Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story Developer Interview

Published On June 21, 2018 | By Justin Ortiz-Burrow | Features, News

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with SUZAKU, the studio behind the successful Kickstarter campaign for Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story. After raising over six times the original goal, I thought I’d shoot them few questions about what to expect from the upcoming horror title, as well as how they felt about their experience with crowd-funding. Enjoy.

Console Monster: First off, thanks so much for taking the time to sit down with me today! Let’s start off with some of the basics; Who are you and what do you do?

Benjamin Widdowson: My Name is Benjamin Widdowson, I am the co-founder and director of SUZAKU, a new game studio making Sense: A Cyberpunk Ghost Story. I am a an experienced concept artist and game developer with 18 released titles, while my wife and co-founder of the studio was until recently going to LCAD for 3d environment art.

CM: You’re based in New York, correct? How would you describe the company, and has your location influenced your games in any way?

BW: Top Hat Studios is in New York, yes. They are our publisher. SUZAKU is currently in process of setting itself up in Hong Kong, but presently we are in Southern California. I am not sure that our location has affected our game development in any meaningful way outside of California being too expensive and unfriendly to small business for us to survive in, haha.

CM: Your upcoming release, ‘Sense’, is a cyberpunk ghost tale (which sounds amazing by the way); can you tell us a little more about the title?

BW: Thank you! That is the exact reaction I wanted early on. I knew the game needed a hook, as we are small and have no other games under our studio’s belt, and horror within the cyberpunk genre is a very fresh and unique idea.

Sense is a classic Asian ghost story with a cyberpunk bloodstream. The story follows Mei-Lin Mak, a young woman at the nexus of two curses which draw her into the reach of 14 spirits that have waited 100 years for their story to be told.

The most important aspect of the game is that we are focusing on the aspects of Hong Kong and Cantonese culture, folklore, and supernaturalism. The game will of course be steeped in science fiction, but it will be authentic and respect it’s influences.

CM: Your campaign recently ended with just over six times the funding requested. How did your team feel after the amazing support?

BW: I can only speak for Kay and I, but I do know that Andy, Al, and Joe were just as excited as us. I think biggest feelings were exhaustion and gratitude. Crowdfunding is kind of an emotional rollercoaster, and our crazy level of success especially so. I am personally beyond humbled and thankful that people believed in me and my vision.

CM: Was your experience with crowdfunding what you expected, and would you use it again in the future?

BW: I try to go into new things without expectations, or at least the expectation of failure, so that I can more closely pay attention to where I can adjust on the fly. When we first attempted the Kickstarter in November of last year we were just not ready. The vision wasn’t well communicated, the demo was not good enough, and we had no real understanding of how this stuff works. This time we were way more prepared.

CM: While Clocktower and Fatal Frame are obviously influences, have any other games sparked ideas or inspiration for Sense?

BW: Of course, I try to play any game that may even just provide an interesting piece of the wider puzzle. Haunting Ground, Kuon, Silent Hill, Corpse Party, Shiin, Creeping Terror, and most recently (thanks to backer recommendations) The Coma: Recut and Detention. With those last two playing them is more about seeing what they do so that we can avoid getting too close to them in any way. Sense MUST stand on it’s own in gameplay and design, as well as narrative.

CM: Has the team drawn inspirations from any other sources? Film, books, etc.

BW: Absolutely. I read a lot, and watch a ton of movies. For film; Juon, Ringu, Kairo, the 100 tales of terror series, House (1977), the Troublesome Night series, Rigor Mortis, The Thing, the list is really huge honestly. I’d also be remiss if I ignored the amount of “real ghost footage” videos I watch on YouTube.

For books, including manga; Junji Ito’s work, a lot of Lovecraft, Rose Red, a bit of Murakami, Shigeru Mizuki, United States of Japan, a lot of books on the paranormal and ghost hunting, a lot of Philip K Dick.

CM: Of horror titles in general, which would be the overall team favorite and why?

BW: I’m not sure about the team as a whole, everyone gets different things out of different stories so having a cohesive opinion on that wouldn’t necessarily be helpful in my mind. For me, Yotsuya Kaidan is my all time favorite ghost story, be it told over a campfire, inked panels by Shigeru Mizuki, or any of it’s amazing film renditions. It is a perfect ghost story.

CM: With the huge Kickstarter success, the game will be hitting nearly every platform correct? What are some of the difficulties and/or benefits of working with different hardware? Will the Switch, PS4, and Vita’s varied features be utilized?

BW: Yes, we are trying to get the game on every platform possible, as long as there is a clear demand. PSVITA was a personal goal of mine, and PS4 was an obvious decision. A PC release is an easy, go-to option as well, so only the Switch release was a real question. We were surprised and happy to see a lot of support and excitement for that.

That said, in order for the experience to be the same across all platforms we probably won’t be doing specific gameplay for each platform, unless it is something simple to add and more like an easter-egg. It’s honestly a bit too early to say for sure though!

CM: What does the future hold for yourself and your team?

BW: Lots of games. Sense is a franchise, not a single title. I also have 4 future titles lined up in very early stages. My long-term goal with SUZAKU is to challenge the AAA industry and compete with them from outside the lines. Sense is just a baby step towards any of that. Also, potential fans of our fledgling studio might want to look into a VR headset.

CM: Speaking of other games, what are some of the current favorites of the you and team?

BW: Fatal Frame (waiting on that announcement for Fatal Frame 6)!

CM: Thanks for taking the time to answer some of our questions, and best of luck with ‘Sense‘. It looks to be mixing everything I love together.

We’ll be sure to cover any future news, and hopefully even a full review once the game launches.

If you’d like to keep up with the development of Sense, be sure to follow their campaign and Twitter.

 

 

About The Author

Introduced to video games when he was only five, after dying somewhere around four thousand times while playing Star Tropics, he never looked back. Some of his favorites range from titles like Shenmue and Metal Gear Solid 3 to Half-Life 2, Manhunt, and the Dark Souls series. Justin has a passion for vinyl records, and loves to collect video game memorabilia. If he had one wish, it would be to travel back to 1984 Miami.