Behind the Studio with Stormind Games
Chris Darril of Darril Arts and developer Stormind Games provide an inside look into the development of Remothered: Broken Porcelain.
The talent behind the award-winning series including Author and Game Director of Remothered and Co-Founder of Darril Arts Chris Darril joins CEO and Co-Founder Antonio Cannata and Producer Antonio Cutrona of Stormind Games to provide an inside look into the development of Broken Porcelain with some Q&A, concept art, storyboards, and other stories from the development from one of 2020’s scariest games of the year.
Tell us a little about your studios (Stormind and Darril Arts) and a little bit about Remothered: Broken Porcelain.
Antonio Cannata: Stormind Games is the video game studio specialized in the development of intense stories for PC and consoles. The company was born in 2016 as a small team of 15 people, when, after meeting Chris Darril and acknowledging his genius idea behind Remothered, my business partner Federico Laudani and I decided to found a studio to start developing Tormented Fathers, the first title of the saga. Here we are, 4 years later: a much bigger team, with more experience and technical and professional know-how, presenting Broken Porcelain to the world!
Chris Darril: I am Chris Darril, Game and Creative Director of Remothered and Darril Arts, the company I founded, which provides multimedia products in the games and animation industry.
Remothered: Broken Porcelain is the second title (after Remothered: Tormented Fathers) of the Remothered saga, and it’s a pure and realistic survival horror game. I don’t want to call it a sequel because it’s not one, nor is it a prequel – actually it’s both, but each of the titles of the trilogy have different characters and plots, so they can be enjoyed separately.
If you’re going to play Broken Porcelain, know that it’s going to be an emotional journey that will involve fear and at the same time tragedy and love. You will cry a lot, you will have fun and, with time, you will think back on the game experience itself and what it will have left you – and maybe even have changed your own perception of an entire horror genre.
What games served as the strongest inspirations for the Remothered series?
Chris Darril: Well, more than once Remothered has been labeled as the spiritual successor of the Clock Tower saga – and I’ve always admitted that it was one of my main inspirations, together with Silent Hill. I want to point out that games weren’t the only inspiration for Remothered! I’m a cinephile and many movies (not just horrors!) have influenced my work: from Jacob’s Ladder to The Ninth Gate, to Rosemary’s Baby, Hereditary, Mulholland Drive, Psycho, and The Silence of the Lambs, but also La La Land and Cinema Paradiso!
Will Broken Porcelain be longer or shorter than Tormented Fathers?
Antonio Cannata: It will definitely be longer. That’s what everyone who played Tormented Fathers asked for, so we could never disappoint them!
In Broken Porcelain, players will have the possibility to test themselves with many kinds of challenges. The core gameplay is always there, but this time they will also find many different and dynamic gameplay events. They’ll be surprised by the several different adventures our protagonists will have to deal with!
As a successor to the award-winning Remothered: Tormented Fathers, how did the team identify items needed to be improved upon?
Antonio Cutrona: With Broken Porcelain, we knew right from the start that we wanted to switch to real-time cinematics. We wanted to make the experience even more immersive, which is very important for a horror game. We spent so much time studying the techniques that would allow us to give life to the characters in a completely new way, and it was worth it! In Broken Porcelain, everything found its place in a natural way.
What are some difficulties the team faced in launching a second title in a series?
Antonio Cannata: The hardest thing has been to live up to (and exceed) the standards we set with Tormented Fathers. When your first game ever has such a big success, you need to buckle up and work like crazy to improve everything you can, especially considering that Remothered was born with the ambitious project of becoming a trilogy.
It’s quite daring for a new IP to announce itself as a trilogy when no one knows it yet, but calling it a trilogy right from the start definitely helped us to not settle for anything but the best that we could reach, and to always keep on working. What really influenced us to keep up with the good work was analyzing reviews and users’ opinions – without the love they showed to Tormented Fathers there wouldn’t be a Broken Porcelain. Their incredibly positive feedback has definitely encouraged us to make this second title even better than the first, while implementing some of their suggestions.
How long has Broken Porcelain been in development?
Antonio Cutrona: We started developing Broken Porcelain right after Tormented Fathers came out, so that makes about two and a half years. It seems like yesterday that we were beginning development!
How does the relationship between a developer and licensor work? Is there any advice you would like to give to aspiring devs?
Antonio Cannata: In the case of Remothered, Chris Darril (with his Darril Arts) is not just the licensor, but also the author and game director: this means that Stormind Games’ development team is always in contact with him to make sure that we are all aligned on the job and that the game is turning out as planned. At Stormind we also have a fundamental professional figure, which is the Brand Manager: she is the one who takes care of communication between all the teams involved, including the publisher Modus Games.
As for the advice, I think the most important thing is to consider a development studio just like any other kind of company: you can’t wake up one morning and decide to found one. Before you decide to start a development company, you need to know how to manage a business in general. Visualize your goals and work for them: don’t leave it to luck, but study and prepare to join a very competitive industry!
What are some suggestions and tips you have for developers who are getting into the horror genre?
Antonio Cannata: Focus on keeping the tension alive! Our main preoccupation, first with Tormented Fathers and now even more with Broken Porcelain, has always been to keep everything as real as possible. So, if you’re a developer who is getting into horror, focus on all the elements that can help to do this – smooth gameplay, realistic lighting, a great atmosphere – and above all find yourself a great story to start with!
