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The indie game Red (Abyssinia Games) recently came across my path, and I had the good fortune to connect with its creator, Ryan Swaims.

A dear friend (Katie Aufenthie) had brought the game to my attention in a unique way: she created the music for the project.

Red is the first game for Swaims, and he clearly has a vision. Red, designed for the Oculus Rift (but also playable in standard form on PC/MAC), is a journey through a fantastical wood as Little Red Riding Hood. But this isn’t the fairy tale to the extent we are familiar with.

The game is described as such on the Abyssinia Games website:

The world in RED is set upon the leaves of a giant bean stalk where the inhabitants of our favorite stories have decided to make a home. We will embark on the journey as Red, to find our way back to Grandmother’s house, but our world is dying – the beanstalk is wilting and leaves are falling – taking whole villages with them. If that weren’t enough, our once safe home has been overrun by the mutated wolves we tried to escape from. Will you survive the journey through the woods or be devoured by the wolf? What will become of Red in the end?

Color me intrigued.

Swaims made time to answer a few of my questions, and I’m pleased to share the experience here.

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Where did your inspiration for Red come from? What drove you to create from that inspiration?

While deciding what to pursue as my first full game, I bounced around many ideas and someone threw out the idea that I should do a fairy tale based story. I pulled out the Grimm’s Fairy Tale book and decided to do a spin on Little Red Cap – or as we all know it – Little Red Riding Hood. I knew that I didn’t want to just regurgitate the original story, and in making for an interesting VR adventure, I decided to take the story in an even darker direction. I wrote a great deal of back story that helped to define the world that you explore which involved a society that had lost a war with their oppressive government (the Kingdom) which had retaliated against the people in the villages for their rebellion causing starvation and the overall downfall (literally) of their world.

Do you develop alone or with others?

I developed Red alone, but I have a great circle of friends that allowed me to bounce ideas and who were willing to test out my ideas.

How did you come to connect with Katie (Aufenthie) on the music? How did you decide what direction the music should take? How was this achieved?

Katie and I were talking one night about some of my story ideas and I mentioned that I was in desperate need of underscoring and an overall theme for the story. Katie was excited at the prospect of getting to create outside of a purely academic setting and we set off on listening to some things that fit well with the story. Since the story was set with such a bleak premise, I wanted to ensure that the score was more of a dirge with an innocent undertone. We listened to Parlour Trick’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and dissected the instrumentation and played with recording bits here and there until the Red theme was born. Katie put so many hours into perfecting the music, fine tuning the instruments to get the right sound, making sure that it all fit perfectly. Some things that came together by chance (such as the humming theme) were all by accident, but worked perfectly.

What made you want to develop for the Rift?

The Oculus Rift (and VR in general) provides a platform for going beyond traditional level design and really allows you as the developer and designer to create entire worlds – even if you never really get to see just what is beyond the trees. It is one thing to play a game on a screen (even a very large screen) but to truly feel as if you are the character, to experience a virtual world, is truly an indescribable feeling. Watching people as they experience VR for the first time is almost magical. Almost everyone has the same reaction the first time – and yes it is definitely full of giggling and stumbling like a drunk person, but it is a mind opening experience.

Do you have plans to release Red on Steam or any current gen consoles?

Unfortunately, I do not have any plans to release Red on Steam or for any further platforms. There is a possibility that I may someday revisit Red and take it from a short story game to a full length game and I will probably reconsider my options then.

What have been your most influential gaming experiences?

I would have to say that my most influential gaming experience was the BioShock franchise. I love a story-driven game especially if there is the right blend of horror and beauty – and also that I’ve had a bit of a fascination with the 1930s and ’40s era of design. Some of my other all-time favorites have been Fallout 3, Dead Island, Portal, and Dead Space.

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What are the greatest challenges you found yourself faced with in the development of Red?

Red was the first game I developed. Ever. Mainly, I struggled with frame rate (the Oculus cuts your FPS in half, so what would be considered acceptable on a standard monitor becomes utterly unplayable on the Oculus).

I also struggled with how much of the story to add to what I wanted to be a 15-minute game. I wrote a considerable amount of back story for Red – which helped to create the world you explore – but I had to take all of the pieces and present them in a visual way. It kind of lets the player build their own interpretation of what is happening, but still allows for the sense of a dystopian world.

What types of experiences do you hope to bring to gaming?

Looking forward, I want to bring more story-driven gaming to the world. So many games can be summed up in a mere sentence, but the games that stick with you – that you want to play again and again and make your friends play – are the ones with the best stories. That brings me to my next endeavor – which is currently called Before the Fall – which takes the player back to a 1939 hotel where it seems you’ve been trapped in a nightmare, but soon realize that hell itself is being unleashed into the world. You have to fight your way through demons and monsters to the heart of the disturbance and close the portal to hell all set in a beautiful Art Deco world.

Swaims most certainly has a solid idea of what he wants to see brought to the table in his future games, and I, for one, can’t wait to see them come to fruition.

For more information on Red (currently available for download) or Abyssinia Games, please visit Swaims’ official website.

Just added! Please check out this link for gameplay footage of Red.

5 replies »

  1. Great interview. I know very little about what goes into creating a game but that fact didn’t take away from understanding this interview. I actually have never tried a VR game and now, I want to! I’ll spread the “Red” word around with my computer friends at APSU.


    • thank you! and this is exactly what i hope for: to expose people to games or aspects of gaming they might not ordinarily see.

      and yes! please feel free to get your computer friends involved here. :)


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