Here’s another interview! I want to publicly thank Per Morten Mjølkeråen for interviewing me.
You can read the Norwegian version of the interview here.
Below is the English version.
1. A Short, but maybe difficult to answer question first: Where did the idea for Shadow of a Soul: Chapter One come from?
I honestly don’t know or can’t remember at this point. It was a gradual process I think and the story of the game has changed quite a bit over the years. Very early on, while I was still working as a freelance artist, the idea was to create a 2d pre-rendered game pretty much like 7th Guest or Myst because I knew how to do VFX and pre-rendered graphics.
Then over time that idea turned into making a 3d game. And while the technological aspect remained the same throughout the production, the story changed and matured quite a bit. Now, when I look back at my first couple of drafts, I can see that about 90% of the story has changed and gone into what I consider to be another deeper path.
2. Can you tell us anything more about the story and/or setting of the game that you haven’t already mentioned on your website?
Well, to be honest, I don’t think I have that much information about the story of the game on the website, and that’s because I’d rather keep that to myself until the release. Even my closest friends know nothing more than what’s on the website.
Basically, the story is about a guy named Jack whose job it is to get into an office complex and retrieve some information for someone. That’s how the game starts. And it’s not long before Jack figures out that he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time. After that, it pretty much turns into an intense non-stop cat and mouse thing between Jack and a rather unattractive person.
At its core Chapter I lays the groundwork for what I deem to be a rather complex ghost story.
3. Was there a single game or person that inspired you to make this game?
I can say that Call of Cthulu: Dark Corners of the Earth was an influence. At least, that’s what I think because I only played that game once, years ago. But the dark mood and intense action pieces kind of stayed with me. I didn’t want to revisit or study that particular game because I think the kind of emotions I got from it were enough, and I didn’t want to take the chance of ruining those fond memories by loading up and starting to analyse the game.
4. Can you tell us some personal story that has influenced/inspired the game design, if any? Have you taken anything from real life into the game with you?
I’m an agnostic. I don’t believe in any unnatural stuff, including ghosts, so no real-life stories or encounters inspired the game. And, personal taste wise, I’m not into zombies, werewolves, vampires and all that. However, I do find the idea of ghosts pretty creepy, and that’s what I like about them.
I’ve read countless short horror stories and books (I reviewed some of them on my blog) to inspire me over the years. While I don’t think I’ve taken a single idea from any of the books or stories, I do think they’ve helped me to remain in that state of mind, and made me think continuously about the story I want to tell.
5. It seems like you’ve had a tough ride – with studies, workplaces and so on – to get to Shadow of a Soul. How would you react if Shadow of a Soul became the next Amnesia/Slender? Or worse – if you didn’t sell a single copy?
Well, there’s a *chance* that it won’t sell a single copy, and there’s a *good chance* that it won’t sell enough. If the game fails to generate any revenue, I’ll probably throw myself off of a bridge since I’ve spent a great chuck of my life making it; seven days a week for the last couple of years, not to mention the fact that my personal pride and self-esteem is completely bound up in the success of the game. Throw in bank loans to be repaid and you’ll have someone who’s ready to commit suicide in the case of failure. To be honest, jumping off a bridge would be kind of dramatic. I’d far rather take a couple of dozen sleeping pills.
I’ve never heard of Slender but I like the fact that there’s a concept of “the next Amnesia” or “a game like Amnesia”. It gives people a frame of reference as to what to expect. You can focus on talking about other stuff that makes your game different.
6.There’s no doubt that the indie market is the best way to go for “classic horror” these days, but do you think there’s a chance that we’ll see a comeback in the genre in the larger studios? After all, it has gotten bigger and bigger with audiences again.
As I said, I really don’t know what’s out there. The last horror game I played was Deadspace 2 and I loved it. However, with horror games less is more. So you can always make a creepy horror game on budget. I think that’s the beauty of it.
I sure do hope to see more AAA horror titles in the future.
7. In terms of quality, passion and capitalism, how do you think independent developers compare to triple A developers these days?
In generic terms, I think the indie developers’ main asset is passion. And quality is a function of time.
As an indie developer, I don’t have the money but I do have the time and the expertise. What passion ultimately boils down to is this: How much of your life are you willing to invest in your game? Quality, although it’s a subjective concept, is related to the time you’re willing to devote to certain (or all) parts of the game, be they models, textures, physics, dynamics, or whatever.
As for the comparison part, I don’t think you can compare indie developers with AAA companies. For example, the other day I completed the Starcraft 2- Heart of the Swarm campaign. It took literally two or three minutes for the credits screen to end in fast forward mode. In my game, it’ll probably take one or two seconds. That’s the gap right there.
8. You’ve been working on this game for a long time now, and there have been a couple of delays. How do you decide that the game needs more time, rather than giving it out as it stands?
Not wanting to sound too dramatic, I see this game as my only chance to “make it” in life. That’s why I’m willing to sacrifice everything I have to reach the point where I say: “OK this game is good”. If it’s no good I won’t release it, and I’ll continue working on it. That’s the bottom line for me.
Believe me, with no social life and no money – plus the fact that I have to make other sacrifices to get it finished – taking a sadistic delight in delaying the release of the game is the last thing on my mind. On the bright side, not many people have the luxury of making sacrifices as a result of making their own decisions. Most of the time, you have to sacrifice things in your life for other people, to help them reach their goals.
People who buy indie games have a positive attitude towards indies. They know that indies don’t have the resources to make really epic AAA games. And they don’t expect you to deliver that kind of experience. However, as an indie, you must be 110% sure that you’re bringing your A game to the table and not capitalizing on the goodwill of gamers by delivering something mediocre.
With the boom in indie development companies and the market becoming more and more saturated with all kinds of not-so-good indie games, I expect to see that goodwill inevitably waning.
9. Another question about the release: I noticed it’s coming to PC, Mac and PlayStation. How did you decide which platforms to release it on, and why PlayStation but not the Xbox/Wii?
Well, I don’t know the first thing about Wii. But when it comes to Xbox, it’s an issue of graphics API. All the platforms supported by the game use OpenGL graphics API. Xbox uses DirectX, which is a different beast altogether.
10. You studied in Sweden for a while, and as a Norwegian I have to ask, would you ever come to the better country of the two?
Of course I would, in a heartbeat.
Honestly, I love the whole Scandinavian vibe; not just Sweden. I like death metal, so most of my favourite bands are Scandinavian. In my mind I see Scandinavian people as people who are well educated, who follow the rules (like stopping at a stop sign at two in the morning), who know how to have fun and who are, all in all, genuinely warm folks – especially after a drink or two.
I don’t want to come across as a pervert but the beauty of Scandinavian ladies is also a “tiny” positive factor for me, even though they hate me.