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Q&A: Stifled dev on building a horror game around sound

July 28, 2016 | By Jeremy Ooi

July 28, 2016 | By Jeremy Ooi
More: Indie, Art, Design, Production, Video

Stifled is an upcoming horror game that utilizes a unique control scheme as a core mechanic. In the game, you have to find your way through an almost pitch black environment by using echolocation--making sounds through your mic. While this will help you make sense of your surroundings, it will also attract nearby monsters to you. The game is currently taking your votes on Steam Greenlight.

We had the opportunity to talk to Justin Ng, one of the members of the developer Gattai Games, touching on the evolution of the idea, how a bunch of newly minted grads decide to take on a massive project, and what they think of horror games in general.

Stifled is the spiritual successor of Lurking, so what inspired you (and your team) to do something like this in the first place?

The idea stemmed from Dexter and Bryan who were the lead designer and sound director on Lurking respectively. Dexter was inspired when he stumbled on an animated clip of a blind little girl exploring her surroundings using sound, and Bryan just wanted to make a game based on sound, because he was the sound guy. It clicked, so the team went with it!

What is the striking difference between both games?

Lurking was very much a proof of concept, to show that we could make interesting gameplay scenarios using sound and the microphone input. With Stifled, we paced out the game much better and focused on making sure these players were kept on their toes while keeping the gameplay elements that worked.

What is the biggest challenge when it comes to the implementation of the idea?

The lack of experience was the biggest challenge. The team at Gattai Games were all fresh graduates from Digipen, and apart from internships and short-term kind/projects, didn't have much experience.

We went in blind (hur hur) and at this point, I think we know more from a game development and business standpoint, but still don't know better.

What is your definition of a good horror game? Do you have any favorites?

I think this varies depending on who you ask within the team. But the general consensus is that a good horror game gets into the players head, and affects them at a psychological level and not relying on cheap jump scares. Games like Silent Hill and Amnesia nailed the "there's always something on the next turn" feeling even without showing the actual threat.

I wouldn't dare name a favorite, but I enjoyed Amnesia, Deadspace and S.O.M.A.

We've been hearing a lot of gameplay features, but can you tell us more about the plot?

The narrative trailer drops some clues, but we still don't wanna go too much into it yet. That said, we are exploring the relationship between two people.

This game looks like VR material. Any plans to go that path?

We are actively experimenting to make sure we can get sit-down, first person movement feeling comfortable in VR. But at this point, we are not confirming a release.

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