Critical Rabbit's Writer and Game Designer Sebastian Heße told us about the goals and challenges of creating Fall of Porcupine, a unique story adventure, and shared some tips for game developers.
Fall of Porcupine
A lot of us have their origin in filmmaking. We were and we are storytellers, and we want to focus on narrative games. With Fall of Porcupine, we realized that we can even go one step further and tell stories with more value, and bring purpose, no matter if we want to talk about social, political, ethical, or emotional topics.
The inspiration came from reality. I had a lot of talks with relatives and friends who work in the healthcare system. We realized that there is a lot of potential in their personal stories. We wanted to show that you can enjoy immersive adventures in a real-life setting without the need for an epic hero journey to save the universe. And of course, we wanted players to pay attention to the real people, who do their best in healthcare day by day. For the game itself, we had several sources of inspiration, especially in narrative games like Night In The Woods, Life Is Strange, or Oxenfree.
We met a lot of people who work in the healthcare system and realized that their personal stories are exciting and worth telling. The core team of Critical Rabbit, including me, have their origin in filmmaking. Inspired by series like Scrubs or Grey's Anatomy, we knew that the hospital setting gives you a lot of opportunities to tell stories in an ensemble structure. Fall of Porcupine was our first release, and we didn't really think about why we should not tell a story like this.
I think video games are great to learn and get confronted with new perspectives and thoughts. You do not always need the epic story of a hero who saves the universe. You can find stories everywhere.
By choosing the healthcare system as the base for our story, I hoped to shift the players' focus to all the problems and especially on the people who work in healthcare and need to handle these issues day by day. I think many players, including me, play video games to relax and enjoy escapism and not get confronted with a realistic problem we actually have. But I think we have found a good way to talk about this without losing the coziness and fun.
Apart from the serious topic and core story, we wanted to make the game fun and appealing. Some people are not comfortable with being in a hospital or talking about medical issues. The art style and the quirky characters help to get a connection to the world of a porcupine and to identify with it. The contrast between content and art creates more impact on the serious, sad, and emotional moments of the story.
You can play with the anthropomorphic characters, which is a lot of fun and you do not have to visualize explicit medical situations.
The Biggest Challenge
We wanted the game to run on low-performance hardware, without looking too cheap or old. All sprites and textures were created in 4K. To handle the large file sizes and many assets, we had to find a solution. And, of course, the coding side was a lot of work at all. Next to the core gameplay, we created a lot of mini-games, all with their own mechanics and game design.
Tips for Developers
- Keep the vision. Every story has a first page. A first sentence. A first word. During the writing process, the story will change. It will not be the same in the end, as you expect in the beginning. It's important not to lose focus on what you want to tell, but also to be open and flexible to new conditions and ideas during development. Otherwise, you can end up at a dead end.
- Keep it simple. You'll have a much better time when you start with small ideas and let the project grow.
- Don't forget that life does not pause. Don't try to push yourself to work hard and overwork. Life goes on and sometimes it does not match with your ideas or productivity. Accept that and react.