Interview: Sergio Rosa from The Domaginarium

Greetings, readers!

We at Vintage Kayfabe take every opportunity we can to establish this site as not only a website for coverage across multiple hobbies, but also one that properly gives time and attention to up-and-coming developers.

It’s our goal to create a melting pot of both mainstream and independent video-game properties with an added emphasis on indie development.

After all, we have seen in the past 10 years or so, a surge in indie creativity that revolutionized a large number of facets of the gaming industry into what it is today.

It began with outlets such as Xbox Live Arcade, then the introduction of Steam and today, you can find a plethora of sources with which to gain exposure to the often underappreciated side of video-games.

This is one of those sources!

The Nightmare From Beyond, developed by El Salvador’s The Domaginarium, is a third-person platforming horror game that draws inspiration from stories like “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth”.

It features a gripping and soul-stealing environment and universe that instantly reminds oneself of past atmospheric horror games such as American McGee’s Alice, Eternal Darkness and Silent Hill.

Luckily for us, we managed to get a word with the designer and writer of The Nightmare From Beyond, Sergio Rosa.


Vintage Kayfabe: Perhaps not many people are familiar with The Domaginarium, so could you take this opportunity to give a brief history lesson on your studio?

Sergio Rosa: Well, we are a small studio in a really tiny country named El Salvador. We’ve been around since 2011, a time where there weren’t that many studios in the country (only 2, including us, if I remember correctly). Personally I’m very into writing, so I thought it would be a good idea to focus on story-driven games. A couple of years ago we launched our first game, a horror-adventure game titled Enola. I always describe that game as a “weird game” because it’s a horror game, but it’s very story driven and the plot itself is very unusual.

VK: The Nightmare From Beyond is a very unique game in that it not only covers Lovecraftian horror, but also explores the platforming genre. Platforming is starting to make a comeback in many ways including the release of Yooka-Laylee, but they also had the help of having a record with the Banjo-Kazooie franchise. Do you think platforming was the right way to go for this game?

SR: To be honest I’ve been wondering the same thing since we began the project, lol. I remember one day I was thinking about this movie called The Descent (about some cave-exploring women) and I remember a scene where some of them were holding to a rock while one of the cannibal things was walking below. There I thought “it would be cool to have something like that in a game”. The cool thing about platforming is that it adds verticality to the whole thing. Even if you limit the game to a “hide and seek” mechanic, being able to hide above or below the enemy adds a new layer of gameplay. I think the Lovecraftian element will be helpful as well, because Lovecraftian horror is more about a concept and idea, but not much about frenetic set pieces or jumpscares. So, one of the things we are trying to get across are the Lovecraftian elements related to the plot and the feeling of “overwhelming odds” above anything else.

So, I think you have a good point, because platforming and horror feel they don’t fit, but we will do our best to make it work.

VK: Would this just be a start as far as creating platforming games, or is The Domaginarium looking to test out multiple genres in order to accrue experience in game development?

SR: I’d say both. We would already have a starting point for a new 3d platformer, and it would be more about adding new features to an existing system, so we would definitely work on more platformers. However, we also want to explore other genres so we are not seen like “the guys that make weird horror games.” For example, I am a big Tomb Raider fan, and at some point I’d like to work on a platformer that is more “adventure/exploration” oriented. But, on the other hand, we also want to see what we could do in other genres, like point-and-click adventures, PS2-era-like horror games or even more action-oriented games like top-down shooters and such, or even combining genres to see what happens.

VK: Do you take inspiration from any other studio, game or developer?

SR: I’d say there are a lot of inspirations. For example, at GDC 2016 I met Steve Gaynor from The Fullbright Company and I was telling him how Gone Home was what I would have liked Dear Esther to be, because, while in Dear Esther they just made you walk, Gone Home took the interaction element further. Besides, it was cool to see people that came from the AAA industry make something so different to what they used to make. Also, even if I’ve only played a few of their games, I think Remedy has a very interesting way to deliver stories, with Max Payne and Alan Wake. There are also a couple of very recent games that got me thinking about gameplay: Nier Automata and What Remains of Edith Finch. I haven’t played any of those (well, I did play the NA demo on PS4), but I’ve seen they constantly switch gameplay. Personally, that’s something I would like to try soon. For example, this might sound like a stupid idea, but what if we had a point-and-click game that suddenly plays like a platformer, and then goes into top-down mode, etc. That might offer a cool gameplay experience. But, to be honest, my greatest inspiration is Silent Hill.

