Whispering Willows was launched on Kickstarter back in 2013 by Night Light Interactive, exceeding its funding goal by about $5K. Since then, it has been Greenlit on Steam and has been released on the OUYA. We can look forward to the Steam release on July 9th and the release of the 4th chapter for the OUYA on June 17th.
I contacted Night Light Interactive and had the honor to ask them a couple of questions. David Logan, creator of Night Light Interactive, gave some very insightful and awesome answers about the origin of Whispering Willows and what to expect from its final release.
Cliqist : Firstly, for our readers who aren’t familiar with Whispering Willows, could you explain a little bit about it?
David Logan : Whispering Willows is an emotional horror/puzzle game for the OUYA console (though we’ll be releasing on Steam at a later date). Players take on the role of young Elena Elkhorn as she embarks on a journey of personal growth and harrowing discovery. Elena must traverse the mysterious depths of the Willows Estate as searches for her missing father. She is aided in her quest by unique amulet which grants her the ability astral project. In her ghost form, Elenda can communicate with the restless dead, posses selective objects to help solve puzzle and her ghost form can reach otherwise unreachable locations.
Cliqist : How did Elena’s story in Whispering Willows come to be? Were there other routes the story could have taken (i.e. a different main character, different setting, etc.)?
David Logan : Like so many other games, Whispering Willows started out as a game mechanic – the ability to be a ghost! Things somewhat just took off from there. We naturally veered into a slightly dark story design and game mechanics needed to reflect the theme of the game.
Inspiration for the game came in the form of other indie titles, including both Lone Survivor and Don’t Starve, as well as a real-life location. As the core team went to California State University – Chico together, we made the Willows Estate a reflective mirror of Bidwell Mansion that sits just off the college campus. The mansion helped provide an underlying atmospheric theme as well as helped develop the backstory for the story’s antagonist. Our lead narrative writer, Kyle Holmquist worked tireless to create an extensive story and worked on fleshing out the story and creating interesting and engaging characters.
The game could have easily gone in a different direction. But the game concept and story was well liked in and the many Supernatural-lore fans on the team, easily encouraged us to pursue the current path of the game.
Cliqist : Were there any influences from literature, film, or even music that inspired the story or design of Whispering Willows?
David Logan : Definitely – when the original core team started bouncing ideas, we researched a variety of media titles to help inspire us. While other indie titles helped inspire the titles there wasn’t one specific source that helped drive the development of the game.
That being said, American history played a huge role in developing the backstory and influenced character design for the game. We also researched and discussed various theories on ghosts, spirits and the supernatural to help develop the game mechanics for Elena’s ghost form.
Cliqist : The art style is beautiful. Ayla Richards and the other artists did a wonderful job putting together the appearance of Whispering Willows! From what I understand, the art style was intended to stay away from hyper-realism and go along with cell shading.
Are there any particular reasons for this style of choice? How does it compliment the story and gameplay style of Whispering Willows in contrast to other styles (i.e. lowbit/pixel art, hyper-realism)?
David Logan : We’re incredibly fortunate to have such amazing artists working with us. Our Art Director Mike Shanks actually put together arrays of reference images he either found or drew himself for us to choose from. They helped us to collaboratively vote on the kinds of spirits we’d have in the game and what they’d look like, as well as the painterly style of the backgrounds. We decided against hyper-realism because our game isn’t hyper-realistic – after all, how does one realistically portray a ghost? We wanted something that mirrored our emotional story and helped to round out the feeling that we wanted to give players.
Cliqist : Why was the OUYA a console Night Light Interactive wanted to release Whispering Willows on?
David Logan : We wanted to release Whispering Willows on the OUYA because of how well they treated indies like ourselves. The culture and philosophy of their company aligned perfectly with our own. Also, we loved their hardware, and barriers for entry onto their platform are low, which allow companies like us to provide a cool, couch-playing experience. On top of that, they’ve helped us out so much along the way that it’s truly shown us what great people they are. They just want people to make great games so other people can play them! That really jives with us, so we love OUYA for that as well.
Cliqist : Whispering Willows was released on the 29th for the OUYA, how’s the reception thus far?
David Logan : The reception has been really great. Reviews online have been good, and the people that play it really seem to enjoy it. When we release the full game, though, we’ll actually be able to see how it’s received. People like it thus far, but how they feel after they’ve played the entire game will be the deciding factor in its reception.
David Logan : We would love to see Whispering Willows on as many consoles as possible. We want to bring our game to the world! The game will be localized in many languages, which will help expand the audience. Luckily, we’ve been developing in Unity, which is great for porting to multiple systems. If it does well enough, you can probably expect to see Whispering Willows on some other consoles.
Cliqist : For Night Light Interactive’s future games, will you pursue the crowdfunding route again after your experience with Whispering Willows?
David Logan : It’s a possibility. We had a really good experience with Kickstarter the first time around, and it would probably be worth it to do it again. We’ve found that it takes a lot more money than we thought to develop a game, though – and that’s even with most everyone working for free. It’s really necessary to pursue as many areas of funding as possible. Hopefully if we do Kickstarter again, we’ll have a much larger fan-base that can expect quality titles from us in the future.
Cliqist : Can we expect any additional content to be released down the road for Whispering Willows, such as an extra playable chapter or even a miniature sequel?
David Logan : Anything is possible! We do have quite a bit of extra content that was dreamed up over the course of the game’s development. Very little of our efforts were wasted, though, so we don’t have unused levels lying around waiting to be recycled. If we were to do an extra playable chapter or miniature sequel, it would likely focus on some of the characters you don’t find so much about, who may go on to do some pretty horrible things. It would include some more interesting aspects of the story that we just couldn’t fit in due to budget constraints.
Cliqist : If you could sum up Whispering Willows in five words, what would they be?
David Logan :
A stirring, spooky, adventurous journey
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