All images gathered from the official Hunger press kit
Back in February we got a brief glimpse of Hunger, the newest project from Tarsier Studios. Most gamers probably know Tarsier Studios as the developer behind the PS Vita version of Little Big Planet, but that might just change once they get the opportunity to release Hunger to the masses. Hunger is described as a suspense-adventure game that chronicles the journey of a young girl known only as “Six” as she attempts to escape from the strange (and occasionally nightmarish) world of “The Maw”. The game is still in early in development so details are scarce, but we felt that it wasn’t too early to learn more about what kind of game Tarsier is trying to make with Hunger. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who thought that way.
I had the pleasure of directing my questions to David Mervik, the Lead Narrative Designer at Tarsier Studios. If anyone knows where Hunger and Tarsier Studios are going, it would be him. I began by learning more about Tarsier Studios itself. I knew that they had worked on titles like LittleBigPlanet for PS Vita, but where did they come from, and how did they get to where they are now?
Mervik summed up the studio’s growth as a journey made in pursuit of a dream.
“The dream from the start was always to make our own games. The company was formed all those years ago because we felt like we could do something different. I guess everybody feels that way don’t they? […]you always dream, but you never expect it to go the way it sometimes does. So to go from being a small group of people, to the surreal feeling of taking City of Metronome to E3, to then working on LittleBigPlanet, to arrive where we are now with Hunger …nobody could have predicted that!”
He went on to say that their journey has developed has always played a huge part in shaping their games. When asked about how this has impacted Hunger’s development so far and if they’d heard about the comparisons between Hunger and LIMBO/LittleBigPlanet that have been floating around since the game’s teaser trailer dropped back in February. Mervik reiterated that everything they’ve done up to this point has shaped their work and how they go about doing it. In regard to the comparisons we mentioned, he said they were “interesting.”
“It’s interesting. We’ve heard that reference from a lot of people, and it’s understandable given the camera perspective, but the player in Hunger actually has full 3D movement throughout. If anything it’s more Luigi’s Mansion than LittleBigPlanet…although it’s really nothing like either! Our experience on [LittleBigPlanet] has been invaluable though, and getting those same feelings of presence and tactility in our world will be essential in making the player feel connected to it, excited by it, and scared of it!”
The teaser trailer made Hunger look like it was going to be quite creepy, but the artistic style it displayed hinted at more. Tarsier Studios describes the game as a “suspense-adventure”, so it’s probably safe to assume that Hunger is meant to be more than simply scary. It turns out that that assumption isn’t too far off. Mervik said that the term is meant to better reflect the core experience of the game. He explained that the term “horror” carries certain expectations, even though it can take many different forms.
“There is horror here, but it’s coming from a very different place, so we opted to call it something else altogether. Still, by placing something in any genre you can’t help but be reductive. The Shining is referred to as a horror, but there’s so much more to it than that – what about its politics or great sense of humour? Hunger is a suspense-adventure game, but it will also be horrifying, touching, funny, grotesque, and thought-provoking. ‘Suspense-adventure’ is just easier to say!”
It certainly sounded like Tarsier Studios is striving for more with this game, and we couldn’t help but wonder where the inspiration came from. Since the horror genre is on the rise, why not make Why not make Hunger a pure horror experience? Mervik explained that it essentially sprung from the core idea that the game is based around.
“[…] When you’ve got a kid like Six stuck in a place like The Maw, it felt natural to present it in a certain way. You’ve got these two poles that somehow need to live together, and by cramming them into, say, a straight-up horror or a cute platformer, you’d lose something. Suspense-adventure is a genre that allows Six and The Maw to breathe freely.”
Having heard that, I wanted to know more about this place called “The Maw”. What sort of place is “The Maw” that it’s able to be unsettling, scary even, and yet be more at home in the suspense genre than horror? And how does Six fit into such a place? The relationship between “Six” and the world of “The Maw” seems like it’s going to be at the core of the experience and we needed to know more!
In regard to “Six”, Mervik explained that the developer is working to craft a protagonist that’s different from those most of us have seen before. “[She’s] capable but not tough, iconic but not cool, ambiguous but not mysterious.” It’s not a concrete description to be sure, but perhaps discovering more about “Six” is going to be part of the fun!
As for “The Maw” itself, Mervik explained that they’re looking forward to seeing what players make of it, so they don’t really want to give too much away about it. However, he did give us a clue about the nature of the world and the relationship it has with the characters we’ll see in it.
“The fact that all of these characters exist here though, that‘s something we find really interesting because it asks more questions than it answers.”
I couldn’t help but find myself fascinated with the idea of the Maw now, so I couldn’t help but ask for more about its nature. The teaser trailer showed a world that looked quite surreal, dreamlike even. What sort of world is this? Are we going to be able to anything we see at face-value? Mervik’s response was also cryptic in regard to “The Maw”, but he also shed some light on the kind of experience players are in for.
“You’re free to take it all at face-value if you like! Who knows, maybe that’s all there is. We’re not going to tell people what they should think about Six, The Maw, or anything that goes on within its walls; it’s much more fun to make your own mind up. People experience things differently, and one of the great things with games is that you can let them do just that. So rather than default to the cinematic model of a cutscene-heavy, highly directed experience, we want to create a world that we find interesting and let the player figure out why.”
It appears that Hunger aims to be much more than the usual horror game we’ve all seen before. It definitely has the potential to be quite scary, but from what I’ve learned I get the sense that mystery and indeed adventure are going to be just as important to the experience that Tarsier Studios is trying to craft. There’s still quite a bit of mystery surrounding Hunger, but I can’t help but feel excited about what’s been revealed so far. I don’t think I’ve been this psyched to learn more about a game’s world since I booted up BioShock for the very first time back in 2007!
We’d just like to take this opportunity to thank Dave Mervik and Tarsier Studios for giving us the chance to provide you with a closer look at Hunger. For further updates about the game, be sure to keep an eye on their official blog!