Asylum: Agustin Cordes Developer Interview

Written by Chris Barraclough on Tue, Feb 12, 2013 10:02 AM
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Fans of horror games should learn the name Agustin Cordes, as he's one of the genre's rising stars. With the shiver-inducing "Scratches" already under his belt, he's working on a new release: Asylum.

Agustin graciously agreed to visit GD Towers for a sit-down and a chat about the sinister Hanwell Mental Institute and his ongoing Kickstarter campaign...

He made an impressive pant-soiling debut with his creepy slow-burning game 'Scratches' back in 2006, and he's is finally ready to scare the crap out of the world once more. His new game 'Asylum' is due out in 2013 (having successfully passed through Steam's Greenlight) and we've already had a sneak preview, but what can we expect from the finished effort?

So, why do you enjoy scaring the bejesus out of people, you mean man?

You know… it's loads of fun! I feel it's like a challenge. Scaring people these days is very difficult. "Real life" can already be quite scary, sometimes even more than fiction, and it's not as easy as it used to being able to scare with sheer mood and style.

But I'm trying to do my best. Suffice to say, I also love the horror genre. I grew up with it: reading Lovecraft, watching Lucio Fulci, dozens of slasher movies, and more. I just love the genre and working with it.

 

Scratches was a brilliant example of slow-burning horror, where a slightly unsettling feeling builds into full-on pant-wetting terror. In the Asylum demo, however, it's a very dark and instant horror, where we're immediately pulled into a terrifying world - is that representative of the final game?

Yes, we always intended from the very beginning to do something different with Asylum. I always stress conceptual similarities with Scratches (the focus on mood and, as you noted, a strong sense of pacing), but ultimately they're different games with different stories.

Still, you can absolutely expect the same sort of "slow-burning" progression in Asylum. If, say, Scratches began at a Horror scale of 5 and finished at 8, then Asylum begins at 7 and will finish at 10 (who knows, it may even blow the scale!). It certainly gets more horrifying and punishing than Scratches in latter stages.

 

Right, we'll dust off our rubber jockstrap then. So, Scratches hit players with puzzles and problems based very much in reality - turning on power to the house, getting through locked doors, etc. What kind of puzzles will we see in Asylum, do they have a similar vibe?

I very much like puzzles based on "real life", yes. In a way, I wanted to make sure players remained immersed in Scratches as they played. A puzzle out of place, such as a generic slider to open a door, would have killed the atmosphere. And indeed you can expect the same sort of puzzles in Asylum: always very organic and integrated with the game world and story. That said, there will be a few less puzzles and more forgiving ones in Asylum (there were a couple of "infamous" moments in Scratches that nearly demanded a sixth sense to solve).

 

Without wanting to spoil anything, can you tell us about some of the creepier environments we'll be wetting ourselves in? We're hoping there'll be a gore-covered morgue and some kind of nasty 'treatment' room?

Oh yes, we certainly have some of that. The Hanwell Mental Institute (the massive building where the game takes place) has close to one hundred rooms and each one of them is different, so we have plenty of variety: offices and archives, a dusty library, a sinister museum, a creepy laboratory, a decrepit chapel, scary workshops, a chilling theatre, and so much more. Of course, the morgue and treatment rooms are also present as well. And you're going to visit some truly horrific locations that we're keeping secret… Fans of the "boiler sequence" in Scratches are going to have sooo much fun!

We are easing down the gore though. The original trailer might have given a wrong impression in that regard. Asylum is going to be a gorier game than Scratches, but not by much. We want to earn that "psychological horror" title. That said, while we won't show much, we will definitely hint at horrible things that happened (and will happen) in the asylum.

 

Being massive horror game fans, we played and adored the classic John Saul's Blackstone Chronicles, which is a similar psychological horror set in an abandoned asylum. First, have you played it, and second, did you take inspiration from it or any other horror titles for Asylum?

Curiously, I played lots of horror games before designing Asylum, but not Blackstone Chronicles. And I happen to be a huge fan of Legend Entertainment, even. Eventually I played Blackstone and, yes, there are some similarities in the subject matter. Certain features are always "attached" to the setting of a given story. You could say Scratches was an atypical haunted house of sorts, with a few clichés here are there (such as the strange noises in the middle of the night) but at the same time there were some truly unexpected twists. The same holds true for Asylum: some plot elements may sound familiar, but the moment you lower your guard, it all suddenly turns upside down and you'll never be able to tell what happens next.

As for other horror titles, I often site as strong influences Alone in the Dark, Dark Seed, The 7th. Guest and Dark Fall.

 

Finally, massive congrats on your Steam Greenlight success! We see you've got your own Kickstarter now to raise funds. What will the cash mean for the game?

Why, thank you so much! Steam Greenlight was a rough ride but our success there is what gave us courage to try luck with Kickstarter. And so far it seems to be doing well. The funds we're asking for will mean that we're able to finish the game sooner, with a proper budget and timeframe. Until now, the team has remained very small, and some are working on the game in their spare time. At this rate it would take us much more than one year to complete Asylum, and the whole project could be compromised since we don't have investors or publishers to support us financially.

Basically, we need to make money somehow. But, if the Kickstarter is successful, we will be able to complete it within the year. The better we do, the more features and content we have in mind will be added to the game!

 

Sounds good. And what cool incentives have you lined up for pledgers?

Rewards for backers are varied: you have the usual stuff such as the complete game, of course, soundtrack, a detailed digital book, a lovely crafted boxed edition, t-shirts, and then more unusual rewards such as being featured in the actual game as a visitor or inmate of the asylum. The higher you go, the weirder (and sinister!) rewards get: you can become staff of the institute, with your own glorious diploma hanging in the corridors of Hanwell, or a notorious inmate, with your profile featuring a fictional (or perhaps not so fictional) biography in the archives room. Or you could be dead in the morgue, or an in-game character in your very own cell…

Yes, we can be a bit crazy, and the Kickstarter reflects this. Fortunately our backers also seem to be a bit crazy, so we're all very happy.

 

Massive thanks to Agustin for taking the time to chat with us. Now go throw some money at his Asylum Kickstarter page!

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19:05 Feb-12-2013

Looking forward to this too. Makes me wanna donate though and be a inmate :)

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16:55 Feb-12-2013

I'm really looking forward to this one! ;)

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12:56 Feb-12-2013

"inmate of the asylum", sounds like seebaruk to me ;)

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13:09 Feb-12-2013

Tell you what mate, my last shreds of sanity are leaking out of my ears. Could do with a year on a beach somewhere to recover :)

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14:43 Feb-12-2013

someone is confessing here.......

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