Night Light Interactive discusses bringing Whispering Willows to Consoles - Interview

With the recent news that Whispering Willows would be coming out for more platforms than its initial PC-only release, we were excited for an opportunity to chat about the title. Here at Chalgyr's Game Room, we were big fans of this game when it first came out, scoring it a 9 out of 10. Today we are joined by David Logan of Night Light Interactive and Ralph Egas of Abstraction Games as they field some of our questions.


Chalgyr's Game Room:
When you set out to design Whispering Willows, was the intention to always make a horror-based game, or did that idea come along later?
David Logan:
I had always wanted to create a horror game from the start, but I wanted to handle it a bit differently than traditional jump scare horror. I love horror games, and the worlds created around them, but I've rarely felt like I could freely explore them and take in all their hidden secrets. With Whispering Willows, I wanted to create a horror game that put you on edge, but stripped away some of the constant "zombies around every corner."

Chalgyr's Game Room:
How long did it take for you settle on the play style that met the full release? I'll be honest - moving that slow had me terrified as to what could be around the corner at any given time. This was especially true after being chased up the ladders!
David:
We adjusted the movement speed multiple times. It was definitely to give a sense of urgency, but we also wanted people to take their time with the game so they could take in the storyline, soundtrack, and art that was developed. Our main goal with Whispering Willows was to immerse the player in what we created.

David Logan

Chalgyr's Game Room:
In regards to the story, what prompted the use of Aboriginal History as the background to the events that unfold?
David:
The Kwantako Tribe was a wholly original group of Native Americans that we created for the story, but the inspiration for them and for the main antagonist (Wortham Willows) came from our college town in California. We based a few of the major events in the game on history of our California town, and then of course elaborated a bit.

Chalgyr's Game Room:
Most people know that making games is not easy. What was your biggest challenge in getting everything ready for the original launch?
David:
Our team was so focused on developing the game, we overlooked a huge aspect in developing a game - marketing it! When we launched we did a little bit of an internal push, but looking back I wish that we could have had a dedicated marketing team to help the game get the attention it deserved. Releasing on Xbox One, Wii U, PS4 and mobile is allowing us to have a second chance at a release, and this time we're going to do it right!

Chalgyr's Game Room:
On a related note, any advice out there for small development teams looking to release a title for the first time?
David:
My biggest advice is to talk to teams and developers that have already released a game. A very common phrase for us was, "Whoops, well we'll know for next time." The indie community is really supportive and you should take advice from whoever will give it.


Chalgyr's Game Room:
After its launch, Whispering Willows did quite well upon release on the PC last year. What prompted for the move over to the console platforms? Was there just a lot of feedback or fan response asking for it, or was this always the plan?
David:
We did not initially plan on doing a console and mobile release. After the game's success on Steam with minor marketing efforts on our end, we felt the game could get so much more exposure if we had a publisher and marketing team behind us. We spoke with many publishers, but ultimately decided to go with Abstraction Games for the port to Xbox One and Wii U, since they were developers just like us and really understood the core of Whispering Willows and what we wanted to achieve.

Chalgyr's Game Room:
As every platform has varying differences in their architecture. How challenging was it to move Whispering Willows from the PC? Was there any one platform that really gave you trouble or just took longer to learn your way around?
David:
Since we developed the game in Unity3D, it made the process relatively more simple when going to other platforms. We also originally developed it for the Android console OUYA too, which overall had pretty low system specs. This was really helpful when we ported to mobile for instance, because we had essentially already done a lot of the optimization work. We just had to create slightly different UI and controls. With the other consoles, the main additions were the platform specific features like controller rumble and higher FPS.

Ralph Egas, CEO – Abstraction Games: 
While it’s true that Unity 3D is a cross-platform engine and therefore certainly helps adapting games to other platforms, there’s always certain features that won’t work out of the box and demand more hands-on tailoring and even rewriting of sub systems. This is simply due to the nature of console operating systems being entirely different than Windows, Linux, and Mac OS. For instance, while you can get away with writing your save data to a generic user repository on PC, you'll need to implement a specific user flow on console that is completely different and involves displaying notifications, querying save data storage, handling various edge cases, etc., if only to get the title approved by 1st parties like Microsoft and Nintendo. On that level, there’s plenty of manual stuff that needs to be carried out regardless of whatever common engine is used. On top of that we always strive to make any adaptation appear to have been designed with the specific target platform in mind from the outset. So for example, for Whispering Willows, we’ve added a GamePad/TV hybrid mode where the journal is displayed and controlled via touch controls on the Wii U GamePad. Players simply expect these kinds of enhancements on their favorite platform and rightfully so. We believe that any product they’re engaging with should behave really well on their platform of choice. It’s our job to make that happen and treat wonderful IP like Whispering Willows with TLC.

Ralph Egas

Chalgyr's Game Room:
What are the team's goals for next year?
David:
We of course want to make more games! We've been building several prototypes to test out ideas. We've also been bouncing around the idea of a sequel for Whispering Willows, especially since so many fans are asking for it. When we originally started the company, no one knew who we were, we were completely unknown. Over the last several years we've slowly carved our path out by winning at conventions, having our successful Kickstarter, and of course having our well received releases. Now with the game coming out to every major platform, that's a lot of new fans that will be our foundation moving forward.

Chalgyr's Game Room:
The art for this game is really unique and has a beautifully haunting quality to it. Were there any particular sources of inspiration behind it?
David:
Our main art inspiration came from the new Wii version of "A Boy and His Blob." It has really beautiful detailed and painted backgrounds, with much more simple characters and shading. I think it allows the characters to really stand out against the environment and even gives sort of an anime vibe at times.

Chalgyr's Game Room:
Okay, last one. What video games have you been playing lately yourself?
David:
I've been playing Destiny since it came out. I will probably continue to until the next Unreal Tournament releases. I always have to have a competitive shooter in my life! Recently I've also played a lot of Solforge, the digital card game, and Nuclear Throne.


We really appreciate David and Ralph for taking the time to field our questions and are looking forward to the upcoming title's release on even more platforms!

Interview by Pierre-Yves
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