Those Who Remain is a significant departure for developer Camel 101, with previous release Syndrome representing their first steps in exploring the horror genre. We caught up with Bruno and Ricardo Cesteiro to discuss their process.
Camel 101's partnership with Wired Productions makes a world of sense. Wired's long history of supporting unique indie experiences makes them a perfect fit, especially with Camel being a self funded indie outfit.
Those Who Remain is a clear statement of intent, to broaden their horizons and explore new narrative possibilities. It shows a developer ready to step things up a notch.
In our conversation with founders Bruno and Ricardo Cesteiro, they were very clear about what influenced the aesthetic of this new psychological horror adventure, along with potential plans for the future.
What specific horror influences did you draw upon to craft the visual aesthetic and narrative direction?
There were quite a few. While not exactly horror, one of the major influences for the creation of the setting was Twin Peaks. Just like Twin Peaks, the fictional town of Dormont - where the action takes place - also looks like a calm and peaceful place where nothing special really happens.
But in reality, it’s anything but peaceful, harbouring dark secrets just below the surface. I’m a huge fan of David Lynch, and the way that he blends everyday stuff with all that surreal craziness.We tried to catch some of that craziness in Those Who Remain.
Stranger Things – also not exactly horror – was another major influence. We were playing around with the idea of having portals and different dimensions when we were designing the game, and then Stranger Things came along.
We thought the upside down was so cool, and that was exactly what we were trying to achieve, so we created our own version of the upside down in Dormont. Of course, it’s not exactly the same, and the “rules” are different, but it has its similarities.
Then there’s a bit of John Carpenter too. The shadow figures that stand in the dark attacking whoever gets close, are heavily inspired by the ghosts from ‘The Fog’. The whole town is very classical, and sometimes the player might question in what year the action is taking place.
This is intentional, as a throwback to that 80’s feel that we love. There are other influences, some more direct than others, as we’re all horror geeks in the team.The most observant players will find a few references to different stories and sources here and there – our way of paying homage to the things we love.
Releasing a prequel comic is an intriguing way to set up the story. How did that come about? Did you produce it in house, or partner with an outside publisher?
Well, we wanted to create something cool and unique for the Deluxe Edition of the game, and after brainstorming a few ideas, our publisher Wired Productions had the idea of making a comic.
This is the kind of game where the player arrives in a place where something bad happened. There are clues, notes and even testimonials of what happened, but there’s always an open door to create something in a different media showing exactly what / how it happened. So when we started discussing the idea of a comic, everyone thought that a prequel story would be a perfect fit.
We got in touch with a friend who’s a very talented artist, and who’d already done a comic for another game of ours, and pitched him the idea. He was immediately on board. Everything was done in house.
Will the upcoming Switch version offer feature parity with the other console / PC versions?
It’s too early to say, as the Switch version is coming out a few months later, but that’s the plan. Obviously more optimised, but we want the Switch players to have the exact same experience as the other platforms.
Any plans for DLC expansions down the line? Or is Those Who Remain designed to be a standalone adventure?
Those Who Remain is focused on Edward, the main character. His adventure will end with this game. But the town where the action takes place has a lot going on, and it’s possible to tell the stories of other people who were also trapped in the darkness.
We put a lot of effort into the lore and world building – the player will learn a lot about Dormont by reading journals, newspapers and talking to survivors – that can always be used to expand the action to other stories.
And it’s always possible to move the action to a new character, other than Edward, and to a different place than Dormont. There are a few ideas on the table.
Is Those Who Remain a linear title? Or are there opportunities to diverge from the main narrative path?
There are three different endings based on the player’s choices. There’s a good ending, a bad ending and a horrible ending. The main premise of the game is choices and consequences, and so we want players to feel the weight of their choices too.
If Those Who Remain was a Holodeck program (as featured in Star Trek), who would be more likely to survive: Kirk, or Picard?
With Kirk being more rash and Picard more thoughtful, I would probably put my money on Picard. This is not a place for action, but for well thought moves and decisions.
A huge thank you to Bruce and Ricardo for answering our questions, and to Tom Sargent for helping set this up.
Those Who Remain is available now, for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
A Switch version is due out later in 2020.