Papers, Please developer Lucas Pope will leave the oppression of fictional state Arstotzka behind in favour of something completely different with his next game.
Pope will develop the game by himself, and it’ll likely be smaller in scale than his acclaimed 2013 release. Though Papers, Please played a significant role in popularising the idea of the ‘empathy game’, he doesn’t intend to limit his focus on creating a game which explores similar themes.
“It’s always about the game first,” Pope told us. “It’s always about a piece of interactive entertainment. It’s about which mechanics I think are good. I think whatever I do next, it’s always going to be kind of in service of that; I’m not going to start from the position of ‘I want people to feel empathy for this guy’ or ‘I want to get across this political point.’ For me, I come very much from the side of ‘I want to make it fun.’ And I want to take it further than that, with a story or narrative or message, but if it’s not fun to begin with then I’m not going to follow it up. It’s hard to come from the empathy side or the message side and then to try and make a fun game out of that.
“[It will be] something completely different, not even related at all to Papers, Please,” he adds. “I don’t know if people are going to be happy about that or not.”
Indeed, that Papers, Please happened to fit into a growing trend of empathy games was purely accidental, says Pope. “Someone mentioned this new wave of ‘empathy games’ and they mentioned Cart Life, I Get This Call Every Day and Papers, Please. And I was like, “Empathy games, what?” I checked out both Cart Life and I Get This Call Every Day and I was like, “Yeah, shit, that’s a lot like my game.””
Much of Papers, Please’s creation was dictated by the limitations placed upon it. Previously Pope had been used to working with his wife, Keiko, to design and write game systems together, but with her time mostly occupied with the couple’s new baby, Pope embarked on Papers, Please alone.
“A lot of the fun for me in making a game is just figuring out how to do it: the puzzle of, like, ‘OK, I’m just one guy. I can’t do everything myself,” adds Pope. “It can’t be 3D; it can’t be doing crazy stuff. It’s got to be something that one guy can handle.’ Just figuring that out is something I enjoy.”