Gattai Games takes horror to another level
By Chong Jinn Xiung December 16, 2016
- Sound-based game taps into fear of the dark and unknown
- Has VR mode to fully immerse players, best played at night
THE fear of the dark is man’s most ancient and primal fear. Taking that concept and building a game around it, Singaporean indie game studio Gattai Games built a sound-based horror game called Stifled.
This is Gattai’s second horror game, after Lurking, a 3D survival horror game based on the concept of echolocation that they had built in 2014 during their time as students in the DigiPen Institute of Technology Singapore.
Back then the team had initially experimented with the idea of putting players in control of a blind girl who has to use sound to solve puzzles.
However, they deemed the idea too complicated and instead opted to switch to a horror game called Lurking. With Stifled, they are back to the sound-based horror game they originally wanted to build. Not surprisingly, Stifled, builds upon the foundation laid by Lurking with the team describing it as the spiritual successor to their original idea.
The self-funded studio comprises Justin Ng, the studio’s self-professed design and business guy, Dexter Chng Shi Rong, the game designer, Bryan Teo, the code and audio person and ZhongMin Soo, the programmer.
Ng said the team was encouraged by Lurking’s critical reception as it won the Best Student Game and Excellence in Technology during 2014 Independent Games Festival China and was selected as a nominee at South by Southwest (SXSW) Gaming Expo in 2015.
In an interview with DNA, Ng explained that the four friends all love games and it was the unifying factor that brought them together to start their own studio. Even the word Gattai is the Japanese word for merged or fused, denoting the combination of the four members.
Stifled was originally slated to be released on Dec 13, 2016. However, the team decided to push its release back to the first quarter of 2017.
“We want to improve upon the game before release rather than releasing a patch. As a horror game, we want to make sure the player’s first play-through is perfect as we only get one shot to scare them right,” explains Ng.
Built entirely in Unity 3D, the game encourages players to use their device’s built-in microphone to generate “pulses” of sound that bounce and highlight what is around them. This method of echolocation is similar to that used by bats when they navigate in pitch darkness.
The problem is that they are not alone in the dark and their next scream could potentially give their location away to roaming enemies who will seek out and end the player’s life.
Ng said the concept of an echolocation game is admittedly not brand new and there are other games in the market with slightly different interpretations of the concept.
“More competition is fine by us. We are just here to make cool stuff for people to play,” he says.
Horror games and virtual reality are a perfect match as the team learnt when they made a VR mode for Lurking with the Oculus Rift.
Ng said Stifled will have a VR mode specially developed for the PlayStation VR. Though the experience is still a sit-down-and-play set up, once players don the headset and a pair of headphones they would be fully immersed in the Stifled world.
Not on the mobile bandwagon
At first, Gattai Games started working on mobile games, but Ng said ultimately the team did not enjoy the process.
To him, it’s all about finding the right fit for your game and what model works for it. In his opinion, “the majority of mobile games today are of the free-to-play variety and that changes the value proposition of your game.”
For the studio, the free-to-play model does not speak to them from a design standpoint and they don’t intend to follow trends.
“We recognise that we want to create something different and we want to make a game that we would want to play and not just for the sake of making money.”
Before concluding that Stifled would be released on the PC (via Steam), PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, Ng said the team experimented with the idea of making a mobile version of the game.
“We are not averse to making a mobile game but felt a mobile game would not fit the experience of playing Stifled.”
“It just doesn’t feel the same if someone plays the game on the train during the day. To fully enjoy it, the game needs to be played at home at night.”
Once they are done with this project it is on to the next game, with the team already working on their next project.
“Ideas come at any time and for us, we are willing to sit down and bounce our ideas off one another. We need to have several ideas ready as we can’t put all our hopes on one game and hope it will be our big hit,” he says. Yet the Gattai quartet will surely not mind it one bit if Stifled becomes a horrifying hit.