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Creating a Horror/Puzzler: An Interview with Nekcom’s Game Director Jensen Fang

DYING: Reborn takes fear to a puzzling new level.

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DYING: Reborn is a dark, horror-themed puzzle game for PlayStation VR that creates a unique first-person room escape experience. Players will examine, collect, and use items to solve a variety of creative puzzle types to escape each haunting room without knowing who or what could be lurking in very corner.

The Koalition had an opportunity to discuss DYING: Reborn with Nekom Game Director, Jensen Fang.

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From the very beginning the game is gripping. However, unlike other games with too many jump scares and cliched environments, there’s a finesse and ease to the gameplay. The jump scares are clever and take great advantage of the PlayStation VR masterfully.

“From as far as I can remember, I have a preference for “Horror,” a genre imbued with a kind of magical attraction. It makes people afraid, afraid of danger and of mysterious things that are impossible to explain. At the same time it, lets audiences ‘consume’ the fear felt by these products (whether it’s movies, novels… or games!) in the safe environment of the cinema or their sofa, granting a kind of ‘fix’ to their curiosity. This is exactly the charm or magical power of horror. Then, when you add games into the equation, with their inherent interactivity and immersion, you get an even spookier and more enticing horror.”

The development team is very passionate about puzzle/adventure games, so when creating a precise and crisp game, developers drew inspiration from numerous sources.

DYING: Reborn’s core group of designers are all huge fans of the Puzzle/Adventure genre in gaming. Games like Zero Escape and Professor Layton are some titles we’re really fond of. At the same time, a few of us at Nekcom (including yours truly) really like the movie series Saw.
With DYING we wondered what would happen if we could combine elements from Saw, such as being all alone and abandoned in a confined space, with the puzzle-solving game genre, and that’s exactly what we did.”

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As players immerse themselves in the game, they will be treated to breathtakingly gorgeous visuals. Each item featured has the right details, lighting and depth. To create a game as accurate as this, the team once again drew inspiration from movies.

“In the early design stages of DYING, we used a bunch of movies for reference. We mentioned Saw already, as well as Identity and 1408. From these we became quite versed in the elements and routines that make up the genre (broken toilets, eerie iron gates, thunder lighting up a pitch black sky, doors suddenly closing etc).”

“Starting off with these and using the background story of the game as our framework, we started working on DYING’s environments and atmosphere. Cherry-picking from our favorite horror stories those things we felt would work well in the game and its plot, while also spending a lot of time on finding ways to effectively show (meaning the game’s lighting and sound effects as well as animations) all of this to the player. Apart from this, we soon came to realize that bringing together all of these horror elements required special attention to find a good balance, what fits in and what doesn’t, which in turn also influences the pace of the game. This last part is very important because we don’t want the player to be in a state of anxiety and nervousness all the time, but we also don’t want them to get bored either by spending large parts of the game in situations that aren’t scary at all.”

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Wanting to separate its game from others of the same genre, the development took a unique approach to the design.

“When we started the game design, we made sure to scatter, as it were, the game’s storyline all over the place, in every nook and corner of the game. This results in the player finding out what’s going on very gradually and in a fragmented way, going through a similar confusion as the game’s main character. For those players who like to explore and get to the bottom of the game’s mysterious plot, DYING is sure to satisfy their puzzle-solving and adventuring needs.”

“That’s not to say the game won’t have a lot of puzzles that will forces the players to do some serious brain-racking. Those players that crave for some serious puzzle-solving challenges will be more than taken care off, they will definitely find their fix in DYING.”

“Something else that’s worth mentioning are DYING’s trophies. You’ll be surprised how hard it will be to get these. For those who are itching to make sure their collect each and every one of them, DYING is a must-have.”

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“DYING: Reborn starts off like all games. However, the further you progress the challenges become more difficult; frustratingly difficult.”

DYING is a game which features some pretty new and never, making it hard to summarize in just one word. But if you’d insist, we would like to use the term ‘Hardcore’.”

“While we were designing the game’s puzzles, our aim was to make sure that there would be enough challenges. These wouldn’t necessarily be testing the players’ puzzle-solving skills, but would also see if the players can cope with puzzles that go beyond that logic, as it were. So apart from the puzzles that need to be solved, we also created a story that’s not so much complex as that it’s mysterious and cryptic. Only players with a special eye to details will be able to piece together the entire plot of DYING by using the myriad of small hints scattered throughout its chapters.”

“So, seeing as the difficulty is pretty steep for completing the game and discovering everything, I think only ‘hardcore’ players are up to the task.”

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There are thousands of games on the market and picking the right one is really a gaming Russian Roulette. Despite this, the development team set out to create something unique to give players a one-of-a-kind experience that’ll keep them begging for more.

DYING is a horror puzzle-solving game. When you look at other titles in this genre, most of these don’t feature any hardcore puzzle-solving gameplay. Conversely, a lot of games revolving around puzzle-solving gameplay rarely feature elements and atmosphere belonging to Horror.
We believe that our game can fill this gap, by offering a kind of gameplay that’s still one of its kind.”

While it’s too early to expect a sequel, the possibility exists.

“At this point we can’t say with certainty whether or not there will be a sequel in the making. However, there are a ton of ideas and things that we haven’t put into our game as of yet. Should the opportunity rise, we would love to do a sequel.”

DYING: Reborn will be released for PlayStation VR in January 2017.

About The Author
Dana Abercrombie Content Writer
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