In your opinion, what are some of the current difficulties and limitations facing the horror genre?
Chris Darril: I think the biggest issue right now is to get people to get over their skeptical view on horror. People are tired of movies and games where the “horror” part was based on clichés, such as gratuitous gore and jumpscares.
This is not what I think makes a piece of media “horror” – we define Remothered as “a pure and realistic survival horror game” because it makes you feel just that. On certain conditions, you could actually live the same dangers as its characters, because the enemies are not based on unlikely fantasies but on the evil nature of humanity. People who have played Tormented Fathers and Broken Porcelain have recognized our effort and confirm that this is what they want a horror game to be, and this makes me very happy and proud!
Remothered is a three-part series, how did you decide on the order of the games to illustrate the story between the games?
Chris Darril: As some of you may know, I started writing the story of Remothered many years ago, when I was still at school. According to the original version, the plot of Broken Porcelain should have actually been the first chapter of the series, but then, during the years I spent editing and improving the story, it evolved into the story it is now. Let’s just say that, just like each character of the game, the story started developing its own personality, so the final order of the titles just made more sense when I had the whole trilogy clear in my mind!
What was the most difficult part of developing Remothered: Broken Porcelain?
Antonio Cutrona: The biggest challenge was probably to make a multi-platform game, which we had decided right from the beginning of our development. A great deal of fine-tuning and specific approaches are needed when you are developing for several consoles at once, and you end up doing different things based on the specific platforms. This is a challenge, but our multi-platform approach is smooth and organized, and we’ve been learning a lot from it, so I can assert that we’ve definitely built the kind of expertise that will stay with us in all of our future projects.
What were some of the team’s challenges met during COVID and how did you overcome them?
Antonio Cannata: We were actually fortunate because even if Italy was one of the countries that suffered the most at the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, we were forward-thinking and invited everyone to work from home a few days before the mandatory lockdown: this allowed us to have everything we needed during the time we had to spend at home. Our job can easily be carried out anywhere if you have the right equipment, so the teams kept constantly in contact as if they were back in the office, and we actually ended up hiring new resources and production came along smoothly!
What impact can having the right soundtrack do for horror genre games?
Chris Darril: The right soundtrack is fundamental! You can’t create the right atmosphere with the wrong score. Remothered, for one, wouldn’t be the same without its signature whistle. I’m glad that the entire OST of Broken Porcelain was created by Luca Balboni, the great composer who also worked on Tormented Father’s soundtrack, together with Nobuko Toda. Such an honor to work with them!
I personally worked with Luca Balboni and after many attempts and a lot of research – which lasted more than the time he spent actually composing the tracks of the game’s beautiful OST – we found the right sound, style and instruments. After several months I chose to have mandolins, which were a typical ancient Italian instrument, and some typical sounds that you could hear in the fields of southern Italy at the time, sung by farmers. Of course, Porcelain’s whistle, a sound that’s loud and silent at the same time and a symbol of cruel and occult actions help set the overall tone of the series.
What are some new features introduced in Remothered: Broken Porcelain that wasn’t present in Tormented Fathers?
Antonio Cutrona: First of all real-time cinematics, which allowed Broken Porcelain to make a big leap in terms of realism and immersion.
Additionally, players can now be hunted by multiple stalkers at the same time and you can craft tools to defeat your enemies by combining different items. You’ll have the Moth Eye: a special power thanks to which Jennifer, the protagonist, can control moths to navigate environments and cause diversions to distract stalkers. Another great innovation is that, if you’re the aggressive kind of player, you can now perform stealth attacks against stalkers – they will be knocked out for some time, but you still won’t be able to kill your enemies!
Do you have a favorite character and why?
Chris Darril: Rosemary Reed: she’s a chameleon woman, an enigma. In the game, we often interrogate ourselves on the Red Nun’s identity, but it’s actually Rosemary Reed who has an aura of complete ambiguity and mystery. A “common” character, looking so generic, who likes to keep quiet on her personal stuff. Maybe that’s because she’s a private person, or maybe for other reasons, more instinctive, secret, and unusual…
Any fun stories or tidbits you want to share with the fans?
Chris Darril: There would be so many to tell!
First of all, the character of “Elisa”, the other young maid at the Inn, is actually a combination of two old characters: Elisa and Lauryn. The latter was actually eliminated from the game, but she will be present as an easter egg… but I can’t say anything else about it! Also, Andrea would have been called Madame Svenska, but in the end their names were switched. For Broken Porcelain, we created an actual 50s-like mini-musical, with real actors, which represents a key moment for Jen and Linn, the two sweet main characters of the game…
The Ashmann Inn is actually inspired by a hotel on Mount Etna, close to the famous “Rifugio Sapienza”, where I personally stayed as a kid!
Antonio Cannata: What I love about my company is that we are able to balance hard work with the right amount of fun, so it’s actually impossible to get bored at Stormind Games! The first thing that comes to mind is the fun we have in the office whenever actors come in to do motion capture… Great times!
Antonio Cutrona: I agree with Antonio – no dull moments at Stormind Games! I remember one very fun moment when a programmer voluntarily “broke” Jennifer’s face, giving her such a weird expression… It was painfully funny to watch!