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Developer utilizes history and environment to create horror

The Los Angeles based game studio Night Light Interactive hopes to put more of an anxious and unexpected spin on the horror genre with their release of Whispering Willows to the OUYA and Steam markets this year. Players take control of a young girl named Elena as she searches the grounds of the decrepit Willows mansion and solves puzzles in search of her missing father, the mansions groundskeeper.

A selection of screenshots and concept art from Night Light Interactive's game Whispering Willows
A selection of screenshots and concept art from Night Light Interactive's game Whispering Willows
Night Light Interactive
Whispering Willows
Whispering Willows
Night Light Interactive

After a successful Kickstarter campaign for Whispering Willows, Night Light Interactive continued to develop the game with the hopes of creating an indie horror experience played out through atmosphere and narrative. Lead Writer and Narrative Designer Kyle Holmquist explains where the horror elements of the game are rooted, “Whispering Willows isn't your normal horror game in the respect of scary elements. We use very little of that - some scary moments do occur, but that's not what we wanted to make the player feel. Instead, we wanted this uneasy feeling for our players.”

Much of the game's narrative also relates to the tragedies inflicted upon the Native Americans and in the case of Whispering Willows the player will better understand the scars those events caused but on a spiritual plane. “As we all know, the winner writes the history books. With that in mind, we wanted to ensure we were providing a more accurate description of the atrocities that occurred in that era,” explains Holmquist.

Night Light Interactive also hopes that a more gritty and painted artistic style of Whispering Willows will lend itself to the tension of the Willows mansion and its grounds. Art Director Mike Shanks explains, “Oddly enough, we were quite inspired by A Boy and His Blob (Wii, 2009). We really enjoyed its painterly feel and thought we could adapt it into our game. We obviously didn't stick too closely to it, opting for more grungy textures, realistic proportions, and a darker tone.”

Creator and Founder of Night Light Interactive David Logan also describes what he hopes players will take away from their experiences with Whispering Willows. “We want to try to parallel that feeling of satisfaction you get after reading a great book, or seeing a great film,” says Logan, and added, “Games offer a very unique way to tell a story, and present exciting opportunities that can push storytelling even further.”

The idea of a more unsettling horror genre over the more traditional scream and scare direction along with a realistic presentation of historical events is a promising, if not lofty goal, but one that Night Light Interactive seems ready to take on.