By Quentin H. / May 28th, 2021
GHOSTS is a full-motion, live-action horror video game from the mind behind the 2020 movie HOST. In a unique twist to the video game genre, players can only begin the story of GHOSTS and start to unwrap the legend of the Long Lady after 10 p.m. local time. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, GHOSTS is set for release in early 2022 on Nintendo, PlayStation, Xbox, and PC platforms.
I caught up with Jed Shepard, the director and writer of GHOSTS last week. In Part Two of our interview, we talk about why the 10 PM start time for the game, how the Long Lady was designed by Trevor Henderson and brought to life by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, and how you can still get a physical copy of the game even though the Kickstarter campaign is complete.
Check out Part One here.
This interview has been edited for content and clarity.
Operation Rainfall: Why a 10 p.m. start time for GHOSTS? That is awfully late in the evening.
Jed Shepard: Yeah. Because in the game, you play a producer of a live TV show, and in order for you to step into that person’s shoes, you need to feel like you are really there. And what better way than using time as that doorway to living this person’s life? So in real life, the TV show starts at 10 p.m.and it’s live, so that’s when the game starts. And there wasn’t any other option to me. I was like ‘This is the game, this is how it’s going to happen. What would Kojima do? Kojima would do this and not be apologetic.’
And for me, if I wasn’t into games, and I heard [that] there was a game with this feature, it would bring me back into games. It would make me think ‘This is really cool, I want to experience what this is all about.’ And I just like the thought of everyone at the same time playing this game and experiencing and finding all the unique things together.
And there’s no gun to your head to buy it, so if you don’t like the fact that it starts at 10 p.m., then you don’t have to buy the game. I’m cool with that. Buy the next one. But if you do think it’s cool? Then welcome aboard, I’m pleased to have you. And you’re going to have a really good time.
“And I’m very, very excited because, like, this isn’t just a standalone game to me- this is a wider world and you will see some of the wider world manifest throughout the year. And it’s going to blow people’s minds because it hasn’t been done before.”
OR: In a Limited Run Games blog, it stated that it is possible to play the game before 10 p.m. if you’re able to solve a “puzzle of sorts” that will allow you to play the game and save during the game so you can walk away from it. Why did you choose to include this alternative mode? Do you think that a player choosing to utilize this gameplay mode compromises your intended vision for GHOSTS?
JS: You would think it was a compromise, but wait until you see what you have to do. Wait and see what you have to do in order to access that- it’s not something that’s going to be available to you straight away. I like the idea of rewarding people who are curious. So, yeah. And also, with a TV show, there are reruns. You can record things off live television.
And that’s a clue to how you access that, because there are such things as reruns. You can play it live, but the next day there are reruns and maybe that will influence how the game turns out for you.
OR: Your Kickstarter trailer states that if you exit the game during the gameplay, you will lose. Will this game require an always-on internet connection in order to play? If so, will the player have to have PlayStation +, Xbox Live Gold or Ultimate, or Nintendo Switch Online to participate?
JS: No. You can play completely offline. It is a game you can play anywhere and any- well, at 10 p.m. ideally. But you don’t have to have an internet connection. If you do have an internet connection, I think the game experience will be better. Mostly because it is good to see other people playing it at the same time as you online and people sharing clues, people sharing discoveries. So in that respect, being on the internet while playing it is actually quite good. But you really need to concentrate on the game, because it’s not going to be easy. But if you persist, it’s going to be extremely rewarding.
OR: Speaking of Kickstarter- what was your Kickstarter experience like, both positive and negative?
JS: I didn’t deal with the Kickstarter very much, to be honest. It was the games company – Visible Games. For me, it was very easy. I was confident that we would reach our target, and we reached our target. I knew there would be some people questioning the 10 p.m. thing, but like anything new or different, there are going to be people who have question marks when up against something like that. But yeah, it just makes it all the more satisfying when they enjoy the game later and they can see why it’s like that.
But my Kickstarter experience was really, really cool. And we raised a lot of money and I’m still like really, really grateful because times are hard, so for people to put their hand in their pocket and give money to us to make the game is crazy. And on the Discord as well – there is a Discord for the game- people are really, really nice and like breaking down everything I say on Twitter and go frame-by-frame on my announcement videos as well to see if there are any kind of clues.
And I did put clues in things. I do say cryptic things online sometimes to give clues to what’s going to happen in the game, because I think it’s fun. And those people are ultra smart and they’ve figured out a lot of it. So the experience of meeting, at least virtually, these people who’ve put money in the game in Discord has been great.
OR: Did you choose the various rewards to include with the GHOSTS Kickstarter?
JS: Yeah, I chose basically everything. Everything- nothing will go out unless it has been overseen by me. So every single thing you see, every product, has been chosen by me because it ties into the game. This isn’t like just merchandise you’re getting, it ties into the game. Everything ties into the game in more ways than you can realize.
And if you did back the Kickstarter, you will have a better experience than people who didn’t back the Kickstarter. And I can’t say why yet. You can have a great game experience, basically.
OR: What is your plan on keeping the backers included and informed as the game development progresses?
JS: So there is the usual updates every now and again. But for the rest of this year, until the game comes out early next year, there are going to be a lot of things. And I know some Kickstarters, as soon as the deadline hits, you barely hear from those people. But here, it is going to be the opposite. There will be almost too much stuff. I am planning a lot of things this year. There will be things that will come out before the game is released to almost fill in the blanks that some people will have, the questions. And I’m very, very excited because, like, this isn’t just a standalone game to me- this is a wider world and you will see some of the wider world manifest throughout the year. And it’s going to blow people’s minds because it hasn’t been done before.
