Justin Pappas, Founder of Ape Law, LLC, took some time to be interviewed about his company's latest game--Albino Lullaby. Albino Lullaby is an excellently designed horror game that ditches the fad of simpleminded jump scares in favor of terrifying, suspenseful horror that stays with you long after the game is over. The game is currently available on Steam and is expected to release on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One at a later date. After playing Albino Lullaby, we had a few questions for Ape Law, which are answered below.
Richard Wilcox: Hey Justin, thanks for taking some time out of your day to answer some of our questions. First off, what gave you guys the idea for such an unconventional horror game?
Justin Pappas: Albino Lullaby actually started out as a student project of mine. Players were trapped in a library and tasked with escape. As they got closer and closer to solving the puzzle, things outside the library started to sound more and more horrible. We wanted to see if we could make players afraid of completing their task. Ever since Ryan Buckley (Our sound director) and I formed our first company ‘Uncanny Valley’ back in 2009 we have been experimenting with and talking about Albino Lullaby. When it came time to get realistic about building our first game we couldn’t think of anything else we wanted to try more.
Richard Wilcox: I know this is the first game Ape Law has made, but what experience do some of you have in game development?(and if this is your first major game most of you have developed color me impressed because it’s pretty damn good)
Justin Pappas: I was a level designer on Bioshock: Infinite and on the Tomb Raider reboot. I was also the level design lead on the indie hit ‘Chivalry: Medieval Warfare,’ though my roots are in QA at Turbine, Harmonix and Hasbro. Other team members have worked for Warner Brothers, and Gearbox as well as with me at Turbine, Irrational and Torn Banner Studios.
Jordan Binder: Could you tell us a little something about each member of Ape Law that we can’t learn from your website? Favorite games, developers, foods, childhood heroes, etc.
Justin Pappas: My favorite game of all time is System Shock 2 and my sound director, Buckley, would quickly back me up on that. Our animator, Melanie just graduated college with a degree in animation and is from big ol’ Texas. Lee, our programmer is a mad genius. He’s kind of like Gandalf in that he’ll disappear for days at a time, then come swooping in on the back of an eagle when we need him most. He has two dogs who love to make cameos on our skype calls. Our PR and Marketing Director, Jack, has been back and forth. He’s a real people person who somehow manages to make magic out of thin air on a daily basis. Our current artist Lucas worked with me on Chivalry and just officially became a Canadian citizen! Our QA master and contributing level designer Joe is currently addicted to Destiny and hasn’t hit rock bottom quite yet.
Richard Wilcox: [SEMI SPOILERS] Who the hell came up with the “grandchildren”? I still see them occasionally when I close my eyes. It’s haunting.
Justin Pappas: Hahah that’s awesome. We feed on your nightmares, yes.
They kind of sprung from my subconscious and how they ended up in the game is an interesting story. Ever since I was a kid i’ve been drawing these creepy french fries with hollow eyes and long teeth. When we first conceived of the grandchildren they were going to have more humanoid forms, but we put in these placeholder pegs until we could get models and animations. While the pegs were in I put my french fry guys on them just for kicks.. after that, no other models or concepts we came up with really felt quite as right, so we fleshed them out in zbrush and the rest is history. I think they really worked for us because everyone felt differently about them. Whether they are funny or scary they pretty much always create a sense of uncertainty and disorientation which is key for suspense.
Richard Wilcox: I know you guys still have two more episodes to release for Albino Lullaby, but any idea what Ape Law is planning to do next? Do you plan to stay within the realm of horror or branch out to something different?
Justin Pappas: Ape Law exists to explore and experiment with games as the next great storytelling medium. We have tons of ideas for interesting, narrative driven games and we aren’t purely horror guys. We plan to continue to explore horror with the next two parts of Albino Lullaby, but after that we want to try to make something beautiful to counter the ugliness that is this game. I can’t say much about our next project, but I can tell you the player will be very, very, very, small.
Jordan Binder: What was the most difficult step in the finalization of Episode 1? Pre-production? Bug squashing? Funding?
Justin Pappas: Letting it go was the most difficult step. We simply HAD to release the episode, even though it didn’t have everything we wanted in it. We had to cut ourselves off and say ‘ok if we are going to release this game EVER, then we need to stop adding things to it.’ Then we had to test and with only one QA pro, that can be very long and arduous. Especially with a deadline looming. It kills me to see youtubers play the game and say ‘gee, why doesn’t this game have X in it?’ when ‘X’ was something we had to cut at the last minute.
Richard Wilcox: I see on your official website that Albino Lullaby supports oculus rift. any plans to support Playstation VR upon it’s release? Also, any word on a console release window?
Justin Pappas: We absolutely do have plans to support the Playstation VR headset! We are in development now on a PS4 version and are slated for the Morpheus as well! We also have a few other interesting VR partnerships in the works that I just can’t talk about yet! We can’t say exactly when we will be ready to release on the consoles, but we are shooting for spring 2016.
Richard Wilcox: Is there any specific piece(s) of entertainment that inspired Albino Lullaby?
Justin Pappas: I’ve always been a media buff of all kinds and everything I’ve ever seen or read has worked it’s way into Albino Lullaby in some capacity. I’ve heard people compare the game to Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton as well as David Lynch and Kubrick films, and I can say that those are four of my most favorite filmmakers for sure. For games, Albino Lullaby has learned a lot from System Shock 2, Thief, MYST, Bioshock and Abe’s Oddysee, to name a few.
Richard Wilcox: I absolutely LOVED the soundtrack for the game. After I completed it, I had to go out and buy a copy of it. What made you decide to have such a somber soundtrack for a horror game? Normally horror games are full of loud eerie noises but the route you chose is very refreshing.
Justin Pappas: One thing we try to do a lot in Albino Lullaby is combine elements that don’t belong together. One example would be the soothing lullaby that plays at the start as you are hit head on by a semi truck. There is something scary about a soothing lullaby that manipulates you into sleeping, especially if that sleep is ‘death’. Some whole segments of Albino Lullaby were inspired by Music. Buckley would send me a song and BAM it would send my imagination reeling.. next thing you know a whole three minute segment is designed around that song.
Here is the description of the soundtrack from soundcloud:
The spectral music of Episode 1 is an adaptation of the metamorphoses of the imprisoned, to the realization that there may never be escape. It is a portrayal of the changes of life, the pains of growth, and the inevitable decay of the human mind, body and soul.
BinderBits: Thanks for taking time to answer these questions!
Justin Pappas: Thank you for asking such great questions and giving me the chance to ramble about Albino Lullaby! You rule!
(We left that last part in because we fangirled too hard at the idea of Justin thinking we’re cool (∩˃o˂∩)♡)