Back in June of this year we had the chance to chat with Carlos Grupeli and the Protocol Games development team about Song Of Horror, which at the time was running a campaign through Kickstarter. After a disappointing campaign the team took time away before returning to Kickstarter stronger than ever and with a brand new campaign, which has hit the ground running, with almost half of the required funding already achieved with over 30 days of the campaign still remaining. If you haven’t already, head across to their campaign and show an excellent horror game some love and if you missed it, check out their interview with the guys below.
PressA2Join: Can you start off by telling me a little bit about Song Of Horror and what inspired you to make a Survival Horror game?
Carlos Grupeli: Well, for starters we’ve always been fans of the survival horror genre. Ignacio and me, the two founders of Protocol Games, met at high school and always dreamed about making a game, of course, our first ideas were wildly impráctical, what you might expect from 15-year old boys, fast forward a ton of years and Ignacio was a graduated architect, and I was an IT technician. The dream was still alive. One night, around what one might call a healthy amount of beer, we decided we would go for it
Ignacio forsook opportunities in the architecture field, and I had a full-time job as a help desk technician but the prospects of the careers ahead of us, well, weren’t motivating enough. The dream was, you know, nagging at the back of our minds, it was a “now or never” moment, and we went for it.
Why a survival horror? because a) We love the genre (we’ve spent many nights playing survival horror titles together or with more Friends) and b) it’s a suitable genre to start in when you think you have a good idea but you don’t have many resources. We needed to choose a genre in which we could not only make a game with limited resources, but have the possibility of making a great game with limited resources and the quality of a survival horror title is much more dependant on the idea and the way of putting it into practice than the sheer amount of money we can pour into the game, which is not very big.
PA2J: When did you decide to try to get funding through Kickstarter to help the game progress?
CG: Well, we discovered Kickstarter a couple of years back, and we decided it was our best shot, at least as a first shot, at obtaining the funds we needed to complete the game, from the beginning we have planned to go to Kickstarter
PA2J: From what I’ve seen, Song Of Horror reminds me of the old school type horror game, the ones I grew up on and loved as a kid.
CG: Those are the ones we loved too! Titles like the first Resident Evil & Silent Hill games, the Fatal Frame saga…
PA2J: I grew up on games like Silent Hill, Alone In The Dark and Resident Evil, it’s a passion.
CG: Indeed, our biggest influence is the classic Alone in the Dark (1992)
PA2J: I just love the way those games leave players so vulnerable and exposed. Never knowing what’s lurking around each corner.
CG: Exactly. That’s the sensation we are trying to convey, to the best of our ability. Song of Horror is entirely based on defencelessness.
PA2J: I think the best survival horror games are the ones where the player has little to no defence.
CG: So do we. The early survival horrors made you feel little. Even as a guy armed with several weapons, you did not go out there like Rambo. You were afraid.
PA2J: I especially love the way the Silent Hill games make you feel, in a sense you are completely alone for the most. The music and the in game noises add to the tension and it makes for a better game.
CG: Indeed. That is another side to it: the fear of the unknown. The incomprehensible. That which you cannot conceive. A very Lovecraftian concept which also applies to Song of Horror.
PA2J: Are you fans of Lovecraft’s work?
CG: Yes, him and his “sidekicks” so to speak! Also of Poe’s work.
PA2J: So can you tell me a little about the back-story of the game. I understand there are 16 playable characters in Song Of Horror, how does this play out within the game?
CG: Well, the story starts simple enough. Typical, if you wish
Daniel Noyer is a former entrepreneur fallen on hard times who had to take a shitty job at a publishing house, basically as a glorified errand boy under the firm’s sales director, Etienne Bertrand. One Friday, Daniel returns home after work and receives a call from Etienne, asking him to check up on the house’s most important client: a famous novelist and University professor named Sebastian P. Husher. So Daniel goes to Husher’s house, an old colonial mansion (the man’s a fan of everything antique), only to find an ajar door and seemingly no one there. Thus starts the Prelude chapter, and is the anteroom to the big mystery surrounding Husher’s vanishing.
That’s when Daniel gets involved in something he’d rather not be a part of.
And now about the 16 characters, the game is divided into several chapters, in each of these chapters, you will have a set of characters from which to choose. In Chapter 1, which takes place in Husher’s mansion, you will have 4 characters to choose from. Each chapter explores a different location and features a new set of characters, with the possibility that a survivor from a previous chapter is also selectable.
