Narcosis Developer: VR Investment Is Worth It

Honor Code interview

Part 1: Development of Narcosis

A while back I was given a review copy of Narcosis for PC and I was very impressed by the game, going into it with almost no prior knowledge other than it being some kind of “survival horror”. As you can read in the review , the experience left a positive impressing and I wanted to know more about the game’s development so we reached out to the developers and asked them some questions about it. Quentin De Beukelaer (Game Director, Narcosis – @QuentDeBeuk on Twitter) answered them for us.

This is Part one of the interview about the game’s Development. (Read Part Two here)

Here’s a small taste of the game before we get started:

What made you decide to offer Narcosis in so many languages (subtitled)? *

When making a game, you want it to be accessible to the widest range of people. A localized game helps with that, even more so when narration is at the backbone of the experience.

*Narcosis is available in 11 different languages, which is quite rare for an indie game:

NArcosis Languages

Jeff Matas (main narrator) did a great job in English, but was a different spoken language also considered?

To follow on the previous question, these choices have to be balanced against the money factor. While written localization can be effective while not being too expensive, that’s not the case for spoken localization. Also, there’s always the risk that the delivery is not as good as you would hope for; even AAA games struggle with this, and many of them have mediocre spoken localization.

As our team is mostly French, we considered finding French voice actors, but in the end the challenge proved to be harder than expected

Do you think it was worth it investing time and money in the VR development? Or has that hurt the project overall – eg: longer development?

Business wise, it was worthwhile, as the VR market isn’t overcrowded and Narcosis stands out in this environment. Design wise, it was worth it as well: Narcosis doesn’t rely on heavy gameplay but on an immersive experience, and VR is an ideal space for that.

ADDED: Excerpt from their presskit:

Gotcha. This is VR, right? I need fancy goggles and a badass PC to play?

Not at all. Narcosis was conceived and in development long before VR became “a thing”. VR enhances the sense of immersion, but it’s not essential (and for some players, might even be “too much”). We have faith in our vision — a sophisticated (and slightly surreal) story of survival beneath the sea —and are eager to bring it to as many platforms and players as we possibly can. The game will debut on Steam, Xbox One and for both the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive; but we’re looking forward to bringing it to additional platforms as soon as we can.

Are there any plans to make a new game and would you still consider VR for future projects?

For now each team member is doing something else. After being trapped together at the bottom of the ocean for years, we all felt the need for some oxygen. Some of us are working on prototypes, playing with fresh ideas… We’ll see what comes out of this 🙂

What are some of your favorite games? (old and new)

From the past: Yoshi’s Island offers the richest platforming experience ever, and outstanding art direction, long before Fez and Monument Valley. From today: Doom. A perfect synthesis of old and new recipes. Awesome experience. And as a game maker, I find this game very inspiring *wink wink*-*hint hint*

Which games, movies or books had the most influence on the story of Narcosis?

Hmm. Actually, I’m thinking about writing something about that. I won’t tell you now which influence goes where in Narcosis, but you can see it as a potpourri of artistic references,  such as Fight Club, Jacob’s Ladder, The Divine Comedy, 127 Hours, The Diving Bell, Usual Suspects… For instance , did you notice The Shining’s easter egg in the bedroom area?*

*No, I may have missed that. Will have to go in again to check it out.

ADDED: Excerpt from their presskit:

Interesting… Where’d you come up with the concept?

The game was first conceived as a student project in 2011 at ENJMIN, a prestigious videogame school based in France. At that time, the then-recent release of BioShock was still making waves, and piqued the team’s interest in staging a game in a largely untapped setting: the deep sea. Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Dear Esther were major influences, as well; later on the release of Gone Home demonstrated a growing appetite for more unconventional narrative and more mature, sophisticated storytelling. As the game’s narrative has evolved, we’ve taken inspiration from such gripping — and non-fictional — accounts of extraordinary human endurance in face of overwhelming odds, such as the books (and films) Between a Rock and Hard Place (127 Hours), Into Thin Air and Touching the Void.

=== Spoilers Below ===

important

Could you elaborate on the use of poppies in the game?

In term of narrative mechanics, we needed something to help the player connect the dots to the grandfather’s narrative arc. We chose the poppies for several reasons. First, they are easy to display and spot in the game world, acting as red breadcrumbs in a grey/blue world. Better yet, poppies have a strong symbolism that works perfectly with Narcosis; the poppy is the flower of Morpheus, the Greek god of dreams, and it also evokes death and eternal sleep in different cultures. The Wizard of Oz has this poppy field that makes you sleep forever. Lastly, Virgile’s childhood memories are linked to his childhood summers spent on the French Atlantic coast, where poppy fields are frequently seen.

ending

The ending reveal of the game was amazing.* When writing the story, did you naturally end up with that ending or did you start with it and worked your way back from there?

In the earliest version of the story, Virgile was able to take an escape pod and reach the surface alone, where a progressive zoom out would reveal him alone in his pod, drifting in the middle of the ocean. This would have produced an interesting feeling. At the same time I knew I wanted this “voice over narrative”, and I felt that there was a narrative opportunity there… I guess the fact I watched The Usual Suspects around 25 times when I was a teenager helped in rewriting Narcosis’ ending!

For the dual narrative, the first idea was that the dialogue would via a TV talk show, with its ad cuts and forced applauses. But then David, our writer, came with the more “intimate” radio interview idea, and this was a far better setting in order to unfold a truly rich and subtle interview. By the way, Open Air, our fictional radio show, is based on NPR’s famous Fresh Air program, hosted by Terry Gross. Go check it if you want, it’s great!

*Do yourself a favour and play the game yourself as this will give you the best possible experience. The game’s ending ranks in my top 10 endings for any media ever (book, game, movie)

Here’s a list of locations where you can buy it:

And you can also find them on :

Keep a look out for part two where we talk about the game’s reception and sales (coming soon!)

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Robby Bisschop
Belgian, male, born in 1987
I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.
About the author

Robby Bisschop

Belgian, male, born in 1987 I love videogames (mostly RPGs), anime, movies and Magic The Gathering.