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Talking all things horror with Perception’s Bill Gardner

We recently had another chance to chat with The Deep End Games Founder Bill Gardner about all things Horror, The Deep End Games, narrative Horror Adventure game Perception has just been fully backed through Kickstarter. Since our chat, Perception’s Kickstarter campaign received $168,041 in total.

PA2J: Weclome back to PressA2Join Bill, can you tell me about your earliest memories of horror, either in films or video games?

That’s tough to say – growing up with horror, it was always just sort of there.

PA2J: Any games that stick out in your memory?

I’m old enough that horror games weren’t really much of a thing growing up, I do remember one birthday getting two of my favorite “horror” games… Castlevania and Ghosts n Goblins for NES

PA2J: Ah..Castlevania, a classic

They were sort of horror themed, but again, not much to choose from at the time, I even remember desperately buying the game “Chiller” hoping to get the horror fix. The game came in an awkward powder blue cartridge. It did not have Nintendo’s seal, so it barely fit in the system. A truly horrible game.

Splatterhouse and Legendary Axe 2 were two early horror faves of mine. I loved the original Nintendo when it was released but never actually owned one, the first gaming experience I had was through the Commodore 64

Again, more horror themed.

ChillerNintendo’s Chiller

PA2J: Bandai Namco put out a reboot of Splatterhouse in 2010, it was a fun game.

They did. The really tried to up the gore factor. I’m not much of a fan of gore, I never really liked watching horror movies that relied on gore. To each their own, but I think it’s cheap. Eli Roth for example. I don’t appreciate his work very much at all.

PA2J: I think Eli Roth loves to be controversial, loves to use exploitation in his films.

It can be a tool, but I personally don’t appreciate it when it’s excessive or exploitative.

PA2J: He is, or was making The Green Inferno, I think he likes to live his films through favourite directors, Argento, Deodato, Lenzi… Those sort of films (most cannibalistic in nature) were done throughout the 70’s and 80’s I don’t feel the need to venture back to it in 2015.

Agreed.  I think it takes things too far. And I love Kubrick as well.

The Green InfernoEli Roth’s The Green Inferno

PA2J: One of my all time favourite films was A Clockwork Orange, are you a fan of Hitchcock?

Hitchcock is fantastic and it’d be tough to imagine where we’d be without his work.  Although I don’t watch his films as much as Kubrick’s or Carpenter’s, they built a lot of the foundations of tension.

PA2J: I love Rear Window, it’s brilliantly written and well directed. As for John Carpenter, I don’t think there are too many directors of his calibre around today.

So what in your opinion makes for the best horror game?

Well, that’s certainly a broad topic.

I think it all depends on what you’re shooting for.  Horror can certainly be fairly diverse. I mean, again, it’s not really my thing, but there are horror games that leverage a lot of shock and gore for one.  And that has it’s own set of rules.

But for the type of horror that I aim for, one of the key elements is building up tension. Every type of storytelling is about pacing. In the case of gore, it’s much less so. But I feel like the masters of horror – King, Carpenter, Kubrick, Craven, etc… They all know how to set the scene and pull the viewer along for the ride.

I think they all generally adhere to the mantra of less is more. Which is no great surprise, but it’s part of what drew me to the notion of echolocation. I always say “information is the enemy of horror” And so, by properly building things up and then letting the viewer/gamer imagine what’s coming, you amplify the fear

PA2J: That’s a great way to put it

James Stewart and Grace Kelly, Rear WindowAlfred Hitchcock’s 1954 film, Rear Window

PA2J: Throughout The Thing, Carpenter is constantly building up the tension, leaving the viewer never knowing who was human and who wasn’t. It made for a great suspenseful movie.

When the payoff comes and you show just a little bit of that detail, it lingers and sticks with the viewer. When you show it all, the viewer will say, “ew, that was gross, but it could have been way grosser.” Or “holy shit that thing is terrifying.”

I believe it was King who described something similar. He said (horrible paraphrase)…

When the 10 foot bug monster finally comes in the room, the viewer freaks out, but is left relieved to a degree.  In the back of their minds they think “well, at least it wasn’t a 20 foot bug.

