Before the Night Interview – Surviving in a cute but horrific animal village
04 Jul, 2022
Before the Night is a cute horror game where animals keep human pets. We talked to developer Seongjin An about the game’s development.
Before the Night, developed by Korea-based Uneducated Game Studio, balances a cute aesthetic with a horrific premise – what if animals kept humans as pets?
Playing as one such human pet, Lisa, you must survive in a macabre animal village where animals turn rabid at night and nightmarish monsters give chase.
We talked to Uneducated Game Studio’s founder and solo developer Seongjin An about how the studio came to be, how Before the Night was designed and developed, and when it’s going to release. You’ll find the developer’s official Twitter here, as well as the game’s Steam page here and itch.io page here.
Tell us a little about yourself and Uneducated Game Studio. How did the studio originate, and why is it named that?
Uneducated Game Studio is an indie game studio that I made after graduating from university this year. I am the only employee. Sometimes, the game I want to play is not in Steam, so I decided to make a game myself.
The name Uneducated Game Studio has two meanings. The first meaning is my willingness not to mock customers. As a gamer, I just buy fun games, I don’t care what ideas the developer has in the game or what thoughts he has in the game. A game is just a game. Developers should not mock the entire innocent customer because some customers make them angry.
The second meaning is that learning is infinite. People can never be fully educated. I will continue to develop the game based on feedback from customers.
What was your inspiration behind this cute horror concept?
I came up with this idea by chance when I saw my pet turtle. Anyone who has a pet would have thought about this at least once: “What would happen if my cute but stupid pet suddenly became as smart as a human being? Will my pet demand freedom to leave for the wild? Or choose to continue living with humans? Does my intelligent pet still like humans?” Imagine a highly intelligent pet cat trying to cut its owner’s balls in revenge for neutering.
I decided to make a game with this idea. I also changed the appearance of humans and animals so that players could be more immersed in the situation of pets. As a result, the world of Before The Night has a very cute and bizarre atmosphere at the same time.
Does the game have a day/night cycle? How does the gameplay differ based on time of day?
There is no day/night cycle and nights don’t come over time in the game. Instead, night comes gradually if you kill animals or pick flowers of life.
Players can explore animal villages freely during the day, which is when the animal village is generally peaceful. During this time, players can talk to the residents of the animal village or observe what they are doing. They will feel the contradictory atmosphere of watching cute animal village residents along with pet humans walking on all fours.
Invincible monsters only appear at night, so players can easily get the items they need ‘Before The Night’ comes. The night is a time of madness. At night, the inhabitants of the animal village lose their reason and turn into monsters, leading to life-threatening chases. Players must run away from the monsters or fight to survive.
I tried to create a sense of fear through extreme contrast in this game. Through the contrast between animals and humans, the contrast between day and night. The contradictory and disturbing atmosphere accumulated during the day finally explodes with the appearance of a real monster at night.
How many hours does the game take to play through once?
It takes about 5-6 hours to clear the game. The demo version can be cleared in 30 to 40 minutes.
I wanted to make a short but memorable experience.
What has been the trickiest or most difficult part of developing this game?
The hardest part was controlling the difficulty level. I ran so many tests that it was hard to understand the perspective of the player who would play the game for the first time.
To solve this problem, you need to receive feedback and monitor the playtest. The testers for Before the Night were mainly my friends. This was fine at first, but as my friends got used to the game, the tests became meaningless. Launching a demo has helped me a lot in gathering feedback, and that helps us control the difficulty.
The other difficult part was to distinguish between difficult and unreasonable elements in the game.
Appropriate difficulties make the player continue with the challenge of the game, but unreasonable elements causes the player to leave the game. Unreasonable elements usually occur at the moment of sudden death, when the player does not understand the rules of the game or does not expect the death.
The game should give the player a hint before a crisis occurs. That said, one or two hints are not enough. The game should continue to give hints to the player using animation, UI, sound, and context. Context is especially important, because each hint needs to have something in common, so that the player comes to constantly notice those hints about the upcoming crisis. Furthermore, the player feels smart when they notice the commonalities of the hints, which makes it feel good to play.
That’s all I know. I still can’t tell the difference between difficulty and irrationality perfectly, so I just keep figuring out the best solution when I getting feedback from players.
There were no other technical difficulties.
Before I developed Before The Night, I had four years of experience in developing a game called Dark Sea. Dark Sea was my first commercial project and it was a sailing game that combined FTL and Darkest Dungeon’s systems with Sunless Sea’s darkness. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to create a coherent, systematic, complex game system like FTL or Darkest Dungeons.
When adding one feature to the system, countless bugs occurred and the game became increasingly broken. After four painful years, the game has eventually abandoned and not completed.
To make sure not to repeat the same mistake, the Before The Night project only adopted design elements that I could implement quickly.
As a result, Before The Night has completed in only 15 months.
When can we play Before the Night, and on what platforms?
Before The Night will be released on July 14 this year via Steam and itch.io. In addition, I plan to port the game to Switch if more than 10,000 copies are sold.
In Korea, the game was released on May 4th through a platform called Stove Indie. Stove Indie is an indie game platform owned by Smilegate, which produced Lost Ark. Stove Indie is small in size, but it has support programs for indie games.
The biggest help given by Stove Indie is that it helped handle the deliberation process of GRAC Korea in my stead. In order to release a game in Korea, the game must be reviewed by GRAC Korea, and the deliberation process requires a lot of annoying documents. I was able to skip a lot of cumbersome procedures through Stove Indie.
Thank you for your time!
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