Bokeh Game Studio has released the second part of a question-and-answers session with the founders, featuring CEO and creator Keiichiro Toyama, CTO and game director Junya Okura, and COO and producer Kazunobu Sato.
In part two, the creators discuss how Slitterhead compares to previous creations such as Silent Hill and SIREN, creature design, the game engine, music, collectibles, difficulty, story structure, and more.
Get the full interview video and transcript below.
You’ve made Silent Hill. Now how does your next game differ in terms of story, gameplay and art style? What type of gameplay are you going for?
Keiichiro Toyama, Creative Director: “For me, it doesn’t differ that much. When I made Silent Hill, I had this idea that it would be fun to make something that had never been made before. I believed I had found that in the modern horror genre. A couple of decades later, there are now plenty of good games within that genre. This is why I won’t go in that direction again. Instead, I will make something I currently find fun and that is new. This is type of challenge that I want to take on for Slitterhead. It’s aimed at players who are not necessarily core fans of the horror genre, I want young players to be able to experience that as well. I keep in mind to make a game that is accessible.”
Will the players be able to fight back or is the gameplay going to encourage us to escape from confrontation?
Junya Okura, Game Director: “I believe the question is whether you can fight back. We want to include both approaches. We’re thinking of allowing the player to initiate the attacks as well.”
Are there also scenes where you’re pushed to run away?
Okura: “Yes, that’s right.”
Is there a plan for multiple languages support for Slitterhead?
Kazunobu Sato, Producer: “Of course. We’re currently pursuing development in both Japanese and English. We already have English, however I can’t say for now the extent of languages that we’re going to add. But I want to include as many languages as possible.”
It’s fair to say that you all have made some of the most iconic horror games of all time. How would you rate Slitterhead matching up to your previous creations? Would you say this is your most terrifying game to date?
Toyama: “First, I believe everyone in this room knows it. I always ended up thinking that I made yet another game that isn’t scary. That’s always the case. Aren’t you conscious of it? Rather than thinking of how to scare the players, I have a fascination for scenes that generate fear. I then wonder of how to immerse the player. Sometimes there’s emotion but it’s not scary.”
Sato: “I feel you don’t intentionally try to surprise the player. We’re in a similar style now. This will result in having elements that surprise the player.”
Do you feel it’s just how players perceived your games in the end?
Toyama: “No, we first focus on world-building and matching the feelings of the player with the characters. In that sense, you enter a world that is unknown to you, which naturally scares you. I put attention to that rather than having jump-scares.”
The Shibito nest in SIREN: Blood Curse was already reminiscent of the city of Kowloon in Hong Kong. Is the concept of the hive mind (which we also had with the Shibito) important to you?
Toyama: “This probably won’t be changing. Rather than focusing on that aspect, I try to avoid making enemies that are simple pawns. They are different from humans, but they have their own mind and hierarchy. Their existence leads to fighting with humans. I believe it’s fun to have something like that, which makes that theme important to me.”
What are your mains inspirations in creature design?
Toyama: “Right. This is a part where I’m still deeply involved. I don’t want to make simple enemies, who are here just for the sake of it. Instead, while being different from humans, they have their values, their culture and intellect. It’s important to have that kind of opposition. One inspiration was to have creatures that are close to humans, but that we’re not able to understand. Things like insects or aquatic creatures. They have this strong collective aspect that I’m interested in.”
Can we expect the game to have any social content? Does it have any connections to modern day life?
Toyama: “My base approach is not to include visible themes. However, you naturally end up feeling some of the pressure the creator was under. These events will affect the direction the creator takes into his game in the end. It’s something about balance in the end.”
Can we expect borderline TV or web commercials that will scare us?
Sato: “TV is hard to consider in our age and time. Our game is also a bit more explicit that what we’ve done before. However, we will be promoting the game in a way that is proper to us.”
I have played over Silent Hill and SIREN many times. Thank you. While they were all full with horror, I enjoyed how we’d sometimes see hidden “joke endings” made with actual scenes. Do you plan on implementing that type of bonus content in your next game? I’m really looking forward to it.
Toyama: “Right, we have made plenty of these. In Silent Hill, there was the UFO ending for example. We would have some staff with time on their hands, to whom we’d ask to make these if they were free.”
Sato: “What that’s how you added those?”
Toyama: “Right. Still, for SIREN and beyond we didn’t intend to make jokes from the beginning. It’s instead the fact that we were very serious in what we made that ended up creating funny moments. I believe it’s something that’s in our personalities. We enjoy that, so if we get the chance we’ll definitely be adding moments like that.”
So it’s possible?
Okura: “I want to do something.”
Toyama: “We always want to take that extra step.”
Do you see Slitterhead as a standalone game or a piece of a bigger story?
Toyama: “This is something that is common to all my games. I never start by thinking: ‘Let’s make this huge world.’ I think of the main character, who becomes the player’s alter ego. I then think of the situations that he is facing. However, upon doing that I end up thinking about his backbone and main setting. Why does the character end up doing that? As I think of that, the back stories that come supplement the base game end up taking a lot of room. It always ends up like this. It’s the same with our current game. I believe the world keeps broadening as we are making it.”
What are the chances of me getting a job to work with Bokeh Game Studio?
Sato: “That’s great, please go ahead. Still, we haven’t put out any job offers yet.”
Toyama: “It’s about the timing. You want a talented person to join at any time. However, we’re a small studio that doesn’t have multiple development lines so it’s not always the right timing.”
Sato: Still, there are some staff who ended up joining nonetheless. It may be worth a shot contacting us.”
