The making of As Dusk Falls


why’s often said that video games can’t possibly be developed, but after chatting to the creators of As Dusk Falls, one of my favourite games of 2015, I now get why. Interior/Night’s CEO and visionary director Caroline Marchal tells me, “The script is the equivalent of twelve films.” There are 1200 script pages. Massive, massive. Marchal and studio director Charu Desodt evaluate how excited they were for the studio’s launching video game, As Dusk Falls, after three years of working on it, through multiple draughts of the script, with regular author’s spaces, plot changes, yard trailer shoots and the large grind to get to the goal.

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The first step in outlining the plot was getting the big decisions right—the ones that make you work up a sweat. During these brief intervals, the Interior/Night team must make crucial decisions, such as whether or not certain characters live or die. Often, the team’s differences inform the best choices. Desodt makes light of the fact that these decisions resulted in heated debate. “When Caroline killed off my favourite character, I was like, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t think I can deal with this any longer,'” she says with a wry grin.

During the climactic police battle in Episode 2, Dale drags Vince outside for an altercation that the two will never forget. Depending on what you do, you can either kill Dale or the motel owner, Joyce. Such resounding approval of those few explosive minutes helped Marchal decide to include them. She admits, “I was hesitant at first.” “It seems to imply that you lose two characters simultaneously, but then I saw Charu’s response.”

games As Dusk Falls screenshot revealing 2 males using bandannas to conceal their faces holding individuals captive in a motel.

When the final elements were in place, Marchal recalls feeling like they had “redone the video game 5 times,” even though this was not actually the case. As Dusk Falls’ visual style helps achieve this effect since it depicts each scene with stills made in watercolours rather than using live efficiency capture. For instance, this facilitated real-time fine-tuning and improvement of debate, but Marchal also remembered that such adjustments continued throughout development. We thought we’d be much more consistent with the story’s structure in beta, but we ended up making major, extensive changes.

All members of the group agree that it’s tough to make so many changes at once while everything is still a bit clunky at the outset. As details were refined, such music being added or images being completed, it also found other aspects that could use tweaking. It’s more challenging to create an opinion on the final version because early user tests often included conversation carried out by the group rather than expert stars. Desodt says, “I was Sharon, and it was the worst performing ever. To paraphrase, “No one was going to think that.”

Other members of the team were able to start contributing as the script took shape. That proposed filming short scenes before including things like sets, actors, lighting, and sound. Marchal admits that their ambitions would stretch the technology to its breaking point in some situations.

games As Dusk Falls screenshot revealing Sharon and Dante talking while surrounded by patrol car.

“You see, for instance, in a chapter, there’s no filling screen,” says Marchal. “I did that on purpose because I had to. Because we were always doing things like “Zoe’s in the lavatory right now, so we’re going to put a flashback of her 20 years earlier in the motel,” the coding group didn’t like us very much.

Marchal acts like her coworkers to get their attention. “”Are you crazy?! No, we can’t have both settings overlap for just two seconds to simulate a flashback. But in the end, they tracked down a solution. For the recollections, we decided, “There’s no way we can fill these 2 environments at the very same time, with all the VFX and the fire and whatnot, so we’re going to make a movie of this specific place… The story did, indeed, stretch the limits of the available technology.

Marchal elaborates by saying that maintaining a stable release is one of the most challenging aspects of development. “That’s the part I hate, when the game looks terrible for a long time. Everyone was pulling out their hair since it barely works and often crashes. You’ve have to keep the faith even though “It’s shit, shit, shit, shit, shit for a long time,” as in more than a year. We’ve been here before with previous video games; we know it’s coming out eventually, but it’s not great for the team. “Oh my god, this is terrible; we should just stop right now.” Is it going to work eventually?'” However, now that Marchal has experienced this cycle firsthand, he is more optimistic about the future. If it happens again, we can say something like, “Oh, remember that February night? how terrible it was.

games Vanessa and Jay stand in a poorly lit houseparty in As Dusk Falls.

The cast also agrees that the epidemic was obviously a challenging moment for the production company. During the pandemic, Marchal says, it was difficult to “make sure you’re dealing with the ideal individuals, that they feel alright, that they feel great.” Since other people aren’t physically present, you can’t know what’s going on in their lives. You can’t tell how they’re doing because they’re on Zoom but not on cam in all circumstances.

Desodt elaborates, saying, “Suddenly, you understand, we were seeking to anticipate what was going to unfold. It was like saying, “We’ll be back in two weeks, right?” and then not coming back.

Like staying in the trenches and crawling, as Marchal puts it.

Desodt’s backyard was used for video game filming at one point. “We shot Zoe in your garden, that holds true,” Marchal recalls. They couldn’t even enter your house to use the loo.

“There was a side to get to the garden, through the side gate,” says Desodt. A party was going on in my backyard. I was quite concerned. And I was like, “The neighbours are going to contact, the cops will come, we need to be actually severe, this is emergency situation work we’re doing,” because there was music playing and all three of them seemed genuinely happy to see each other. Very few people were allowed to gather at that time.

games As Dusk Falls image revealing Zoe strolling down a shadowy street.

Desodt evaluates the risks they’ve taken by considering all of these challenges. New studio, original plot, original intellectual property… it’s big, like you say, 1200 pages of script, when you tell a star, that’s a substantial script!” she jokes. “Having amassed all of those as your launch video game is quite an achievement. “We made it!

As Dusk Falls won the Game For Impact award at last year’s Game Awards, and it was also recently nominated for a BAFTA, so it seems like their ambitions have been realised. It’s no wonder the cast is so delighted with the show’s overall reception. “That’s good. Desodt jokes, “Did we have someone make Jay’s face in toast or something?” In other words, “I’m sure there was a tweet like that.”

She goes on to say that she thinks that creators “do not constantly think of the response of the individual playing it” when they’re working on their projects. That has been fantastic to witness, I must say. Caroline is quite good at conveying such information to others. Comments like “I liked it,” “I cried right now,” and “Thank you for making this game!” are common.

games A close-up shot of Jay in As Dusk Falls.

Marchal shares this view, albeit for a different reason. I think it’s fair to say that we hope to have an even greater impact. I think it’s great as a debut game, and [we’re] quite pleased with it. Because we’ve been dealing with it for so long, and then it’s just gone… it’s hard to let go. We used to start up, play, or watch the game, videos, and other content every day. Strange, you don’t have to do anything all of a sudden. The same as releasing a child. It’s strange.

Marchal says, “We understand how challenging it is to make video games,” before joking, “I believe it’s harder than making a rocket.” The fact that you finished it is a victory in and of itself for any company or group that releases something, I think. Only one video game per year is possible. Since many years can be spent on the same task, you must decide what you are working with and consider it as a whole. It should matter, and it should be great.

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