RPG Slayer: What were some of the inspirations for Always Sometimes Monsters?
Justin: The core idea of the game came about during a nearly year-long backpacking trek across North America to meet video game developers. That journey took me high and low while having all sorts of adventures, meeting incredible people, and learning a lot about life in the process. While out there, I saw that the line that separates the people I had called good or bad, worthy or unworthy, pure or unclean – it was far thinner than I had ever imagined and I had been stepping back and forth across it my entire life, all while believing absolutely that my position in the narrative of my life and the role I played in the larger story of humanity was a fixed point.
Looking back on my life before that awareness, it’s almost embarrassing how juvenile my worldview had been, but crossing the threshold of that revelation is what brought about the idea for the game. The dissolution of absolutism is part of growing up. It’s something we all experience at some point in our lives as part of the transition from adolescence, but it was particularly profound for me at the time and inspired the idea for a game that would take players on a similar journey of self-doubt and discovery.
When I returned home, I partnered with my old friend Jake Reardon and we set out to make it a reality. Nearly a year and a half later, we’re getting share it with the world.
RPG Slayer: The title alone is what drew me to the game and made me want to learn more, even before I saw a screenshot. Was such an intriguing title an accident, or is there a deeper meaning to it?
Justin: The juxtaposition between the absolute “always” and the ambiguous “sometimes” kind of sums up the wishy-washy way in which the game handles morality. As mentioned previously, this is a game partially about dissolving the concept of absolutes and so throwing those adverbs together just kinda does the trick. However, the title came about almost by accident in the 11th hour before we debut the game at PAX Prime last year.
We had been operating under the title Save The Date, which some may recognize as the title of Paper Dino’s IGF Nuovo Award Nominee. Faced with having to come up with a new name for the game with little time left we ran through dozens of choices before one night (while drunk) Always Sometimes Monsters happened upon us while I was trying to come up with something to describe what the game was about.
RPG Slayer: I feel that the omission of combat in Always Sometimes Monsters is a perfect choice, and will instill a greater sense of realism. Do you have any concerns that players will be turned off by this?
Justin: There are far greater things to be afraid of when releasing your first game. However, even if there was a tinge of worry in our hearts over whether or not combat was necessary to make a successful game, we don’t need to look far to find examples of wildly popular games and franchises completely devoid of violence. There are more than enough people playing games now for there to be a range of tastes wide enough to make a game like ours survive.