Indie game Before Your Eyes made a lasting impression on us following its release on April 8. In our review, we praised the innovative gameplay and well-written story of Before Your Eyes, giving the game a 10/10.
Since then, the team at GoodbyeWorld Games has been hard at work on a Mac release for the game, among other projects.
Following up with the team since our last interview, we wanted to dive deeper into the game’s positive critical reception, award nominations, Mac release, whether Before Your Eyes will release on other platforms, and what’s next for the GoodbyeWorld Games team.
Don’t blink… or you might miss this exciting interview with Graham Parkes (Writer/Creative Director) and Oliver Lewin (Game Director/Composer) of GoodbyeWorld Games!
Interview With GoodbyeWorld Games | Before Your Eyes Mac Release, Deluxe Edition, and More!
To start things off, I wanted to ask how you’ve felt about the response to the game from critical praise to award nominations to popular streamers playing it for their audiences, and more?
Graham: I was with Ollie and Will last night – they’re the other two guys that have been working on this game the longest – and we were remarking on how, for all of us, this was such a labor of love. We’ve been trying to make it, one way or another, for seven years.
And that whole time we were thinking, if we can get anything shipped at all, like if we get one Steam review, we’ll be so happy. So our bar was pretty low.
We definitely feel quite amazed to see how it’s performed. Just seeing the critical reviews have been great, but then seeing how it blew up on TikTok and with these bigger YouTubers that have a lot of younger audiences.
I was always really inspired by great YA stories when I was writing it, and seeing it really resonating with younger kids who are in high school, or just finishing high school and going into college, has been so rewarding.
I think it hit a nerve with some younger gamers of all different types, and that’s been really beautiful and heartening and it’s taught us a lot about who our potential audience can be.
Oliver: Yeah, I mean huge. I was thinking the other day how people may not know – whether they’re just jumping into our Discord to say something or they’re someone in the press or a streamer – but seeing the positive reactions has a very tangible, causal relationship with what we’re doing now and what we’re going to do next.
It’s super helpful as younger developers looking to make another game to have all of these reactions out there, I feel like we have to say thank you to so many people who were vocal about their experiences.
And all the time when we receive emails that are very personal and people share things they’re going through that are really difficult, I think that’s the most rewarding thing to see someone say look, I’m going through something really challenging right now in my life and this game helped me out tonight or helped me out this week.
That definitely puts more gas in the tank in terms of staying creatively motivated.
Graham: Of all the things that we’ve got, one of our favorites is Jacob Geller’s video essay. We were fans of him before and that’s been an amazing thing, that really felt like one of the coolest things to see.
He uses the game as jumping off point and puts in context with all these other incredible artworks — from Metal Gear Solid 4 to Michael Apted’s “Up” films — it’s an incredibly wide ranging essay, and sort of a work of art all its own. So I definitely recommend that if you’re looking for a companion piece after you play the game.
Oliver: Yeah, that’s such a great point, that was one of the coolest things to watch as creators, it was like wow.
Before Your Eyes recently got a Mac release which is really exciting. Can you tell me more about the game’s Mac release and what gamers expect from the game on Mac? Also can you talk a bit more about the game’s Deluxe bundle?
Graham: We always wanted to release on Mac, a lot of our team are Mac users, and we also always wanted this game to be the kind of game that would be just as easy to play if you’re a non-gamer than if you’re a gamer – and as a game that can reach across the aisle to people who might be interested in games, but don’t play a lot of games.
And, you know, I come from a film background so many of my friends don’t have PCs, and I haven’t been able to show them this thing I’ve been working on for years. So for all those reasons, Mac was always really important to us.
On that Deluxe Edition, the main thing there is that another thing that we always planned to get out – which also a lot of people wanted– was the soundtrack. Ollie, who’s our game director, also did the music and he collaborated with Dillon Terry, who was our sound lead on it.
And actually Justice Harrison at Skybound did all the mixing and mastering, so he was on the publisher side but he jumped aboard for this and did an awesome job.
So the OST is one part of the Deluxe Edition, and then we also have this little art book that compiles a bunch of concept art and goes briefly into the development history of things and how things came to look the way they did, but then also highlights our different artists work on the game; all our different concept artists. So those come bundled together with the game.
Oliver: In terms of porting to Mac, I’m a Mac user, so I love Macs, but there’s plenty of variation across Mac hardware, and operating systems. Security is very important to Apple, and different operating systems deal with something like using your camera in an app differently, so we needed to test for all these different cases.
As a small team without a lot of QA resources, access to enough different hardware running different operating systems was the first hurdle that we had to overcome in order to see how well it ran when opened on Mac OS 11.6, or on 10, and so on.
I think something we learned – and this might be the case for other first-time teams – but when you’re going really fast, and you’re understaffed, and you have too little time, and you’re making your game, you often don’t pay any heed to optimization.
And so when you want to put something out on a range of Macs, you have to make sure the graphical elements of your levels are prepared for that. So that was kind of a big undertaking. In terms of where we ended up, I think we’re all super happy with how the game looks on Mac.
Ultimately our goal is just to give access to more people who would like to experience this game.
Regarding the Deluxe Edition, and the OST, I’m very happy that it’s out. We saw tons of people asking for it, and one thing that was propelling us to get it out quicker was the fact that people were already doing covers and their own kind of arrangements of the pieces and bootleg recordings and stuff.
We had no problem with that at all, and in fact, that’s inspiring and cool to see that people were making their own versions of these pieces of music and putting them online so I felt like damn if they can get it together to notate it by ear and then share it online then we should be able to get it out there.
It’s been really nice to see the reactions to it, it was definitely a group effort and some of the pieces of music in there go back a really long time because music has been a part of the story of the game for years, so it’s nice to see them finally sort of finalized and polished and put out there in a nice way.
