Skip to main content

Swery's new game will be "perverted, violent and crazy"

And he reveals a disturbing early vision for Deadly Premonition.

What will maverick designer Swery, real name Hidetaka Suehiro, make next? How will he follow the Twin Peaksy eccentricity of Deadly Premonition, or the dizzyingly off centre D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die? More to the point: is he okay?

A year-and-a-half ago Swery signed off work to recover from reactive hypoglycemia, which is when blood glucose levels become dangerously low following meals. Then in November last year he retired from the studio he co-founded 14 years earlier: Access Games.

Swery told people not to worry, that he'd be back "to make games that are better and more awesome than ever before" - but was he putting a brave face on it?

Apparently not; in January, Swery announced his new studio White Owls, an independent maker of "bizarre, scary, grotesque and dreamlike" games.

But what are those games? I asked Swery during his cheeky - in more ways than one - Reboot Develop talk in Croatia last week. He paused, considering his answer, then spoke.

"He can't say much about the new project," his translator relayed, "but basically it's perverted, violent and crazy."

Swery said earlier in his talk one of his new games will feature cats. "I can't tell you the details but one of the games is a game that features cats," his translator relayed.

Exactly how many games White Owls is working on isn't clear, although there does seem to be one main project - a project Swery began working on in January.

He isn't alone: White Owls now numbers six people - but Swery asked us not to photograph the slide showing the team, suggesting a secret needs keeping for now.

Swery appeared in high spirits and apparent good health throughout, cracking jokes and big smiles as he reflected upon his past year - sharing quirky statistics such as how much beer he had drunk (an estimated 450 litres), what he had gained ("hope and possibilities") and what he had lost ("a parent company that was as greedy as a pig").

His illness went into remission in April 2016, but he was sworn off work by his doctor until the autumn. In which time he wrote a draft of his book - described as like Deadly Premonition but set in England, written from the perspective of a cat - and earned a licence to be a chief priest of Buddhism. Because of course, because he is Swery.

But what does he think about the label Western press often give him of being 'weird'?

"Arigatou," he replied and giggled. It means 'thank you' in Japanese. Yet behind the good humour are method and fastidiousness.

"He's always worried," his translator relayed. "He's always worried about everything he works on, whether or not people will enjoy it or understand it the way he wants them to. But he always makes sure that in the very core of the game he has some kind of confidence that 'yeah this is going to be good' - he works really hard to make sure that that stays how he wants it to."

A lot of his inspiration apparently comes from daily life, from mundane things.

"Before coming to Croatia he stopped in Turkey for a little bit," his translator relayed, "and he was walking around and in all the store windows he saw these very strange mannequins.

"There was one store window where there were all these mannequins but only one of the mannequins was completely gold."

Swery paused and then in English added: "Weird."

When Swery sees things such as the mannequins he "absolutely" notes them down.

"He has three different types of notes," his translator relayed. "The first type of notes deal with appearance, how people look - if he sees someone who looks in a certain way. The second are people's motivations, what drives them. And the third is personality, if they do weird things, like someone who's really obsessed with miso soup."

Nevertheless, sometimes Swery goes too far - particularly where publishers are concerned.

"That happened with Deadly Premonition," his translator relayed, "which is why it was cancelled four times. Eventually he did have to change a lot about it."

When you hear what changed, you'll understand why.

"The original script for Deadly Premonition centred around a killer who raped and then ate his victims," his translator relayed. "Obviously that's something only an insane person would write, which is why he had to change it."

What a re-energised and unmuted Swery can conjure with White Owls remains to be seen. A section for "VR" on the White Owls website suggests he's exploring virtual reality too.

Whatever comes out will be distinct, and we wouldn't have it any other way.

Read this next