Ysbryd Games has an impressive track record for publishing aesthetically distinct indie titles with unique gameplay features. From the critically acclaimed VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action to the disturbingly creative World of Horror, Ysbryd Games has cultivated a stellar line up of games. Their big release for 2020 is the much anticipated follow up to VA-11 HALL-A, N1RV Ann-A.
CFG was originally slated to meet with Ysbryd Games at GDC 2020, but due to the event’s postponement we conducted a remote interview instead. We had the pleasure of chatting with Jake Burgess, courtesy of Lena LeRay and Kyle Prahl of Stride PR.
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about Ysbryd Games?
My name is Jake Burgess. I’m the director of operations for Ysbryd Games. We are an indie game publisher. We’ve been around for about six years now with a number of titles under our belts. I wouldn’t say we’re a smaller publisher, but we are a publisher that tends to hyper-focus on our developers. We publish two or three games a year. We kind of go for games that have amazing art, like a kind of certain ephemeral something to them that’s going to cause them to stick around with somebody for quite some time, even after they finish the game. We just try to be as absolutely awesome as we can while being the best partners to our developers we possibly can be. We provide them with as much support as we are able to.
I’m really sad that GDC 2020 was postponed because I was looking forward to playing N1RV Ann-A. I’m a pretty big fan of VA-11 Hall-A, which has a really great art style. Likewise for World of Horror.
Thank you very much. Yeah, me too. We have a streaming channel on Twitch. We’re playing through pretty much all of the games that we’ve published on Tuesdays. I got to play through VA-11 Hall-A for the first time with our community. Playing through the whole thing with the audience was such a wonderful fricking experience. It was just rad.
What’s the biggest difference between N1RV Ann-A and VA-11 Hall-A?
They take place in the same continuity. It’s the same world. Technically N1RV Ann-A takes place after VA-11 Hall-A chronologically, but they take place in separate cities. In Glitch City where VA-11 Hall-A takes place, all of the corruption is right up in your face. Everybody talks about what kind of a shit town it is and how hard it is. There’s this huge wage gap and all this stuff going on. It’s really up front. It’s in your face, you can see it in the area of the town that they’re in and everything. Everybody that comes into the bar has some comment on it and something to say about it. In N1RV Ann-A, it’s in a place called Saint Alicia that’s more of a wealthy resort place. One of the things that I love most about what Sukeban Games does is how everything is built into the narrative.
Whereas in VA-11 Hall-A, it was in Glitch City, a kind of rundown place and it was a BTC bar. So it’s like this chain bar in the cyberpunk future and they make all the drinks with various chemicals. Saint Alicia is a wealthier place, it is a resort town. The mechanics back up that narrative through the drinks that you’re making. In VA-11 Hall-A you don’t pick dialogue choices. It depends on the drinks that you make and the patrons that come into your bar. There’s true to life alcohol because it’s very expensive. To actually have a bottle of true whiskey is something that you would only find in a resort town. We would be familiar with true to life recipes and how things are made.
Sam is the bartender for N1RV Ann-A. She knows all these drinks and has a different kind of attitude. She’s a single mom. So there’s quite a bit of difference between the two games, even though they’re still set in the same world in the same cyberpunk future with some of the same cyberpunk themes. You can play either game without having played the other one. You’ll recognize recurring characters, but neither one is required to enjoy the other one. It’s not VA-11 Hall-A 2, it’s N1RV Ann-A.
VA-11 Hall-A had some characters from 2064: Read Only Memories make cameo appearances and vice versa. Are there any plans to do the same with N1RV Ann-A and Neurodiver, the sequel to 2064?
That is a fantastic question. The only thing I can say to that is keep an eye on our social media for any upcoming announcements. We haven’t announced anything yet.
Had to ask! They were really fun Easter eggs.
Oh totally. Oh, like in the first one you can make the Flaming Moai and all that fun stuff. I mean, spoilers if you haven’t played it, but if you haven’t played it, what are you doing? You should.
What feature are you most excited for players to experience in N1RV Ann-A?
That’s a very cleverly worded question. So of the features that we have talked about already, the one I am most excited about is the moods feature. In N1RV Ann-A, it’s not only about the drinks that you make, but it’s how you present them. Like people’s and your facial expression, things like that. There’s more options, not just the drink you make, but if you are flirty when you present it, if you are huffy or angry when you present it. That’s one of the things, getting those combinations and and figuring out how that changes the conversation. It’s interesting to see how people react because Sukeban Games’ writing is so damn good. So I’m excited to see more about what they do with that. I’m excited to see more of their writing as it ties into that particular mechanic.
What about the music? Are you be bringing back any of the previous composers?
It is a new composing team that still maintains the same flavor.
Were there always plans for a sequel? Or did the first game’s popularity lead to one?
I don’t want to speak for the developers, so that’s not actually a question I can answer. I would imagine because of the way that they write that they have planned out this entire world, worked about this world because world-building is something they’re incredibly good at. As far as were there always plans, there’s almost always plans to make a sequel, but it always depends on how the first game goes.
What are your favorite VA-11 Hall-A moments?
