Most developers like to make their games as widely available as possible. For big companies that need to turn a profit, it makes sense to put a game on as many platforms as possible and make sure it has the type of gameplay that people may already know and are interested in resuming. GoodbyeWorld Games and the indie title from Skybound Games before your eyes dollars this trend in many ways.
before your eyes‘ the main control method flashes. It’s a game where someone remembers their life after death, but they can only stay in a particular memory until they blink. On PC, the player’s webcam follows their eyes and advances the story every time you blink. The player’s body drives the experience, although it’s not always possible to control the blinking. It’s an emotionally harrowing experience that will have you crying at the end, but it’s also a game that only works on specific platforms and isn’t comparable to many others.
Which is why its arrival on iOS and Android via the Netflix app on July 26 is a logical evolution for the underrated nugget from GoodbyeWorld. Before before your eyesNetflix Games Release, Digital Trends spoke with Creative Director and Writer Graham Parkes and Game Director and Composer Oliver Lewin to find out how they brought before your eyes to life and how his bold rejection of gaming norms is key to the success of this atypical experience.
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before your eyes started as a capstone project at USC. Parkes admitted that they didn’t really consider whether the game should have broad appeal and be compatible with all gaming platforms. The PS5, Xbox Series X, and Nintendo Switch don’t have built-in webcams, so GoodbyeWorld couldn’t put before your eyes on these platforms with their desired controls. Therefore, there are only specific platforms it can extend to. Mobile was the most logical place to go next from Parkes’ perspective.
“We always knew mobile was a great fit and we wanted the game to come to mobile because we’re using a control mode that everyone is familiar with by nature,” Parkes explained. “Everyone has eyes and everyone blinks, so we’ve always wanted to design the game to be played by gamers and non-gamers alike. We think mobile is a perfect home because you can get those casual gamers who might check something on their phone but don’t have a Steam or console account.
Of course, bringing the game to phones presented a unique set of challenges. Modern phones all have high quality cameras, so that wasn’t really an issue. Still, GoodbyeWorld and port developers BKOM Studios had to consider things like arm positioning and phone rotation.
before your eyes on mobile can seamlessly switch between a horizontal and vertical perspective if someone turns their phone so people can play in the most comfortable position for themselves. This feature, however, presents challenges with location and camera framing.
“The way the text appears on screen actually takes a ton of programming and design work, and to be able to completely change it from vertical to horizontal, we need a pretty robust solution for how that text goes. exchange smoothly, so it doesn’t look confusing,” Lewin said. “Another challenge was the camera framing and its cinematic fluidity. The PC version has a traditional landscape ratio, and well while we liked the comfort of playing it vertically in your hand, it felt too zoomed in and claustrophobic, we had to find ways to move the camera back a bit when going vertical, so it would retain that cinematic quality and realistic in look.
“Netflix is a platform known for its stories.”
before your eyes is a game that takes advantage of the technology at its disposal, and that philosophy clearly applies to the mobile port as well. It’s the same narrative adventure gamers had on PC but adapted to work best on a gaming device that almost everyone has. While the development of the port presented unique challenges, before your eyes‘The biggest barrier to success on mobile is visibility.
Seen on Netflix
GoodbyeWorld knew the mobile version of before your eyes needed to be part of the right service or game collection. Parkes admits that short, linear, story-driven games don’t have a great chance of becoming popular on the App Store or Google Play Store. This is where being on Netflix came in. Credits Parkes before your eyes publisher Skybound Games with the conclusion of the agreement.
GoodbyeWorld almost immediately agreed to the partnership when Skybound Games piqued Netflix’s interest in a Skype call, as the team believed. before your eyes would be a good choice for the public and the philosophy of Netflix. “Netflix is a platform known for its stories and things like Bandersnatch showed he’s already done a few games in the interactive space,” Parkes says. “I think games are a natural extension of that.”
Netflix is just one of many companies trying to pave the way for the video game subscription service scene. Xbox Game Pass is the top dog right now, while other holders on platforms like Google, Amazon, and even PlayStation is getting on the trend. Indie developers potentially have a lot to gain from the additional visibility brought by subscription services, but could also lose money if people decide not to choose the games.
“My intuition tells me that subscriptions are good for indie games.”
GoodbyeWorld currently has a positive view of game subscription services, which contributed to its decision to work with Netflix. While Parkes’ opinion on the broader impact of subscriptions on the indie scene is limited, being on a service allows before your eyes effectively reduce noise in the wild mobile game market.
“One of the challenges in the indie space is that we don’t always know what other studios are going through or what other offerings look like, so there’s a lack of visibility into the broader subscription space” , Parkes said. “In our experience, something like the Netflix deal is really exciting. My gut tells me that subscriptions are good for indie games because they want to build a portfolio. If you can spend less money on a team smaller to put their game on a streaming service, so a game that might not normally cut through the noise could lead a gamer to check it out because it’s already on the subscription.
Meanwhile, Lewin thinks subscription services are meant to “broaden access to different games and have less consistency in the few games that dominate most of the time.” before your eyes is special, both as a standalone experience and within the Netflix line of games. By being a boutique game on Netflix, it’s more likely to get the recognition and appreciation it deserves.
before your eyes received acclaim, caught the attention of Netflix, and successfully launched on one of the few new platforms the game runs on. So what’s next for GoodbyeWorld and before your eyes? A VR version that tracks eye movements could work well for before your eyes. While Parkes and Lewin had nothing to announce at this time, they did point out that GoodbyeWorld did a Bbefore your eyes VR technology demo for the SXSW 2020 cancelled.
Even if the mobile is the farthest Under your eyes’ the platform’s ambitions expand, Parkes and Lewin have learned valuable lessons from the project. To know that it is acceptable, and in fact beneficial, to take big risks with your game, even if it does not meet industry standards or only works on platforms and technologies particular.
“It’s a limitation, not being about to come to consoles, but I think the uniqueness and freshness of the concept is really what helps us stand out and draws people in to discover before your eyes“, explains Parkes. “What we could have lost by coming to a lot of consoles, we made up for it by being able to cut through the noise and the speech and bring a lot of people into the game.”
“We were nervous about doing innovative or weird things. Now we know that’s actually our sweet spot.
This mindset applies to both the game concept and the development process. “The big thing I learned, which Under your eyes’ history also teaches you is to let go and submit to the process,” Parkes said. “Know that you will often fail and you will often be wrong, but if you keep hammering it, you will get something that you will be satisfied with. For so long, we knew this game could be amazing, and it really wasn’t. It took us years and years of iteration to get there.
Now GoodbyeWorld knows it’s okay to be weird and to admit and trust that. Lewin explains that before your eyes gave the team a big boost of confidence in their next project, as it proved that there is an audience for games that are different and not in line with industry expectations. In fact, that’s where this team excels.
“We were nervous about doing innovative or weird things,” Lewin said. “Now we know that’s actually our sweet spot and our comfort zone. We find our success in doing things differently. We’ve seen that there’s a huge appetite for games that are different and for the storytelling in innovative forms. Now that we know people are just as excited as we are, it motivates us to keep going and push things forward. So that’s what we’re going to do.”