I was lucky enough to chat to the devs of Those Who Remain and pick their brains about what inspired them to make this psychological thriller. They discuss their inspirations, what the journey was like creating Those Who Remain and their favourite horrors.
1. Firstly, would you mind telling us a little bit more about the game from your perspective?
Those Who Remain is a dark tale about choices and consequences. It is an emotional journey that will hopefully leave the player thinking about a few things after he finishes the game.
A more practical description would be a first-person adventure / psychological thriller with puzzle elements. We are taking the player through a crazy ride, travelling between alternate realities, and facing tense and creepy situations.
2. And, what inspired you to create this game?
We have a few. We wanted to do something with Americana horror, and Twin Peaks was one of the greatest inspirations for it. Dormont, the town where the action takes place, could easily be compared to Twin Peaks – a place that seems to be quiet, peaceful and happy, but that in fact harbours dark secrets underneath. The small everyday things that David Lynch blends so well with his surreal craziness – we tried to capture that too in the game. Just in case it isn’t obvious, I’m a fan of Lynch’s work.
Stranger Things was another great influence in the game. There’s an alternate reality in Dormont that’s somewhat similar to the upside-down. Of course, the rules are different, and it has nothing to do with the Demogorgon, but we matured the idea of an alternate dimension while watching Stranger Things.
There are others: the shadow figures that stand in the dark are reminiscent of the ghosts from John Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’. There are a lot of influences in the game, some stronger than others, some conscious, others unconscious. We have a few references in-game though – we like to pay homage to the stuff that we love.
3. Had you always planned on going with horror, or did that just happen along the way?
This game was meant to be scary from the start, but it was quite different when we first imagined it.
The original idea was that the player couldn’t go into the dark, period. There were no creatures – darkness itself would be the danger, and the player would have to manipulate light sources to clear paths through the dark.
The idea sounded great on paper, but after we built a demo, we found out that it wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. And the reason is that light gets gradually dark, so it was very difficult to visually explain to the player when safety ended, and danger started. So, the original idea was more puzzle (ish) but the horror element was already there. As the idea grew, we decided to add creatures in the dark – not only did it help explain to the player where danger was, as it also made sense with the wider narrative.
4. Aside from pushing back the release date, have the restrictions around Covid-19 impacted development? If yes, would you mind elaborating?
Luckily, no. The team has been working remotely for a long time now, so in terms of development, the impact was nearly zero. If you don’t take into account the psychological effects of being stuck at home, of course.
What was really affected was the retail side of the operation. We were supposed to do a simultaneous digital and physical release, but there are a few delays with production and distribution, so we’re releasing digital-first and physical a couple of months later.
And of course, no more real-world shows to help promote the game. That sucks a lot.
5. What has been the easiest and hardest parts of this journey?
I would say the easiest was creating the game itself and going from concept to cruise mode on development. We had a vision of what we wanted to do, but it wasn’t yet clear how it was going to be done or to be played. But after a few iterations, trial and error and small concept changes, we got exactly to what we wanted. The process was very fluid.
The hardest part was probably the upscaling of the project. We’re a small team, and it’s very daunting jumping from a digital PC game to a multiplatform, digital and retail game. It’s an insane amount of work, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of our publisher Wired Productions.
6. As a massive horror fan in general, I have to ask this question. What are your favourite horror games and movies?
My favourite horror movie is The Thing, from 1982. I have yet to watch another movie that captures the same emotions of despair and suspicion that run so strong through the movie. If I had to choose another one, I would say Alien. Another group of survivors trying to survive against an unstoppable alien. Maybe there’s a pattern here.
I must say The Shining too. I first saw it when I was very young, and it really got to me. The twins, the woman in the bathtub, the blood coming through the stairs… damn.
Now games… I am a fan of the Resident Evil series. I had really low expectation when I saw that RE7 was going to be first person, but I absolutely loved it. Alien Isolation – captures the look and feel of the movies brilliantly. Evil Within, both of them. Amnesia: The Dark Descent – an indie game that revolutionized horror. Alan Wake (loved it). Silent Hill series. Soma – not sure if I would call it horror, but it’s one of the most touching games I’ve played (that ending…)
7. Is there anything else you would like to add in?
Well, I hope you guys have the chance to check out the game. It’s been a tremendous amount of work, but we had a lot of fun doing it, and we’re very proud of what we’ve achieved.
We wanted to create something that could be scary while avoiding the usual jump scares and horror tropes, and we really believe that we have something here that can bring a new approach to the genre.
It’s more than a game to us, and it’s much more than just a ghost story. It’s a tale about people, like you and me, that made a few bad choices.
You’ll have to make some choices too, so… be sure before making a decision.
Be sure and let us know your thoughts on Those Who Remain and what choices you’ve made.
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