I am an avid observer of Japanese role-playing games (role-playing games) on YouTube. If I had to describe why I am so captivated by them in 3 words, they would be: simple, effective and narrative based.
“Dying Flame as a concept was to show that a horror game did not need exceptional graphics. With the sounds and the telling of correct stories, we have shown that we can scare people and keep them coming back, determined to finish the game “, he explained.
But aside from the horror, Dying Flame, at its core, is a game that deals with heavy issues like marital loss, survivors ’guilt, and addiction, while giving them the respect and dignity they deserve.
In it, you follow the story of James who is trapped in an unfamiliar mansion with a lighter and a handful of cigarettes (which play an important role, as explained below). While desperately looking for a way out, he discovers that his wife, Mary, is also trapped there. Meanwhile, lurking in the dark is a monster that chases you non-stop.
With the difficulty of finding similar Malaysian games in this style, we interviewed the team behind it to find out how it all started.
“We had all been worked up to the pandemic.”
“It simply came to our notice then. We got together to complain at a round table for dinner and then we realized: we have the necessary skills. We do something, ”Edison recalled.
Thus was born RoundTable Games Studio. The team consists of himself, Adam, Crystal, Justin and Joel, all friends who graduated from UOW Malaysia KDU University under the game development program.
Although the team is new, Edison stressed that they had experience. He himself worked on Eximius, Seize the Frontlines and was formally part of the Forust Studio team working at The Company Man as well.
Adam has worked on content creation at various game studios and with publishers such as Gameka and PlayOne Asia, while Crystal went from game design to project management.
Edison shared that Justin is a veteran designer with too many games under his name due to an addiction to game making. It has only lost three in the last decade. Meanwhile, Joel is his resident programmer who can work magic with Unity, a cross-platform game engine.
Together, they knew they wanted to make games that told stories with a clear message. Having one that dealt with heavy issues seemed natural.
Putting players on purpose in a dilemma
“It just started with the lighter mechanic, where it will be spooky when you don’t have a constant source of light to see the monster,” Edison described.
They were then inspired by the implications between a lighter and a cigarette and tied up the only mechanic who saved from smoking.
“In a horror game, saving is never far from thought and most players save every few moments they can in these situations. It creates a dilemma,” Edison said. Saving frequently meant “smoking” frequently, exemplifying an addiction.
The team relied primarily on their personal experiences for the game and, if necessary, consulted specialists in different fields.
“For smokers’ feelings of addiction, and what it’s like to fight that desire, we just had to look at Adam. In his own words, he’s’ a non-smoker who relapsed constantly, ‘” Edison said.
“Within the team, most of us have lost loved ones, so we had a good reference on what grief is like, which was helpful for this project.”
With what seemed like a solid premise for the game, the team had to think of a delivery method.
Simple but effective game
As mentioned above, the team wanted to show that a game did not need exceptional graphics to be effective.
“One of the main scares we wanted was the monster that appeared when you touched your lighter. Unfortunately, if the player hugged a wall and never looked around, the scare could be completely avoided, ”said Edison.
(He’s right about that, and I feel a little attacked, as he describes how I play horror games down to a T-shirt.)
At the same time, when you are forced to move in the dark, having a grid-based movement makes it easier for you to count your steps and find out where you are.
To make sure the scares couldn’t be avoided, but that the game wouldn’t be unfairly difficult either, they found the RPG Maker engine to be the perfect base for Dying Flame.
As expected, the process was not without its challenges. According to the design, Edison shared that they had to eliminate a game feature and rework other mechanics.
But one of the hardest aspects of the game was its audio design. “Dying Flame has little light, which makes sound very important in helping the player navigate the game. Of course, sound is also important to help scare players away in the dark, ”said Edison.
Trying the game was another struggle, especially with the pandemic. It became impossible to physically meet with the players.
Edison shared: “For games like this, being able to see the player’s reactions and every action they take gives a lot more insight compared to what they tell us verbally. Without this component, certain designs were hard to calibrate, like the pace and clarity ”.
Building your reputation
Although the first idea of what Dying Flame would be dates back almost five years, courtesy of Justin and Crystal, pre-production on the release only lasted about 9 months.
“The development of the game is pretty baffling, but we sent our first game according to time and budget,” Edison said proudly, adding that a big win for the team was the fact that they had to make some thing they wanted.
They are already working on another game that reveals their story through the player’s ability to solve puzzles.
“Our immediate plans are to continue playing games that tell a story like Dying Flame. We are also using these smaller game projects to build our skills and reputation as developers for a large-scale project that we hope to announce by the end of 2022, ”Edison concluded.
With this, you can take a look at what the game offers in the following trailer:
- You can find out more about RoundTable Games Studio hereand check out Dying Flame here.
- You can read more articles related to the game here.
Featured Image Credit: Edison New, director of RoundTable Games Studio