The Little Acre Interview – Style, Setting, and Development
We recently had a chance to talk with Pewter Games Studios Co-founder Christopher Conlan and the upcoming PS4 game, The Little Acre. The game is set to be released on December 13 for the PlayStation 4, along with Xbox One and PC. See answers on the game’s development, the Indie scene in Ireland, and much m0re.
PlayStation LifeStyle: The game’s animation style looks to be clearly inspired by Saturday morning cartoons as well as classically animated Disney films. Were there any specific influences for The Little Acre that helped bring it to life?
Christopher Conlan: It was! Mainly we wanted to achieve an aesthetic that would make people think of an ’80s Disney or Sullivan Bluth movie. It was that general style—traditional, frame-by-frame animations—that we wanted to capture and deliver in a game.
PSLS: Has it been difficult to balance the game in both story and gameplay for more mature gamers while remaining accessible to younger audiences, making a family friendly game without it feeling too much like a kid’s game?
CC: I would say that trying to make a game for everyone probably did make things more difficult than it might have been if we were targeting a more specific demographic, but at the same time it’s not like we included different things just to please different people. We got a feel for the tone of the game pretty quickly during development, so the characters, dialogue, and story as a whole just turned into this thing that could be joyful and playful at one point, and somber or dramatic at another.
PSLS: The point-and-click genre hasn’t really taken off on consoles. What are the challenges involved in creating such a game for a console audience and how do you plan to overcome those challenges?
CC: I think the main issue is how to take the controls and UI, which are obviously intended for use with a mouse, and make it work for a controller. Our solution to this was to allow the use of the thumbstick to move the character, with a limited use of cursors for actions like accessing inventory. It definitely helps provide a more intuitive experience for players not accustomed to the genre.
PSLS: How does the setting of 1950s Ireland affect gameplay? Why did you choose this period and location?
CC: We decided quite early on that we wanted to set The Little Acre in Ireland, for the simple reason that we don’t often see it as a setting where the protagonists aren’t just passing through. We chose the 1950s because of Aidan’s back-story, where he was a military engineer during the war and is now out of work. That experience is what gives him a basic understanding of the various contraptions he encounters on his adventure. Not only that though – we also liked how this era also informed the clothing, vehicles, and technology you also see throughout the game.
PSLS: Which characters will players directly control, and do they play differently?
CC: Aidan and Lily are the two playable characters in The Little Acre, with control switching between the two at various points in the game. In terms of the actual game mechanics, it remains the same to avoid confusion, but we tried to make basically all other aspects different. Everything from the appearance of their inventory, to the words they use to describe the same objects, to the approach they take to solving puzzles (being an adventurous six year-old armed with a sword should give you an idea).
PSLS: We spotted a cute-looking caterpillar and a terrifying skeleton-crocodile in the trailer. Which is your favorite creature in the game?
CC: I think we all love Bugsy, who is kind of dog-like in personality, but Marie Purrie the cat always garners a lot of attention when we bring the game to events. She features only briefly, but she manages to leave quite the impression!
PSLS: Does The Little Acre feature fully voice-acted dialogue? Will we hear some familiar voices?
CC: It does! The game is full of emotion and personality, and we figured we wouldn’t be doing it justice without real voices. Brian, better known as ‘Terroriser’ on YouTube, is the voice of Aidan, and then Kate, who was also the character designer and animator on The Little Acre is the voice of Lily!
PSLS: Is there any sort of in-game hint system for players that get stuck?
CC: Yes there is – having seen adventure games both with and without them we decided that it was the best way to go. When we designed The Little Acre, we always wanted it to be a game that was meant to be finished. Mainly this meant taking steps to avoid illogical or obtuse puzzles, but just in case a player was to still find themselves stuck they’ve got the option of a hint. The great thing about the hints are that, unlike looking up the solution online, it keeps you in the game and gives you another opportunity to figure out the solution. For those that don’t want them, they can choose to avoid them and get an achievement as a reward!
PSLS: Pewter Games is based in Ireland. Can you speak to the region’s indie scene?
CC: In the last few years it’s taken quite the growth spurt, and we’re finally starting to see more games developed in Ireland by sustainable studios, with organisations like Enterprise Ireland and Imirt providing invaluable assistance to developers in their formative years. Knowing some of the games on the horizon from here, it’s quite exciting!
PSLS: The Little Acre has gone through several different iterations during development. What were the biggest changes, and what sorts of features have been cut from development?
CC: Some of the biggest changes are probably the visuals. The game went through around three main versions before finding its current form, with the characters and environments changing quite dramatically. We’ll be releasing an artbook which actually shows some of these comparisons. Aside from that, there were some characters which we had fleshed out but ultimately didn’t fit into the story we wanted to tell this time. At the very least, there’s always the potential for them to make an appearance later!
Big thanks to Christopher Conlan at Pewter Games for taking the time to answer our questions. Look for our review of The Little Acre near its launch on December 13.