For all the effort game creators put into graphics and music and art, the games that tend to stick with us most are the ones that tell a story that really strikes a chord. Tom Orden of 8 Bit Pxl Games is working on a game that explores the darkest realms of human psychology, Repression. Thoroughly creepy and designed to linger in the darkness, Repression plunges players into a mysteries of murder and memory loss.
The Metropolist talked to Tom to find out a bit more about it.
The Metropolist: Tell us about your game.
Tom Orden: In Repression, you start the game in a hospital room. You just woke up from a short coma and discover you have memory loss. You learn that your wife was murdered prior to your coma, and head off to see if anything in town helps you to regain your memories.
As you look around, you come across information in the game that will help you piece together recent events. You will also find puzzles spread throughout the world. Some items will even trigger a small suppressed memory. When this happens, you will re-live the memory on screen.
I would best describe Repression as an Exploration Game. Some people use the term “Walking Simulator” which really isn’t what any game is. You don’t press “left trigger” to move your left foot, and “right trigger” to move your right foot and keep going to simulate walking. You explore the world and interact with it, unfolding the story.
TM: Tell us about the dream that inspired it. How much of that made into the final game?
TO: I’m going to avoid any spoilers here, so this may seem cryptic. The dream I had was unusual. In the dream, I made a video game. But the dream only showed the game’s ending. No start, no middle, nothing. So when I woke up, I wondered “What happened in this game’s story that made it end like that?” So I thought about it a bit, and that’s where Repression came to life. A simple idea that had an ending and basic plot. I just had to fill in all the pieces to make it come to life. The game still ends the way it ended in my dream.
TM: The game has a pretty grim plotline. Just how dark does it go?
TO: DARK. The player may need some night vision to play. Hehe. In all seriousness, this is not a happy game. But I didn’t go dark just to be dark. I made sure it had to fit in with the story. In the end, I like how it tells the story.
TM: Did you have to do much research into psychology to create the story of the game? Did you look into any real stories about memory repression?
TO: While the game does deal with the mind, I didn’t get too technical. I was concerned that it would be too much about the science and not the emotion and experience. I already had some basic knowledge on the subject, but I still researched some psychology websites for more general information and read about some patients’ experiences.
TM: Are there any interesting stories you read about that really stuck with you?
TO: Most of the stories had to deal with adults that had repressed childhood memories of molestation. So there wasn’t anything I saw relative to my story. But the theme was the same – something traumatic.
TM: The art style is really distinctive and creates a very unique feel. What was that inspired by?
TO: For the games art, I wanted creepy. But I didn’t want to be creepy just to be creepy. There’s a purpose to it. I wanted to really have the player look around and understand the character’s state of mind. I looked at a lot of books. I really admire the works of Zdzislaw Beksinski, Dariusz Zawadzki, John Harris, and Matsui Fuyuko. These artists are masters of creating the mood I was looking for. So they inspired me.
TM: How complex do the puzzles in the games get? How challenging does it get?
TO: Have you ever played a game and found the puzzles so hard or confusing it gets frustrating? This can distract you from the story and you may quit playing for a while. You may even cheat and look online for the answer. When that happens, it may feel like the mood the developer was working so hard to create was lost.
Imagine playing a VR game. You are in this environment the developer created. You feel it. Everything is real to you. Your pulse is racing. You look at this puzzle, not knowing what’s about to happen. The tension is building up, and then… let’s take of the head set and look this up online because I have no idea how to complete this, ha ha! For Repression, I was more interested in the creepiness of the puzzle rather than the technical side of it. So I tried my best to keep the puzzles basic and not complicated.
TM: Why did you choose this particular format for the game?
When I thought about what I wanted Repression to be, I realized I mostly wanted to tell a story. I want the player to feel what I was trying to accomplish. The unusual looking environment I came up with sets a nice mood for the story. And the creepy nature of some of the puzzles helps to tell it. I could have made it about action or killing creatures, but then it would be about that. So to me, this made the most sense for my vision to come to life.
TM: Why did you choose Kickstarter to fund the game?
TO: I first came across Kickstarter when the OUYA console had their campaign. I was reading a Yahoo Tech article on the OUYA. I had never heard of Kickstarter before, so I immediately went to Kickstarter and pledged. After that, I saw all the awesome games on Kickstarter. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. All these amazing games made by normal people more interested in telling a story than they were making millions. Ever since then, I knew this was the way for me.
TM: How are you finding your Kickstarter experience so far?
TO: Kickstarter can be so unpredictable. I have personally backed over 300 games on Kickstarter. Every week I look at the new games. I tweet about the ones that catch my eye, and back some others that totally blow me away. I’ll often see an amazing and unique game struggle, with only $300 raised. Then I’ll see a game that is more “mainstream” with $100,000. But it’s not always that way either. Sometimes it can be the other way around. So far, my campaign is struggling. I am worried about this, but I am also not surprised.
TM: What’s your plan for once the campaign is over? What are your hopes for the game?
TO: Whether it’s a successful campaign or not, once the campaign is over I’m taking a week off. The last 2 years has been pretty crazy filled with all sorts of ups and downs. So it will be nice to just sit and do nothing. Probably play some No Man’s Sky. Once that time off is out of my system, back to business.
If the campaign is successful, once the funds have been received the programmer will get paid and get to work. Once the PC/MAC version is done, then I will look into other platforms.
If the campaign is not successful, my artist and I will finish the final art pieces. At that point, I will look into maybe a publisher or other means of funding.
In the end, I have to be realistic. The odds of me having a best seller as my first game are zero. To me, this game is more about learning from mistakes, meeting amazing developers, and of course telling a creepy story. So no matter what the outcome, I still accomplished something very hard that I will be proud of.
TM: What other forms of funding would you consider?
TO: If I don’t reach my funding goal, I’m going to have to look into other possibilities. There are companies that invest in small game business like myself. If they like your game, they give you funds and let you do your thing. There is also the possibility that a small studio takes interest in the project and offers to do the work as a trade for a percentage of the profits. I may even consider a business loan, however getting one for a video game is pretty impossible.
TM: Would you consider using what you’ve learned from this experience to go back to Kickstarter in the future?
TO: There’s always a chance I would consider doing a Kickstarter relaunch. That would depend on how close I get to my goal. When other games do a relaunch, they usually find a way to lower their goal. With my goal, I have zero wiggle room. The whole point of my campaign is to raise the funds to pay the studio to program the game. This isn’t for the game art or game music. Just the programming. The studio I am working with estimated the hours necessary to complete the project at a specific hourly rate of pay. This can’t be reduced, it is what it is. So if I get close to my goal, I definitely would consider a relaunch. If I don’t even get close, there may be no point in trying that route again.
TM: Thanks Tom!
The combination of gore galore and spooky sights make us very excited indeed for the Repression. You can check out his Kickstarter page for more information on the project, and see what horrors await those who join the community.