Most of the games you’ll find in Games of the Year lists revolve around fantasy, larger-than-life stakes, the distant future, or the distant past. These are places that want to transport players to completely different worlds, unprecedented new experiences. Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery, which releases for PlayStation 4 on June 2, aims for a different kind of fantasy – one where you can immerse yourself in the delicious routines of everyday life.
I’m Buddy, the community manager for Akupara Games and wanted to take some time to explain why this core Behind the Frame gameplay experience is so important to us. In Behind the Frame, you play as a young artist trying to exhibit her art at a major exhibition. And while the game itself focuses on a mystery she’s trying to solve, most of your time in Behind the Frame will be in her quaint, lived-in studio apartment.
Behind the Frame sports a number of animated cutscenes throughout the game, which many gamers and reviewers have compared to Studio Ghibli animation, famous for movies like Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. These films, along with many others from Japan, are among Behind the Frame’s greatest inspirations. In particular, When Marnie Was There really helped steer Silver Lining Studios towards the particular style of traditional animation they would use in the game’s cutscenes. The bright, bold colors and crisp lines elevate the artist and their studio into something more beautiful.
For gameplay, the goal has always been immersion. The developers at Silver Lining Studios wanted to steer players towards the routine of this daily life. Waking up in the morning, making yourself a coffee, making a quick breakfast and putting on some music before you start painting for the day. Painting and solving the puzzles associated with it are the main gameplay mechanics of Behind the Frame, where the story will advance and more mystery will reveal itself. But for players to truly accept the main character of Behind the Frame, they’ll need to see more of it than is relevant to the plot. It comes from helping him cook eggs and butter toast.
For another example, my favorite detail is that the player streams music from a cassette player. It’s not just about clicking a button and starting the music. The player must methodically open the cassette deck, pick up the cassette, insert it, close the deck and press the play button for a single note of music to come out. In game design, we have a term called “kinesthesia,” which describes the sensation of player movement in virtual space. In the same way that you can type on a keyboard without looking at your fingers because you have an idea of how the movement of your fingers will translate to the letters appearing on the screen, gamers have an idea of how their virtual avatars move through the virtual spaces. . And just as a game can have good/bad mechanics, graphics, or sound design, its kinesthetics can dramatically improve the experience. I’m much more connected to the painter as a player because of the process of turning on his tape than if I had done it through a simple button press or cutscene.
This same care with kinesthesia also applies to other parts of the game’s animation. When players press play and start playing music for their day, the instant rolling tape mute gives players a moment to appreciate the addition of music to the game world. In fact, every little routine in the painter’s apartment includes that moment of appreciation, whether it’s watching the band play or pouring coffee into a cup.
This attention to detail extends to the game’s painting animations as well. Silver Lining added special rigging for the painter’s arm, so that even if the player was painting with the paintbrush (which is matched to the controller), the arm would follow. fluid brush strokes. Details were also added on how the gameplay paint dissolved into the final presentation. As a player paints, drips from their brushstroke will begin to slide across the canvas. Once they finish painting a section, the paint will transition smoothly into the final cleaned product. This progression helps establish a sense of time passing and care to get the details of the painting right.
For the developers at Silver Lining Studios and for us at Akupara Games, it’s these details that really sell the lived-in, immersive experience of a young artist spending her days painting in her apartment. If you’d like to try painting some masterpieces yourself, Behind the Frame: The Finest Scenery launches on PS4 on June 2. We’re also releasing brand new in-game content, a side story centered around another young painter, on the same day! And I hope if you pick up behind the frame, you keep an eye out for other choices like the ones above. This game is full of them!