Interview: Song of Horror developer Carlos Grupeli, of Protocol Games

A new third-person horror game taking inspiration from the classics, and aiming to do something new.

Horror games have been a topic of debate for a while. Many people have complained about the lack of good ones and want to return to the days of old, when horror games were actually scary and had real plot lines and characters. If you're one of those people, or you just want to try out a new horror game, then Song of Horror might be a game for you. I recently talked with Carlos Grupeli, one of the leads of Protocol Games, the developer of Song of Horror, to get the scoop for you.

Song of Horror takes inspiration from classic horror games, including Silent Hill and Resident Evil. But Song of Horror has an interesting twist: there is no combat or weapons, puzzles and riddles are abound, and there's 16 different playable characters to help you along your journey.

16 Playable Characters

The characters are one of the most important parts of the game. The main character, Daniel Noyer, receives a call to find his most important customer at the publishing house he works for. He arrives at Sebastian P. Husher's mansion and something is immediately amiss: "An eerie, haunting melody pierces a thundering silence."

But he is not the only character you can control. Some of the other playable characters will be completely unrelated to Daniel. Each of these characters will be unique, with different perspectives and differing gameplay quirks. They will also have personalities that resemble that of real people; these characters could be people you would meet on a normal, everyday street. In fact, upon asking about how "real" the characters would be, Grupeli responded:

"We don't want to create stereotypes or cookie-cutter, shallow toons. Within the scope of the game, characters' personalities will receive heavy attention."

Some of the additional characters revealed include Sophie van Denend, the art gallerist, Etienne Bertrand, the sales director, and a doctor and shop clerk.

The characters are very important, because not all of them will survive. Which ones are left alive will affect the story; characters kept alive may appear later.

At the beginning of most chapters, the player will be able to choose from a set of characters. If one dies, you'll continue with the next character chosen. The characters that you choose will affect what happens in the chapter.

The Presence

Each chapter will be different as well. The main enemy, known as the Presence, will have some encounters that are set in stone and other encounters that are procedurally generated based upon how you play and how much attention you draw to yourself. As there are no weapons and combat, in order to survive, you will have to either run, hide, or solve puzzles and riddles. Finding hidden clues and solving the riddles and puzzles help you progress and can help save your life.

The Presence also has a mood system. Grupeli clarified:

"The Presence's 'moods' are meant as both a difficulty balancing tool (with how the player is doing having influence over them) and to spice up the gameplay, making the Presence favor different approaches (more direct, more subtle, etc.) when haunting the player."

Replay Value

If you screw up by losing a character, or wish you to experience a chapter with new characters and new traps from the Presence, you're out of luck. Grupeli stated there will be no chapter select, so what you do and what happens is unchangeable (unless you're unlucky enough to have all of your characters die. In that case, you have to restart the chapter):

"[Chapter select] is not a feature we have planned. It kind of defeats permadeath if you get to replay chapters at will."

That doesn't mean you can't replay the entirety of the game though, and the replay value is high between the multiple characters and the procedurally generated attacks from the Presence. Grupeli explained the value:

"We think Song of Horror's replay value is high for a survival horror game. Even though the main storyline is always the same and the scenarios are always the same, you won't experience the same events and hardships, and each character plays a little differently. We believe replaying Song of Horror will be worth it."

The game is also relatively long, so replaying it won't just be a breeze. The game will most likely take you around 10 to 15 hours depending upon the amount of exploration and the number of deaths. But if you think the game is on the shorter end, you shouldn't worry. Grupeli stated:

"We don't want to increase duration artifically. We'd rather have a shorter, more enjoyable game than a longer, shallow one."

Replay will also be worth it considering that multiple endings will most likely be available. However, even Grupeli is unsure just how many endings there will be:

"Our intention is for Song of Horror to have more than one ending. How many, we can't say right now."

What makes the story?

Though much of the plot is still in a haze, as Grupeli is trying not to spoil anything, it has been revealed that the game will not take place entirely in the present; some of the chapters will take place in other time periods:

"We don't want to potentially spoil anything about the plot, but what we mean by 'throughout time' is that some chapters will take place at a different moment in time than the majority, which takes place in the first half of the 2000s decade."

It has also been revealed that the title of the game, and the heavy influence on the music of the game is not a coincidence. The main melody will appear over and over again as Daniel decides to track it, and it will get stuck in Daniel's head. As a result, "he is going to be experiencing... things." Once he starts tracking the sound, Grupeli wrote:

"his life will take a turn down a sinister road for which he is not even remotely prepared."

If you've become interested, Grupeli warned that this game is not meant for children. While the game will not contain any gore or butchery, the psychological horror will get intense.

If Song of Horror sounds interesting you, and you think you're old enough to handle the content, you'll have your chance to experience the game. Currently, there is a video of the press demo available, but according to Grupeli, the public demo should be "ready in a week or so." So keep spamming the refresh button on their website and Kickstarter for your chance to experience the game!

Song of Horror, if fully funded, will be released for Mac, Linux, PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Be sure to check out the Kickstarter for more information and to hear the amazing melody for the song that will play throughout, or if you wish to donate to support the project.

I'd like to thank Carlos Grupeli for taking the time to interview with me. If you want to learn even more information, or check out some more of the art from the game, Song of Horror's official website has even more grat stuff for you to see.

Published Nov. 17th 2015

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