Bringing Back Bargain Bloodbaths with Tomás Esconjaureguy of The Night of the Scissors

On the constant campaign to cover every nook and cranny of the indie horror gaming scene I am always on the board, surfing the net, and catching the waves of the latest trends, but let me tell you, dear reader, no wave has cascaded as high as the wave of slasher-inspired, retro-styled PSX horror titles. Such as the late 80’s/early 90’s video-rental store was chock-full of straight-to-video vulgar viewings, the current indie gaming scene and games like The Night of the Scissors certainly fit into a metaphorical “Horror section” such as you’d find in a typical Blockbuster, or Family Video.

While browsing the gaming equivalent of video nasties on itch.io I came across The Night of the Scissors, a game that cuts itself apart from its peers, yet wears its like inspiration on its sleeve. 

After making my way through the Scissor themed slasher I wanted to know more about it, and the people who made it. Thankfully the itch.io page led me directly to theTwitter page of Tomás Esconjaureguy of Selewi, The Developer of The Night of the Scissors. I sent him an electronic inquiry and was thrilled when he responded, and while we weren’t able to speak for the interview, he was more than happy to answer my questions in text over the world wide web. So with that I started my line of questions around his most recent release, and the game that had put him on my radar.

For a game with a low cost, and a short playtime, The Night of the Scissors is a mechanically sound title. Tomás had taken great care to make the single space feel full, such as the restroom, where the player learns of both enemy detection from a newspaper, and hiding in a stall in one room, without the need for gratuitous tutorials. With the clever use of level design being a hidden mentor I wondered if this eye for details on the player side came from a history of playing similar games?

Tomás Esconjaureguy: Of course it has, but oddly, even though most people are finding the game quite similar to the first Silent Hill titles, I’ve never played Silent Hill in my life. The only game that I feel like could be the one I’ve dragged most inspiration from is Dino Crisis, which in the end, is quite similar to Silent Hill.  And I’m glad you’ve mentioned the newspaper that teaches players about the snipping sound. The game was almost finished but one week before release I couldn’t sleep in bed and re-imagined the first 10 minutes of the game. In the previous concept, you could encounter the Snipper right after you had entered the building. But then I decided to push that for later, and add some lore and environmental storytelling. I’m glad I did all these changes, now the game builds tension and atmosphere before your first encounter, which is in my opinion what makes a good horror game scare players.

In Dino Crisis there were areas with electrified gates that you could activate to contain dinosaurs in certain parts of the map. I asked if they ever saw themselves implementing a trap system similar to Dino Crisis?

TE: Oh you’re right! The laser walls! Yeah I could consider stuff like this.

On the topic of a player’s sense of dread, I wanted to know if Tomás worried about potential players watching a long-play of his game rather than playing it themselves, or, considering that the single video jacksepticeye put out got over 1 million views, and the hundreds of thousands of views from other channels, were they just happy to have more people paying attention to the game, even if they choose not to play it after watching the video?

TE: I’m happy about anyone who plays/watches the game. Everyone has the right to enjoy content in the way they prefer! I’ve watched a few streamers and youtubers, and so far I’m pretty happy with the experience they had! There was only one situation where I realized the Snipper wasn’t spawning too often. But I’ve made a few improvements for that in the upcoming patch

While it mechanically was very similar to the Playstation greats, the story itself was far more in line with psycho killer thrillers than any game about zombies or raptors, so I asked if there were any particular movies or stories that inspired the Snipper?

TE: Every slasher movie was fuel for this title, but I gave birth to the concept of the Snipper because the game setup was in a post office. As soon as I realized that I could use the snipping sound for making tension, I didn’t think about it twice. I’ve read comments about people saying “I don’t understand how an ASMR sound can become so horrifying” To me it glued together even before I could try it in-game…

The ending of The Night of the Scissors is the kind of “No peace yet” resolution that was made famous by films like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, or The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. With Adam surviving the ordeal, and the Snipper seeming to escape, can we expect to maybe see the Snipper or perhaps a more hardened-by-horrors version of Adam in a future game?

TE: I’ve a bunch of ideas about the game lore to make more content around its universe. There are bits of clues in the game currently but it’s a bit open to interpretation. Right now I don’t want to spoil anything to anyone and I’d like to see what theories players come up with!

Regarding the reception of the game, I had seen a lot of people describe The Night of the Scissors as a “Puppet Combo-like game”. I was curious if this comparison was frustrating to Tomás, or if he found it to be a sign that they had made a good game. So I asked plainly, how they felt about Puppet Combo’s works and impact since 2016, and how did the comparisons make them feel?

