Interview: Krillbite Studios On Their High-Profile Indie Horror Title Among The Sleep
Welcome to another eGamer interview where we’ll be talking about Krillbite Studios’ in-development, high-profile indie horror game, Among the Sleep. If you recall correctly, it’s the horror game where you play as a two-year old child. The game was announced a very long time ago, back in June of 2012 if I recall correctly, where the first gameplay footage was shown. Recently I got into contact with Krillbite Studios’ Adrian Tingstad Husby, and he and his team were kind enough to give us an extensive interview on the game. You can check it out in its entirety down below, and hopefully it will get you looking forward to playing this game like I am. Then again, I am a horror nut. And a bit of a psycho.
But enough about my mental problems. Check out the full interview down below!
eGamer: Thank you, Krillbite Studios, for taking the time to do this interview with us. To start off with, can you tell us a little about yourselves and your studio?
KB: It’s our pleasure! Krillbite Studio is comprised of 11 former students at Hedmark College University in Norway, where the group first formed as a creative collective. We were all studying various aspects of experience production and interactive media at the time, and eventually decided to start collaborating on a bigger project. Among the Sleep was thus started as our thesis project, and when we graduated 1 and a half year ago, we applied for funding at the Norwegian Film Institute. After getting our application approved, we could suddenly afford offices for example, and decided to establish a company. Together with funding from our part time jobs, this has also allowed for us to stay entirely indie until this day. I’m Adrian Tingstad Husby, and at the studio I’ve been working with tasks ranging from public relations and administration, to game design and sound work (among other things). Because of our rather small team size and the multidisciplinary nature of games, most of us work with quite varied tasks like this, something a lot of small start-ups can relate to I guess.
eGamer: Tell us, what is Among the Sleep about?
KB: Among The Sleep is a scary first person adventure, about a two year old child waking up in the middle of the night, alone in a dark house. You start off exploring the dark, and soon encounter strange things that draw you into a long journey. It’s a game heavily based on exploration and atmosphere, with few active mechanics. So the interaction is centered around interacting with the environment, by finding places to hide and the like.
eGamer: This has become my trademark question recently, as I like to rip the bandage off quickly. What would you say is the biggest reason to play Among the Sleep?
KB: Change of perspective, quite literally! When you see your own small body and hands crawling quickly under the sofa to hide, we hope that people will find that it is not only a first person game with the camera closer to the ground, but that this perspective really affects the experience. Also, the combination of a child’s physique and imagination / dreams provides a very interesting context.
eGamer: For a bit of background, tell us how this project came to life? What was your vision for Among the Sleep? How did you conceptualize it?
KB: The idea was born out of the dreams of our lead game designer Anders Ugland, one night when he imagined a child fleeing from a monster in his room and hiding underneath a set of stairs – all seen in first person perspective. Then, as I mentioned, we started working on it as a thesis project. I think much of our motivation to work on Among the Sleep is fueled by a desire to make something unique. We think the medium is in grave need of more diversity, something we would love to contribute towards. Also, we want to tell a compelling story both through an interesting storyline and metaphorically – related to what actually evokes this fear and confusion in the child. So we are consulting people with both practical and academic competence on the field of children’s development and psychology, which we think is pretty unique, and hopefully this will provide an interesting depth to the game as well. It’s both challenging and satisfactory to work with a 2 year old protagonist, because there really are no limitations to what we can do, but we still need to define a meaningful experience in that setting.
eGamer: Can you give us an overview of the gameplay?
KB: We’ve spent a lot of time experimenting with movement and physical interaction with the environment. So for instance, you will be able to walk and crawl around, push, pull and climb chairs to reach places, open and close doors, make staircases out of drawers, peek around corners, lift, place and throw smaller objects etcetera. You’ll have to use these kinds of physical abilities to move through the world, find places to hide from dangers, and solve a few puzzles. You will also encounter quite a number of creatures that pose real threats to you, but the game will not feature any traditional combat. It will be wiser to avoid confrontation, so to speak.
eGamer: I noticed from the gameplay teaser trailer that the character was hiding behind furniture and crawling under tables. Are these simply to immerse you into the feeling of being a child, or is there an actual need to “hide” in the game?
KB: Yes, you will have to hide. Creatures you meet pose real threats, so even though the game is quite heavily based on atmosphere, failing to hide will have consequences.
eGamer: This may be a matter of slight controversy, since you’re a child in the game, but will you be able to die? Are there ways to meet the game over screen?
KB: On a thematic level, death works very vaguely in Among the Sleep. But yes, you will be able to die. We don’t think there are any controversial aspects implicit in this though, which we’ve elaborated on in this extensive blog post.
eGamer: The cover artwork for the game shows a teddy bear standing on its own next to the main character. This teddy bear also cropped up in a few screenshots, and in the game’s logo. Can you tell us anything about this bear? Will it be a companion in the game?
