During the July Xbox Games Showcase, one of the surprise announcements was Hello Neighbor 2! Following the announcement, publisher Tiny Build released the alpha for the game on Steam. The original was very popular, played by over 30 million people as of March 2020 according to Tiny Build CEO Alex Nichiporchik. I jumped at the chance to ask the lead designer on the series, Mike Rafienko, some questions! Let’s jump in and find out more about Hello Neighbor 2!
Hello Neighbor became something of a cult classic after it launched, developing a large and vibrant fan base. When did you first realise how successful the game had become? Was there a particular moment, or was it a whirlwind after launch?
“The whirlwind actually happened when we launched the first playable Alpha – well over a year before the commercial launch. It took YouTube by storm and we knew we had something special on our hands.”
Are there any funny stories you can share from development? Any features of the level design, character behaviours or world details that were accidental but fit well that you decided to keep them?
“Well, there’s a lot of stuff like this to be honest. Because each time developers come up with a really great idea, locations, or character it gets really hard to say “let’s drop that”. As a result we struggled in order to keep the best ideas together. And yeah, this is how the Crow-man character was born also!”
The Hello Neighbor world has branched into many mediums, with spin off games, a book series, a tv show pilot and even a comic series. At what point did you decide to develop the world further with a direct sequel? What’s that journey until the recent reveal been like?
“The idea behind this is simple, Hello Neighbor fans were looking forward to Hello Neighbor 2’s release for a long time. This, of course, was a big topic at our internal meetings — how to approach the sequel, what new surprises we can bring to the players, etc.”
How’s the response been since the reveal? Is it a relief to see the fans excited and eager for more?
“Indeed, we saw how excited people were about playing the new Hello Neighbor 2 Alpha and solving another mystery in the Neighbor universe. For many fans Hello Neighbor is not just an ordinary game, it’s truly an entire world, filled with mysteries, stories, and beloved characters. I would say a real phenomenon of the series is the word of mouth. The fans are always eager to not only play the game, but participate in the community activities.”
Has the development of the new consoles enabled you to be more ambitious in the design of your levels, the AI, the graphics etc? What pieces of the new hardware are you excited to take advantage of in development of the new game?
“Currently we are exploring the opportunities that we have on the next gen hardware, and generally new technologies let us develop more advanced features. However, the majority of our players are using less powerful devices. That said, the graphics will be customizable, and definitely will be better on next gen devices. But in terms of gameplay features, we stand for providing players with an equal game experience on every device possible.”
The AI in particular seems to have really evolved in this game, becoming far more independent and less scripted than the first game. If there was interest to go back and remake the first game, implementing this self-learning AI, would the team consider it?
“That is such a good idea! … We’ll think about it.”
How was the change to an open world environment made? What incentive does the player have to go out and explore Raven Brooks? Are there details you can share?
“What we tried to avoid this time around is the chapter structure we’ve used previously. In order to provide players with a consistent and seamless experience it became clear we should go with an open world. And also, exploring Raven Brooks is something players have dreamed about for a long time!”
You mention the world changes depending on your actions. Can you share some more details or an example of how the world shapes around the players choices?
“In general terms, certain objects in your surroundings are somehow connected to each other. That said, the player influences the world by interacting with stuff. Some changes will be barely noticeable, but others could change the location appearance dramatically.”
With the change to a more open world design, do you see potential for expansions to this game, adding more stories into the town of Raven Brooks, rather than spin offs?
“The concept of the open world brings us a lot of opportunities to make constant updates in the main game as we imagine them. But spin-offs are a different story. Hopefully these two ideas do not contradict each other.”
Have you got plans to develop the Hello Neighbor world further? What plans does the team have for the future?
“It’s really hard to predict how far we can go in expanding the Hello Neighbor universe. Every day our team comes up with so many cool ideas – and many of them have become reality too! The franchise expanded beyond the game medium to books, graphic novels and board games. We plan on continuing work on the Hello Neighbor animation as well. More ideas are in the pipeline, and some are still on the paper. We are certain that Hello Neighbor fans will be really excited about what we’ll reveal the rest of this year and moving forward.”
What lessons have you learnt from the prequel game ‘Hide and Seek’ (and the multiplayer title if you helped create that) that you have been able to apply when developing this direct sequel?
“There are a bunch of lessons we’ve learned. The idea of the open world is one of these conclusions. Our main focus overall is players excitement, and the multiplayer spin-off, Secret Neighbor is helping us a lot to understand the audience and establish the connection with the players. We have developed channels to reach out to the community and get feedback about our games, Alphas, Betas, updates, etc. So, we are evolving by not only learning lessons from our previous releases, but testing the ideas on the go and getting the live feedback immediately. We are very impressed by our community members and we are having lots of fun working with our community on the new games.”
Has the team considered creating a Hello Neighbor VR experience? Is this something you’d be interested in exploring?
“This is something we’ve been talking about for a long time, since the VR tech started gaining popularity in the early days of Hello Neighbor. We see a lot of potential in terms of exploration and immersive experience, so maybe one day we will see Hello Neighbor in VR.”
That’s everything you need to know about Hello Neighbor 2! A huge thanks to Mike for answering my questions, this is a great way to celebrate 10 developer interviews! You can watch the trailer for Hello Neighbor 2 below, and play the Alpha right now on Steam! You can also follow Tiny Build on Twitter here and Facebook here for all the latest info on Hello Neighbor 2! The full game will release in 2021.
Remember to check out my Kill It With Fire giveaway before it ends on September 7th 2020! You can see the rules and enter here. It’s really simple to participate and three people will win a code for Kill It With Fire on Steam! Good luck!
Did you enjoy this interview? Want more like it? Click here to see my other interviews, with the developers of Haven, Skatebird and more! Subscribe to the mailing list to get them straight to your inbox! For all the latest gaming news stay right here at The Games Freak! Share your thoughts in the comment section or over on my social medias, which are linked below!