Hollow Halls puts the player in a dark place, tasking them with fleeing something that lurks in the shadows. It’s a common story for a horror game, but Hollow Halls puts the player in a wheelchair, creating a whole new set of challenges for players to deal with while running from unseen horrors.
Siliconera reached out to Broken Code Games, speaking with them about how being wheelchair-bound added to the experience of this horror game.
Fleeing from monsters in a horror game is a harrowing experience, but you’ve made it that much more challenging by putting the player in a wheelchair. Why add that to the experience?
It ties to both the story and the gameplay. You’ll learn over time why you are in such a sorry condition. It also makes the biggest part of the game’s challenge, trying to get around that limitation.
How does being in a wheelchair affect the player? How does it change how they would normally interact with the game’s world?
It mostly affects your mobility. Certainly you can move about, but not as well as you could with functional legs. But, the biggest issue is that, in order to escape the complex you are trapped in, you have to climb upwards. Using the stairs is naturally out of the question. Your next attempt would be trying to use an elevator, but power tends to be cut in facilities that are closed for business…
What prompted the idea of having the player be wheelchair-bound in the game? Why add that to a horror experience?
I’m afraid my memory is hazy when it comes to this. I decided to make the protagonist wheelchair-bound some five years ago when I first started seriously thinking about making this game. I can’t really say how or why I made that decision, but I bet I was thinking something along the lines "What could be the weakest possible protagonist to still have a chance against unlikely odds?".
What thoughts go into creating a game that builds an atmosphere of fear over using jump scares? What tools did you use to make the player uncomfortable?
Isolation, claustrophobia, fear of unknown, disempowerment, caging and binding, spiced with a faintest glimpse of surviving, to say a few.
The player will encounter something in the dark halls. Why choose not to let the player fight it? What does this helplessness add to the fear you’re trying to create?
Heh, there are multiple answers to this. But the most obvious answer is that what you encounter is something that cannot be harmed by physical means.
You mention being inspired by the horror games of the 90’s. Which ones affected you? What do you like about them that you incorporated into Hollow Halls?
Mostly the first two Silent Hill games and Alone in the Dark. I liked how the perspective worked and how the games combined both 2D and 3D environments, and how the story gradually unfolded. But more than anything, it was the subtle eerie atmosphere and good pacing that I, at least, have failed to find in more modern horror games. Those are the features that I tried to incorporate into Hollow Halls. I’ll let the players be the judges on whether it worked.
You opt to not allow saving. Why did you make this decision?
Official reason: Saving is a modern comfort feature that we didn’t need in the good ol’ days, we beated games in one sitting!
Actual reason: I had problems programming the feature… But don’t worry, I believe you’ll find the game manageable without it.
Do you feel shorter horror experiences can offer something unique that longer ones have difficulty with? Why or why not?
Oh, not at all. There are many great ones that take days to beat and they keep you at the edge of your seat the whole time. I was just afraid that I’d ran into repeating myself at some point, and more than that, there is a limit of how big of a game you can make when you are a one-man company with no budget at all. =)