A lot of great stuff is coming out of the indie gaming scene at the moment and Stairs is no exception. The atmospheric, horror title is on KickStarter currently and promises to put a scare in the players step without relying completely on jumpscare. TechRaptor reached out to Nils Ryborg of GreyLight Entertainment to talk about his latest game.
TechRaptor: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your project Stairs?
Nils: We’re a group of friends who recently graduated from BTH (Blekinge Tekniska Högskola Blekinge Institute of Technology). While we were still studying there we started discussing ideas on making a 20 minute horror game based on the SCP-087 story. It quickly got redesigned, as we wanted more and more different ideas implemented into the game. In the end we just scrapped the entire idea of SCP-087 and worked on something we could call our own. Towards the end of our second year, we had a 10 week course in which we were allowed to just create whatever product we wished. That product was our first Stairs demo.
When we were done with the course, we decided to upload it on Gamejolt and see what people outside of the university thought. We were quite surprised at how well it was received, and as bigger and bigger YouTube personalities started playing it, we had more and more people visiting the Gamejolt page to try it for themselves.
The vast majority of the feedback we got was so positive that we started talking about making an actual full-game out of our little project. And that is what we decided to do. After completing our third year, and getting our bachelor degrees in media technology, we founded GreyLight Entertainment, and started full-time production of Stairs.
TR: How have crowdfunding platforms like KickStarter changed the way you approached the development of this game?
Nils: The crowdfunding element hasn’t really been a large focus for us. We sat down and used some of our assets to create a demo, since we needed to promote the Kickstarter somehow, but apart from that nothing about Stairs has really been changed to fit Kickstarter better.
In reality, what Kickstarter has done for us, is forced us to reveal more of the game than we really want to. To mediate this we ended up creating a stand-alone storyline for our demo, that will not be a part of the full release. To give the users a similar experience, a taste of Stairs, without spoiling anything
We realize that you can’t ask people to help you fund the development of a game you’re not willing to talk about. But at the same time, we feel that by telling people too much about the game can ruin the experience of playing it. The exploration of the unknown, the journey through a game you know next to nothing about, is what we want to give the players. With Kickstarter, that’s hard.
We’re doing our very best to keep a fine line between not giving people any information at all, and spoiling the game.
TR: What games would you say influenced you when creating Stairs?
Nils: There are plenty of games that inspire us with the development of Stairs. On top of the list is the Penumbra series, made by Frictional Games. That series took a huge step in how atmospheric horror was made. It was a brilliant example of how the inability to fight monsters, increases the feeling of dread. The feeling of helplessness it creates is immense. Obviously the game Amnesia from the same company has inspired us in many ways as well. You could say that Penumbra is a diamond in the rough, while Amnesia is a nice polished one.
We also have to mention Silent Hill. This is perhaps one of the most unique horror games out there. What we find inspiring about Silent Hill and its series is the atmosphere, the world, the story and how they tell it.
TR: How does it differ from other atmospheric horror games out there at the moment?
Nils: In Stairs you play as a journalist, which is not exactly an uncommon premise when it comes to horror stories. We wanted, however, to really focus on the journalistic aspect of the main character, and that has influenced us greatly when it comes to developing the mechanics in Stairs.
We give the player three tools, a photo camera, a video camera and a tape recorder. We want the player to use these tools to discover what’s going on. The true and full story of what’s going on in Stairs will only be revealed to the people who take their journalistic calling seriously. Clues will be hidden in different areas, and it’s up to the player to find them. It’s also up to the player to analyze them, and find out the truth. This will only be possible if you truly explore your surroundings, and make use of all of your different tools.
As an interesting side note, the story you uncover in Stairs isn’t just fictional. Those who enjoy the challenge of uncovering the story behind Stairs, can keep on doing their research outside of the game. If they’re thorough, they’ll be able to find the real events from which we’ve taken our inspiration.
TR: What made you choose to go with the horror genre?
Nils: The reason we chose horror is fairly simple. The person who started all of this, Joakim Lundström, is obsessed with horror and horror games. He had the original idea for the SCP-087 inspired game, and was the one that started reaching out to the people who make up our current team.
Another reason is that the entire team enjoys darker things, for lack of a better word. We’re not cut out for happy endings and butterflies. Apart from that though, the team has very varied tastes, so horror is really the genre that brings us together.
TR: What sort of gamer would enjoy Stairs?
Nils: Being a fan of the horror genre is definitely a good thing if you’re hoping to enjoy Stairs. Apart from that I’d say the problem solving kind, who likes to think for himself. Our game design features a lot of puzzles, that are not always easy to figure out. We want the players to take their time and look at the clues we present them with, in order to progress through the game. In its core, Stairs will force you to think about what it is you’re doing.
In order to fully enjoy Stairs you will also have to be somewhat curious as to what’s going on in the narrative. All of the story will not be spoon-fed to you, you’ll have to discover it for yourself, by taking your own initiative and exploring the different levels fully.
Would you be interested in a new atmospheric horror game?