Most of us are old enough to know that first love doesn’t come easy.
Ken Wong of Mountains, an Australian development studio working on its first mobile game with indie publisher Annapurna Interactive, knows it. He’s not ashamed or afraid to say so — and he doesn’t think anyone should be.
“It’s 2017,” he told Polygon in a recent interview. “We can make games about anything.”
That’s why he’s designed Mountains’ first game, Florence, around the ups and downs of relationships. Eyeing a 2018 debut, Florence combines a mesmerizing, manga-esque art style with the touching, heartbreaking story of a young couple.
Details are light at this stage, but here’s what Wong and the rest of the team at Mountains are willing to divulge: The mobile game tells the story of Florence, a hard worker in a dead-end job, and Krish, a man she meets and soon falls for.
The mobile platform will be crucial to how Florence works. Just as in ustwo Games’ Monument Valley, which Wong served as lead designer on, the game will be played in portrait mode. Sometimes, players see things or control things directly from Florence’s perspective. Potential “minigames” in the vignette-style game might have players brushing Florence’s teeth for her, or touching Krish’s face, Wong said.
“We ended up thinking about the relationship between touchscreen on mobile devices and how touch is intimate, and how [we use] our personal mobile devices,” Wong said of the inspiration for bringing a complex love story to mobile. “We take them with us everywhere, and we use them in bed, and they feel really personal to us. We started building up this metaphor between how we use our mobile devices and relationships.”
Other scenes have Florence and Krish observing the relationship as it unfolds, almost like it’s a scene in a film. The cinematic connection is important to Wong and the team at Mountains, with several cult classic romances inspiring both the story and the gameplay. These include things as varied as Titanic and 500 Days of Summer — neither film the most heartwarming of love stories.
“I also really love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” said Wong, waxing nostalgic about Michel Gondry’s devastating drama. The film’s combination of unique visuals and non-linear story make sense as a reference point for Florence, based on what little we know so far.
“I love that these [stories] examine both sides of love — both the painful and the joyful,” he said. “That’s something that I really didn’t want to do: just a happy-ending kind of story of boy meets girl, and there’s some misunderstanding, and everything’s OK.”
So don’t go into Florence expecting all smiles and sunshine. Love — especially when you’re young and vulnerable and new at the whole thing — rarely comes easily. But learning to embrace the good and the bad is the most important part of the experience.
“I think that people come into our lives and they change us and have an effect on us, and you have to learn how to see how both positive and negative experiences make us grow,” Wong told us.
Annapurna Interactive will bring Florence into our lives sometime next year on mobile platforms.