Written by D. Jacob Swigert
In this week’s blog I had the opportunity to interview “One Man Dev Team + Digital Artist” Stranga Games. In this interview we discuss his 2019 release ‘Red Bow’, his inspirations, and of course, the sounds used therein. Enjoy.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with me about your games. Can you tell me a little bit about your influence on Red Bow? Where did the narrative stem from?
Not a problem! Red bow was designed to have more of a darker tone than my previous game “My Big Sister” which focused more on balancing horror themes with light warm-hearted moments and subtle comedy. Red Bow was (I admit) kind of rushed, which didn’t give me much time for gathering ideas, but it did help me work more efficiently.
The game was heavily based on Japanese folklore and ghosts. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Japanese culture, but I do find it quite interesting and what more so is that I can use it to create my own vision. For example the spirits in the game are based off Japanese Yokai, but I’ve added some of my own elements to the mix. You’ll see this a lot in my games, it keeps my characters interesting and weird. I like weird, haha!
The stories in each chapter represent feelings of guilt which was one of the major ideas I wanted to convey in the game. The player is constantly hounded by others pouring their guilt into her lap, in which you get to decide their fate. It’s a lot to take in. Hearing different sides of a story opens up a new perspective but still doesn’t give you a clear answer on what you should do. My goal was to try and strip away the “Right” and “Wrong” in decisions because it makes the experience more pure to the player. I know there are a few dead ends, but hey, it’s a game too.
Regarding the music of the game, or lack thereof in some cases. I would say it’s soft but it really works to help build the overall atmosphere. When composing the score did you have in mind each characters particular struggle or was it more based on the environment in which the main character found themselves?
I really wish I had more time to create a more diverse soundtrack for Red Bow. The only characters that actually had a theme song were Kubi and Muma, but I was running on limited time. The themes were supposed to fit the characters in a way of not only representing their guilt but their overall look in the environment.
One of my favorite tracks is the one that plays as you walk down the foggy road, it gives a mysterious tone but also one that wants you to push forward. Most of my music is built up of simple compositions but I not only try to make it fit the scene but also to make it interesting. I try to make the most with what I have, it helps push imaginative creativity when building a scene. Unfortunately, the lack of music did come from not having enough time to write a more completed score. And I know some music didn’t fit the scene very well but hey, that’s what experimentation is all about. Music is really my passion when it comes to making games and I take quite a lot of pride in it. I may not be one of the best composers out there, but I give as much effort to be one.
As I mentioned in some cases the music will drop out completely. This will typically occur when you’re speaking with a character. Was this done to help draw your attention to that character?
A lot of the time yes. Sometimes, it feels more personal when you’re talking to someone without the background noise. It was also a way to help me personally concentrate on what was being said at the time too as I would worry too much about the music in the background.
The lack of music coupled with some interesting sound effects makes for a spooky narrative. My favorite segment of the game is probably the reveal of Minikui. With no music present and the effects used, it is quite startling. With most of the game being rather tame, were you intending for more of a shock in this moment?
For that moment I was. It wasn’t supposed to be a jump scare but more of a quick reveal to the player’s suspicions. I’ve seen a few videos where some players already knew what the spirit was by reading the surroundings. It was a nice surprise moment, no doubt. I love it when you get to hear the sound effects without any interruption accompanied by the music. Helps build atmosphere and enhance the scene.
That moment in particular really helped build the rest of that particular world. The scenes in the sewer, the footsteps through the water and the overarching sound of the water dripping from above work incredible well together. How did you go about creating these sounds?
Usually when I have the time, I record a lot of sound effects myself other times I look for royalty free sounds on the net. But I’m not a fan of using sounds straight out of the box, I love to tweak things! I did a fair bit of audio engineering in high school so it wasn’t too hard to create ambiance for the scenes in Red Bow.
I don’t use anything fancy to record, just my smart phone, it’s a pain to convert the files but it’s worth it when you want the sounds you just can’t find online.
It’s amazing that sometimes the simplest things can have the most profound affects. Regarding some of the technical aspects; I’m a Logic and FMOD guy, myself. Is there a specific DAW and/or middleware you used for Red Bow?
I’ve been using Ableton Live for maybe a bit over 8 years now and for some reason I can’t stray away from it. I use it for everything sound related in my games from music to sound effects.
I’m the same way with Logic. I have a hard time switching to anything else! I know we discussed some of the Japanese influence earlier. Were there any of your favorite games that influenced your decisions in Red Bow?
Well, Red Bow was definitely inspired by the Silent Hill series. I’m a big old-school survival horror fan! So the big two are definitely influences in most of my games. The whole concept was influenced by RPG Maker horror games like The crooked man or the witches house (too many of them to name them all). But to be honest, I’ve never really played any, I’ve only watched a few let’s plays but really loved the concept!
Are you currently working on anything new that you might be able to share?
Yes, definitely! I’m working on my latest Story Adventure – Ashina: The Red Witch! Which will be a prequel to My Big Sister. You can try the Prologue/Demo (…) when it releases on Steam.
Excellent! I cannot wait to get my hands on that one! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me about your game and your processes! Just one last thing, where is the best place for people to find you and follow you for updates?
My pleasure! And I’m on mostly Twitter. I post more frequently here than anywhere else.