The closest to what I’m trying to do is the Japanese game Sweet Home from 1989. And if you see what they did around that game release, that is closest to what GHOSTS is. And I’ll let people do the random research on that. But people will be informed the entire way. There’s lots more stuff to reveal, there’s a lot of cast to reveal, as well. Some familiar faces, some unfamiliar faces. It’s going to be so much fun.
“Working with them is literally a dream come true, because those guys are my heroes- the guys who work in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop- they are my heroes. And the stuff they do, they create magic out of thin air.”
OR: Your most recent movie was HOST, which stars the same cast as GHOSTS– we talked about that earlier. How is writing a theatrical movie different than for a full-motion video? Do you feel the need to ‘save the cat’ with an FMV?
JS: The only difference really is that you’re crossing multiple films at once when you’re doing a full-motion video game, because of all the different choices and tangents a video game can go into. So it’s a lot more work, but I think ultimately, you’ll be more satisfied because the world-building you have to do in a game is much bigger than the world-building you have to do in a film. Because the film is a snapshot, when the game needs to be more [of] a fleshed out world.
And that was different. Because I haven’t developed a game before, it was a new experience to me. It was so much fun. That’s the kind of main difference. And also, I guess that another big difference is the fact that if I’m doing a film, there’s a certain level of expectation placed on what I’ve done before. But with a game, this is my first game, so people will not know what to expect. And I’m pretty certain that they will not expect what they see with this game because there hasn’t been a game like this before. And I think, unless I make another one like this, I don’t think there will be a game like this again because it’s the amalgamation of so many different things that I love.
So yeah, the main difference is the amount of work that goes into the video game is a lot more than [with] a film.
OR: Earlier in this interview, you mentioned how the Long Lady was being designed by Trevor Henderson and being fabricated by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop. Why did you choose to go with those two to create your Long Lady, and could you tell us a bit about what it was like working with them?
JS: Well, Trevor Henderson makes the best creatures and people from two-years-old to 80-years-old- most people who will know who Siren Head is. And he’s done characters as well: Long Horse, Cartoon Cat, and some other ones. Really iconic creatures, and he’s built up such a big following because he has a unique take on things. So yeah, I was always a fan and we’ve spoken briefly on Twitter before and we became mates. And I was ‘Hey, I’m doing this thing’, and I told him the legend of the Long Lady and what the Long Lady is all about and how she’s made and why she’s around, et cetera. He knows more than anyone, and he designed her based on that. And he’s fully into it, and it isn’t going to be the only time that Trevor and I are going to work together. We’re going to work together on multiple things, which is great. So this is just the first of many things we’re doing together.
But of course, I need someone to actually make the creature. And I only had one name in mind, and that was Jim Henson’s Creature Shop because I am genuinely the biggest Labyrinth fan you will meet. I watch Labyrinth every other day, I love Dark Crystal, I love all the creatures they’ve ever done in any film. So I was just like ‘I wonder if they will be up for this?’ And I just approached them, and I said ‘You don’t know me, but this is what I want to do.’ And they just loved the idea and they trusted me and just wanted to work with me, so they just made it work. Working with them is literally a dream come true, because those guys are my heroes- the guys who work in Jim Henson’s Creature Shop- they are my heroes. And the stuff they do, they create magic out of thin air. So seeing the Long Lady come to life, see all the video tests and the photos they sent me along the way- at some point I will release all the stuff that they sent me, it’s incredible.
But they’ve created a really iconic creature that I feel stands up with some of their other iconic creatures. It’s incredible what they’ve done, really clever the way they went about it as well. So- and this is the first time Trevor had seen one of his creations come to life, so he is incredibly happy as well. And yeah, it’s a dream come true working with them.
OR: About how long from conceptualization to the final creature being created by Jim Henson’s Creature Workshop did the Long Lady take?
JS: Ummm…let me think. I think it’s like a solid two months. I don’t think they worked on it everyday, but it was two months of them working because she’s obviously really, really big. So it takes awhile, and they have to build a special crate for her as well.
So yeah, it’s just really exciting. And me and Trevor are going to work together a lot, and me and Jim Henson[‘s Creature Shop] are going to work together a lot as well. But yeah, I can’t say too much about that.
OR: GHOSTS is being made in partnership with Visible Games and Limited Run Games. How did you end up working with both of these companies to create GHOSTS, and what role do they play in the creation of your game?
JS: After I came up with the idea for GHOSTS, weirdly, about a day after, Visible Games just DM’d me on Twitter and said ‘Hey, we make horror games. If you ever have any ideas, hit us up.’ And I was like ‘Well, that is weird timing because I’ve got this idea for a game but it’s kind of out there- it’s live-action.’ And I just jumped on Zoom, and we had multiple meetings and we worked out that they could do everything I asked, and like I said I don’t come from a game development background so I didn’t know what the rules were. So I just played off a whole bunch of things I wanted to, and what I wanted this game to feel like and achieve. And Visible Games was like ‘Cool, we’ll have to hire a whole bunch of people, but we can do this thing probably.’
And then together with Visible Games, we approached Limited Run Games because they’re the biggest independent distributor there is. So we went to them, and we pitched them GHOSTS and they said ‘Yes’ straight away. They were very, very much into it. Limited Run Games has been incredible, incredible to work with. They have provided a way to get this game to people and so it’s being released in a physical format and digital form.
And you can’t really ask for anything more, really. In every case, GHOSTS went to the best people possible and it worked out. So I’m just extremely lucky to be working with these people.
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