At PAX West 2023, we had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Joseph Hunter aka “Akabaka” about his upcoming game Sucker for Love: Date to Die For.
For those who are unaware, Sucker for Love: Date to Die For is a prequel to Akabaka’s original game, Sucker for Love: First Date, which came out last year (2022). Just months after the first game’s release, there were already teasers about a prequel-sequel. At PAX East 2023, we met with Dread XP and Akabaka to check out the next title in the Sucker for Love franchise.
From that meeting, we learned that Sucker for Love: Date to Die For will feature more of an open environment for the player to explore compared to its predecessor which featured only three areas. The game leans even more into its horror roots with the Eldrich deity’s followers trying to kill the player as they complete rituals to appease the god.
Unlike the first game which focused on lust and in a way sexual tension, Date to Die For will focus more on the relationship aspect with the protagonist having an asexual approach to relationships and not falling under the spell of the god.
Since previewing the game at PAX East 2023, a few things have changed. The game in itself has become more polished and added more details. Obviously, as a game gets closer to release it will have more to offer, but even some small details really shine between the two demos.
In the PAX West build, the demo featured new items and a change to the game’s environment. Previously, the house that we wandered through seemed kind of empty and abandoned; now, each room feels like it is lived in some manner with items being placed throughout.
While playing through the demo, we got to speak with Akabaka about the upcoming game. Here’s what Akabaka had to say:
Sucker for Love: Date to Die For Interview
Matt: Can you introduce yourself to everyone?
Akabaka: Hi my name is Joseph Hunter, I am the lead developer of Sucker for Love: Date to Die For the prequel to Sucker for Love: First Date.
Matt: so it’s a sequel but also a prequel.
Akabaka: Yes, it is coming out second but it takes place before the events of the first game.
Matt: Can you give us some more insight about that? What inspired you to do it as a prequel? How do the events of the prequel tie into the original game?
Akabaka: So that’s all spoilers.
Matt: The TLDR non-spoiler version.
Akabaka: The non-spoiler version. This story will kind of investigate how humans and other deities dating came to be or began. It follows a new protagonist and her efforts to romance The Black Goat of the Woods, which is the grandmother of the dateable love interests in the first game.
Matt: Diety one, two, or three?
Akabaka: One and two (Ln’eta and Estir). They are the granddaughters of the goat in the woods.
Matt: So what inspired this game?
Akabaka: This one was inspired after I read The Shadow over Innsmouth by H.P. Lovecraft. I loved the aspect of you being trapped in a city where everyone can tell you are not one of them and they all worship the same Eldrich Diety, are mutated, and are coming after you. You can run but you can’t call the police. So I thought it was a really compelling setting piece for horror. So I basically took the Black Goat in the Woods as a skin over The Shadow over Innsmouth. So instead of people chasing you around a harbor, it is goat people chasing you around in the woods.
Matt: At PAX East, I recall you saying you were the primary developer. Since then have you got a little bit more help since the game is coming out soon?
Akabaka: Yeah, the help that I get the most on is the music. I don’t do any of the music, that all is done by Extra Spicy. The background art has four artists helping me just because we upscaled massively since the first game. In the first one, there were just three rooms: The Bedroom, the Bathroom, and the outside. Here we have a full house with 20-something rooms and so to make that happen and do the panoramic effect; we just needed more manpower to be able to make it happen.
Matt: Can you talk more about the panoramic effect?
Akabaka: So we use this kind of novel 2D panoramic effect that I haven’t seen in another game before. If they do it, it is usually in a 3D space but they make it look 2D. Ours is a fully 2D, 3D turnaround-able environment where you can turn around in 360 despite the game taking place in a two-dimensional engine. So that meant drawing every background with a distorted panoramic view. We then load it into the game and apply a reverse panoramic filter onto it to bring it back to normal; that creates the illusion of a 3D room even though it is a 2D image.
Matt: Was there anything that inspired that or was it just more about how to make it work?
Akabaka: That was kind of something that was just demanded of the game. In order for you to traverse a house and look out for threats, you kind of have to be able to look all around you. I couldn’t really figure out how to navigate a room unless able to turn around 360, especially one that has four walls. So that was something we kind of just had to figure out because of the design elements we already were hell-bent on including in this one.
Matt: So what has been updated since PAX East?
Akabaka: There has been an art overhaul so rooms have more things in them. When we were first getting the original demo out, we were mainly spending time making sure that the house was navigatable and that the panoramic system was running properly. Now that is set and done, we are now able to put some polish so that rooms have more going on in them. We did an art test on all the characters. So Roxanne and others have updated sprites. She’s looking really good.
Matt: Someone said the very thick goat.
Akabaka: Yeah, she is very difficult to draw because she’s a 90s anime goat furry with a long snout with four eyes. It was really hard to make her look attractive and to make it work from different angles.