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Exclusive Interview – Probing inside the mind behind Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER


If, like many others, you loved the wonderful world of point-and-click 2064: Read Only Memories, then the recent launch of the sequel, Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER, is sure to get your attention.

But what can you expect from Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER and why should you be considering parting with your cash to play it? Well, we reached out to developers MidBoss to get the lowdown on their newest title and John “JJ” James, the creative director, was more than happy to have a chat about it!

Read Only Memories NEURODIVER keyart
Want to know more about Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER?

Hi, please could you introduce yourself. What is your role at MidBoss and on the recently released Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER?

I’m the creative director for MidBoss, and I was the director and lead artist/animator for both Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER and the original game, 2064: Read Only Memories.

For those unfamiliar with Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER, can you briefly describe and sell it to our readers?

Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER is a point and click adventure where you play as Luna Cruz de la Vega, also known as ES88, a psychic agent for MINERVA. She’s tasked with seeking out Golden Butterfly, a rogue psychic hiding away in the memories of others, fragmenting them over time. It’s up to the combined abilities of ES88, and the bioengineered creature known as a Neurodiver, to dive into these memories, repair them, and stop Golden Butterfly in their tracks!

What were the challenges, if any, of doing a sequel to the highly praised 2064: Read Only Memories?

The biggest challenge was getting the story script sorted out and locked down in time for voice acting. For this game there were a lot of things that had to be parallel pathed while we were working. Unlike the first game, which only came out in just English and no VO for the first release, we wanted this one to have full localization and VO right out the door. That was a not insignificant task, especially for our lead writer, Sam Ortiz, who had a lot of plates spinning for converting the original script for use in the game, reviewing any edits I added in with our narrative designer, on top of preparing everything to hand off to our voice director for VO.

The first game was also well over 100k words, which wasn’t something we could handle again. We wanted something smaller in scope, and less branching paths to test. It was a difficult choice considering how many endings and little switches there were for specific things in the first game, but we wanted to keep ourselves sane for the duration of development. Something in the same scope of 2064 just wasn’t going to work with what we wanted to do on release with localization and VO. I know that’s been somewhat disappointing to some, but I’m still very proud of what we made. Heck, I’m still playing it in my off time!

Can players dive, pardon the pun, straight into NEURODIVER without having played the original? Are the two titles linked in any way?

They definitely can. This is a completely new story with a new main cast of characters. It doesn’t follow the events of the previous game directly, but it does have some of the old cast from it. Those who haven’t played the first game can still have a good time, but people who played 2064 can see how some old friends are doing ~6 years later.

Read Only Memories NEURODIVER 4
Dive into this one, however you want.

Could you provide some extra insight on the new characters at the forefront of the narrative in NEURODIVER?

• ES88, also known as Luna Cruz de la Vega, is an esper, and the only one bonded to the eponymous Neurodiver, a bioengineered esper that boosts ES88’s innate psychic abilities. She has lavender skin after going through a hybridization procedure to stabilize her psychic abilities when she first joined MINERVA. She loves the manga and anime series, Magical Commander Yukino, and often aspires to be as cool and capable as Yukino. She’s someone who just wants to help and do a good job. Confidently navigating this world can be a challenge, but the support of GATE, TRACE, and the Neurodiver keep her steady.

• GATE is a Brain Controlled Android (BCA), and bodyguard assigned to protect the Neurodiver. She’s close friends with ES88 and TRACE, and because of her responsibilities, will often go on assignments with ES88. She enjoys reading books in her spare time, and has a special fondness of the look and feel of a used, worn down one. GATE is very fond of ES88, and admires her energy and ambitions.

• TRACE, also known as Luz Sofía Orta del Bosque, is an information specialist at MINERVA. She originally worked at a sister organization in Monterrey, Nuevo León, México before transferring to Neo-SF. She spends most of her days collecting and sorting data on esper activity in the area and around the world. Kinda acts as a big sister of sorts to ES88. Loves to snack.

• FORTUNA is the head of MINERVA, an information science organization to the public, but below the surface, an organization focused on psychic phenomena. She’s pretty mysterious and a little intimidating to ES88.

• We don’t really need to know much about Harold.

• L.U.C.Y. is MINERVA’s secretary. She has an odd personality, but means well.

