Juan de la Torre interview

You’re Invited to Check-In: An Interview with Juan de la Torre About 505 Games’ The Guest

The power of storytelling.

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Close your eyes for a moment and just imagine that everything you’ve known is about to disappear from memory. You wake up to discover yourself alone, trapped in a room with no knowledge of how or why you’re there. You try to open the door but you notice that there’s no knob and the phone line is disconnected. The only thing you can do is search around for clues and gather certain items to use as tools to get yourself out. But why are you there in the first place? Welcome to The Guest, 505 Games’ latest claustrophobia inducing project.

The Koalition had a chance to discuss the development of the game with Juan de la Torre at Team Gotham, and soon discovered The Guest was just something we had to check into.

“We started developing The Guest as a final degree project in Madrid. Our first approach to the concept for the game was to create something controllable and scalable because we didn’t have much experience and we didn’t want to lose control on the scope of the game. Also, we wanted to create a neat and polished experience. So with all those thoughts, we decided to start with a small space so we could focus ourselves on it and deliver the best of us. Here is where the brainstorming came. We always loved the classic adventure games and we had in mind something similar to these games so we decided to adapt our concept into this controllable space. When we finished university, we received great feedback from people and decided to take The Guest to the next level. We wrote a complete script with tons of references to films and books and continued expanding the room until today.”

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Being just students with no experience is terrifying to the average person, but when you have a passion and a love for what you want to do, you’ll soon discover that life experiences can not only drive you forward, but inspire you in a big way.

“A big part of the concept for the game came from the knowledge that we were students with not much experience in the industry so our personal conditions as game developers definitely conditioned the game itself. Along with this, in my case as writer and artist, my enthusiasm and the experience watching films of Stanley Kubrick has driven me to look differently at the way I wrote, the way I made art, or the way I made the whole scenario for the game. His love for detail and perfectionism in his films has always helped to shape my ideas and to get the best of me as an artist.”

As a gamer himself, Juan de la Torre’s passion for creating games came after playing the Metal Gear Solid series when he was a kid. The feeling of joy he felt while the controller was in his hands inspired him, and drew him to the field so that others can experience that same joy through his creation.

“Nothing ‘inspired’ me to be a gamer. I just grew up in a home full of consoles and I loved it instantly. What really broke the mold for me was the Metal Gear Solid series. I remember playing Metal Gear Solid 4 on my PS3 and reaching the point when you go back to Shadow Moses and then this song called ‘The Best Is Yet To Come’ starts playing in the background. It was magic. In that precise moment I knew I wanted to make someone feel that way with my own stories.”

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When developing the game and being so green in the process, you learn things about developing a game as they happen, but with The Guest, there didn’t seem to be that many bumps in the learning process. But there was one lesson that they would have been improved upon.

“We’re pretty happy with how the game is so far. It’s just the way we wanted it to be, but yeah, if back at the beginning we had the knowledge we have now, we could have worked faster and better so we would have had more time to implement new things and organize ourselves better. There are always things you can improve in your workflow.”

One of the many lessons that was learned along the way was the power of feedback. When you’re too close to a project, you’re unable to see things with a fresh perspective but this is where testing sessions can come in handy. This was something that was used and appreciated and made the game even stronger.

“We have done a lot of testing sessions with students and friends. Also, we have been in a lot of events letting the people play at different stages of the development. We found this really important: sometimes you have your own game so close to your eyes that you cannot judge what’s wrong or what is actually great. We have listened to people, always. I think it is something you must do in order to make a better game but also you have to be loyal to your vision and not fail yourself. Definitely you have to know how to separate which feedback is good and which isn’t, and commit 100% of yourself all the time.”

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When playing The Guest, you’ll feel like a character in a suspense movie. The more you play, the more you’ll feel yourself wanting to discover, but at the same time, be terrified of what could happen next. The Guest is a mystery that has some scare factors which plays to the gamer’s psychology through atmosphere. You’re trapped, it’s raining outside, and there are these small noises that randomly occur. Not only that, but there’s a small possibility that everything may actually be all in your head. Is this really happening, or is this a psychotic break?

“One of the key points on The Guest is the mood. We have built a really personal atmosphere where the player gets trapped. We have found a spectre between horror and thriller. It’s pure mystery. The Guest is not a horror game. Of course we had some influences of these kinds of games to set up the environment and so on, but it’s not our goal to make the player get scared. We just want them to be insecure, uncomfortable. Anyways, we did play scary games in order to build these moods we are talking about. If I had to choose one, I would say Alien: Isolation for example. It could sound weird because of the nature of the game, but the first hours of gameplay where you don’t know much about what’s happening around you were REALLY great. That sense of being disoriented, I loved it.”

The game also draws heavily on fear, fear of the unknown, and fear of the truth. As the story progresses, you’ll learn more and more about the character, either through pictures, items found in the room, or notes taken by the character. Juan de la Torre’s biggest fear, plays heavily into the game.

“I think my biggest fear would be that I could not control things around me. Sometimes this room seems to be alive, something is wrong in this place and you cannot do anything to sort this out.”

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One the coolest aspect of the game is the time period. Taking place in the 80’s grounds the game in realism. We often take the luxuries of today for granted. The simple fact people can be reached on the phone at time of day wasn’t something that occurred in that decade.

“It was a game design decision. The plot we had could fit in mostly every decade since 1960 but we didn’t want to be that ‘vintage.’ The thing is that we didn’t want mobile phones in the game, and in the 80’s, they weren’t that accessible for people. Basically, we didn’t want to go super retro and we didn’t want mobiles phones, so the 80’s were just fine.”

There’s a lot of mixed emotion you’ll feel when playing The Guest but the ending is promised to be satisfying, leaving you stunned for days after you’ve finished playing. The story is what truly matters, and for Juan de la Torre, this is exactly what they were aiming for.

“There is a story behind this enigmatic room, no doubt. We want [the player] to feel like Evgueni Leonov, the main character, and keep thinking about the plot after playing. It’ll be like a dream if people start sharing theories about the game (hahaha).”

The Guest will arrive on PC in 2016 . Meanwhile check out our preview.

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Dana Abercrombie Content Writer
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