Chasing Ghostly Dreams : Withering Rooms Interview With Developer Troy

A while ago, when I saw a trailer for Withering Rooms on Twitter, it immediately hit me with lone survivor mixed with Fatal Frame vibes. That alone was enough to sell me on the idea, so I reached out to the solo developer Troy, and he gave me some more insight into the game. While it isn’t the original mash-up I had hoped for, it turns out that what he is creating is something so much more!

Justin: So where did the idea for Withering Rooms come from?

Troy: Yeah, so I’ve been thinking about this game for like, a decade. I never thought I could actually make it. But back in college, I was really obsessed with it. I know it’s a little late to be obsessed with like VC Andrews, but I’d never read them before. My wife was like, Hey, you should read these. So I read a bunch of kind of that kind of Gothic, trapped in an old mansion kind of literature in college. We’ve always lived in the castle by Shirley Jackson, which was super influential for me. I decided on a whim to make a prototype, just to see if it would be fun, And so what I did was I took all the old Clocktower from the Super Nintendo sprites, and kind of the backgrounds and stuff like that. And in unity, I just put together a prototype of this kind of mansion that would rearrange itself each night. And it took like a year. I kept thinking of these new mechanics. I sent it to some friends, and they liked it. They liked it a lot. So I was like, this is cool. I’m going to put this in my back pocket. I’m never going to make it because I’m not an artist. I’m an engineer by trade. So like, my day job is writing software. So the idea of me making a game seemed impossible. Until 2019 When Blender 2.8 came out. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Blender.

Justin: I’m not familiar with any of that stuff, no. 

Troy: So Blender is an open-source 3d modeling program. And it’s always been pretty janky. You know, it was not the greatest piece of software. I kind of ignored it. There’s this new release that came out 2.8, where they kind of redid the interface. And after they redid the interface, I was like, well, I’ll give it a shot. And I started playing with it. I was like, wow, this is awesome. I really, really liked this. And I started learning how to do things like basic 3d modeling, basic sculpting, creating animation, stuff like that. That was the final skill I needed because I could write a bit of music. And I can program a game. I’m pretty good with Photoshop, making, you know, just putting stuff together. Yeah. But the art was really the last piece I couldn’t do. And so as soon as Blender two point came into being, I was like, I could do this now. So I started working on it. So basically, by the end of 2019, that’s when it started in earnest. And I basically rebuilt that prototype. But now and kind of like the full fidelity, similar to what you see in some of the screenshots and trailers, and sent that to some friends, like some game designer friends, and they were digging it, it took way longer for them to beat it than I thought it would. So I figured this was like two hours of content. And it took between four and seven for the So got a lot of just invaluable feedback from that group. And basically spent three months just kind of reacting to their feedback and making the game use play fixing the bugs, stuff like that. And so, at that point, I had a pretty full-fledged, vertical slice. And at that point, I just needed to scale it up. So I spent the next year and a half building the rest of the game. And I was like, Okay, it’s time to put this thing out. And so set up an LLC and set up the socials and all that stuff two months ago. 

Justin: I do have to ask when I saw gameplay on Twitter for Withering Rooms, I got big, Fatal Frame vibes from the picture taking. But you’ve rearranged that mechanic so you can, this is all taken from your website and stuff that you can like, take pictures and sell them.

Troy: The photo mechanic is actually a pretty small part of the game. Like my strategy on social media, like pick a mechanic and just kind of highlight it. So yeah, the photo mechanic is useful for a couple things. One is it’s one of the only ways you can deal with ghosts. So you can’t even see ghosts unless you’re cursed, which is a status effect in the game. And the only way to kind of take them out is to take a picture of them directly inspired by Fatal Frame. Beyond that, you can use it to like see a little bit further up the hallway.

Justin: So you mentioned that the House is set in a Victorian mansion that procedurally generates? Is it going to be kind of more like a horror rogue-lite? Or is there going to be, like, a narrative that’s going to explore why we’re here and what’s going on?

