“Raising empathy and touching hearts” — Why Delve Interactive Created A Homeless Experience

At EGX 2019, there were a great selection of indie titles, but one really caught my eye. Change: A Homeless Survival Experience is just that: a side-scrolling survival game where your objective is to stay alive and save enough money for a place to live.

You wander through a randomly generated city, gathering change by either selling scrap, busking, finding a job, or begging—as long as the police don’t catch you. I spoke about it at length in The Highs and Lows of EGX 2019, but all in all, it left me with a lot to think about.

After playing, I had a chat with one-third of Delve Interactive, the team behind the game: designer and coder Danny Hayes. Why did they decided to make a homeless experience, how they try and keep it authentic, and how much work has gone in so far?

Danny Hayes (right) and composer Jack Odell (left) at EGX

In your own words, how would you sell this game?

Change: A Homeless Survival Experience is an emotional survival roguelike, where you’re trying to escape to a new life through developing your character, making story choices and choosing new perks. It’s a different kind of game because it’s a roguelike and a survival mashed together. You got your perk system, you can make different choices, there’s different characters and companions too.

With the aim to raise awareness to homelessness in the U.K., is it fair to call this a “charity game?”

Yeah, 20% of profits are going to Crisis, which is a homeless charity based in the U.K.. At Delve Interactive we’re really just focused on making unique games, we always try to do something which no one else has done before. And this time we wanted to do something that’s really depressing and raises awareness on homelessness. And people still want to play it for hours!

I just tried out the game for about 20 minutes and one thing that struck me is the attention to detail—like how every time you finish a night you get different scenarios, and the things NPCs say to you when you’re begging. Did you work alongside the charity when you made this to keep it authentic?

We actually spoke to a lot of homeless people on the street, as well as people we know that are formally homeless. We didn’t work with the charity specifically, but we did use a lot of studies done by charities for our research and getting all the right numbers out there. There’s all kinds of things like how 40% of kids who go into foster care will experience homelessness at some point, or how 60% of homelessness is rooted in mental-health issues. So there’s a lot we want to bring to the forefront and teach people.

Delve Interactive is a small team, am I right in thinking you took this on without a lot of backing behind you?

Well we’ve been developing it for about four years now, and for most of that time I was working a day job, making money and putting it into the game and yeah… just giving up my life a bit, the other guys were as well. We’re getting close to release and I can start to breathe a little bit.

You were saying earlier how people have been sitting here for over an hour playing Change. When they’re done playing, what do you want their takeaway to be?

I think just to look on homelessness in a new light, or different light. Raising empathy and touching peoples hearts is my main goal in making this game.

Change: A Homeless Survival Experience is available on Steam Early Access now, with the full release coming soon.

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