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Exclusive Interviews

Little Nightmares Lasts Around 6 to 8 Hours, Includes No Dialogue and More



We’ve been tracking the development of Little Nightmares since the game was initially revealed as Hunger all the way back in early 2015. Following the game’s initial reveal we talked with Tarsier Studios about the game in a lengthy exclusive interview and here we are today, discussing what is now known as Little Nightmares.

I recently sent some questions over to Senior Narrative Designer, Dave Mervik to learn some new details about the game now that it’s further along in development. Before you check out the interview you may want to take a quick look at the initial gameplay reveal trailer.

We hope you enjoy the interview and please let us know what you think of the game in the comments section.

ONLYSP: For our readers that haven’t heard about Little Nightmares yet, would you mind providing a short synopsis of what the game is and what it’s about?

Dave Mervik: Little Nightmares is a suspense-adventure game about a young girl named Six who is trapped in a place called The Maw. It’s not a very nice place to be either, so naturally she wants to escape, and it’s your job to help her do that.

ONLYSP: The last time we talked to you about “Hunger”, now called Little Nightmares, was way back in early 2015. How has the game shaped up since then? Any major changes to the core formula of the game?

Mervik: The core of the game is the same as it was back then. It’s a balanced mix of platforming, hide & sneak, playfulness, and exploration – all drenched in a rather unnerving atmosphere! The only noticeable change since we spoke back then is that the game is farther along now, which means you start to see the finer details that really bring The Maw to life.

ONLYSP: You showed off the game for the first time on IGN back in August. How have people responded to the game so far?

Mervik: People have reacted really positively. Thinking back to those months where we were applying for financial support just so we could make some sort of prototype, to be now hearing the reaction at places like Gamescom, EGX, and Igromir – well, it’s more than a little surreal!

This being a small Swedish company, no-one really wants any of that pre-release hyperbole, we’re just trying to stay honest and give a fair account of what people can expect next Spring. The fact that people are still finding that exciting makes us feel very very happy!

ONLYSP: The monster shown off in the gameplay video acts pretty similar to the AI found in Alien: Isolation, in that it doesn’t seem to be following any predefined paths and reacts to what the player does. Can you go into some more detail on that process?

Mervik: While we’ve kept the antagonist AI relatively simple compared to that of Alien: Isolation, we have made a number of choices that make them feel similarly alive and unpredictable. For example, instead of detection radius, we use a more realistic detection of the player, where we employ a peripheral vision angle calculation to determine whether the player can be seen from the eyes of the AI.

They will also react to player sounds by calculating the physical distance to the sound and if they ‘hear’ it, they will react accordingly. Having ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ the player, the AI will use things like ‘last known position’, ‘last heard sounds’ and ‘predicted sound location’ to search for the player. It’s all so much cleverer than I am, but the effect of it can be felt by everyone!

ONLYSP: Will the narrative play a big part in Little Nightmares, or is it a story that’s more up to player interpretation?

Mervik: I’d say that it’s both. The story of the place is very important, but player interpretations of what that story is may differ from person to person. I mean, we’re not just leaving it totally open; there is a definite narrative drive throughout the game. We just think that it’s way more rewarding when you feel like you’re engaging your brain, rather than sitting there as a passive spectator being told exactly how things are.

ONLYSP: I didn’t notice any dialogue in the gameplay video, is that true throughout the entirety of the game, or will there be any sort of narration?

Mervik: Yeah, there’s no dialogue in the game. That’s also part of this interpretive approach to the storytelling. Dialogue can hide a multitude of sins, and we want to ensure that the story of Little Nightmares exists in the world, not just a few expository cutscenes.

ONLYSP: How many hours of gameplay do you expect players will encounter while playing Little Nightmares.

Mervik: It really depends on how you like to play. We place a lot of emphasis on exploration, and if you make the most of that, you’re going to be in The Maw for a while longer! Right now, though, our estimate is somewhere in the region of 6-8 hours for a playthrough.

ONLYSP: You “finally” announced that the game is coming to the PS4 (also Xbox One and PC), after not correcting us when our original interview with you was published ;). I’m curious as to what your thoughts are on the recent PS4 Pro announcement and how HDR and 4K will affect gaming moving forward.

