Driving in the dark of night, rain pouring down, a figure appears in the faint glow of your headlights. There’s a sudden cut to black, the blare of a horn and the sound of glass and metal as your car swerves out of control.
Jean awakes sometime later but isn’t sure how much time has passed since the crash. Immediately, as you gain control, there’s that feeling of helplessness. She knows that
something is amiss. The room you are in is pitch black and it’s only when you accidentally bump into something that you catch a brief glimpse of your surroundings: minimalist outlines of a bed, a dresser, and a door.
Not only is Jean trapped, she is now blind – well, not entirely. Anything that emits noise within her surroundings also lights up the nearby area, but only momentarily. It’s a clever echolocation mechanic and one that goes hand in hand with Blind’s monochrome look to give the game a distinctive feel and aesthetic.
As she starts to explore those first few rooms, Jean is greeted by a stranger who uses phonographs to communicate with her. This “Warden” has trapped her here and the only way to escape is by solving his carefully placed puzzles scattered throughout the mansion, unearthing clues, and attempting to piece together Jean’s lost memories.
Blind is a VR thriller that infuses its atmosphere and narrative into the puzzle gameplay itself. While some of the solutions can be a little obtuse and the voicework inconsistent, it joins a growing number of independently-produced virtual reality titles looking to expand the first person genre in new and inventive ways.
Bloody Disgusting recently spoke with Matteo Lana, CEO of Turin-based developer Tiny Bull Studios, about its newest game, where the original idea for Blind came from and the challenge of developing for VR.
Where did the idea for Blind originally come from?
We came up with the idea during the 2014 Global Game Jam. The theme was “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”, and almost as a joke someone on the team suggested we make a game about a blind person, for the simple reason that we could avoid
doing all the graphics! We quickly realized the idea was not bad at all, as the team ended up creating “Come to see my house” and winning the friendly competition in Turin. We then decided to take that concept and turn it into an actual game, that we then pitched to Fellow Traveller at Game Connection and were successfully signed.
Are there any specific films, games, or other works of fiction that inspired the game’s story and the way that it looks?
The biggest influences for the story and atmosphere probably come from the Italian Giallo movies of the ‘70s. We were always fans of thriller masters Dario Argento and Mario Bava, whilst our artists mainly took inspirations from German Expressionists and Gustave Doré.
Why choose to develop the game for virtual reality?
When we first pitched the game to our publisher, Fellow Traveller, the concept was for a game based on a blind girl using echolocation, we knew about VR but it really wasn’t on our minds. When we pitched it Fellow Traveller excitedly asked if we were making it for VR, so we just kind of went with it and said: “Sure, of course, it is a VR game!”… then we actually realized it made total sense to build a VR game around that concept, and the rest is history.
Is there a chance Blind will receive a non-VR mode or version at a later date?
We created Blind with VR in mind, and we believe what’s most interesting about the game is how you’re completely immersed in darkness when there is no sound. That would obviously be lost on a “flat” version of the game, although all the mechanics and story would still work fine… I guess we might consider it at some point, we’ll see!
What was your biggest challenge during the development of Blind?
Probably the way VR technology kept changing over the years, together with the fact that before Blind we had worked mostly on mobile games – Blind was a very big step up for the team.
What are your thoughts on the longevity of virtual reality? What would you say to those who view VR as a passing trend?
A lot of people have been saying VR was a fad, but 6 years after the Oculus Rift was announced there are more and more studios working on VR games. HMD numbers keep growing, and even some major studios are starting to seriously consider VR as a viable medium. I think only time can tell, but I’m fairly optimistic and I think VR is here to stay.
Were there any features that didn’t make it into the final build of the game?
A few, yeah. The biggest one was a sort of hint system that would guide Jean towards the next puzzle or key item, but we decided to leave it out to avoid breaking the immersion. We’re currently thinking of adding it with a future update and make it optional so that players can choose if they want to try and make it on their own or if they’d rather just play more casually and see where the story goes! We’re listening to feedback following the initial launch so there could be scope for further changes to the game.
Blind is now available to buy for all major VR platforms including PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and OSR.