Launch day is an anxious time for any independent developer, but Smith has an extra reason to sweat. Vane caught players' attention early in its development cycle, when it was announced in 2014 as a project from former AAA and The Last Guardian developers. Its initial trailer evoked the expansive, introspective atmosphere imbued in Fumito Ueda's legendary Ico and Shadow of the Colossus games, and fans' expectations were high.
However, the main creative force behind Vane, Rui Guerreiro, left Friend & Foe just six months after the game's announcement. Guerreiro was one of two former Last Guardian developers on the team, and he was the person who conceived of and built the initial Vane prototype. He created it as more of an experiment than an actual game, but Friend & Foe put a dedicated team on the project, and it transformed into a new beast altogether. In early 2015, Guerreiro left the studio to work on Mare, a VR project with his signature Ico-inspired visuals.
"Personally, I don't think it's that close to those games," Smith said about Vane. "I think it shares a certain aesthetic and a certain sense of style, but not all the aesthetic or all the style. And the gameplay itself is kind of our own thing, for better or worse."
The remaining Friend & Foe developers have been quietly working on Vane for the past four years. It's an adventure game starring a child with the ability to transform into a bird -- players traverse arid, abandoned lands and solve a series of puzzles to eventually discover the child's destiny. It looks like a fantasy game, but it has a clear sci-fi bent.
"We were working until late last night finishing up a patch."
Friend & Foe was purposefully vague in describing Vane before its launch. It wanted players to discover the game for themselves and find their own meaning in its journey. Now that Vane has been live for a few hours in the States, there's already at least one complete walkthrough on YouTube and a handful of streams live on Twitch at any given time. Reviews are rolling in, and they sing a cohesive song -- Vane is gorgeous, but its controls are clunky.
Smith didn't know any of this when we talked. Launch day was still technically hours away, and the possibilities for how it would play out were infinite. He was keeping busy.
"We were working until late last night finishing up a patch, and then there's all the sort of PR stuff that the Plan of Attack guys [an indie PR label] are helping out with," Smith said. "You have to try to make sure codes are within everybody's hands, and you have to make sure that you've prepared all of your social media and that everything you wanted to be ready is ready, and that's a lot more than just a game a lot of the time."