We’ve been working on Project Nightroad for what feels like a slice of eternity. But now, we’re happy, and to be honest also kind of scared, to finally be able to show you what we’ve been doing during this long silence.
Our new game! Our new pop album! Our new everything!
Sayonara Wild Hearts is pop album video game about being awesome, riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 mph.
…With the more market-y stuff out of the way, we’d like to talk a little more personal about what Sayonara Wild Hearts is, and how it came to be.
Sayonara Wild Hearts is a soup made of pop-culture. It’s OutRun, the teddygirls sub-culture, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rez, cafe racers, WarioWare, Blümchen, the 1950s, modern dance, Akira, F-zero, Space Harrier, Sia, Gradius, the 1980s, Charli XCX, Sailor Moon, Ouendan, Tron, Rhythm Tengoku, Punch Out and a good portion of ourselves, strangeness and mysticism stuffed into a blender.
It all started with a drawing of a woman wearing a mask and a couple of thoughts that had been bubbling for a while. After making three slow and thinky games, it was time to make something that had a swift soul. Something that was more gut than brain. Something that’d be thrilling, and fill you with euphoria, like a good pop song. And, we wanted to make a video game that was unashamed of being a video game.
We wanted to explore how to design a 3D action game that felt as spectacular and cinematic as a modern blockbuster game, but with the simplicity and nimbleness of the games we grew up with: the arcade games which never needed more than one button and four directions to feel amazing in your hands.
Because, honestly, video games have become scary and uninviting. And that’s a big shame.
We think video games is the coolest thing in the world. Why are we actively pushing people out of this amazing thing we love? Why can’t there be amazing looking 3D games that aren’t operated by 12 buttons and 2 sticks simultaneously? Why can’t there be awesome action games without convoluted systems? And, most importantly: Why do we keep on putting the same type of characters (dudes dudes dudes and more dudes) in them?
We realised that what we wanted to make was an action game that felt inviting, without compromising what makes an action game good: the thrill. A game that could be enjoyed equally by people who play videogames all the time and people who have no interest, or are even scared to play video games. We wanted that game to constantly throw new surprises at you, without having to explain new control schemes, mechanics or systems.
So. We started to make a prototype, featuring masked biker gangs based on tarot cards. One day while playing the prototype, a playlist with energetic electric pop music was on in the background, and somehow, what was happening on the screen married perfectly to what was happening from the speakers in the room.
It can’t have taken more than one day, until we asked Jonathan (who made the music for The Sailor’s Dream) to start writing pop songs about heartbreak, and Daniel (who made the music for Year Walk and DEVICE 6) to arrange them with a vibrant electric production.
A year earlier, we (admittedly somewhat starstruck) approached artist Linnea Olsson after a record store gig here in town, and told her that she should get in touch if she ever wanted to make music for a game. A year later, with an almost unbelievable amount of star alignment, an email popped up from her, just as we were looking for a singer for the first song of the game. And so, it seemed that we were suddenly creating a pop band, and the work of their first album–the soundtrack of this game–was starting.
It’s been a long ride. At times not entirely smooth, to tell the truth.
As the project went on, we started to realise that we needed a bigger team and some help with publishy stuff, to make Sayonara Wild Hearts into what it deserved to be. So, after more than a year of emails from Annapurna Interactive, we showed them one level of the game in 2016. And it didn’t take a long time until a partnership happened: we’re pleased and happy that Annapurna Interactive is publishing and supporting Sayonara Wild Hearts, which has made it possible for us to work with a team of two extra programmers (Magnus! Björn!) a 2D/UI artist (Åsa!) and an animator/tech-artist (Carl!) to tame this beast of a game.
That’s more or less the story of how this game came to be. The story of the game itself however, is a simple interdimensional road movie cartoon. To be frank, after having made three very story heavy games, it feels refreshing to do something that tells a fun story with almost no text. Characters express themselves with dancelike gestures, and the backstory can be summed up in this short paragraph:
As the heart of a young woman breaks, the balance of the universe is disturbed. A diamond butterfly appears in her dreams and leads her through a highway in the sky, where she finds her other self: the masked biker called The Fool.
We’re getting close to completion, and we’re very pleased that Sayonara Wild Hearts is coming to Nintendo Switch and other platforms in 2019. We’ll talk more about those other platforms next year. Stay tuned.
Oh, and the title?
We knew that it was going to be a difficult game to make. We knew that if this turns out to be the last game we make, then the title should say it all.
Sayonara, Wild Hearts!