Two weeks ago, you may have caught the PlayStation 4 announcement of Where the Heart Is. Revealed alongside eight other indie titles coming to Sony platforms, this narrative-based adventure title caught our eye with a beautiful art style and the sort of in-game decisions and choices which never fail to make us giddy. To learn more about the game, we caught up with Armature Studio to talk all things Where the Heart Is. The team was also kind enough to provide us with four all-new screenshots so make sure to check those out as you learn more about this intriguing experience.
Push Square: For those who missed the announcement, could you introduce Where the Heart Is? What sort of game is it?
Armature Studio: Our pleasure! Where the Heart Is is a narrative adventure game about family and the choices made throughout a lifetime of events. Your choices change the narrative and alter the surreal, dreamlike environments of your life. It’s a crafted experience that reflects how you play. Our motto is, “Life is a dream. Shared with others.”
Was the game inspired by anything in particular such as a certain game or real-life events?
The idea has been shaped for years by books, movies, art, and life in general, to be honest. I personally have travelled down many paths and been given opportunities to do a huge variety of things. In pondering my own choices, I started to internalize this relationship between choice and change, and how it affects our daily lives.
But I don’t think that is very original on its own. Everyone experiences joys and challenges of their own. However, your effect on others is either a consideration you value, something you never think about, or something in the grey space between. Our goal with this game is to explore that grey area, then allow players to strike off on their own paths, which are deterministic and hopefully intriguing.
How much of an impact will your choices have on the story? Will there be lots of different narrative paths leading to various endings?
A lot, and yes! First off, there are two kinds of choices in the game: narrative color choices and large-scale choices that affect the story arc. Narrative color choices flavor the style of path you are on. These check against each other and work to maintain the character you are developing with unique dialogue and other subtle reinforcements throughout.
Large-scale choices put a stake in the ground for how you feel, changing narrative paths and the characters around you. The places you explore, what they look like, what you find throughout Whit’s lifetime, and characters’ outcomes will all shift to reflect these types of choices.
Broadly speaking, we are shooting for over a dozen different endings, with the possibility for more if they yield meaningful, compelling story additions. However, these are individual endings. The supporting characters also have their own endings irrespective or respective of each other, again impacted by choices. This adds additional nuance to the dozen-plus endings, but we’re less focused on numbers than serving our underlying story structure. There are some wild, emotional, and strange things that can happen, but overall they support the story that your choices are constructing.
How is gameplay structured? The reveal trailer touches on both 2D and 3D exploration as well as engaging in conversation with characters. Are you able to explore environments at will?
Most of the game is walkable 3D areas you can explore at will. There are also vignette areas, which are one-off paths determined by your previous choices. Players will see areas others won’t, all because of paths they have opened.
Structure-wise, we have chapters bookended by major events which spiral off into different choices, opening new areas to explore. By talking to people, receiving their reactions and guidance, and making choices based on what you know, you’ll progress down and shape the path before you. You mentioned 2D exploration. There is only a small section of that in the beginning and even that opens up within itself. But the vast majority of the game is free-roaming 3D.
Where the Heart Is sports a stunning art style. How did you come up with this unique visual approach?
Thank you! We hope it is visually enjoyable for players. For many of the games I work on, I create a lot of concept art. Expanding upon a suggested tone or atmosphere is part of that task, because from a concept I like to evoke a feeling, not just a visual blueprint. Where the Heart Is’ style came from trying to, in 3D, recreate concept art that tells a story on its own.
A sense of contrast that inspires curiosity is super important. Placing intriguing objects against undulating terrain, where players achieve camera angles that serve the moment, helps achieve this sense of wonder. I built a master shader to use minimal textures but be flexible so we can project large swaths of color across many things at once, helping blend it all together.
Before games, my background was in fine art and concert stage lighting. I think those both help me think about spaces in a different way, especially in how a player's surroundings can mirror their own feelings, which are intensified by a tonally matched musical score.
When can Push Square readers look forward to playing the game on PS4? Are there any plans to take advantage of the PS5 further down the road?
We have a planned release at the end of this year. We love what we’ve seen of PS5 and the platform is incredibly exciting for both gamers and us as developers, but currently we are laser-focused on creating the best PS4 version we can.
We'd like to thank the team at Armature Studio for taking the time to answer our questions, and Josh Silverman for making it possible. Are you interested in the concept and gameplay of Where the Heart Is? Search for your feelings in the comments below.