We’ll then see with our timing.
Toyama: “I don’t think
people should apply to us if their priority is a stable and high-paying job.”
Sato: “Are you already mentioning perks?”
Toyama: “I think it should start if people are interested in building together games that are proper to us.”
What game engine are you using?
Okura: “We’re using Unreal Engine. We used to work on an in-house engine in our previous company. However, although it allows us to build the things we want, it takes some time to set up that environment. Unreal Engine has almost all the features we need from the get-go. If something comes to mind, we can just go ahead and build up a prototype. Still, when there are specific things that we want or wish we could make, we have to build these by ourselves. In the end, Unreal Engine works great for us if we use it the right way.”
The SIREN series is loved for its minutious storytelling, whose level of completion affected many players. Your current game shows strong elements, but are there any special aspects of the story that you are insisting on?
Toyama: “There are things that I’m insisting on, this hasn’t changed in a way. For this game, we’re updating the world, its characters and their motivations every day. The process doesn’t change much from Silent Hill or SIREN, I believe it is naturally heading towards becoming a dense world.”
The music seemed very action-oriented. WIll there also be more atmospheric pieces?
Toyama: “I have an anecdote for the teaser’s music. We initially received six versions from Akira Yamaoka. One of them was something you would expect to see in a horror game. We were agreeing that it felt like it. Still, Yamaoka suggested that he wanted to provoke other emotions, this is something that we found fun to do as well. I believe that it went well in the end. It’s surprising, in the sense that you don’t know what to expect from the game. It goes out of the expected, this is something I’m aiming for. I aim for an unexpected game, so I adopted an unexpected music. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the final game will follow this rhythm. We can’t simply take the unexpected route all the time. I believe that there are moments where we tone down compared to moments where we create surprises. Music directly follows that as well. So please don’t worry.”
Will there be any collectibles in your next game that allow the player to learn more about the universe’s depth, in a similar way to the archives in SIREN?
Toyama: “Right, I personally enjoy it as well and like digging in the world that way. However, I would like to focus on the main game first, but I’m also putting my efforts into thinking on how to introduce that type of elements.”
The game industry looks doomed to release endless franchises or multiplayer games. Do you believe there’s still room for originality?
Sato: “I believe that both are needed. One one hand, I believe you have large-scale titles, with series that span over the years, these are fun and many players are looking forward to them. On the other hand, there are studios such as ours. I believe these are needed as well. I don’t believe the industry is doomed to go one way or the other.”
Okura: “There’s still room I believe. Games used to be something that could only be made by large-scale studios. Tools have evolved, there’s a lot of attention on indie games as well, where one base idea that can lead a game. I believe that was a trigger. As times change, there is always something new, so I believe there’s still room to originality.”
Toyama: “That’s right. The paradigm where there’s only one way to make a game perform well is a bit behind us. When we were young, we used to be told that consoles were everything. Now, you can have games on PC made by a single developer that end up being a hit. Diversity is at a level we couldn’t have imagined a few years ago. I believe that a doom of the industry is a non-issue. We have a special positioning in that spectrum. We aren’t a proper indie studio per se. Yet we’re not a large-scale, console focused studio either. I believe that we stand in a unique position where nobody was before, which I find thrilling. Every time we talk about it is an eye-opener on this. We discover more about the potential of what we’re able to do each day. It’s really fun and I hope we’ll convey that to players.”
What level of difficulty do you have in mind for Slitterhead? Is it aimed towards horror game players? Or is it aimed towards players who are not familiar with the genre?
Toyama: “How to put it… It may sound like a nuanced answer, but we’re aiming at the right balance between the two. We want to make a game that players who don’t know our past games can enjoy, while we maintain a tension and conflict the mind at the same time. I believe this is the sweet spot that we have to aim for.”
Okura: “Right, creating that contrast is a challenge in itself. While it’s difficult, we’re confident that the players will be able to have fun while taking on these challenges. It will ideally by accessible to any player. We’ll work on that.”
Toyama: “It’s a weird game but it’s easy to get into. It’s scary but you want to know what’s next. We want to merge elements that usually wouldn’t go together. It’s a strange game…”
Okura: “It’s a strange game…”
Sato: “Still, it won’t be as difficult as SIREN where you can’t finish the game.”
Okura: “No it won’t.”
Toyama: “Right, at the time, we were targeting that type of reactions on the web, getting people to talk together about the game’s difficulty. I believe we’re past that now, there’s no intent to add an unreasonable amount of difficulty. I want people to simply enjoy the game.”
One thing I love about your games is the small details that you can find in the world building. Will you be implementing urban legends or local cultural myths in your next game as well?
Toyama: “Right, how to put it… Rather than depicting that directly, there’s some actual elements I take inspiration from. There are the comics from Daijiro Moroboshi for example. In that sense, I have external inspirations for this game as well. Still, as opposed to SIREN with Japanese folklore, there are plenty of things that we don’t know about. We learn each day to find new interesting elements.”
Will this game be linear, or will it allow the player to have as much freedom exploring the world as possible? Does the main character have a name? What are the name of the locations the game will be based in?
Toyama: The game will not be open world. However, it won’t be following one straight path either. We want to add a complex approach to discover the story under multiple angles. This is the type of game structure that we want to achieve.
“As for the character’s name… The character with the black outfit who wears the helmet in the teaser is named Alex. There are plenty of other characters as well.
“Regarding the situations, we aim at recreating the atmosphere of 1990s Hong Kong. This is our starting point, however we won’t be taking real location names, instead we will capture the essence from each location to build it in a fictional world.”