In terms of gameplay, what does memory fragment repairing actually entail? Are there any other puzzling moments or mini-games to complement the storytelling?

Most of what memory fragment repairing involves is finding things that could loosely connect to the fragment. In some cases it’s a menu for a drink special to make a bartender go back to normal. Other times it’s something closer to what your surroundings are in relation to the fragment, like a mermaid near the sea. The puzzles can sometimes be pretty trial and error, but sometimes it’s good to check out the clue descriptions to get a good hint on what to use on a fragment.

Given that NEURODIVER continues to use pixel art for its presentation, how has it evolved here? Are there any standout character designs or locations that you can’t wait for players to see?

I had more time to work on the art, and also had an amazing background artist working with us (Gustav Örn Samuelson). I hope people appreciate the work done on the backgrounds, as well as the expressive animations of every character. I’m also particularly fond of how the dream sequences and eyecatches turned out. My only regret is not adding in more animated things into the backgrounds. But yeah! I really had a lot of fun animating the expressions of every character in this, especially the Neurodiver’s unique eye blinking, and the hybrid stranger’s little thumb flicking his ear in the prologue/pilot memory chapter.

Read Only Memories NEURODIVER 5
Up for some repair time?

A lot of the dialogue is voiced, which is very impressive. How important was it to ensure voiceovers were in place for character development? Was it difficult to cast for such a diverse mix of characters?

We had a great voice director (Manuela Malasaña) who helped with casting. The roundup was a surprisingly smooth process. Pretty much every person we ended up choosing sounded exactly like what I’d imagine they’d sound like. I only wish we had more time between script editing and locking things down for VO, as that part was particularly stressful. It was also stressful auditing every voiced line to make sure the voice files were actually there and properly separated from the raw recordings. At the end of it all, though, I was really pleased with how it all turned out.

How long would you expect a single playthrough to take? Is there any scope for replayability?

It takes about 4 hours to complete on average, which is about half the time it takes to get through the first game. As I mentioned before, we went really small for scope in this project. We wanted something short and breezy. Something light, more linear and less complex than the first game. There’s still some replayability, though, as there are two choices which can change how characters respond to you later, but most of the other choices in the game are mainly for extra bits of information. I really wanted NEURODIVER to be more of a short and charming game that you could play in one sitting.

Is it true that there’s a Read Only Memories comic in the pipeline? And if so, how does it tie-in to the games?

There was, with IDW. We had the pleasure of working with IDW back in 2019 for a 4 issue mini series featuring Lexi as the main protagonist. It, like NEURODIVER, is a stand alone story that features some old characters from the first game. It also chronologically takes place between 2064 and NEURODIVER and follows Lexi Rivers working as a private investigator in Santa Cruz. Past all that, though, it’s mostly its own thing. A memory of Lexi’s. Sina Grace wrote a really compelling story and knew exactly how Lexi head works, and Stefano Simone’s art is absolutely divine. Each issue also featured shorter stories with different Neo-SF characters written by Mary Kenney, and Caleb Goellner with wonderful pixel art by Christina-Antoinette Neofotistou. It was a really fun project. Definitely check out the trade paperback version since it has some fun extras in it.

What’s next for MidBoss in regards to game development and any other interesting ventures?

Taking a break! At least for as long as we can.

Read Only Memories NEURODIVER 6
Sold on NEURODIVER? You should be.

And finally… if you were a hybrid, like those in-game, what kind of animal or plant would you choose to be infused with?

A fox! I think. Having a tail would be cute and cool, especially a little bushy one like a fox’s. Maybe I could have a better balance with it? Would be a fun extra layer of expression for sure!

A massive thanks to John “JJ” James for spending the time to answer all of our questions regarding the recently released Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER, which is available right now on Xbox (hit up the Xbox Store for a download), PlayStation, Switch and PC.

And if that’s piqued your interest, then be sure to check out our full review of Read Only Memories: NEURODIVER, before deciding whether to dive in yourself.

James Birks
James Birks
Been gaming casually since the SNES as a youngster but found my true passion for games on the Playstation 1 (the forbidden word ooo). My addiction grew to its pinnacle with the purchase of an Xbox 360 & Xbox Live Service. A recovering GS hunter that will still play literally any game.
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