Solo Russian game creator Nuphrahtor has made a number of disturbing vignette games over the past few years. While only short, they’re horrific, and have had a lasting effect on me – they’re like nightmares you can’t forget. So when I saw that he was creating a bigger game I was intrigued to find out more.
It’s called Thank God For The Rain and, on its TIGSource devlog, is described as a mix of JRPG, dungeon crawler, and first-person roguelike-like. Nuprahtor has shared little information about the game so far but has released a number of screenshots that show TV-headed people on dark city streets, clusters of ghosts haunting night scenes, and monstrous enemies that only want to fight.
Siliconera caught up with Nuprahtor to find out more about Thank God For The Rain in an interview. He talks about how he takes inspiration from anime such as Tekkonkinkreet, games including Final Fantasy and Earthbound, and also details the strange City of Thank God For The Rain’s setting. It seems to be adding up to an indie JRPG that’ll live among the weirder ranks occupied by OFF and Space Funeral.
Could you describe and detail the world that Thank God For The Rain takes place in?
The game takes place in a certain City. No one really knows its name, everyone has their own name for it, so, to avoid mixing things up, everyone just calls it “the City”. The City is a very big place, it has its special spots and sights, as any city would. A huge skyscraper that is the commercial hub of the
entire city reaches all the way up to the Moon; the bridge that connects the two parts of the city is well known as a suicide spot. There are all kinds of bars in the City, each with its unique atmosphere and its own patrons.
All of this is just the surface of the city; here, the player, while not exactly welcome, doesn’t face the threat of being murdered on the spot. The more remote parts of the City are dangerous; little is known about them. Sewers, inhabited by the rats treating it as their own property, deserted slums, a semi-abandoned hospital for retired plague doctors, tunnels connecting the parts of the city, full of wild ghosts – these are the places the Citizens tend to avoid.
What kinds of characters can be found inside this world? How does the player interact with them? Do you have any favorites?
The citizens can be divided into several groups: ordinary citizens, the police (the City authorities) and the plague doctors (the real authorities of the City?). Player character is an ordinary citizen who has just appeared in the City and is still oblivious of its ways. When a person dies in the City, they become a ghost and lose their memory. Their only chance to become human again is to collect all the shards of their shattered memory. This is no easy task, so there are lot of ghosts in the City. Quite a few actually enjoy their new “life”, as it has many advantages, as well as disadvantages.
A ghost’s “life” is short – if one doesn’t regain their memory, they become a wild ghost, a very dangerous entity. The player character can become a ghost, too, although I’d advise against losing your memory entirely. The police keeps the crime in the City in check and welcomes new ghosts in their ghost department. Plague doctors have great power over the city, only they can purge the City from the ghost infestation. Most ordinary citizens, ghosts, and even policemen are afraid of the doctors.
A lot of lost, faceless characters inhabit the City (the player character might belong to their ranks), however, there are also some rather interesting personalities, for instance, an ancient Dragon, who turned his family treasure into a source of income by founding a casino; he donned an expensive Italian suit in favour of his scale armour. Then, there’s the ghost department inspector (one of my favourite characters), who is a ghost pretending to be a human, because he can’t get his memory back. The only thing that keeps him from going wild is hard work. Everyone knows he’s a ghost, but his colleagues pretend he’s a human, too. Some of the bar ghosts are chatterboxes, reminiscing of the good ol’ times; however, everyone has their own memories, it’s like they’re speaking about entirely different cities each.
There seems to be a lot of different influences converging here. So let’s split this question up: What outside of video games has inspired you in particular when creating the game?
My biggest inspiration is Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. The game itself is titled after a quote from the film. However, I’m not trying to follow the film’s plot; rather, I’m trying to convey the atmosphere of the film, the atmosphere of the character’s solitude in a huge megalopolis, the feeling of helplessness that turns into the desire to change oneself and the surrounding world for the better.
The main character is “God’s lonely man”. Anime and manga Tekkonkinkreet strongly influenced the game’s plot and atmosphere, as well, to the point where I strive to copy entire scenes and quote certain episodes (which I wouldn’t dare do to Taxi Driver). My inspiration list is a long one, still, these two works affected the game the most.
