This interview is part of our Road to the IGF series.
Nominated for Best Student Game at this year's Independent Games Festival, Rainy Season lets the player free in a family home on a dreary day, letting their curiosity and boredom guide them.
Gamasutra connected with Inasa Fujio, the game's developer, to talk about the appeal of exploring boredom (in reality, a time for self-reflection), the thoughts that went into creating this warm family space, and the stories that hide within a messy house.
Who are you, and what was your role in developing Rainy Season?
I'm Inasa, “former” Illustration student since I graduated a few weeks ago at the time of writing this. I've been doing game dev as a hobby since 2018, making game concepts and prototypes in my free time. Aside from the soundtrack and QA, I developed the game by myself.
Game dev is something I started out of curiosity and it is not directly related to my primary field of study. Rainy Season was my debut piece, and I hope to be part of the game dev industry soon.
How did you come up with the concept for Rainy Season?
The whole idea of making games for a living was something I never seriously considered, but after an unexpectedly large following on social media and being recognized as a game developer, I re-reassessed my career choices and wondered what it would be like to be part of the scene. After a period of not knowing what I wanted to do career-wise, my goal shifted to releasing any sort of game within a year. No matter how amateur or small scale it was, my priority was to figure out the process of making a game from start to finish.
I was stuck on coming up with a story for a while until I stumbled upon an amateurish 3D model of my grandma's house that I made years ago and decided to base the game off it.
What development tools were used to build your game?
The game was made with Unreal Engine, Photoshop, and Blender. Many of the lighting setups and assets were transferred over from prototypes that I've been working on in the past. I've also relied on UE4 asset packs that are released for free on a monthly basis.
What interested you in turning a rainy day with family into an interactive experience?
I was burnt out from school when I started working on Rainy Season. Feeling that my passion for art was slipping away, I was struggling with workaholic symptoms and was obsessed with being productive. By revisiting a calmer moment in my life, I thought I could understand myself more and find people who felt the same way. The theme of rain established that calm mood, as well as serving as a plot point so that the game takes place in a confined space to account for the limited time budget.
What do you want players to feel while exploring this home? While talking with the family?
I want players to experience the boredom that children often face, but also the curiosity that is born from it. When facing boredom as an adult, we see it as stagnant, empty moments in life when in reality it is an crucial time for us to reflect on ourselves. In this game, nothing really happens. Daydreams do not drive the story forward (if there really was a story in the first place) and the dialogue is something that any family would be talking about. I wanted players to spend just 1 hour being lost in their own thoughts while fiddling around with objects throughout the house.
What thoughts go into telling a story using objects around a home? Into having the players get to know the family from the things they own?
I’m very fond of messy homes and pay attention to what kind of objects lie around the rooms. Without having to explicitly explain who the characters are, it’s an effective way of indicating their personalities through the objects they think are important or how they arrange it within the house. And, of course, the uniqueness of video games compared to other mediums is the freedom of players being able to interact with the environment. I was also aware of the cultural differences and how people either feel nostalgic or experience culture shock depending on where the player comes from, so the bite-sized monologues gave bits of insight on what they were looking at.
What thoughts went into the daydreams you could have while bored? How did you come up with these moments?
The daydreams were set in stone the moment I started making the game since all the work was done by my childhood self. Each daydream was something that I imagined when I wandered around the house back then, thinking of the possibilities of what’s beyond those locked doors. Funnily enough, I wanted to ask my past self the same question, “How did you come up with these wild moments? Do I still have that that creativity in me?”
How did you choose which activities players could do around the house? What ideas went into creating the things you could do?
Initially, the game contained the bare minimum of talking to family members and reading monologues. As I polished the game, I assumed most of the time would be spent looking at props around the house, so I decided to make them all interact with physics. While it caused various issues, including the ability to prop surf, the difference between clicking on a door to open it vs dragging a physics driven door made these mundane tasks a little more interesting. Other interact-able objects included a functioning camera, opening/closing cabinets, playing the piano, and other mundane interactions that were neat to play with but didn’t detract from the theme of being bored.
What do you think draws players to "mundane" experiences? What do you think makes them want to revisit these kinds of moments from their lives, or the lives of others?
With the abundance of Japanese high action games set in fantasy settings, I think stories with mundane moments are a niche that is relatively unexplored. While I’m a sucker for stylish games of all kinds, I am ultimately fond of fantasy grounded in the mundane that evokes the same innocent faith that we had as children - children who believe that these fantasy creatures live around us akin to Santa Claus. I think people are attracted to this believability, which is hard to find in the current market.
The memories that people revisit might be filled with regret, sorrow, happiness, or a mix of everything, and revisiting them can have different motivations, but going back to my initial idea of exploring my childhood and why I struggled with art as I grew up, I hope that revisiting these memories are not just a temporary escape from reality, but a self-reflection on where you came from and how you can take those discoveries and apply them to your current self.
This game, an IGF 2021 honoree, is featured as part of the Independent Games Festival ceremony. You can watch the ceremony starting at 4:30PM PT (7:30 ET) Wednesday, July 21 at GDC 2021.