The characters are either related to Daniel or people who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. So you go ahead and pick a guy or a girl. When you do, you are committed. This character you just picked can either finish the chapter on his/her own, or die trying.
PA2J: So there is a choice in who you want to play as?
CG: Yes, among the selectable characters, you pick whoever you want.
PA2J: So when you choose a different character, does it affect the way the story plays out?
CG: It does not affect the main story (it is always the same one). However, depending on who is alive and who is dead the story will be told in a slightly different way. Not better or worse, just a little different. And you won’t miss out on parts of the main story just because you lost characters. Losing characters is very easy and a part of the Song of Horror experience, so to speak..
If a character dies, you select another one and pick up where you left. If all available characters die before you finish the chapter, you get to start the chapter again with all of them alive. But when you finish a chapter, the peeps that died remain dead for good.
We think permanent death and no manual saving gets rid of what little relaxed moments you could have in a survival horror.
PA2J: I love the idea of permanent deaths
CG: Namely, you just saved the game, so you can just go out and try crazy stuff, doesn’t matter, you just saved the game so you’re not afraid. Well, in Song of Horror you don’t get to save, so you have to always be on your toes. And the Presence is unforgiving.
PA2J: It makes players even more aware of their surroundings, more careful when progressing through the story.
CG: We thought “if games such as roguelikes can create dread with the idea of losing characters forever, what could happen if a survival horror included it”
PA2J: So, is there no combat system in Song Of Horror?
CG: Not a classical one, no. You see, there are no classical enemies in Song of Horror. No zombies, no mutants, no aliens, no “nothing” The “enemy” is an unknown entity which we have named “the Presence”, and even what it is or isn’t is a mystery.
PA2J: Would you say Song Of Horror is more psychological?
CG: Yes, absolutely. The “horror” in our survival horror isn’t based on jumpscares or gore but in an actual oppressive atmosphere, vulnerability, and the fear of what could happen.
no man can survive the Presence directly, let alone some absolutely normal people with no superpowers or training of any kind. People like you and me. Like a shop clerk, or an art gallery owner, or a household employee. Or an electrician.
PA2J: So, everyday people?
CG: Exactly. In order to survive, our characters will need to react and think quickly, and be prepared to do whatever it takes to survive. The Presence manifests itself in various ways. It haunts, it scouts, it attacks, it chases, it lies in wait…
So the “combat system” is actually getting to do what you need in order to survive.
PA2J: Sounds like the ultimate unknown enemy
CG: An example out of our gameplay video: you are Daniel, and you see black smoke coming out of a closed door. The door starts to open, and black tendrils appear. It is trying to get to you, and you are right next to the door. What do you do?
PA2J: Either attempt to get the door shut or run (laughs)
CG: Exactly. In this case, Daniel attempts to shut the door, and the manifestation of the Presence attempts to open it. That is a “combat” of sorts, and examples such as this are what we could call Song of Horror’s very sui generis “combat system”
We like games where you are defenceless and you have to run and hide. But we don’t want Song of Horror to limit itself to running and hiding. Granted, there will be running and hiding but there will also be many more courses of action you will need to take in order to survive, depending on the situation that presents itself.
PA2J: Can you tell me a little about the soundtrack for the game? on the Kickstarter page it is stated as being ‘Unsettling’
CG: We have a composer working with us, and the guy’s a genius. All the music and ambience’s from all of our videos are his work
He threw his lot with us when we talked to him about the project.
PA2J: The music from the samples is quite subtle but eerie. A vintage sound, its great!
CG: Indeed. As the game’s name suggests, music has a big part to play both in the game and in the story itself.
PA2J: A lot of setting a games atmosphere is in the soundtrack, yours sounds very moving.
CG: Thank you. Manuel will be glad to hear that!. We want it to be mysterious, to be eerie, to reek of enigmas, of antiquity, of fear.
PA2J: It certainly does that
CG: I could go on and on forever about Song of Horror. Passion does that to a man.
PA2J: Is there anything else you would like to say about the game?
CG: Yes! Apart from a story which is the main focus of the game and that will be the driving force behind it, we also want to introduce our share of puzzles.
From very straight forward ones, to ones that seem easy but are deceitfully dangerous, to outright “life & death” games. There is no combat in Song of Horror, but there will be “boss encounters” of very different natures. Some might be even puzzles on their own.
Huge thanks to Carlos and the guys from Protocol Games for taking the time to chat with us.
If you want to support Song Of Horror through the Kickstarter campaign head HERE