TE: I don’t mind that. I’ve dragged a lot of inspiration from them, in my opinion Puppet Combo has defined a new kind of game genre, as a lot of indie horror games are entitled as “Puppet Combo like game” by people

After hearing that they were so clearly influenced by Puppet Combo, I followed up by asking if they thought they would have made The Night of the Scissors had they not played Puppet Combo games first?

TE: To be honest I think not!

With the way that horror gaming content was so popular on Youtube, I was thinking to myself that for a younger generation, their first experience with horror is more likely to be a Youtube video of a short horror game than a full horror movie. So I asked, did they think it was likely that people in the future will put The Snipper, or similar gaming slashers, up on their favorite villains list next to the likes of Leatherface or Michael Myers?

TE: That’s a hard question to answer, I’m not sure about that, but maybe there’s a slight chance, of any of these games becoming a movie and thus exploding in popularity? Who knows… Puppet Combo has published some books, depending on how you look at it, could be a step in between a game and a movie…

I asked If Night of the Scissors were optioned for a film, did Tomás have a director or writer in mind that they would want to see on the project?

TE: I’d probably ask a person close to me to help me with that honestly. Or find a small director/writer that could help me. I like when lesser known artists can have their chance to shine

I know that as a fan of a good slasher, if that film ever got made, I would see it. And I would definitely check out Dawn of the Scissors if it ever got made, because I certainly do hope to see more from that universe in the future.

The Night of the Scissors is just one of many games that Tomás had worked on, and I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about some of his other titles, including his upcoming classic FPS ASKE.

Regarding ASKE, The game is clearly a love letter to classic arena shooters like Quake. I wanted to know, did they take any steps to try to separate the game from similar titles, or were they more concerned about making a game that fans of the classic would feel at home with?

TE: ASKE is a love letter to Quake and Quake III Arena. I’ve spent dozens of hours watching documentaries, reading and studying about the aesthetics of the first title, and I’ve spent thousands of hours playing Quake 3 since I was a child.

The formula combines the aesthetics and atmosphere of Quake 1 with the fast paced and responsive gameplay of Quake 3.

So this is clearly a game made by a fan for fans, I asked if there were any modern considerations made for new players with little to no experience with this genre, or is it more so that if they pick up this game they should know what their are getting into?

TE: The game is pretty simple and straight-forward. You press play and in less than 10 seconds you’re already slashing monsters. There are a few in-game messages that teach you the basics, but are very simple, and a good experience for any newcomer to the genre.

Also, I wanted to note that “did it all for the rookie” is a hilarious name for a difficulty setting

TE: Every difficulty setting is a gimmick for something, so that one is a gimmick for Limp Bizkit song (Nookie)

I wanted to ask some questions about Tomás’ previous titles as well, I noticed that they had done a lot of game jam work in the past. So I asked if this is something they did for fun, for the challenge, or to get their name out there for people to see?

TE: Game jams were my start point into game development. I’ve met a lot of people and made a few titles (Some of them are very polished and look/play like finished products). Now I’m a full time game developer and I work part time on my own titles. Nevertheless, sometimes I go back to the roots and join some short game jams for fun!

I followed up by if there are any titles that started as game jam games that Tomás would consider developing into full titles? To be frank, I had enjoyed my time with Blood and Goods, and asked if there were any specific games that inspired it?

TE: I wanted to turn Blood and Goods into a full game back then, I have an updated version that I’ve never uploaded which contains a lot of improved features. Sadly it didn’t happen as some part of the teams weren’t very interested in the project. I don’t remember which games inspired Blood and Goods as this was done a few years ago, but I think something that we kept mentioning a lot during brainstorming sessions was Darkest Dungeon. Nowadays I’d turn Mork’s Trial into a full game but that would cost a considerable amount of time/effort/money and the title is meant for a small niche public, so it wouldn’t be really worth it.

Unfortunately our different time zones and combatting schedules came head to head and that was the end of my interview with Tomás, but I made sure to thank him for his time, and for answering my questions about his work.

If you would like to get your hands on The Night of the Scissors or other free games and demos by Tomás of Selewi, check out their page at https://selewi.itch.io/ And you can follow Tomás Esconjaureguy on Twitter at https://twitter.com/selewidev

Until the next dreadful thing comes our way, be sure to check out more of our previous articles at https://www.dreadxp.com/