We spoke to Dave Mervik, Senior Narrative Designer at Tarsier Studios about their beautifully creepy new release "Little Nightmares".
The games visual style is both beautiful and creepy. Did you draw any inspiration from other favourite Games or Movies?
There are all sorts of things that have inspired our art style, but we’ve never tried to recreate anyone else’s work, we feel it’s way more rewarding to express ourselves and see what people think. With the talented artists we have here, we’ve found that they inspire each other, which in turn inspires everyone else. Some of the things I’ve seen – often mere sketches – I just can’t believe there are minds that can dream up that sort of stuff. It makes you aim higher, and has been an invigorating process to be part of.
How does the development process of an original IP compare to working on something like Little Big Planet?
It’s been different for sure. This has been a blank canvas, and so everything – the art style, the play style, the tone and atmosphere – it’s all had to be defined from scratch. Obviously, we’ve had to make sure that all of these things together felt coherent and complemented one another, so there have been a great many discussions amongst the teams to achieve this. Compare this to LittleBigPlanet, where all of this was already well-established, the challenge for us on LittleBigPlanet PS Vita was to be respectful to these established rules, whilst bringing a little of ourselves to the mix.
What were the biggest challenges during development? Were there any major obstacles that made it difficult to achieve what you wanted?
No more than in any normal development cycle. Arguably the biggest challenge was the one that we always set ourselves, which is to release a game that we feel proud to stand behind. It’s taken a huge amount of work and long days for all concerned, but the pride in this game is definitely there!
We’ve read there’s no dialogue in the game? Is this true? Did that put even more emphasis on visual communication and physics?
Yes that’s true. Even though, as you say, it puts a great deal more responsibility on visual and audio storytelling, we felt that this was an essential component of the game’s core themes. We want the player to really connect with the main character, to feel as lost and alone as she does, and to instinctively know that this is a place that they simply don’t belong. Having Six, or anyone else, talking, would have undermined this feeling.
Can you say how long the average play time to complete the game will be?
At a very rough estimate, somewhere in the region of 4-6 hours, depending of course on how you play.
Are there any plans for VR support?
Not right now, but this is not the first time we’ve been asked this question, so we get the feeling we should maybe explore the possibility!
On the topic of VR, we’re really looking forward to Statik! How does creating a game like that differ to a platformer like Little Nightmares?
Great to hear it! We’re really excited about people playing that game too – and all in the same week, no less! It’s been very different creating Statik. The team size has been a great deal smaller – averaging around 8 people – and the game is obviously completely different, so you can barely compare the two. Since I’ve been working across both projects, however, I have seen some similarities between them. There is a common ambition to leave the player to their own devices, let them solve puzzles on their own without giving them hints all the time. There is also an interpretive quality to the storytelling in both games, where we leave things to the player’s imagination … up to a point!
What’s up next for Tarsier? Anything else cool in the pipeline?
We’ve honestly no idea, and that in itself is a nice feeling. There’s always cool stuff floating around here, and there’s no way of knowing which of those things is going to take root until they do. We’re not ones to rest on our laurels though, so whatever we do next will be something that gets us as excited as Little Nightmares and Statik have done.