match them?
Dutertre: The themes of all departments were chosen a long time ago–since the beginning of Have a Nice Death’s development. After selecting the main theme of the entire game, we extracted individual themes for each world to create a boss that fits thematically for both the department and the entire game.
For instance, a boss from the Physical Illness Department wouldn’t use a fireball attack, it would make more sense for them to use virus-like spells and other similar things that fit that department.
Has the feedback over this early access period influenced how y’all have designed the past few boss battles, including Catherine Imamura’s?
Dutertre: Yes, definitely. In the past, some boss battles were more puzzle-like and even might have felt gimmicky, but through playtesting and feedback we have focused on a faster pace with more action. Some players felt our game was too hard due to the boss battles, but for others, they thought it was too easy … We listened to the feedback from players, as well as our own team, about the design of each boss battle that would be the best suited for all players. We quickly realized that gameplay patterns that force the player to move a lot and not to wait were the most appreciated by players overall.
What is Catherine Imamura’s relationship to Death? How does affect the overall narrative and story of Have a Nice Death?
Alfroy: Catherine Imamura was one of the first Sorrows recruited by Death. They know each other very well; you could even say they were more friends than “co-workers.” I use the past tense on purpose, as they are now enemies since the other Sorrows and herself now have rebelled against Death. However, to find out why, you’ll have to wait until the full 1.0 release of Have a Nice Death to experience the entire story of the game.
Gameplay-wise, how does Catherine’s boss fight differ from those already in the game?
Dutertre: Catherine serves as our new final boss for the Early Access version of Have a Nice Death, so the first thing we decided was to make the boss fight a challenge by having players focus on new gameplay mechanics that weren’t critical in previous boss fights. This includes finding ways to stay in the air, as players will find many of Catherine’s attacks cover the ground and walls.
How does Catherine’s water-y nature influence her resistance, if at all? Will lightning-looking attacks deal more damage to her, for instance?
Dutertre: For now, we have not decided to have a specific elemental weakness for Catherine and other enemies, but I’m sure players are expecting bosses like Catherine to have a weakness… this is something that naturally speaks to the player so maybe one day we will introduce a weakness system in the game.
And thematically, how do Catherine’s design and combat style reflect the theme of “natural disasters?”
Dutertre: From a design point of view, the fight is supposed to reflect a flood that restricts the player.
Léger: Water has a dual symbolism–it can either represent life or death–and I wanted to create a character with duality, very feminine and nurturing on one hand (hinting at the allegory of water as source of life), but capable of producing terrible acts of destruction on the other hand (tsunami, floods, etc.)
How will players reach the Natural Disasters area and face Catherine? Is she being fit mid-way through Have a Nice Death or is this area the new “final” location of the game?
Alfroy: Players will discover this new department just after winning the fight against Major Warren Pliskhan in the Modern Warfare Department, the department that was previously the final location for Early Access players. So, the Natural Disasters Department is now the new final location for the Early Access version of the game.
What has been the biggest learning over this early access period?
Dutertre: Players are understanding as long as you communicate with them.
Alfroy: At first, we tried to define our goals and prioritize ideas, but we soon learned that nothing is ever 100% set in stone. Changes, even major ones, can occur at any stage of production. That doesn’t mean we can’t achieve what we are aiming at originally, but rather that we have to adapt and take these changes into account.
Léger: Doubt is inevitable during a game’s Early Access phase of development. You don’t want to twist your vision of the game to please everyone, but still, you have to accept compromises (artistic or technical) if they are beneficial to the project as a whole and to its cohesion. So, you have to stand by your choices, which can sometimes prove to be challenging.
Can we expect some narrative closure for Death with the release of the 1.0 build, or will his story remain open-ended?
Alfroy: There is a narrative closure that we’re working on. But, how it plays out could depend on what the player does/discovers in the game. And we’re always thinking of more content for players, including expanding the story of Death.
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