Interview: As Dusk Falls Is A Pure Interactive Narrative Experience

As Dusk Falls - via INTERIOR/NIGHT

As Dusk Falls is a cinematic narrative drama and adventure video game that follows a unique art style. The interactive gameplay adds a special touch to the gameplay, where each player’s decision will impact the outcome. These qualities add a level of replayability to the gameplay so players can explore every possible outcome of the story. 

To learn more about the inspiration and development, we interviewed Caroline Marchal, CEO & Creative Director of INTERIOR/NIGHT, over email. 

Caroline Marchal of Interior/Night
Caroline Marchal – Image Credits: NME/Jennifer McCord

Introduce yourself and tell us a bit about your work on As Dusk Falls.

Caroline: My name is Caroline Marchal. I have been in the industry for over 20 years, previously at PlayStation and Quantic Dream (Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls, and even Fahrenheit). I founded INTERIOR/NIGHT in 2016 and was Creative Director of As Dusk Falls. 

My job is essentially to set the vision for the game (what kind of experience and story this is, what we want players to feel) and help the team achieve it. As Dusk Falls’ original idea dates back to 2014 and is the reason I founded the studio in 2016. Taking this idea to fruition took a while and the best part of it is that it turned out much better than I initially hoped, thanks to the team’s talent and craft.

To this day, As Dusk Falls is considered a very unique title, thanks to its distinctive art style and interactive gameplay. Why do you think we haven't seen bigger games adopt this style?

Caroline: I think each project is unique. In our case, we adopted a distinctive art style that allowed us to stand out among other games and to tell a grounded and character-centric story, with nuanced human performances.

Similarly, gameplay-wise, because we wanted to be super approachable, we went for very lean mechanics that anyone, whether a gamer or non-gamer, would feel competent at so that they can focus on the important part: decision-making and understanding of characters.

As Dusk Falls Character Dialogue
As Dusk Falls – via INTERIOR/NIGHT

Do you think this art style and narrative is very hard to pull off, even for big studios?

Caroline: Narrative is still -wrongly- considered niche when it’s the genre with the most potential for growth in my opinion because stories are inherently universal and have a low barrier of entry from a player skills perspective. Many big and talented studios focus heavily on story (Naughty Dog, Remedy, Insomniac…etc), which is fantastic.

But pure interactive narrative is a difficult genre to pull off because so much relies on the writing and the execution. Every little bit has to fall in place to trigger an emotional connection (music, performance, pacing, design, etc). Our brains look for human behavior and traits, so anything that falls outside of that will break the immersion for the player.

The game recently made its way to PlayStation consoles. Was the porting process easy, and did you work closely with the PlayStation team?

Caroline: PlayStation and our team go way back (many of us in the team are ex-Sony devs) so it was great to work together again. They have been very supportive and patient with us in explaining the ins and outs of the store and platform requirements, notably regarding multiplayer and cross-play.

We also partnered with Snowed In for the Port, who have been fantastic and so knowledgeable. We took great care in the port, by integrating PS-specific features like Haptic Feedback and Touch Controls which in my opinion enhance the experience.

As Dusk Falls - via INTERIOR/NIGHT
As Dusk Falls – via INTERIOR/NIGHT

What has the general reception been like for the game on PlayStation? Are there any rough statistics you could share with us?

Caroline: We’ve been very pleased with the reviews from the press and players (4.5/5 stars at the moment, in line with our Steam reviews score, which is great to see). It was also absolutely fantastic to see streamers like Granny or Neil Newbon play with their audience and how much engagement and tension As Dusk Falls is provoking.

Considering that the game was released on Game Pass, is it possible that we see it coming to PlayStation's subscription service as well beyond the trial version available at the moment?

Caroline: We’re so close to the launch that we haven’t looked further out just yet, we are however looking forward to fans getting their hands on our Premium Physical Edition coming in late Spring.

As Dusk Falls - via INTERIOR/NIGHT
As Dusk Falls – via INTERIOR/NIGHT

As Dusk Falls became a big sensation among content creators, and that was evident from the PS Launch Trailer. Do you believe that sort of coverage gave the game a big initial push?

Caroline: I watched so many of the streams. Every time, it’s an absolute joy to see the community react to the story, pick up on the character’s cues and performance, and make tough decisions together. It strikes me how much these communities match the streamer’s personality and ethos.

Different streamers will have very different playthroughs of As Dusk Falls, and because the story is very branching, even if you watch a stream, you have only seen one version of it. It’s an incentive to play it yourself.

To answer your question, I do think that organic coverage gives us more visibility and is a testament to As Dusk Falls’ highly watchable quality. The broadcast mode, where the community can vote live in the chat with their streamer, is so much fun and also a big reason why streamers love our game because it makes the experience truly communal.

As Dusk Falls - via INTERIOR/NIGHT
As Dusk Falls – via INTERIOR/NIGHT

All the characters are written very well, but some are hated more so than others. Is there a character that you believe gets unnecessary hate? Or a character that you believe is not as good as gamers make them out to be?

Caroline: I love all the characters so I will pick two that I think maybe deserve a bit more compassion: Michelle and Tyler. Michelle has been dealing with a depressed and unemployed Vince for months and has had to provide for the whole family. She’s the one initiating this move to Missouri in the hope of offering them all a fresh start.

I think there’s value in that and sometimes I feel the audience take Vince’s side without necessarily looking at the full picture. As for Tyler: being the eldest in an abusive household, he’s had to step up and take over adult duties early.

He’s smart but not equipped to be happy, given his background and difficult upbringing – which moves me quite a bit. And most of the time he’s trying to adhere to a “male in charge” suit that is heavy to wear, trying to do what needs to be done to get his family out of trouble.

Are there any pieces of content that didn't make it to the final version?

Caroline: We cut a few scenes in the middle episodes mostly for pacing reasons. What changed most was added branching in the second half of the game, after user testing, notably the ability to leave Vanessa behind – because players felt it was irresponsible and selfish of Jay to take her with him across the border. We also made Jay less dark in the first book, to make sure players could relate to him and didn’t judge him too harshly before stepping into his shoes.

Character Dialogue
As Dusk Falls – via INTERIOR/NIGHT

The story ended in a quite open way, and there are definitely several things that can still be expanded. So, is a sequel something that players can expect? Or perhaps more chapters released as paid DLC?

Caroline: We wrote so much for As Dusk Falls, and like with movies, not everything makes it into the final cut! Some however WILL make their way into the Premium Physical Edition which includes Dante’s Black Book (Dante is the Sheriff in ADF). Hidden in there are plot points and secrets that we’ve never previously revealed. I can’t wait for people to see this.

Anything else you would like to share with the readers?

Caroline: I would say, consider playing As Dusk Falls with someone you love. You will not only have fun but also interesting conversations together about your decisions. Someone told me the other day that playing with their spouse made them rediscover each other and I think that’s the best compliment possible.

As Dusk Falls is an interactive narrative adventure video game developed by INTERIOR/NIGHT and published by Xbox Game Studios. The game was released on July 19, 2022, for PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox Cloud Gaming.

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