How inviting does that headline sound? In an age of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and game consoles that feel the need to stay up to date with the wider world and social media, it can be nice to disconnect and take some time for yourself. Lake, from Dutch developer Gamious, is attempting to replicate the euphoric feeling with a PlayStation 4 title that does away with the stress and intensity of everyday life. You will play as Meredith Weiss in the year 1986 as she takes a break from city life to deliver mail in her home town of Providence Oaks.
The two weeks you spend there can be shaped and twisted by your choices, and so to learn more about this relaxation simulator, we armed ourselves with questions and caught up with lead writer Jos Bouman. Gamious was also kind enough to share some new screenshots with Push Square, so make sure to check those out.
Push Square: Where did the idea for Lake come from? Do you have a background in mail delivery or was it a concept you put together in your spare time?
Jos Bouman: The idea came from Dylan Nagel, the game director. He pitched it to us in 2017 with just a picture of a car driving around a lake, and said he’d like to have a nice quiet drive around in it. We couldn’t agree more. On top of that came the idea to make that car a mail truck, as it’s a great vehicle (both literally and figuratively) to make driving around and meeting people a logical activity.
What was the thinking behind the name of Lake? It can't have been the best choice in terms of SEO, right?
Haha, SEO-wise not an ideal situation indeed. And we really should know better, after having published the game ‘Lines’. We did have serious discussions about it, and lots of names were considered. But Lake was the only name no one in our team had objections with. We like the simple and carefree vibe of it. And after a while, it becomes tricky to do a name change, with news and articles about the game already out there.
How will the game be structured? Do you have to hit certain delivery slots throughout the town of Providence Oaks or is it a more free-form experience?
A day in Lake starts at the post office, and usually with a little chat with your colleague. You then hop in your truck and deliver mail in the order and tempo that you want. You’ll get to meet people along the way, and little storylines with them develop. Some players will finish a day much faster than others, and we want to give players that freedom. Lake must be a relaxing experience, so we try to avoid time management mechanics wherever we can.
Will players be able to engage in other activities during Meredith's spare time?
Yes. During development, it became more and more apparent that a day/night cycle is very important to give the player a good sense of progression. After the end of each workday, the game offers you a few events. Depending on choices you’ve made, you can be present at those activities. When you’ve chosen to meet up with someone, there will be a whole new scene at a certain location. But you can also choose a more passive activity, like reading a book. When you choose the book, you will see Meredith on the couch, reading the first few lines of a chapter. And we’ll then leave it at that, as it’s not crucial for the story.
Will you get to make choices and decisions along the way that affect the story, possible leading to different endings?
Absolutely. Lake will have a couple of distinctly different endings, and there are also some variables within these endings. We don’t want the player to feel like there is a good or a bad ending. It’s more about giving the player the freedom to choose what feels best. We hope we can prevent feelings you might have when watching a tv series, where you can get annoyed when a certain character makes a life decision that doesn’t feel right to you.
We will also make sure that we don’t present these options out of the blue on the final day. Each day is filled with options in dialogues that will presort you a little bit towards certain endings. But they should never feel too definitive, and there will be room for second chances and keeping your options open.
What inspired the choice to set the game in the year 1986?
We wanted to create a bit of an escape from today’s always online state of mind, while at the same time offering a setting that was still relatable to many players. The older people in our team had their childhood years in the eighties and have experienced the transition to the current digital lifestyle. It’s nice to go back to the period where you had to actively opt-in to all the things we can’t imagine living without now. Lake has some little tech nostalgia moments with games, computers and VCR's.
1986 was (among others) chosen with the birthdate of Meredith Weiss, the state of technology, and release dates of certain movies in mind. It is also very convenient for the story that in 1986, September 1st fell on a Monday and coincided with Labor Day.
What do you think a real-life mailman would make of Lake? Does it remain true to the job or can you steal a couple of packages when a homeowner doesn't answer the door?
We actually already received some reactions from mail carriers. And we’ve already apologized to them in advance that Lake will not have the same work pressure as their real-life job. But we’ve made certain that Providence Oaks is not filled with only nice people. And while we want to give players as much agency as possible, I think stealing packages would be a bit too much out of character for a proud mailman’s daughter. But that doesn’t mean that Meredith is a goody two shoes all the way!
When is Lake planned to launch on PS4? Is there a possibility the game will come to PS5?
We're anticipating launching on PC and major consoles sometime in quarter one of 2021, but we don't have any exact dates to share right now.
We would like to thank Jos Bouman for taking the time to answer our questions. Does Lake sound like an experience right up your alley? Let us know in the comments below.