Audio is so important to horror games. In fact, it may be the most important element. This hit its natural peak in The Deep End Games' Perception, a horror game crafted entirely around audio where you play as a blind woman. This year at PlayNYC they brought something new.
The big attraction at the booth was for Dark Web, an upcoming horror game anthology. While it wasn't playable, The Deep End Games allowed visitors to listen to three different audio samples, each for a different episode, and pick which was their favorite. They said they would then base the first episode on the most popular sample.
So what were the samples? The first one featured a woman running around in what I believe was a forest. Something big was chasing her. Personally I believe it was either a bear or a werewolf, but I can't confirm either way. No matter what it was, it caught her, leading to a blood curdling scream before the clip ended. The second was probably the most subdued of the three, featuring someone wandering around in what sounded like a crypt. Not much really happened, but there were plenty of spooky noises. The final clip was a man in a corn field. After some aimless wandering, his phone rang. Before he had a chance to answer he was attacked by ... well I'm not sure what. I thought it sounded like he was being grabbed by roots. Luckily, he manages to fight them off and survive. Unluckily, the clip ended with his phone ringing again.
Ultimately, I chose to go with the first audio clip. Why? Well at the time I didn't know, but probably because it reminded me of the bear scene from Condemned 2: Bloodshot. That's basically my high bar for horror, so anything that reminds me of it is an instant appeal. While I didn't get to see any more of Dark Web, I did get a chance to talk with Bill Gardner, the director for both Perception and Dark Web.
TechRaptor: I’m here with The Deep End Games, they made Perception and they’re currently working on something new called Dark Web. Why don’t you start off with Dark Web, tell me a little bit about it.
Bill Gardner: So Dark Web is a horror anthology very much inspired by… basically the way horror is handled in other mediums. You think about horror in games it’s always like you have a ten hour experience sometimes, and it’s all about one idea. You look at something like The Twilight Zone or Black Mirror and they take on all these really exotic, interesting, outside the box ideas, and I’ve always wanted to do that. You know you work on a game for two to three years or you’re in the industry for fifteen like I have, and you have all these ideas. So that’s what Dark Web is, it’s allowing us to explore these exciting new ideas and concepts and gameplay ideas and that sort of thing.
TechRaptor: Can you tell me about any of these ideas?
Bill: We’re being quiet on the details. We’re just sampling little snippets of audio for the first three chapters we’re thinking about releasing, but they’re going to be very different in like… one is going to be all about movement, and one is going to be all about paranoia and uncertainty about what’s around the next corner, and then one is going to be about watching your back essentially. So, again, it’s very high level but to see how those are executed in the actual moment-to-moment gameplay? That’s what I’m interested in, that’s where I think we’re going to get like “oh I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
TechRaptor: How scary is it?
Bill: So that’s… you know it’s pretty interesting. With Perception you get some people who were like “it’s too terrifying, I can’t play” and some people are like “whatever, I play horror games all the time, this isn’t scary at all.” So what’s the other good thing about Dark Web is that we can make some episodes super duper overtly scary and terrifying, and some more about the atmosphere and like really slow-paced methodical terror and that kind of thing. So we’re going to be all over the map, and I think I’m gonna basically go based on what’s the nature of the game we’re taking on each episode, and it’ll be… some will be more scary than others, absolutely.
TechRaptor: Now as someone who actually ... I played Perception, I reviewed Perception for our site, I really enjoyed Perception… it also terrified me. Dark Web. Am I going to cry myself to sleep now?
Bill: [Laughter]. I’m certain there will be some people, and there’s absolutely one chapter, one episode that I know for a fact that people are going to be like… That is likely to be the most scary for a lot of people. Whereas other ones are going to be, again if you’re into that psychological horror, where you’re able to let the terror kind of stew and brew and kind of like work its way into you. So again, that’s where I want to be, I want to be at a spot where every episode feels different to everybody, you know?
TechRaptor: Any news on when Dark Web will come out, or what I can play it on?
Bill: So we’re currently targeting Steam, PCs, first. We’ll probably follow up with consoles, I’m not sure. In terms of date, it’s the usual “when it’s ready” kind of thing.
TechRaptor: Fair enough. So to talk a little about Perception, since that game’s actually out, you did make that, though also a bit with Dark Web since I listened to three audio samples. You guys seem to be great with audio. Perception, for those that didn’t play it, is a game where you’re a blind woman so it’s all about audio. Now Dark Web I listened to three audio clips, all of which were pretty terrifying. What goes into the process of making those?
Bill: So I’m lucky enough to work with Jim Bonney. I worked with him for years at Irrational. On Bioshock: Infinite he was the music director and he is a force of nature. We work very well together, we kind of a shorthand, you know after years of working with someone you kind of develop… you kind of know how each other work and what you’re thinking. So the process there is different depending on the specific task, but generally speaking I say “Hey, I need a sequence where, okay, you’re coming outside and I need the wind but I need there to be whispers in the wind of some sort. Something that speaks some kind of curse, and its got to involve animals or whatever.” So Jim will go-- I dunno if he actually tortures pigs or whatever, somehow he gets these sounds that are like… Okay that’s exactly what I wanted. I don’t want to know how you got got that. But you know sometimes there’s a lot of back and forth and iteration, but I think that… you know, like I said, we’ve developed that shorthand which is hugely rewarding. He was the first person, besides my wife who is the writer of Perception, I contacted for the game. Same thing with Dark Web.
TechRaptor: Alright, last question. You showed off three scenarios here for Dark Web. Are you planning three scenarios, or are there going to be more besides those three?
Bill: So we have way more than that. I think we have about eighteen in mind right now, but obviously we’ll go based on how well it does, based on how long it takes to create each episode, but we have eighteen or so primary episodes. Then we have a lot of… there’s a lot more content that comes with the game because it’s the Dark Web, you’re going to be shifting through write-ups and videos and screenshots and all this sort of stuff, so there’s a lot of content in a variety of different capacities. I think it all depends, we’ll see how things go.
TechRaptor: Alright well I’d like to thank you for taking the time to talk about this, I’m very interested in seeing how Dark Web turns out.
Bill: Thank you, thank you so much.
We'd like to once again thank Bill Gardner for taking the time to talk with us.