Mervik: The truth back then was that the platform wasn’t decided, so there was nothing to announce. I think people assumed it was a PS4 exclusive because of our history with Sony, so that was the story that stuck, it just ended up being not actually true! As far as things like PS4 Pro and Xbox Scorpio goes, it’s certainly an interesting change in the standard console lifecycle.

I’ve been used to being happy with my console for at least five years or so, but now we’re 3 years down the line and already looking at an update. Other than the massive hit on my wallet, I think it’s a positive sign. As a big fan of VR, I’m really happy that it’s being supported in such a significant way by these new machines.

ONLYSP: Since you’re working with VR for your other upcoming title, Statik, is there any chance of some form of VR being implemented in Little Nightmares?

Mervik: We’ve had that question a lot lately and, if I’m honest, I hadn’t really considered it … but it seems everyone else has been! The truth is that I don’t know what we’ll be doing in the future. The focus right now is on making sure that this game is as high quality as possible.

If we don’t manage that, then there’s no point talking about the future at all. But there is a world outside of The Maw, and we would want to tell those stories in the best way possible. If VR turns out to be one of those ways, then I’ll be a happy little camper!

ONLYSP: Anything else you’d like to let us know about Little Nightmares?

Mervik: Yes 😉


Little Nightmares is expected to release in early 2017 on the PS4, Xbox One and PC. Stay tuned for continued coverage by following OnlySP on Facebook and Twitter.

OnlySP founder and former site owner.

Exclusive Interviews

The Occupation Designer Reveals Game Length, Talks Design, Inspiration, and More



The Occupation promo

After a protracted development period, fixed-time thriller The Occupation is set to release in one month’s time. Between its retro aesthetic and immersive sim-inspired gameplay, the game is shaping up as one of 2019’s most unique titles.

In light of that, OnlySP recently spoke to Pete Bottomley, designer of The Occupation and co-founder of developer White Paper Games to find out more about the promising project.

OnlySP: I thought I’d start off with a fairly obvious question. Given the real-time nature of The Occupation, how long can players expect a single run through to last, and by how much can that time be shortened or prolonged by the player’s actions?

Bottomley: The core gameplay is designed around 4 hours of play. There are some sections that are untimed, whether it be for narrative impact or tutorialisation for the player. As we’re playing through the game as a team, it’s taking us around 6.5 hours to play through the game.

The Occupation

OnlySP: How many endings does the game have?

Bottomley: The game’s outcome is a reflection of the steps the player took through the game. I think when playing games, you always want the outcomes to reflect your approach and we’re massively inspired by how games such as Dishonored can tackle that. Our hope is that the ending you experience feels like it reflects their approach and actions.

OnlySP: Tied to that, approximately how many playthroughs would be required to see everything that the game has to offer?

Bottomley: Our intention wasn’t to design a game that required multiple playthroughs. I’m personally the type of player that plays through a narrative, gets an outcome, and that’s my story. That being said, we’ve tried to fill the world with a lot of content, and because of the real-time character simulating actions, hopefully with second and third playthroughs, players will uncover different ways to solve challenges or narrative threads they hadn’t picked up on before.

OnlySP: How did you come to settle on the politicised premise of an Act robbing citizens of civil liberties?

Bottomley: Since we invest so much of our lives into making games, you have to work on something you feel is meaningful and rewarding of your time. At the time of concepting The Occupation, there was a lot of friction between what was happening in the UK and abroad. It affects us all and we wanted to work on something that may put people’s views into perspective.

Our previous game Ether One dealt with the difficulties of seeing a family member suffering with dementia and our aim is to continue these important themes throughout all of our games.

The Occupation screenshot 3

OnlySP: Also, issues surrounding privacy and freedom of speech, among other civil liberties, are pertinent right now. How close to your mind were the modern concerns about the topic while you were concepting the game? And have real-world events impacted the story of The Occupation across the development period?