At times, the story of the game plays with ideas of fantasy, and exaggeration, so it was an awesome license and nudge as a composer and a musician to do the same and go places I’d normally hold back from.
It’s also a story that ultimately goes right to the heart of a lot of the important emotional things in life, and I like when music tries to do that too. It was a joy to write the music. I’m not sure how else to say it other than that a lot of love went into the music and it feels really nice to share it now.
I think it will help people hold onto whatever it was they took from the game. In terms of the personnel, there's definitely a lot of hands that went into it, like everybody on the team contributes creatively.
But in terms of the actual musical team, there's of course my co-composer Dillon Terry who made a lot of the great music on the game and was also the audio lead on the project. And then Justice Harrison, he mixed and mastered a lot of it and was a really helpful voice in the room.
And then the other person who lent a hand is Trevor Estes, who's a percussionist and our recording engineer and has been a consistent collaborator and a friend on the project since the early days.
With Before Your Eyes releasing on Mac, I’m curious if you’re planning to release the game on other platforms in the future? Adding to that, what are some difficulties in porting a game like Before Your Eyes to other platforms that gamers may not be aware of?
Graham: There is some news in the pipeline about that. We are very likely 95-98 percent coming to another really exciting platform soon.
But that news is not ready to be announced quite yet, but there’s one that’s almost for sure and then there’s other conversations growing, so I think the plan was with Before Your Eyes to get it out on as many platforms that can support eye tracking.
We still really believe in the VR version as well. And as eye tracking comes out across those platforms, we’re still very open to discussions about the possibility of that. Hopefully, one day there’ll be a mobile build, and there’ll also be a VR build, but nothing is official yet.
The game has gained a reputation as a game that’ll make you cry, and I can certainly say I’ve experienced this myself. So, in regards to the game’s emotional impact, why do you think the game resonates so strongly with so many people and has the ability to make so many different people cry?
Graham: Obviously, the subject matter and where this story goes is very emotional terrain. In terms of the specifics to what we do with that subject matter, I think there are two things that come to mind. One is, people were used to the 10-minute version that was Will’s senior project at USC that we brought to IndieCade.
It had blocky, terrible graphics and a pretty badly written story by me before I really figured out how to write a game, and some nice but very simple chiptune music from Ollie. I would say it had 1/20th the kind of emotional impact this had, but somehow it was still managing to make people cry.
I think with this mechanic, there was something about having to hold on to these moments and the way the game humbles you and disarms you and says “no, you can’t stay here” over and over. I think it sort of breaks you down psychologically a little bit and puts you in a very open and vulnerable place.
So I think there’s always been something in the mechanic itself that lends itself to emotion and just has this very potent effect.
That would be one, and then two, I think is that this is a story about a person who is worried that they aren’t living up to their own expectations of themselves, or the world’s expectations of who they’re supposed to be, and then finally figuring out to throw that insecurity away and learning they are enough, just as they are.
And I think that’s a message that, particularly right now in this moment – especially as I talked about with our younger players who it really resonated with – there is this moment with social media where people feel this sense that they’re supposed to be something that they’re not, or that their lives aren’t measuring up to the images that media has given them of what a “young adult life” is supposed to look like.
And I think with the year that we all had with COVID, we all kind of had to adjust our expectations. So I think that people were already in this place of feeling like... is my life measuring up to what I expected it to be? So I think that this story is really about addressing those feelings, but also saying it’s ok, embrace who you are.
Even though I’m sure you wouldn’t be able to tell me, I wanted to ask if there are any new game ideas or projects the team has been working on or considering? What can people look forward to from the GoodbyeWorld Games team in the future?
Graham: In terms of the eye tracking thing, I think that we loved making this experimental game with eye tracking, and we really hope our game inspires other people to think about alternative controls and think about different ways that you can engage players because we think there’s so much left in eye tracking.
I feel like there’s a lot in mics and sound, and there’s so many different ways that you can engage the player that’s more than just moving around and pressing buttons. For us, the next project isn’t eye tracking focused, that much we know.
I think a lot of what we felt was innovative about Before Your Eyes we happened upon because of the eye tracking, but it wasn’t dependent to the eye tracking. I think we really loved the way that we found this kind of pace of a story – a game that really plays with this forward momentum and doesn’t allow you to replay scenes.
Whether you win or lose, it’s going to keep thrusting you forward in the narrative, and a lot of these kinds of narrative techniques that we figured out on Before Your Eyes we want to take into a next game.
So our next game is going to be experimental in some very cool and interesting ways that you’ll find out about down the road.
That’s awesome, I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens with the next game in the future, especially in regards to the narrative experience!
Graham: Yeah, exactly, and that’s the stuff we feel like we have more to explore. I think we’re going to continue being a kind of experimental narrative studio, but not necessarily be the experimental blink mechanic studio, right?
We always want to keep that sense of exploration and we always want to be a studio that expands the medium and does the weird things that maybe other people aren’t trying. We like creating from that sort of dangerous place — let’s try something that no one’s tried before and see if it works.
Oliver: One of the most inspiring things that we had at our disposal was watching people play Before Your Eyes and reading people’s opinions about it. We’d always hoped that while making Before Your Eyes we could think of another game to do next, but we never really could when we were working on it.
But then once it was out, obviously we had more time, but also seeing the reactions and hearing people’s experiences of it, that has very much been an inspiration for what we’re now working on. So I do feel like it’s a continuation of a lot of the gameplay ideas, but not necessarily the eye detection aspect.
We want to thank Graham and Oliver of GoodbyeWorld Games for taking the time to talk to us about Before Your Eyes from the Mac release and Deluxe Edition, to the game's positive reception and emotional impact on players.
For more on Before Your Eyes, also be sure to check out the game's official website!