Full Quiet Brings Modern Scares to Retro Hardware, Hands-on Preview and Developer Interview
I think it is safe to assume that at some point in your life, you have felt some form of nostalgia. Whether it was brought about by the smell of freshly baked cookies, or seeing a kite fly across a blue sky. Then there is the feeling of nostalgia for something that you may not have even experienced, something like watching a commercial for an amusement park and feeling nostalgic despite having never gone as a kid. The latter feeling is what Full Quiet brings out in me, the feeling of being back in a comfortable place that I have never been to before. Full Quiet aims to take all of the modern design philosophies associated with survival horror and adventure gaming, and apply them to the technical limitations of the NES. Through console-accurate methods, the team at Retrotainment has created the ultimate game you wish you had for your NES as a kid.
This title has been on my watchlist for a while, and before attending PAX I was actually attempting to get in touch with the team to discuss it. So it will come as no surprise that I was shocked speechless when I saw Full Quiet on the show floor. Making my way through the crowd of consumers and cosplayers I cut through to the booth, and after tracking down the developer Greg Caldwell, I was able to pull him aside for a short conversation about the project, how it came to be, and what it brings to new age retro gaming.
Before we spoke, I took a moment to play through the available gameplay demo for Full Quiet. I was immediately impressed with the solid controls, which had an excellent weight that left the player feeling in complete control without leaving the character feeling too snappy. As I progressed, I marveled at the smart use of the NES controllers layout. Not a single button goes unused, and in some cases, double-tapping may be required to execute certain actions. All of this, along with clever ways of interacting with objects make Full Quiet feel like it could have been the greatest NES game ever made had it been released in the late 80s.
Over the course of the demo, I navigated a dense map with multiple routes, leading to areas I had seen in the backgrounds of previous sections, which made it all feel very organic and connected. The combat had a good pace, finding a good balance between being hectic, but not so fast as to catch you off guard or not allowing you time to react. To complete the demo there were puzzles that needed to be solved, and a brilliant use of the NES controller wherein the player must roll their thumb on the D-pad to simulate spinning a dial. All in all the presentation and mechanics for Full Quiet succeed on all fronts.
As I reached the end of the demo I had a massive grin on my face, and as the next player stepped up to face the 8-bit terror I stepped aside with Greg to talk about what I had just seen.
Kicking off the interview I wanted to get to the heart of Full Quiet, curious as to how the team approached the development, and where they drew from for ideas, I asked Greg if he could tell us about their inspirations and design philosophies for Full Quiet?
Greg Caldwell: So the main thing is that we weren’t basing it off of any existing game, we wanted to build something that was unique. And we had just over the period of several years kind of pieced everything together, it took a lot of play testing, because like you said, we have a lot of different mechanics going. One thing working cohesively with all these different mechanics is very difficult. So we just sort of took a little bit of inspiration from survival horror, took a little bit of inspiration from Metroidvania games. Obviously, there’s some combat in it, but it’s more about figuring things out. It’s more about exploration and figuring out the mystery adventure.
Aside from the stellar gameplay and atmosphere, one major thing that drew me to Full Quiet was its NES-accurate graphics. Now, I consider myself to be a little bit of a snob when it comes to retro-styled graphics, so I was very impressed by the pixel-perfect presentation of the title. Moreso, I was shocked to learn that the entire game is built for, and functional on, original NES hardware, with the company even selling physical cartridges of the title. Knowing that this could not have been an easy feat, I asked Greg if there was any point in development where, for the sake of convenience, he wished he wasn’t working with antiquated technology?
Greg Caldwell: Yeah, like pretty much every day. But our desire is to make NES games. That’s it, full stop. Like, we love the console, we love the cartridges, we love making games for it, even though the restrictions are crazy. It’s just what we’ve always wanted to do, and we’re improving and we’re honing our craft. And we just want to keep putting out fun, interesting titles.
As a follow-up I asked Greg to tell me about his previous experience making games for the NES.
Greg Caldwell: We made Haunted Halloween 85 and 86, and we made Garbage Pail Kids and now we’re releasing Full Quiet.
On the topic of NES hardware and development, I asked Greg if there was anything inside the cartridge to give these games an additional edge over games from the NES era?
Greg Caldwell: Nothing is outside of the era of the NES. It’s obviously not the same chips that were used. The EEPROM chips back in the day, there’s a modern version of it. But we’re not cheating in any way. There’s not there’s not like a coprocessor on the cartridge or something that’s doing anything. Everything that we’re doing here could have been done back in 1989.
I loved hearing that everything seen on the show floor was NES-accurate, and would run on your childhood Nintendo. Eager to get my hands on Full Quiet, I asked Greg if he had a release window at this time?
Greg Caldwell: We’re hoping that it’s next month, maybe like mid-April, we’re in the process of porting it to Xbox, Switch, Steam. And once that’s ready to go, we’ll do the full-on release.
Moving beyond the trials and tribulations of making the game and onto the game itself, I asked Greg if he could tell any readers unfamiliar with the project about the characters and conflicts of Full Quiet?
Greg Caldwell: Yeah. So you play as Hutch and something broke into his house and took his son. And he has an inkling that it’s related to some of the stories that Pap had been telling him about the strange encounters they have out in the woods. Pap, and his ham radio buddies sort of have this world set up out in the middle of nowhere. So you’re isolated out here trying to figure out clues, piece everything back together, figure out what happened, and ultimately get your son back.
I wanted to know more about the structure of the story. Branching story paths has become somewhat of a staple for survival horror games, having been a feature as far back as the first Resident Evil. With this in mind, I asked Greg if Full Quiet would give players the opportunity to change the outcome of the ending?
Greg Caldwell: Well, I don’t want to give too much away. But this is definitely non-linear. And the game will unfold completely differently for anyone that’s playing it. There’s no set path, there’s no set objectives that you have to do in any specific order. Very little of it is like hard lock-and-key stuff. So you’ve got to figure out how you want to approach things, what you want to approach and when you want to approach it.
I was extremely excited to see what Greg had in store when Full Quiet released. Wrapping up the interview, I asked Greg if he had a final message to broadcast out to any prospective gamers?
Greg Caldwell: It’s challenging, and we do not hold your hand. So if you’re interested in the kind of game where you’ve got to pay attention to your surroundings, look at the background, see what’s there. You’re gonna get frustrated at times, but it also gives you some of those fist pump moments because finally it clicks or you take down a tough enemy and it feels like it matters.
With that, I thanked Greg again for taking the time to speak with me, and for keeping the NES alive with new additions to its library. During the remaining days of the show I returned to the booth to give the demo another run through, as I was still in awe of how well executed the entire idea was.
If you want to stay up to date on Full Quiet and other new NES titles, be sure to follow Retrotainment Games on Twitter for the latest information. And as always, if you are absolutely fiending for the latest and greatest in ghoulish and gruesome gaming, then be sure to head back to DreadXP and read more of our frightful features!