How an audio experiment into blindness twisted into a PS VR horror game.
Hey there! I’m Justin Ng, Managing Director of Gattai Games, a game development studio based out of sunny Singapore. Today we’re excited to announce that Stifled, a game we’ve been working on for the past three years is coming out for PS VR on October 31.
You may have read about the game already when it was revealed at this year’s ChinaJoy, but to give you a quick overview: Stifled is a VR and mic-enabled sound-based stealth thriller. The pitch black world is illuminated by the sounds you make, which allows you to see the path ahead and items you can pick up. But sound also highlights your location to the enemies who lurk in the darkness.
So that’s the premise. But what the origin of the game? For that, you’d have to rewind time to 2013 when Lurking, our student project that would eventually become Stifled, spawned.
That summer, the team and I chanced upon an animation of a blind girl finding her way around the world using sound, with the visuals reflecting the mood she was in, an animation that served as a springboard for us develop a “sound-based” game.
VR was on its way to becoming more mainstream at that time, and we thought since we were developing a sound-based game, why not find a way to integrate the widely available microphone as an input for some kind of immersion? And with those ideas in mind, we started production of Lurking.
The initial idea for Lurking revolved around the use of pitch and volume to explore your surroundings and solve puzzles. Wanting audio to take center stage, we kept our visuals to a simple black and white look, and built a few prototypes testing the mechanic of having boxes in a dark room “light up” when sounds “touched” them. After a few iterations and in a moment of genius, Bryan (Audio Director on both Lurking and Stifled) said: “This is perfect for a horror game.”
The team agreed.
With the pivot from an innocent audio exploration game to a horror game, we had to rethink our design and features. Sound was no longer just a tool, but also a method that could attract enemies. Enemies could track you through your microphone if you squeal in real life. It’s one thing to control your use of sound in game, it’s another to physically stifle yourself.
We completed and released Lurking in March of 2014 and it went on to do pretty well, bagging a bunch of awards and nominations. We saw potential in the idea and decided to pursue it as a full-fledged game; in the August of 2014, pre-production of Stifled began.
With the microphone input of Lurking proving a success, we wanted to take Stifled to the next level with VR. And that’s exactly what we did when we heard the announcement of PS VR. We reached out to and obtained PS VR development kits from the Sony Interactive Entertainment team in Singapore.
So, three years in and after a lot of learnings and discoveries, we are ready to put Stifled out with the support of SIE. It’s been a long and crazy ride, and we hope you will be there with us at the finish line.
Probably best to try and keep sound to a minimum though, they can hear you…