God, what a good question. So I think anytime Dorothy shows up, her entrances are one of the things that stand out in my mind, especially the Dorth-inquisition entrance. The pro wrestling references. Finally, “the Dorothy has come back to VA-11 Hall-A.” Anytime Dorothy makes an entrance, those are the ones that stick out in my mind the most.
So what attracted Ysbryd to World of Horror?
I can tell what originally attracted us to the project. It’s creepy as hell. Look at it, it pops with all sorts of just macabre glory, the amount of horror and creepiness that the developer has been able to pack into this game in such a wonderful, wonderful style. Especially using MS Paint is just absolutely mind blowing. Who wouldn’t be attracted to this game. We are fortunate to be partnered with them.
So the game is still in early access. Is there a development roadmap or is the developer working on it whenever possible? World of Horror was created by one person, correct? Any updates regarding the Switch release?
It’s been developed by one person, Panstasz. As far as a roadmap, nothing as stated. This is early access and there is more content that will be coming with the full release. So with something like this, especially with World of Horror, it is done when it is done. We want to make sure that it is as polished and wonderful as possible before we go with full release and then start rolling out the the console versions as well.
It would be amazing if there was a physical release, too.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a physical release? So noted.
What’s your favorite feature in World of Horror?
I’ve been play testing this beautiful, beautiful SOB for a while. I need to think about what’s in the demo versus what I’ve played because I have played, I’ve put like 50 hours into it. Oh, it’s real good. William. It’s real, real good.
I like the exploration actually. There are certain areas you can go to to advance the case. But being able to kick around this town and the creepier things get, the more things go on. You encounter different events depending on which old god pops up and whatnot. It’s the variability of the exploration and the events that go depending on how far along in the game you are. Personally I love that the consequences of your actions appear on your character’s avatar. That is fantastic. Like that is a true, visceral consequence and I enjoy the heck out of that. It really pushes the creeping dread of the game.
Another unique feature is that the game supports mods. Can you tell us more about this and how it came to be?
That was a developer decision. He really cares about his community and fans of the game. I believe it was something that was put in after it was asked for, but I’m not 100% on that. I feel like because there’s so many procedurally generated elements to it that it feels like a natural fit, like for somebody to write up and release an event pack or something like that. Panstasz really, really loves his community and he wants to do right by folks. So especially on the World of Horror Discord, he’s always interacting with folks and it’s cool. So it wouldn’t surprise me if it was put in after somebody asked for it.
Hopefully this is something that will be brought over to the console versions as well. Typically console games don’t allow for user generated content, so it would be nice to see that.
That is a sticky wicket since consoles typically don’t support user generated content because it is harder to moderate and as you know. PC games are a little more Wild West whereas consoles are their own ecosystems. So it’s harder. But it’s something we’re aware of.
Regarding YIIK: A Postmodern RPG, the developer said they’re making an update to it after hearing some criticism about the game’s battle system. Any updates or information regarding that?
We’re paying attention to the feedback from fans. It’s always important to gather feedback and be able to react to that feedback appropriately. It’s a rare occasion where that kind of feedback is ignored.
Again, I don’t want to speak on behalf of the developer as far as what they’re thinking. They have most likely taken in a lot of the feedback and are updating the game to make it the best that it can be.
Of all the games Ysbryd has published, is there one that you’re most proud of in particular?
I love all my children equally, are you trying to get me in trouble? (laughs) There’s one, but it’s for me personally, this is not me speaking on behalf of the company. I am also a full time voice actor. That’s actually how I met Ysbryd. I am one of the voice actors in Masquerada: Songs and Shadows. That’s how I got on Ysbryd’s radar. Through that relationship I came to work with them more deeply. So maybe that one a little bit more than the others, mate.
Since GDC has been postponed, is there any news you wanted to share that you had prepared the event?
GDC for us this year actually was mostly just media appointments. So no major announcements aside from thanking folks for supporting us and just being absolutely fantastic. We have a new initiative that we started for community management and community building. It’s something that I spearheaded for years. So we’ve got a really great Discord and, and we stream twice a week. It’s just been absolutely fantastic. So GDC for us is meeting folks in the industry, listening to pitches, and seeing what the next big thing for us is going to be. We hyper focus on folks and then talking to some of the fine media folks like yourself and answering your lovely, lovely questions.
Will Ysbryd Games have titles that are on and will be on Switch eventually. Is there a particular reason why you guys like the console?
We try to partner with some really good developers that create some amazing experiences and these are experiences that we want people to be able to take with them in their hearts and actually physically like on a plane. The Switch is just a great fricking device and is so freaking cool. Everybody at Ysbryd has a Switch so we take it when we travel all over the world. So it’s definitely one of those like feelings that “It’d be really good if we had our stuff on it. Let’s put all of our stuff on it.”
Is there anything else we should be looking forward to from you guys for the rest of the year?
Nothing that I can share directly, but I would highly encourage folks to join our Discord and keep an eye on our social media. I love my goobers there. We have a really good community. We just broke 600 on our Discord I think. We’ll have some things later on that we’re not quite ready to announce. It’s all very exciting stuff that I’m very proud to have been a part of and take part in.
For more great gaming content from Ysbryd Games, check out the links below:
Ysbryd Games Twitch channel
Ysbryd Games Discord server
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