Chances are most gamers would say they have a pretty good idea of what a survival horror game looks like if asked on the street. It would be set in a frightening environment, pitted against vicious enemies, with weapons readied to keep certain death at bay. However, local Indie developer Tristan Moore and the team at Broken Window Studios (Phoenix) plan on challenging the widespread conception of survival horror with their own interpretation through the release of their game “Grave.”
“Survival horror has turned into an action horror shooter essentially,” Moore explains, “We wanted to see games that did survival horror in that old school way, but the old school way doesn’t work anymore. So we sat down and tried to figure out what it was that survival horror did wrong.”
What started as a Global Game Jam submission has now become a full time project for Moore and Broken Window Studios. After posting the original Game Jam prototype online as a free download and leaving it for several months, Moore and his team were surprised to find that the let’s play community of You Tube and other social media sites had jumped on board with their concept. “We realized the game was actually interesting to people, more so than we thought,” Moore explains and adds, “The game has taken on a different shape than we had originally planned. It is a much better experience than we had anticipated.”
Part of what has been exciting "Grave" fans even more is the fully integrated Occulus support that the game has been developed with. “We are building our game as a first person survival horror experience. For us the Occulus makes sense as a natural, logical, extension of a first person game, “ said Moore, “We consider it to be the fullest realization of that kind of play experience, but it is not an exclusive requirement.”
Moore also had plenty to say about the games modern take on the survival horror experience. “We came to the conclusion that survival horror relies way to heavily on inventory management rather than the actual encounters and scenarios,” and explains, “In Grave your inventory is a factor in that you have to find items, but you don’t have things that are direct killing weapons. The creatures react to light and fire and those creatures each react differently, so every enemy you encounter may or may not be harmed by what you are doing,” which certainly adds to the overall tension and survival aspect of “Grave.”
It was important to Moore to also distinguish the experience of "Grave" from some of the more recent Horror games. “Games like ‘Amnesia’ and ‘Slender: The Arrival’ have really pushed the boundaries for what Horror can do, but they aren’t survival horror,” explains Moore, “You don’t really have any agency or any tools. You just run and scream and get really scared. We didn’t feel like that was good enough for the experience we wanted.”
What is the "Grave" experience? Occulus or no Occulus Moore was perfectly clear on what Grave would offer for the average gamer or the survival horror fan. “We call it survival horror for the modern gamer,” explains Moore, “It is a surrealist survival horror experience. The world that you play in actually changes as you play. We are using the day/night cycle to mix around the terrain. It is one of the things we are using to incentivize people to experience the game fully whether its night or day.”
Moore and the Broken Window Studios team recently returned from a very successful trip to the Game Developers Conference (San Francisco, CA) and have released a Kickstarter to help garner more support for the development of Grave. With reward tiers that offer contributors the opportunity to be inserted into the game Moore hopes to see fans of the survival horror experience show their support, “We’ve been trying to focus our Kickstarter heavily around accommodating fans of this kind of game, “ says Moore, “The game features many paranormal effects like electronic voice phenomenon and ghosts.”
Those who contribute to the higher tiers of the Kickstarter will be used in the making of some of the paranormal effects featured in the final game, or even have a full ghostly 3D model created to spook future players.
Advances in technology and genre re-defining experiences make the video game industry an environment of rapid evolution, none realize this as much as Moore and the team at Broken Window Studios.