VK: If it wasn’t Lovecraftian horror, is there any other realm of fiction you’d be interested in tackling for a future release?

SR: We would take on pretty much anything, really. I mentioned before that I am into writing. Actually I have a few stories we could explore, including a sci-fi thriller, a modern-era episodic thing somewhat inspired by Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and even gothic horror. For example, there’s a project in pre-production that is a Flash Gordon kind of sci-fi, with the over-the-top characters and weird mutant space monsters.

We don’t want this game to be like “Hey, look! We have tentacles! That’s so Lovecraft!” We want to deliver the concept correctly.

VK: If you could somehow try your hand on an existing license, such as Silent Hill, do you have any in mind that your studio would love to be apart of?

SR: Woah, that’s a tough one. Right off the bat, anything Star Wars. Even if it was a small game! Besides, my inner fanboy would say Silent Hill, though I’d personally continue where SH3 ended, and one of the guys here would definitely say Final Fantasy.

VK: Any big challenges or hurdles while developing The Nightmare From Beyond?

SR: Well, getting the platforming to work well has been the biggest challenge, because we need to make the controls responsive and the platforming challenging. At some point we were really struggling with the “make it more realistic” part of the animation, trying to add weight and all the nice “blendings and in-betweens” to the character, but they would become useless when we found that precision movements struggled with the “nice and realistic animations.”

The other one must be adapting Lovecraft. That’s really difficult because we don’t want this game to be like “Hey, look! We have tentacles! That’s so Lovecraft!” We want to deliver the concept correctly. So, besides reading lots of his stories, we also watch documentaries and “lore videos” so we are not left with our own interpretations, but with the interpretations from other hardcore fans as well, so we get that concept right. We’ve even found stuff related to Lovecraft’s xenophobia–especially in “The Horror at Redhook”–and even that is an element that we would like to use as part of the plot in a way that adds to the whole story and concept.

The whole Lovecraftian element is particularly difficult when some have a specific “checklist” of what they expect from a horror game. I remember one person telling us once “well, the game is not scary” and then compared it to modern jumpscare-driven horror games. That made me think the problem is that “scary” nowadays means “lots of jumpscares and gross imagery” which is completely different to PS2-era games. I think the Lovecraftian themes are better suited for those slow-burning PS2-era horror games than modern jumpscare-funhousy horror games.

VK: Since your studio is from El Salvador, do you find yourselves relishing the opportunity to become a studio that aptly represents your country in the world of game development? I can’t say I’ve heard too many–if any–studios from there!

SR: Well, every time we go to gaming events, people usually say they didn’t know there were game developers in El Salvador. Nowadays, the game development scene in our country is not the same as 2011. At least we now are 3 or 4 companies that focus solely on game development (including us), and a few companies that have a small game development division. The thing is, none has made a big impact in the gaming industry, be it a monetary impact, or one based on a large group of followers.

However, I think we do have a chance to do that, and in fact, it’s one of our goals. On one hand, Future games will feature more of our identity and culture, but without being too localized that they end up being alienating to outsiders, and on the other hand, we will look for ways to let more people know the games come from our little country.

VK: When not developing games, what is The Domaginarium usually up to?

SR: Is there such thing as not developing games? Lol. Well, when we are not making games we are either playing videogames or on vacations, but I don’t think our brains ever stop. Even during our free time, we are thinking of new ideas, workflows or plots for future projects. I even have an Excel file that has a very barebones initial design of some future projects.

VK: Any social media or other plugs you’d like to make?

SR: Well, first of all, thanks for the opportunity! Then, I hope people find The Nightmare from Beyond interesting, and that feel free to ask any question or provide any input in our social networks facebook.com/FaceTheNightmare (https://www.facebook.com/FaceTheNightmare/) and @NightFromBeyond (https://twitter.com/nightfrombeyond). We really want to make the subject justice, so we always keep our eyes open to what people say about the entire Lovecraft mythos. Greetings from El Salvador!

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