Deep End Games Founder Bill Gardner Talks Perception, A New Horror Project

Founder and Creative Director Bill Gardner talks about their new game, Perception.

Perception is a new game whose trailer showcased an intriguing idea, one that contrasts with all the stale concepts in most horror games. The game follows the story of a blind girl moving through an abandoned house, while using echolocation to unravel its mysteries and escape the grasps of the monsters residing inside (called "The Presence").

The game is being crafted by an extraordinary team at Deep End Games. Its developers have previously worked on Bioshock, Bioshock Infinite, and Dead Space. With such talent, the potential is surely there, and we were lucky enough to get ahold of the founder and Creative Director of Deep End Games, Bill Gardner, for an interview.

How did you come up with the idea of a game like this, and what helped weave the story of Cassie in your head?

Bill: I always push to try and find ways to bring a new perspective to the games I work on.  That can be in the form of a character’s persuasion, the setting of a level – just something with a unique twist.  I’m a huge horror fan and am always thinking of ways to bring a fresh angle to the genre.  When you think about it, information is the enemy of horror.  And so, the notion of finding a way to strip away information and make that into an actual mechanic seemed like a natural fit.  It’s rare that you can find narrative, aesthetic and gameplay unite around one single idea.  A lot of Cassie came fairly easily for Amanda and me to write once we began to research blindness and tried to immerse ourselves in what that might be like.

Most people would not think of telling a horror story through a blind person because of the limitation of not being able to see what is scary. How will you guys scare the audience, and what effects are you hoping to achieve?

Bill: Ah, but not seeing something is usually far scarier in my opinion.  I may just quote [Stephen] King here:

"Nothing is so frightening as what's behind the closed door. The audience holds its breath along with the protagonist as she/he (more often she) approaches that door. The protagonist throws it open, and there is a ten-foot-tall bug. The audience screams, but this particular scream has an oddly relieved sound to it. 'A bug ten feet tall is pretty horrible', the audience thinks, 'but I can deal with a ten-foot-tall bug. I was afraid it might be a hundred feet tall'.

Recently there has been a lot of complaints about the horror genre in both movies and video games. How does Perception bring something different to the table compared to every other game that is meant to be a horror?

Bill:I believe we’re bringing a very bold and fresh perspective on horror.  Players will be experiencing the world in a completely new way – a way that enriches the gameplay, narrative, and horror.  When you think about how you get information, for a sighted person, that’s trivial, you usually just open your eyes.  Now imagine having to work for that information through something like echolocation.  Now, add to that the risk of being discovered by a relentless entity that is searching for you and wants to do awful things to you.  I think that’s a pretty darn good start to bringing a new kind of tension.  ;)

Since the development team has worked on so many past projects, will there be some styles from past games that we can see in this one? And if there, are how will you mix them together?

Bill: I can’t speak for everyone else, but I know I’m really proud of my experience.  I was lucky enough to help craft some of games that were really well-received.  I learned a tremendous amount over the years and I think you’ll see a lot of that craft come out in the moment-to-moment experience.  I’m also really excited to mix in the expertise of the entire Deep End team to create an entirely new experience.

What can you tell us about the walking nightmares called "The Presence", along with how they interact with Cassie in the game?

Bill: The Presence roams the halls, searching for Cassie.  It’s unclear what motivates it aside from wanting to do harm to Cassie.  And so your goal is to avoid it at all costs.  That can mean grabbing something to throw it down the hall to cause a distraction, or finding a spot to hide and pray that it passes you by. 

Why is Cassie fit to take on this challenge, and what about her character allows her to move through the house?

Bill: Cassie is an incredibly bright woman.  She is confident, clever and a scrapper.  Even though she only has her cane and her smartphone, if anyone is up for the task of solving the mysteries of Echo Bluff, it’s her.

Have there been any challenges in making the game?

Bill: There are always challenges in game development.  The most obvious one is finding a way to represent echolocation that works best for gameplay and narrative while still feeling believable enough.  It took countless hours of research, collaboration and iteration to get it right.  I was very lucky to work with the folks at FX Ville to hone in on that look.  It’s been an amazingly fun challenge and I'm very proud of our work thus far. 

Perception has not announced a release date yet, but how do you guys feel about the game? Thank you to Bill Gardner for the interview and go check out Deep End Game's Kickstarter page if you would like to show the project some love! 

Published May. 31st 2015
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