It might seem strange to hear that a fishing and sushi restaurant management game was inspired, in part, by the Metal Gear Solid series. But it makes more sense after you've played Dave the Diver. Sure, you spend a lot of time fishing and serving food, but among other surprises the game also has a few stealth sequences, including one where Dave has to slip past a bunch of armed goons on patrol.
There are even giant cardboard boxes involved… though naturally Dave isn't quite as good at that sort of thing as Solid Snake.
I recently got the chance to chat with Dave the Diver's game director Jaeho Hwang (via email) and I asked where the initial idea for Dave the Diver the game came from, as well as what some of its influences were.
"The idea first came to me when I was on Jeju Island, which is kind of like the Hawaii of Korea," Hwang told me. "There was this restaurant by the sea there, where the owner caught fish in the morning, and cooked them for dinner. When I saw this, I thought this would be something interesting to work with, so I started to design a game based on this concept."
That restaurant wasn't the only real world source of inspiration for Dave the Diver. Several members of Mintrocket's development team came up with concepts for the game based on their own undersea experiences, too.
"A lot of the dev team members go diving on their vacation time, then come back with new ideas to implement in the game," Hwang told me. "There is a person on our team who does scuba diving as a hobby. Last year, she went to the Maldives, and we made a Manta Ray mission for our game based on inspiration from a video she took herself."
As far as other games that helped inspire Dave the Diver, it sounds like there were quite a few, and not always the games you might guess.
"When I was young, I really liked playing this one Japanese roguelike dungeon game called, ‘Taloon’s Great Adventure: Mystery Dungeon,’ a spin-off of the Dragon Quest series," Hwang said. "The gameplay involved entering a dungeon that changed shape, and you would bring back materials to develop the town, and I thought this was a lot of fun."
That influence can be seen in Dave's spearfishing expeditions, which take place in a mysterious spot of ocean called the Blue Hole. This unusual undersea world has a shifting map layout and randomized items found within it, meaning each dive is a little different and you're never sure exactly what you'll find or where you'll wind up.
Hwang also lists undersea games like the beautiful and relaxing ABZU and the perilous Subnautica as inspirations for Dave the Diver. "And, it might sound strange, but I really like games that have mini-games and management elements combined with really solid gameplay, just like Metal Gear Solid and Like A Dragon. They gave me a lot of inspiration," Hwang said.
Hwang also told me he enjoyed another fishing game that came out this year, Dredge, which merges fishing with a Lovecraftian horror story. And when the team isn't working on Dave the Diver (or doing some diving themselves), they're trying to find time to play The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, though "since it came out right as we were leading up to launch, not many of us have had that much time to actually play it," Hwang said.
"We are a bit less busy now, so we might finally have a chance to get deeper into the game."