Bottomley: The world around us always inspires us, but we don’t really rely on specific events to drive any part of the game’s narrative. When you’re developing a game that tries to get its own narrative across but ground it in the real world, you have to try to distil them to focus on the story you’re trying to tell. In a sense, real world stories inspire us but it’s more of an observational thing rather than a particular event we want to depict faithfully. We tend to focus on the emotional and societal impact of the event itself.

OnlySP: How present will those sorts of themes be within the average player’s experience? Or should players expect to be able to lose themselves entirely in the investigation without really leaning on the context?

Bottomley: We aim to put context on all of your actions in the world otherwise there’s not much meaning behind the choices being made. That being said, you can choose to follow certain narrative threads over others, which allows the player to follow the most interesting lead they come across.

OnlySP: Players take the role of a journalist in the game; how accurate would you say your portrayal is of the technologies and general aesthetic of late ‘80s Britain? How much research went into getting the language and atmosphere of the era right?

Bottomley: It’s interesting you raise that point as we’ve just been speaking about the world limitations in this game. In our previous game, Ether One, we aimed to deliver a grounded narrative that had certain sci-fi elements. With The Occupation, we wanted to go even more grounded and aim to deliver a world that belongs in the ’80s so any aesthetic and technological choices were always taken into consideration. Surrounding yourself with these limitations can create really cool gameplay mechanics such as our pager as a message delivery system, public payphones to update your objectives, and fax machines to deliver information.

The Occupation screenshot 2

OnlySP: The game has been delayed twice now, both times quite close to the scheduled release. Is there any chance you could shed some light on the causes of the delays?

Bottomley: Delaying a game is a gut wrenching decision. You’ve put a promise out there and you push yourself to deliver. We’ve aimed incredibly high on this game both technologically and in the game’s design. On top of this, we wanted to deliver the game in as many languages as we could along with sim-shipping on PC, XB1, & PS4 and doing a retail disc submission so that people could pick up the game in stores if they wanted to hold a physical representation of the game. Because of these platforms, the game has to be ready a couple of months in advance to help distribution and all the different regions to have the version of the game you intend for them. With complexity always come more bugs and since our last game shipped in a buggy state, we didn’t want to make the same mistake twice. We’ve QA’d the game for months and had support from our publishers in helping to identify the issues. As with any game, we’ll no doubt spot some issues on launch, but we’ve already put processes in place to address these as quickly as we can and hopefully the execution of the game will immerse people and keep players engaged so that nothing disrupts the experience.

OnlySP: I recall on Twitter that you once wrote that you were testing the possibility of a Switch port. How seriously have you looked at that possibility and what’s the likelihood?

Bottomley: Right now we have a Switch development kit frustratingly gathering dust in our studio. Since we’re a small team, it can be a tough choice trying to figure out where to best use your resources. We’d absolutely love to get the game onto Switch but we’ve not tested a build yet. It’s the first thing we’ll be moving onto in March so we should be able to update people as soon as we know how The Occupation runs on it. Thankfully using Unreal Engine makes this process a lot more straightforward and we’ve seen a lot of developer friends find success on the Switch so it’s a great opportunity to reach a larger audience.

OnlySP: How does it feel for you and the team to be just about ready to wrap development after four years of work?

Bottomley: It’s not quite set in yet. Although we’re done with the game and excited to see the reception it gets from people, it’s really only 50% of the work, especially when you’re in a small team. We’re currently planning all the marketing and PR opportunities along with reflecting on the development cycle and figuring out what we can do better (to hopefully not spend another 4 years on a game!).

The Occupation screenshot 1

OnlySP: Finally, do you have any closing comments for our readers or anything else you’d like to say about The Occupation?

Bottomley: The whole team has put an incredible amount of energy into The Occupation. If you look at our previous game compared to The Occupation, you can see how far we’ve come. It’s been a huge learning curve for the studio both technically and in production and we’re excited to move onto another game to push ourselves. We’re unable to do that without game sales. It sounds corny, but we really can’t develop games without our community’s support. We value each purchase and we want to grow and keep pushing to create more interesting games. We have a lot of goals and drive and we’re focusing on growing and creating more experiences for the player. If you’re reading this and have purchased any of our games, thank you. It absolutely means the world to be able to wake up in the morning and be excited to develop games. Thank you.

The Occupation is set to release on March 5, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

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