John Robertson meets Endnight Games to discuss the horror game influenced by 70s movies, I Am Legend and… Disney?
“Our vision was always a game in which half of the time it’s a place that you really want to be and then it’s at night that the horror starts.”
Disney. I must admit, I’m more than a little smitten with the house that Mickey built – the broadly-drawn characters, the sense of fairy tale and the stark, high-contrast visual approach combining to create a safe cocoon from which to escape the harsher realities of life. Disney, is not, however, something I tend to associate with survival horror video games.
Inspiration can come from the unlikeliest of sources, however, as my one-hour chat with Endnight Games, creators of upcoming ‘survival horror simulator’ The Forest, has further demonstrated. With a full weather and day/night cycles, the ability to carve out a section of the forest as a base for yourself and an enemy that is both aggressive and empathic, Endnight’s goal is not to make your average horror game.
“Disney stuff was an inspiration for the daytime in the forest,” explains creative director Ben Falcone. “There are God-rays from the sky everywhere, butterflies and generally cute looking areas. One of the things I don’t like in horror games is when they’re all one tone, when they’re always just dark and depressing.
“Our vision was always a game in which half of the time it’s a place that you really want to be and then it’s at night that the horror starts. Our main goal is really just to do something completely different.”
As a general rule, The Forest has not been influenced by video game horror as much as it has by other mediums. Set in a large open-world forest with a coastline and significantly large system of caves, inspiration for the sense of tone and place came more from movies and novels in the survival genre.
“Horror films from the 70s, and the Italian films from the 80s, and the book I Am Legend are all pretty big influences,” Falcone continues. “We’ve all played horror games like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but we’ve not really taken anything from those games.”
Set up an environment that feels like something straight out of the original The Hills Have Eyes and let the player react to that as they see fit, that’s the premise.
As the only survivor of a plane crash, your first moments spent in The Forest are concerned with taking in your surroundings and looting whatever you can from the wreckage. While there are limited food resources amongst the carnage, your main goal quickly becomes staying alive. That means figuring out how to stay safe and warm at night and how to gather food for sustenance.
Falcone teases that there is an “ending” to the game if players are being smart enough about picking up the visual clues and investigating them, but that he thinks of the game as “more about you being in a situation. You’ve been in a plane crash and you find yourself in this horror world with a threat from cannibals, the story is just what happens as you experience the game and that world.”
While Endnight may not be taking cues from other horror games, the team has been influenced by the medium as a whole. That sense of unbounded exploration and the expectation that the player will seek to carve out a section of the world as their own is not all too dissimilar to the premises of Minecraft and Don’t Starve, two games that Falcone is quick to highlight.
“Really, [The Forest] started with my frustration about most of the things I’ve been playing for the last few years,” Falcone explains, “but Minecraft is something that’s a really big inspiration. We also see our game as similar to Don’t Starve, which is also kind of never ending.
“The excitement in Minecraft of being able to do whatever you want was something we wanted, but we wanted it in as photo-real an environment as we could by using cutting-edge PC technology to bring it to life and bring in some interesting AI threads.
“Obviously, we wanted to make something scary as well. We don’t actually find a lot of horror games very scary and we’re really aiming to make something truly terrifying.”