I still remember the day that I heard about Blind. Our founder Chris had just returned from our first GDC as a publishing label, and he was bouncing off the walls with excitement. “I signed this amazing VR game called Blind” he excitedly exclaimed, yet none of us could see it, because we had no VR gear in the office at the time. I was dubious at best – a VR game where everything is black?
My faith was restored in the concept when I loaded up that GDC demo on an early Oculus dev kit. This was really something else. While all VR games at the time were striving to provide hyper-realistic shooting galleries, you felt isolated and alone in this space, literally fumbling around in the dark. The game has come a long way in the four years of development, and as we hit the submit button for the final time I sat down with Matteo Lana, the studio head of Tiny Bull Studios, to reflect on the journey.
“I still remember meeting Chris at Game Connection in 2014,” Matteo recalls. A small team from Italy were in San Francisco to show off their demo. The prototype for Blind was actually created as “Come To See My House” for the Global Game Jam in 2014. The theme for the year was “we don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are”. Matteo laughs “someone joked that we should make a game about a blind person so we could skip making graphics. The more we thought about it, the more we became excited by that, and we ended up fleshing that jam prototype out into a bigger, more emotional concept”.
Funnily enough, we actually published another game that was born during that very same Global Game Jam. Screencheat took that same concept and went a hard left, creating a party shooter with insane customisation that plays on nostalgia by making everyone literally invisible, so you are forced to Screencheat. The two games could not be any more different from each other, but it’s fun to think that a small student team from Melbourne, Australia could also go on to make a multi-platform release at the same time that Tiny Bull Studios were in Turin, Italy, making their biggest release to date.
What a release it is too. A game that explores so many avenues of fear: the loss of sight, navigating a world that is foreign and unknown, fear of disconnection from family and friends, and fear for one’s life. Matteo doesn’t think that Blind is as dire as all that, however he is proud of what the game does explore. “The story of Jean is one I think people can relate to on many levels. As you slowly unravel the mystery surrounding her family, and the house, and the warden, you learn that Jean is not only lost because she is blind, but because she isn’t sure what is real in her world, and as the player you come on her journey to face the truth and take back control.”
The photos that Matteo shares of Turin literally scream European city to me; magnificent buildings and great bronze statues, complete with cobblestone roads leading from the modern city district out to the countryside. “We love our city, so we decided to found our studio here so we could contribute to the growth of Italy’s gaming industry”. Turin sits comfortably as a developer hub next to Milan and Rome, with a few dozen studios and a few hundred amatuer developers in the city. “We meet every few months, and host some of the biggest game jam events in the country” Matteo proudly beams, and as I peruse the photos I begin to think about a relocation plan.
As we talk about the release, Matteo still maintains the same amount of passion he had the first time I spoke to him four years ago. “We’re incredibly excited to finally release our game! Sometimes it feels like we have been working on this game for twenty years, so on one hand we are so happy to see it end. It has been such a huge part of our lives though, so we’re also afraid it will leave us an emptiness of some sort.” There’s a dramatic pause, as Matteo so often does during out calls. “I guess we’ll do our best to fill that void with an exciting new project!”.