PA2J: That’s some statement!

Well, I think he’s 100% right.

PA2J: The ability to use people’s imaginations against them in a sense, fear what could be coming..

The audience will often beg you to show details and want to know exactly what the creature looks like.  I argue that the audience will never, ever be 100% satisfied. The imagination is going to do a much better job filling  in the details obscured by darkness, fog or whatever contrivance the piece uses.

Naturally, there are no absolutes in horror as everyone has different tastes.

PA2J: There are many films like that these days. I remember when Cloverfield was released, I wanted to know what exactly was destroying New York, Matt Reeves teased the audience by showing off brief yet inconclusive shots of the monster, all you know was it was big enough to be throwing the Statue of Liberty’s head across Manhattan.

Exactly.  As soon as I saw that things face I was disappointed.

PA2J: Yeah me too, I was expecting so much more…

CloverfieldCloverfield, 2008

It was cool, but nowhere near as cool as seeing people’s reactions and gauging how terrifying it was based on that alone. I mean, as soon as you see it’s that bug looking thing, the back of my mind says, “well, I step on bugs all the time, I can take that thing.” Or “just fucking spray it with deet.”

PA2J: I think it would take a lot of bug spray. So if you had to describe current day survival horror or horror gaming in general what would you say?

I would say that it’s ready for a fresh take but also tons of fun, full of many classics, but in need of some updates. I hope that Perception shows what can be done with narrative in the genre.

PA2J: I believe it will. How do you feel horror as a genre has evolved throughout the years, do you think it’s still pushing in the right direction?

Well, I don’t think it has changed a whole lot. Resident Evil 4 did a fantastic job bringing more open-ness to the genre. The did a masterful job balancing the action with the horror. Alien Isolation did a fantastic job being unafraid to slow things down and immerse players in the experience. So it’s definitely nice to see that things can diversify.

I think Alien Isolation is one of the stronger titles of the last few years, I’m also super excited to see titles like Five Nights really try something outside the box. I think the game is really, really smart, the way it does so much with relatively little content. The way it creates mystery and urban legend among gamers is excellent.

PA2J: I loved the first game though I haven’t played the last two, Five Nights was a good thing for the genre. I did however, not enjoy being caught as close to 6 as humanly possible.

But I think of “survival horror” and I think Resident Evil and that breed of horror.  Which I don’t see changing much. Now horror games more broadly, with titles like Alien and Five Nights, that’s where things are getting interesting.

Five Nights At FreddysFive Nights At Freddy’s

PA2J: I loved Alien Isolation, I particularly loved the graphics, it was a very nostalgic feel, akin to Alien in general. Have you played The Evil Within?

I was not a huge fan. I couldn’t make it very far. I kept dying very early on and had to stop playing.

PA2J: I must admit I enjoyed the lack of ammo picked up throughout the game, it added to the at times desperate feel of the game. I also love the grindhouse-esque feel of the game and actually didn’t mind the letter-boxing.

Cool stuff. I love that Mikami is still kicking ass. Not really horror, but I loved Shadows of the Damned.

PA2J: I was very saddened to see Silent Hills fall through, with Kojima and Del Toro on board it would have made for a great game. Hopefully someone will pick it up someday.

Yeah, me too. Hopefully it comes back in some form, but it’s no good to see something like that happen.

PA2J: Finally, Perception busted through it’s original goal of $150,000 and is still going strong, making an extra $15,000 the last time I looked.

Yep. We’re all pretty stoked at the moment.

Obviously we want to hit as many stretch goals as possible. Did you happen to catch Mode 7’s announcement? I really, really want to be able to make that happen. Along with console versions, VR, GTFO Mode, etc.

PA2J: We would personally love to see Console releases for Perception and VR, thanks for chatting with us Bill.

Massive thank you to Bill Gardner of The Deep End Games for taking the time to chat with us, Perception has now been successfully funded through Kickstarter and you can check out the trailer below.

Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.


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