A love story told through time, out Tuesday on PS4.
The recent State of Play was unforgettable for all of us at Piccolo Studio, as weour passion project, Arise: A Simple Story. When our debut game arrives on December 3, it will take you on a bittersweet journey, where memories — both happy and tragic — come alive.
The secret ingredient
After we laid down the narrative foundation for the game, we started looking for a way to genuinely engage players and at the same time enrich our vision of an emotional, deeply personal odyssey. At the very start we agreed that each facet of Arise, every single idea has to serve the emotional goal of the game’s story.
The theme of Arise is looking back at one’s life, and it was natural for us to use time manipulation as a core mechanic in the game. We started with the idea of two kids running through the woods, and how manipulating time could represent the joy of childhood: we pictured a huge field of sunflowers that tilt towards the sun as it travels across the sky. We would give players the ability to command time and indirectly control the sunflowers to create a platforming path out of their giant flower heads.
We’ve had dozens of such ideas, many of which you’ll play through in the game. However, some were left on the cutting room floor, as to us the time manipulation mechanic had to be much more than just a flashy gimmick or a simple tool to overcome environmental obstacles. Of all design challenges we had to face while working on Arise, the greatest was to make sure every timelapse serves a narrative purpose by intensifying the emotions we want to evoke in each of ours carefully crafted levels.
Your life in four dimensions
The basic rules of time manipulation stay the same throughout your trek – you intuitively fast-forward, rewind and freeze time with the right analog stick, while you explore the environment with the left. We are however constantly changing the scale and the speed of time bending. At the beginning of the game you command whole seasons, and it is a joy to watch how spring forces snow to retreat in a few heartbeats or winter regains its icy grip, should you need a frozen lake to progress.
On another occasion you can shift time only by seconds. You know how in dramatic moments time stretches and every second seems to last forever? That’s the tension we were going for in some segments of the game, where you need to revisit intense episodes from your past and you get stuck on that dreadful memory you can’t shake off. On the other end of the wide emotional spectrum of Arise you’ll find the tranquility and joy of a perfect spring day you spent with someone you love.
Regardless of how we’re using this gameplay mechanic on each level to conjure up an ever-surprising, thought-provoking journey, time always bends around the main character without affecting him directly. There’s more to it than prosaic design-related reasons but I’ll leave this one for you to find out on your own. Or with someone special you’ll invite to enjoy Arise with you. The time manipulation mechanic also allowed us to devise an instantly accessible couch co-op mode putting the second player in charge of time, so that the two of you can go on a magical journey together.
You can learn more about how our dreams came true and what emotions drove us to create Arise from our first blog post. If you’re eager to immerse yourself in Arise’s wonderful world of memories, you can match your mood with either of the two beautiful dynamic themes, Hope and Warmth, available for free at PlayStation Store.