The Fullbright Company's Steve Gaynor reflects on Gone Home

The Fullbright Company co-founder Steve Gaynor took some time out of his busy schedule to look back at Gone Home and reflect on its development, narrative, Chris Remo's composition, and whether he'll work with the Oculus Rift.

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The Fullbright Company captivated players with a unique take on first-person exploration in its first indie title, Gone Home. With its irreverent take on horror tropes, an engaging setting, and an unforgettable narrative, Gone Home left a lasting impression on many players, myself included. It's been a year since Shacknews last spoke to Steve Gaynor from The Fullbright Company, but now seemed like a good time to reach out to him. And while Fullbright remains on a tight schedule, Gaynor did make some time to answer a handful of questions, including a few from our Chatty. Be forewarned, the following will contain light spoilers for Gone Home. Shacknews: When I last spoke to you a year ago, you described the challenge of creating a full exploratory experience while also adding a sense of tension and urgency. Do you feel Gone Home accomplished this? I think so! We've definitely had a lot of people say they felt very on-edge the entire time they played. If anything I think we may have pushed that sensation further than we expected to! Shacknews: I can't remember the last time a game's narrative touched people in the way Gone Home's has. What types of reactions have you heard from players? We've felt very lucky to get a lot of very personal messages from people saying how much they saw themselves in the game, or identified with the characters in a way they never had in a video game before, or just thanking us for making the game. It has been really powerful and something we never expected, so we are super grateful for that. Shacknews: I was surprised by the fact that I could finish Gone Home in a single sitting, but I was also very pleased by that. Did Fullbright always have this kind of game length in mind? And do you feel that more games are going to move in this direction? I'm not sure if more will! We started from a point of having come off of [BioShock 2 DLC] Minerva's Den, we wanted to make something of similar length and focus. We're definitely happy that it's a game that people feel compelled to finish all in one sitting, though I think it also works well to play over a few hour-long sessions. Shacknews: Gone Home's composer, Chris Remo, is a former Shacknews writer, so a lot of our community is familiar with him and his work. So I'd like to ask, how do you feel about Chris's work on the game and how he was able to bring the story of Gone Home to life? It's been great! He's an excellent (and classically trained!) musician, and a good friend. I love his work on 30 Flights of Loving, and it was really cool collaborating for Gone Home. His work on our game is very different. Seeing his breadth as a composer was great. Shacknews: Now that your first game as an indie developer is in the bag, what lessons have you learned from the overall experience? How do you feel this experience has made you grow as a developer? It's been a huge learning experience, since we're only four people--we've had to do everything ourselves, including PR, licensing, fulfilling invoices, making deals for distribution--it's been great actually, not being able to say, "That's somebody else's job." We have way more skills now than we did when we started.

Gone Home's family unit

Shacknews reader 'avatar_58' asks: Given the setting and the subject matter, was Gone Home based on any of the team's real life experiences? It definitely drew from my own experiences as a teenager--the more universal themes of being exposed to new art and music, liking someone and not knowing if they like you back, the desire to escape from the home you grew up in, and so forth. For some of the more character-specific stuff I relied on interviews and research into the experiences that others had in their own lives, to inform the details of what Sam went through. 'Grumbeld' asks: Is there any concern that you may have been too obtuse with some of the hidden story beats? Actually we wanted to hide some things (especially Oscar's story) deeply, to reward players that went back and really investigated every tiny piece of the house. We're happy that people who did the work to uncover every detail were able to piece together what we think of as a pretty obfuscated backstory. We'd rather that than for everything to very obviously be on the surface. 'mroizo40' asks: Are there plans to add Oculus Rift or Razer Hydra support to Gone Home? We haven't looked at Razer Hydra, but we are investigating Oculus Rift! Gone Home is available now on PC, Mac, and Linux for $19.99.
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Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

From The Chatty

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    September 17, 2013 12:00 PM

    Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, The Fullbright Company's Steve Gaynor reflects on Gone Home.

    The Fullbright Company co-founder Steve Gaynor took some time out of his busy schedule to look back at Gone Home and reflect on its development, narrative, Chris Remo's composition, and whether he'll work with the Oculus Rift.

    • reply
      September 17, 2013 12:37 PM

      This game made me cry. I think that's a win.

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        September 17, 2013 12:58 PM

        This game made me shrug. Little bit clunky and heavy handed. But I recognize it's importance.

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      September 17, 2013 12:42 PM

      Good interview, thanks Ozzie!

      Gone Home is probably my GOTY so far (haven't played Last of Us yet). I can't wait to see what they make next.

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      September 17, 2013 3:23 PM

      Awriite, Hot Scoops!

      I played through this in a split session between a Saturday and Sunday, pretty much start to end, except I had to consult a FAQ for a hidden item that I was obviously missing. So glad I played through it that way. One of the parts that really stood out for me was how it illustrated how bad it can be when someone outright denies or refuses to acknowledge someone else's nature, and glazes over it, pretending that everything's normal. (I'm referring to when Sam acknowledges her relationship, and her parents just keep saying, "Oh, no, it's a phase; you'll get over it." ). That was a moment of gut-wrenching empathy for me, where my chest was tight with anger, knowing how Sam felt, and feeling like I somehow wanted that situation to change. Which is why the ending felt so gratifying. I didn't cry, but I got pretty close.

      Steve Gaynor didn't like Persona 4 that much back when he talked about it in Idle Thumbs XI back in December 2008 (mostly complaining about hitting X to read all the text; which is fair), but I invite him to play through Persona 4 Arena's Labrys storyline. THAT one made me cry. I do see some similar narrative styles between that and the narration in Gone Home, so I'd be interested to hear what Steve thinks about it.