Secondly, you mention your love for Earthbound’s odd enemies in the devlog, but what other games do you take from?
I decided to make a black-and-white game for the first time, inspired by Goblet Grotto. Indie JRPGs, such as Space Funeral and OFF, affected me greatly. OFF enemy designs inspired a few odd and spooky monsters of mine, as well as Koudelka (a PS1 game) enemies. I had a blast playing PlayStation JRPGs, and I think that every single one affected me in a way. Dark Souls had a great impact on the game’s narrative structure. My goal was to follow in DS’s storytelling footsteps, and then the project grew into what I’m occupied with for quite a while now. Legend of Mana also had an effect on the game world structure, the way the PC discovers new locations and interacts with other characters.
Yes, my initial concept had the barebones of what is now the main task for each day spent in the City – there’s a Killer and a Victim. The Killer receives a letter that says in which slum district the weapon is stashed and in which bar the Victim will wait for the Killer. The Killer murders the Victim in the bar (The Victims offers no resistance, merely awaiting their death). So, as the Killer, the player would have to find the weapon and terminate the Victim.
As the Victim, the task would be to receive a letter. The letter would specify the slums district and the trash bin, in which to find the information about the bar to wait the Killer in. The player would have to go to the bar and die by the gunshot. For the moment, I’ve decided to concentrate on the Killer. The Killer murders the Victim, and everything in the City is kind of “reset”. Nobody remembers anything, save for the Victim. Playing as the Victim, the player finds out what happens after the Murder. The nightly bar Murder is a crucial event that progresses the game plot; the actions prior to the Murder determine the plot twists and turns.
How does Thank God For The Rain’s battle system work? And how much of a role do battles have in the game?
I aim to make battles short and tense. I’m using the late Final Fantasy approach, the Active Time Battle system, where a unit makes their move as soon as their ATB meter is full, and battles are not strictly turn-based. I also use a stamina system: the player character can spend their stamina on a series of attacks (you pull off a combo by clicking on the attack markers in time), but stay defenceless – dodging and blocking also requires stamina; if none remains, enemies do extra damage.
The player character is always alone, while enemies can be plentiful – they can even surround you (the player can turn 360 degrees to keep an eye on every enemy). Stamina management is crucial in such situations. The player character’s equipment also plays a vital role in battles. The player character has no weapon in the beginning – you have to put your dukes up, which is sufficient early-game. However, later on, should the player desire to reveal the mysteries of the City, they will have to take on opponents far scarier and stronger than bandits and dog-sized sewer rats. Only one kind of battle is necessary to beat the game – the Victim’s Murder, the battle that the player cannot lose.
Previously, you’ve worked on smaller games in a shorter time frame. Why did you decide to work on what seems to be a larger project this time around?
I’d become disappointed in videogames a long time ago (the last game that had impressed me before 2012 was Stalker: Shadow of Chernobyl, 2007), then I discovered a few interesting indie games. Terry Cavanagh and Increpare’s games inspired me to do something unusual, something atmosphere-driven (sure, I did try my hand at videogame development before, with Game Maker and Blitz3D, but back then I tried to make a large top-down action RPG and a Stalker-inspired survival shooter with a more mystical setting, yet none of these two ever saw the light of day). I was interested in making short games with certain mechanics and learning how they affect the player’s perception.
In 2012, I played Dark Souls, which brought me back into the big games world. Dark Souls was a very traditional, yet a really innovative game. I played it avidly, which planted this game in my head forever, and at one point I realized I would like to make a game with gameplay and mechanics as deep as DS’s. This would be an impossible task for an average person, of course, so I decided to make a JRPG – my favourite videogame genre. I knew I could manage it and implement every idea I wanted to.
When do you hope to finish working on Thank God For The Rain? Will this be a commercial game?
I’ve been working on this game for a rather long time, and it’s been rather slow. Most of the game is still in my head; the part I’ve already made is merely the tip of the iceberg. This is my first attempt at making a big game so I’m facing certain difficulties. Finding time for development isn’t easy, either. I plan to finish the demo by 2015 and make a public release. It’s going to be a commercial game (I’ll be selling it on itch.io, maybe Steam, should I get lucky enough).