SG Got Game: Local designers not stifled by fear
Team behind Singapore-borne sound-based horror game Stifled talk about their inspirations
Imagine finding yourself in a pitch black world.
You are totally blind.
That is until you make a sound.
In this Singapore-designed game, the slightest noise, even a cough is enough to send out a soundwave that outlines objects in white.
In this world, the player's journey takes them into a castle - one with monsters lurking in many corners.
To avoid being a monster's meal, silence is essential.
When played in a darkened room, the experience is immersive.
Called Stifled, it was crafted by Mr Justin Ng, 26, and his team of game developers from startup Gattai Games.
It is based on a student project the team developed while studying at DigiPen Institute of Technology.
The student game, Lurking, won multiple awards, including "Best Student Game" in the Independent Games Festival in Shanghai in 2014.
As DigiPen owns Lurking, the team adapted the concept under the Stifled banner, setting up their independent game studio, Gattai Games.
While Stifled is primarily a horror game, its initial inspiration was not from as dark a place, said Mr Ng, the "Design + Business Guy" at Gattai.
One of the pioneering team members was inspired by a cute animated short, Out Of Sight.
The whimsical cartoon is about a blind girl who used sounds to see after her guide dog runs off.
"So we started exploring sound-based games," said Mr Ng.
It was only after perfecting the monochrome echolocation look, that they discovered how well the horror genre complemented it.
This led to the team - not huge fans of horror - watching horror movies such as The Conjuring to understand the genre.
The team at Gattai Games have spent over two years working on Stifled.
"(When we build games), it's because it's something close to our hearts," said Mr Ng.
The fear factor also permeates real life.
For the team - all in their 20s - this is their first full-time employment since graduating.
In total, they have invested a five-figure sum into the game.
It is not too much to say that their future careers are riding on this venture.
When asked about their greatest fear, Mr Ng said that their game may end up not reaching the target audience.
"We have the ability to make a good game with limited funds, but our ability to market and expose Stifled to our targeted western audience, press, and partners was difficult," he said citing cost and geographic location.
The success of Stifled is now in the hands of the online community, as voting for the game commenced on Steam Greenlight on July 8.
Greenlight is part of the Steam gaming portal where the online community can vote on the next game they would like to see available to all via Steam.
But Mr Ng is still quietly confident in his creation.
"What makes a good video game is an experience that none other can give you."
It will remain to be seen if the gamers of the world find that Stifled provides that experience.