KB: The bear, named Teddy, has a significant role as a story-driving companion, mostly hanging on your back and occasionally talking. At times he will also factor into the gameplay to a certain degree.
eGamer: Are you able to tell us anything about the story?
KB: We’d rather not go into detail, as exploration and wonder is quite central to the experience!
eGamer: Tell us, what were your sources of inspiration for Among the Sleep? We really like the idea of playing as a child. What inspired you to use a baby as the protagonist?
KB: I think our main source of inspiration is our own childhood and dreams, but we naturally look to other games and media for inspiration as well. For example, we very much enjoyed (i.e. “were horrified by”) Amnesia and it’s design really reinforced our feeling that Among the Sleep was going to work. The inspiration for using a baby protagonist is more diffuse, out of the dreams and imagination of our lead designer Anders Ugland as mentioned.
eGamer: You’ve managed to keep the game very much in the dark since its announcement. As a fan of horror, I was really excited when I first saw the teaser trailer, as it’s not often done in the genre that you play as a baby. Tell us, when can we expect more gameplay footage or information on the game?
KB: Thats right! We think exploration and wonder is central to the experience, so we’ve been reluctant to reveal too much. But we’ll be publishing quite a lot of new content during march though, including a new gameplay teaser!
eGamer: Recent concept art and screenshots you’ve released got me speculating quite a bit. There are some peculiar locations revealed. Most interesting is the screenshot that shows the interior of a home, but it has trees and vegetation growing inside it. This begs the question, does the whole game take place in the child’s home, and these are “dream worlds”, or do you venture outside? I’m sure you can’t give spoilers, but I’d be happy with a teaser or something cryptic.
KB: The surreal nature of dreams and childhood is a central part of the game, so players will (hopefully) never know what to expect around the next corner. The house in the gameplay teaser is only one of the earliest chapters, and you will be travelling a long way from home and visit very diverse environments before the end.
eGamer: What are you most proud of with Among the Sleep? Which aspect of the game are you most excited for gamers to experience?
KB: For me personally, I think we’ve really nailed the perspective we set out to create, with the bodily movement and head bobbing for example, combined with the atmosphere and physical environment. On it’s most intense, this has a really immersive effect.
eGamer: How long will Among the Sleep be?
KB: It’s hard to be specific, but approximately 4 hours give or take. I guess varying playstyles have a lot to say in how long horror games last.
eGamer: Will you be releasing a playable demo for the game in future?
KB: Yes, we’re planning to release a playable demo a while before release.
eGamer: Are you considering developing the game for other platforms besides PC and Mac?
KB: We’ve already confirmed Linux support, since we are using the Unity3D engine that makes it rather easy to port technically. But regarding consoles for instance, nothing is certain yet. We want to enable as many people to play Among the Sleep as possible, but considering the little resources we have, consoles might still be a bit inaccessible for us. We’ll see!
eGamer: The release date for the game is rather vaguely listed as 2013. Can you tell us what’s happening in development right now? How far along is the game?
KB: We’re now at the point where the various pieces are starting to fall in place, and we finally are starting to see a whole picture emerging. There is still a lot of polishing and testing left though, so we don’t expect to wrap things up until Q4 2013.
eGamer: How much will it cost when it’s released?
KB: We have not set a any price yet, but I guess it will end somewhere in between 9-15€ full price :)
eGamer: What are your hopes for the future of Krillbite Studio? What’s next after Among the Sleep?
KB: I guess the dream is being able to start a completely fresh and unique project once Among the Sleep is done, and we’ve got quite a few projects in our backlog! But it’s still a while until Among the Sleep is done, so at the moment we want to maintain our focus there. At the same time we’re working a bit on our small side-project “The Plan” at the moment, which is more of a short experiment to keep our heads active.
eGamer: As gamers, what would you do if a giant UFO landed on top of your studio building?
KB: Easy! 10 supply depot, 11 Barracks, 12 Barracks. Drop a bunker at the wall-in, get gas, a third Barracks, factory and a Starport. Then follow up with a Marine, Marauder, Medivac push as Stim Pack completes. Expand behind the attack, start upgrades and drop more production facilities accordingly… Or we would just invite the distant travellers for some tea.
That brings our interview to an end. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about Among the Sleep, and hopefully your interest in it was peaked. Adrian mentioned in one of the latter questions that the studio is working on a little side-project called The Plan and, if you want to know what it’s about, you can read up on our complete hands-on experience with the game. I’d like to wish Krillbite Studios the best of luck and good fortunes for the rest of development, as well as extend my gratitude once again to them for taking the time to do this interview with us. It’s been a pleasure. Personally, I’m really looking forward to playing this, so keep an eye out for any future coverage on the game, as soon as we have more.