Perception On Kickstarter: An Interview With Bill Gardner

Perception: a game where the blind see, present becomes past, and "The Presence" follows you as you traverse a haunted house. Immediately after hearing about it I had to find out more. Bill Gardner, former level-designer on the BioShock games, and now Creative Director and Founder of "The Deep End Games" who are making Perception, kindly agreed to answer my questions. 

How would you describe Perception in one Tweet (140 characters)? 

A first person narrative horror game where a blind girl must investigate a haunted house and solve its mysteries or become its next victim.
It’s really painful to not write more here. ;)

Has the concept for Perception always been something you've been keen to make into a game?

As soon as the concept hit me late last year, I made it my mission to fully realize it. It was one of those rare occasions in my career where the process was pulled along by the momentum. Ideas really fit nicely into the bigger picture because the core of the game was so clear.

Prior to that point though, the thought of creating a game where you play as a blind character had never occurred to me. It all happened quite fast. However, a lot of the principles behind the game – trying to show different perspective, carefully doling out the information to the player, along with a number of other design mantras – those have always been there. There’s a lot in Perception that represent my philosophies as a designer. The many lessons I’ve learned over my career and have become part of my DNA. In a sense, it’s definitely something I’ve always wanted to make. The setting, the atmosphere, the emotional underpinnings, they’ve been with me for years. I just didn’t imagine they’d take this exact form until recently. And I couldn’t be more excited to bring this bold take on the genre and in games in general.

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Recently it's been reported that a Perception-like game (called Blind) has been in development, yet there is no connection between the two. Are you surprised that this doesn't happen more often?

This sort of thing does happen all the time. I’ve personally experienced this type of synchronicity many times over the years. For example, did you ever hear of Irrational’s Division 9 pitch? It was a zombie game just shortly before the genre exploded. We secretly developed prototypes and eventually abandoned them and went on to create BioShock. Coincidentally, many other zombie games started to release shortly thereafter with a fair amount of overlap. You know what they say about great minds…

I think you’ll start to see more and more stories like this. The barriers to entry for game creation are crumbling. The tools that are available with engines like Unreal, along with platforms such as Kickstarter, any small team can bring their ideas to life. To me, it’s hugely exciting. I think it means we’ll see more games that take chances the same way we are with Perception. From the sound of it, Blind seems to be taking a different approach despite our overlap. I’m definitely curious to see what Tiny Bull has up their sleeves and wish them all the success in the world.

The game has some really exciting components and mechanics - which is your favourite, and why?

For me, it’s most exciting the way all the systems come together. The way that you are so hungry for information but have to take on the risk of being discovered in order to earn that information. Your only way of “seeing” is through sound, but The Presence is out there – roaming Echo Bluff, looking and listening for you. So you have to weigh how much sound you’re willing to create and how much of the estate you need to absorb visually at that moment. It creates tremendous tension and paranoia. Add to that, the elements of the environment making its own noises and the world becomes enriched by opportunities, mis-directions, and ambiance.

The thing we say when we’re working on the game is “information is the enemy of horror.” Well, with echolocation and the core mechanics of the game, we let the player weigh how much of that information they are willing to risk.

Assuming Perception is funded (which I'm sure it will be) when are you hoping to release it, and to what platforms?

Thank you! We’re happy with how the campaign has progressed but are confident we’ll hit our goal. When we release partly depends on how the campaign goes. If we greatly exceed our goals, that would take some stress off the team and allow us to potentially bring on extra help and release a bit earlier than planned. Right now, all I can comfortably say is 2016. With Kickstarter, we’re building a great relationship with our backers and have vowed to keep folks in the loop though. Lots more information to come.

For now, we just want to hit our goal and start smashing some stretch goals. VR, console versions, and GTFO mode just to name a few are going to be phenomenal.


A huge thank you to Bill for answering these questions! 


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