Among a sea of Rogue-inspired titles, Revita stands out by using its main character's health as currency. Players avoid taking damage to reach the end of each run through its procedurally generated Clocktower, but also use that health to purchase upgrades and relics. However, this wasn't always Revita's focus, and the game has gone through numerous iterations leading to its upcoming PC and Switch launch. Game Rant spoke to Kiefer about Revita's history, Early Access changes, and recently announced console port.
Work on Revita began at least six years ago when Kiefer was in high school. Though they grew up a fan of Nintendo, the achievements of Hollow Knight's small development studio Team Cherry were "probably my biggest inspiration in general." Yet Revita wasn't Revita at first blush; the game was originally called Arrow Dynamic, utilizing the same "child trying to climb a tower" conceit but centered around aiming a bow and arrow.
"I was working on the idea for a while," Kiefer said. "But as it is when you're new to any kind of creative endeavor, it's hard to keep to one idea." After becoming unhappy with it, Arrow Dynamic was scrapped in favor of a close-combat game utilizing swords. Yet Kiefer found himself struggling to squeeze the kind of versatility he wanted out of a melee weapon, so he went back to projectile-based combat with a more "satisfying to use" gun. While Arrow Dynamic's bow was interesting to Kiefer because of its arcing shots, the shift to guns also led to Revita's resource-management focus.
The Binding of Isaac's "Deals with the Devil," in which players can open a Devil Room to trade their hearts for items if they meet specific conditions in each area, were the chief inspiration for Revita's health-as-currency mechanic. Kiefer wanted to see if he could construct an entire experience around the "interesting gameplay loop." The developer would begin to build a following by sharing GIFs of various projects on Twitter — their catalog includes game jam titles like the Asteroids-inspired .FUEL and rhythm-based Feed the Beet — but Revita's focus on long-term consequences stuck.
"I really like the idea of figuring out how to emphasize risk-reward mechanics and bring them to their full potential."
With health management becoming Revita's main focal point, the decision to use a straight-shooting gun weapon helps keep the experience from being too overwhelming, Kiefer said. Yet it also opens the door for versatility through relic combinations. Some offer stat buffs like a longer reach or more power, but others change the kind of ammunition fired or the way players navigate their environment. A number of relics (alongside costume pieces like hats) pay tribute to games that inspired Kiefer, such as a riff on Hollow Knight's Shade Cloak. As of November 24, 2021's "Old Friends" update, Revita has around 275 items in total.
Old Friends is the final big update released as part of Revita's stint in Early Access, which began on March 3, 2021. Alongside the three updates preceding it; "Beasts and Bees" on April 19, "Cursed Choices" on June 22, and "Bait & Switch" on August 26; this time in players' hands helped radically change how the roguelite looks and plays.
"We want feedback and support from the community because the goal at the end of the day, for me at least, is to make this game as good as I possibly can. While I am the designer, I don't know how everyone will experience the game."
Two changes Kiefer highlighted that he hadn't considered are making the relic rewards visible at heart-trading statues, encouraging people to make considered decisions and hopefully more risks; as well as decreasing enemy damage to make health management less punishing. Revita has also grown from a solo endeavor to a "fairly sizable" team of about six, including lead artist Tim Schipper with whom Kiefer will be attending the WASD expo in London, England from April 7 to 9. "Having multiple people on the project gives you different insights, different opinions," Kiefer said. "It's super helpful in making an interesting and diverse project."
Though version 1.0 takes the size of all previous updates combined and will have new items that are "massively scaling out of scope" - bringing the overall count above 320 - Kiefer said they're most excited for players to see quality-of-life changes and polish, like a map of tower progress. The March 11 announcement of a Revita Switch skew was also a long-time coming. Kiefer said it's been a pipe dream to release something on Nintendo hardware, and that became an early conversation with publisher Dear Villagers since they feel Revita "has a Nintendo spirit." Transitioning the GameMaker Studio 2 project to Switch has been relatively easy beyond optimization with so many bullets and objects on-screen. In a recent Tweet, Kiefer said it's "pretty close" to 60 FPS during tests.
Kiefer is looking forward to escaping the "Early Access cycle of expectancy" in regard to planning regular updates, thus having more time for games like Kirby and the Forgotten Land or Xenoblade Chronicles 3. Yet being something of a workaholic with the propensity to over-scope means there are more ideas for Revita. For example, they agree with fans that modding support would fit the roguelite. However, post-1.0 development will focus on bug fixes for now, as anything more will depend on Revita's "financial viability."
Despite being focused on Revita in its final stretch, Kiefer has plenty more ideas sitting in a document to be fleshed out. Another pipe dream is to create a Paper Mario-inspired RPG, but the daunting prospects of this "monolithic undertaking" without financing or a big team means it might not be the time or place. Yet one can see that influence in another BenStar game jam project called Deck Quest with its theater production aesthetic and white-outlined character models, so possibilities are out there. "Who knows what the future holds."
Revita is available now in Early Access, and releases April 21 for PC and Switch.