Troy: Yeah, so the gameplay is more of a horror rogue-lite RPG. Basically, the game’s plot is you’re in Lofton house, a country house out in Wales. Basically, there’s a phenomenon where people in the surrounding area are drawn into this kind of communal nightmare. Basically, the people, the rich folks in the House, have realized that this is sort of a great playground, right? This is sort of like the 19-century version of VR, where you’re in this kind of communal nightmare. The rules don’t matter. You can do anything you want. 

Justin: That’s pretty cool. In one of the trailers, there was a smidgen of a voice. Are there plans for it to be voice acted? Or is it gonna be more text-based?

Troy: Yeah, so the NPCs and all the in-game stuff is fully voiced. So like, the undead folks will talk to you, and like the bosses speak with you. The kind of like interacting with NPCs and just talking with them, working with merchants, that kind of thing. That is not voiced. That’s done through text. 

Withering Rooms Hiding

Justin: So the monsters we’ve seen so far and the trailers you’ve put up for Withering Rooms are really amazing and unique. Did you look for specific inspirations, like when you were like fleshing these monsters out and starting to create them?

Troy: Yeah, so this game, I wanted to look like a 19th-century oil painting. There is Carl Vilhelm. He’s also a Danish painter. And if you look at his paintings, you will see a lot of this game in them. Not the horror aspects, but just kind of the framing, the color palette, that kind of thing. And I one of the monsters to kind of look and feel like an old Natural History Museum. 

Justin: So have you played through it from start to finish? 

Troy: Yes. It finally got to the point, start to finish done. Obviously, some rough patches. Yeah, so I have played through it. Start to finish three times now. Gonna need to do that a lot more over this next month. But you know, it’s kind of like, I’ll play through it. I noticed about 10 million things wrong or missing polish or balance issues. I’ll go and fix all those.

Justin: So, if you’re comfortable with saying how long was your first playthrough?

Troy: I think my playthrough is probably a bad example. Because I know exactly where everything is. I think I think maybe a better example would be that first chapter. So one of my friends, who’s like a hardcore Dark Souls fanatic, super good at video games, took them about four hours. Another friend who’s a little more casual, but you know, still plays a lot of video games. It took them seven hours. And that’s chapter one. So there are four chapters and a prologue and epilogue in the game. So, you know, it’s a little tough. By the end of August, after a couple more of my friends have played through the whole game. I’ll have a better estimate. So let’s say somewhere between 16 and 24 hours.

Justin: So after Withering Rooms has released, have you started to formulate what might come next?

Troy: Totally. So my first plan is just to support the game. So there are a lot of Spanish horror fans out there, a lot of Japanese-speaking horror fans. When I first put up the Twitter social page with zero followers at the end of May, the very first bite I got was from a Japanese Xbox Twitter account. And so, like, I feel a bit of affinity there, like I need to pay them back. So I definitely wanna get the game translated. I would like to bring the game to consoles. So it’s already got great controller support with all that. So I don’t think it’d be too bad of a port. And then I have this idea for a thing called haunted house mode. 

Withering Rooms Flamethrower

Justin: So I just have one last question for you. If people wanted to know more about you and Withering Rooms, where would you like them to go?

Troy: The best place would be Twitter. So if you follow the Twitter account, that’s the place. So if you wish this game on Steam, that’s great. But following it on Twitter or Instagram, I post at least two or three things a week. You don’t need to worry about getting spoiled pictures from the game because it’s a big game. So I’ll show a lot of stuff, but you’re not going to spoil it.

Justin: So, actually, I do have one more question. Sure. Do you have any specific surprises you haven’t shown that you can’t wait for people to see?

Troy: Oh, yeah. I can think of at least four that I think are going to be super cool for people to play around with an encounter.

Withering Rooms people

Thank you again to Troy for sitting down and talking about the fantastic-looking Withering Rooms. Go wishlist the game over on Steam! And check out the games website for more info!

For more interviews, reviews and features, stay locked into DreadXP and go listen to the Real Professional Podcast!