I’m psyched for PERCEPTION. The upcoming first-person horror game from The Deep End Games features a remarkable gameplay twist: the main character is blind.
You play as Cassie, a sightless woman who navigates through the haunted estate on Echo Bluff using echolocation — the sonar-like ability to “see” objects through reflected sound.
That would be scary enough on its own… but to echolocate, Cassie has to make noise, and too much sound draws the attention of “The Presence” — a supernatural menace bent on destroying you. PERCEPTION forces gamers to play hide-and-seek in the narrow space between darkness and Death. Check it out in the gameplay video below:
“Fear of the unknown is the greatest fear,” Bill Gardner, head of The Deep End Games and creator of PERCEPTION explained. “In horror you’re always trying to veil information. Information is the enemy of horror.”
Gardner, whose resume includes 12 years at Irrational Games, worked most recently as a designer on the legendary BIOSHOCK franchise, but PERCEPTION allowed him to explore a very different kind of game-making.
“I’m hugely proud of the BIOSHOCK series, but when I was working on it, there was always some small regret… you were hugely powered in that game. You had all these plasmids and weapons, rocket launchers and that sort of thing, and that’s always going to take away from the fear and the tension. Even if it’s a Big Daddy, you’re like, ‘I have an arsenal. I’m a tank, so whatever.’”
You are not a tank in PERCEPTION. It’s a gaming experience which won’t appeal to those looking for a “blast everything” power fantasy. You are, in fact, as powerless as possible. According to Gardner, there are no guns, no bombs, no way of attacking anything at all. You can’t even see. You’re just a blind girl in a haunted house, pursued by some terrible Other.
It’s the kind of quirky, narrow-focused game that might not be able to exist if the crowd-funding revolution hadn’t happened.
PERCEPTION’s budget came from Kickstarter, allowing Gardner and his team the freedom to focus on pleasing horror fans as opposed to the “suits” at a larger publisher or developer.
“Nothing against business folk or publishers, but they’re not going to be the ones that drive the innovation; that’s not their job. Their job is to remain profitable,” says Gardner. “We can take risks. Everyone doesn’t have to be making these huge games. Everything doesn’t have to be GRAND THEFT AUTO.”
Even though PERCEPTION was created outside the “traditional” game-publishing world, Gardner and his team are striving for an AAA level of detail and sense of place.
“That’s what makes a video game great,” Gardner explained. “When you pop your head into a corner, and say ‘what happened here?’ and you get that answer, or at least you’re rewarded in some way with some additional information. That’s what I want to do: create rich, believable, lived-in worlds.”
PERCEPTION’s “lived-in” world includes not just a relentless, clever enemy; there’s also a carefully constructed plot and structure.
“Every chapter in PERCEPTION has a meaningful story to tell,” Gardner said.
This story is told partly through time-travel: Cassie’s adventures in Echo Bluff take her to the past to discover ancient secrets and powerful curses from Echo Bluff’s rich and terrifying history.
But no matter when (or where) you go, The Presence follows. The ruthless pursuer is always listening for the telltale tap of Cassie’s white cane.
“The Presence is a cowled figure that is roaming around the house, hunting you down,” Gardner said. “It’s swarmed in moths, so you’ll be able to hear them flapping around as you’re walking down the halls, and you’ll hear its very raspy, nasty breathing.”
Gardner isn’t sure when PERCEPTION will be released, but it will most likely come out next year: “I don’t want to rush anything. I want to make sure it’s the best game possible when it comes out,” he said.
PERCEPTION is slated for a PC release, although PS 4 and Xbox One versions are a possibility. If you’d like to pre-order your copy, check out PERCEPTION’s Kickstarter page.