Here we have an interview with the sole developer behind the Amnesia mod White Night I covered earlier last month, Tanshaydar. Tans seems to have a brilliant grasp at story telling and has a focused narrative in mind to bring you, a player, a story to tell. This is not horror, but not quite drama: it seems to be something inbetween, and if my gut is correct, might be one of the best stories this year.
Now, lets get onto the interview. My questions are in bold, and his answers reside below.
#1: Hello Tansel! Now, to begin, what inspired you to get into the niche of storytelling that White Night relays?
After beating Silent Hill 2, it has always been my dream to create my own story and narrating it through a video game. There are also lots of other things that inspired me like movies, books and games. Silent Hill series has a big impact as well as Session 9 and Jacob’s Ladder-like movies. Also, symbolism that Japanese products (games, movies, visual novels etc…) have is the key to gather things in my head. All melted into one desire: to create a good story told by a game.
#2: Share a little about White Night, what can players expect coming into this?
Atmosphere! Well, it saddens me to feel like I have to point out this is not mainly a horror mod, at least, not the kind of Amnesia is. However, I’m preparing some little (maybe not that little) scares and encounters. Of course, these are not meaningless scares only to shock people; they all have their meanings to (the) story. That’s to say people can expect a good and polished story and even side stories if they are careful. Fans of Silent Hill series might take a sweet taste, and Amnesia fans can experience a very different time and story setting. Also, everyone should prepare themselves to overcome some mind bending puzzles.
#3: When it comes to storytelling, what are some inspirations you have? White Night looks to have a unique narrative, what inspired that in you?
I’ve played many games which held storytelling closest to their essence. Each of them has different approach to narrate their stories. Often, too many notes are just boring; but sometimes just one word of text is worth of a lifetime like in Penumbra series or in Mistake-1. However sometimes words are just carrying more than you can bear like in Silent Hill 2, Dear Esther or in Worry of Newport.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep the number of the notes low. So there will be lots of reading if people want to have a grasp on the story. Of course, many parts of the story will be told by dialogues between David and other characters. I’m working to keep everything balanced and prevent from becoming boring. Also, I’m using environments to tell the story. So, keep an eye where you are, what you are doing, and even, what time it is.
#4: Never anything wrong with lots of notes and story. Are players going to be guessing until the end, or do you leave clues and leads to reveal the ending?
Even now, without playing, people can guess many parts of the story. However, it’s nearly impossible to understand everything that happened (or will happen? lol). You can’t truly trust anyone (and yes, this includes David himself too) before reaching the end. Even after that, there will be loose ends left to players’ imagination. However, David’s story will end, that’s for sure.
#5: Awesome, I’m looking forward to the paranoia/trust aspects. What are some future plans if White Night does well critically?
To gather useful feedback as much as possible for my future projects is my main concern, regardless of people liking this kind of storytelling or not. And maybe, if story really affects people, I might create one or two expansion to explain some side characters’ stories and what really happened prior to this infamous white night. Either way, I already have some other scenarios to work on.
#6: For you, what makes a mystery or psychological story engaging and worthwhile?
There are many things I consider that they’re crucial to achieve being engaging and worthwhile for me. However, if I were to choose one, I’d say atmosphere and immersion. A good story and strong connection to protagonist (or to antagonist in some cases) follows. Then environment design comes, and so on…
#7: Has Modding had an effect on your personal life or do you keep it private?
Since this is my first large scaled project, I’m giving my all to it. Even my girlfriend keeps testing and checking my ideas. Some of my friends around me also help testing and brainstorming on things. I failed one of my courses in summer school too. Erm, let’s keep this private 😛 I’m a passionate gamer and even though I don’t have any released product yet, I’m a game designer. So this is my life.
#8: Haha, it’ll be our little secret. Any words of advice for the resurgence of this generation’s horror modders? There are quite a few out there now.
Creating something from scratch might be one of the hardest things in the world. Especially when it comes to creating a horror based product, it really is big a trouble. So, take your time, sort things out, make your plan, and work hard on it. Don’t forget to test after tested and before testing again. Think about what you are afraid of. We are all people and there are things we are afraid of. And please, give it a solid story.
#9: I always ask this question. If you had no technical limitation or ceiling, what would you like to add most to White Night?
I’d like to add much more details and create larger areas. I’d also like to add NPCs and of course, creatures from the deepest darkness of the mind. Nonetheless I don’t have any modeling skill, let alone animating.
#10: Tell us a little about our characters here, White Night has been quite illusive about them.
I kept the story like a secret so far. While getting closer to release, I can reveal a bit more.
You are playing as David, who is an ordinary man wakes up in an Asylum cell without any recollection of his memories. A female named Sofia talks to you, claiming she is your doctor and trying to help you. You need to remember why you forgot everything and what really happened. In further parts you’ll be introduced a new character, Grace, who is claimed to be David’s wife by her and Dr. Sofia.
What is being told to David is that he is a criminal, a murderer in specific. Since David doesn’t remember what really happened, he is having a hard time to accept this. While getting to end, he will remember what really happened and learn what the White Night is. The relationships between characters are crucial to story, as one or many of them might be lying to you, or you might be the cracked one. Since you don’t remember anything, you can’t be sure of anything.
There will be some side characters too, and they’ll have their roles in the story, and maybe in possible expansion.
#11: It seems like you’ve built almost all the assets from scratch in White Night. Impressive! How hard has that work been? Why not just use boxed assets?
When I first started to make White Night, I was using vanilla game assets, however for a story set in 2000s, it’s a disaster. I was using castle ceiling windows to imitate fluorescent lights, pathetic. One month spent to just learning level editor. After completing three levels, I was heavily disappointed by the look of the mod. Then I learned from Frictional community that I could convert Penumbra assets to Amnesia since they nearly use same base, which uses more modern assets as it’s also set in 2000s. Then I learned I could add assets from outside, even create new assets from scratch. This was the greatest watershed this mod had. I’m pretty proud of this work, turning an old murky castle to an old-fashioned asylum trying to meet to modern day standards. Though I must say, I find this .dae format Amnesia uses hardest to deal with.
#12: Fascinating stuff! Looking forward to it. It has been a pleasure talking to you, Tansel! Anything you want to share with the readers in closing?
It’s my pleasure. I hope everyone enjoys when White Night is released. Do not forget, I’m not here to scare you. I have a story to tell.
I’m here to heal your mind.