Perception is a game that’s been on my radar since it wrapped up its successful Kickstarter campaign in 2015. I always found the concept of having a blind protagonist intriguing. The team over at Deep End Games was also a point of interest for me. It’s not every day you get ex-members from the teams that made Rock Band, Dead Space, and Bioshock together to make a horror game. So I decided to catch up with producer Amanda Gardner to talk about their first project as a teamAmanda was nice enough let me pepper her with questions over the course of several months for this interview which turned out to be a lot of fun. Thanks again Amanda. Hope you guys enjoy.

I think the pedigree at Deep End Games is what gets me excited the most about this project. You have staff that has worked on games like Bioshock, Dead Space, and Rock Band. As someone that follows the indie scene that’s exciting, how did the team come together? What did everyone at Deep End Games do at those studios?

Amanda: Thank you so much. Yeah, when Irrational closed and we began to conceptualize Perception, Bill reached out to some of the people he knew from Irrational and elsewhere in the industry who he wanted to work with. Jim Bonney, our Audio Director, won a BAFTA for his work on Infinite, so he was absolutely on our “must have” list. And to have Robb Waters, creator of the Little Sister from Bioshock, concept our game? Wow, dream come true. So yeah, Bill was able to sort of talk to all his favorite people in the business to see if they can work with us on Perception.

How did the concept for Perception come to be?

Bill was in grad school and the professor said “you’ll have a brilliant idea before you get to the car” as a challenge to his class. The seeds of Perception hit him as he opened the door, and the rest was history. He came home and we chatted – we’ve partnered creatively a number of times before – and then the story really started coming together.

Your team ran a successful Kickstarter campaign for Perception. Being that this team was put together in such a way, was Kickstarter your first choice to get the game funded? How stressful was the process? And would you go that route again?

We thought Kickstarter would be a good model for us, so we just forged ahead and went with it. The process of planning was stressful, but more stressful was the actual campaign. No matter how much you plan, there are things that just come up that you never expected, like people REALLY wanting physical copies of the game. We learned what backers wanted and tried to accommodate as best we could. We’re not 100% sure what’s next, but we would definitely consider Kickstarter again, for sure. We love the community it brought, and the collaboration. :)

Dead Space was a game that flaunted its horror movies influences, while Bioshock subverted storytelling conventions as much as it could, what can you tell us about Perception in term of its influences or is your team trying to make something completely new?

Of course Bioshock is a huge influence, as is Dead Space, but other influences range from Fatal Frame to The Shining and even Alien: Isolation. We really love all things psychological horror, rather than gore or purely jump scares, so definitely anything that’s atmospheric and gives you an awful sense of dread.

I played and really enjoyed Alien: Isolation, but hearing you name drop Fatal Frame and The Shining as influences is really exciting. Even though they’re different mediums the mood they both manage to set is a thing of beauty. Perception is described as a first person narrative horror adventure game. You play as a blind girl named Cassie, and she’s investigating this estate that’s appearing in her dreams. Is that right? What else can you tell us about the premise and your approach to making a horror game based on a such a unique idea?

Well, I always butcher this quote, but Stephen King said that the enemy of horror is knowledge. We simply take more knowledge away from you than most other games. 😉

Your protagonist Cassie is played by Angela Morris, she seems to have put a lot of thought into Cassie as a character. When creating characters for your stories, how much is sacred versus how much you’re willing to give up for the actor’s interpretation?

I’m totally willing to vibe with an actor or actress and do what feels right, but man oh man, when I first heard Angela read for Cassie, I couldn’t believe my ears. She WAS my character. Her instincts are SO GOOD. Every line we give her, she reads in the exact way we pictured her to. And sometimes, she’ll even put a little something on it that we didn’t expect at all. She’s a writer, too, so a super talented gal.

In the game Cassie uses echolocation to make her way around. As a result Perception has an inherent darkness about it that lends itself to so many interesting horror possibilities. How do you pick and choose when to scare the player and when to bring it down a notch? I can imagine this could be a really intense game if things got out of hand.

Well we definitely take our time in the beginning to let the tension marinate. We really want a sense of dread, rather than relying on jump scares or gore. We really just want to give you a long-term anxiety, haha. 🙂 Bill’s really the mastermind behind the pacing; if you look at his levels in BioShock (Welcome to Rapture/Fort Frolic/Medical), you really can see he has such a knack for pacing. I’m gushing, aren’t I. Anyway, that’s his wheelhouse.

You mention that Bill had a hand in designing the Medical Pavilion level in Bioshock. Of all the levels in Bioshock that’s the one that strikes me as the most horror-centric, there are moments of terror I’ll never get over. That one sequence when you are waist deep in water and see the doctor’s silhouette and then the lights go out is so perfectly done. It manages to do a jump-scare of sorts without the “jump”. I remember when the lights went back on I ran out of the water and put jack’s back to the wall. Very effective scare. Is this the type of horror you guys are shooting for or am I just projecting my fanboy love for Bioshock here?

That’s definitely the sort of thing we’re going for, so count on Bill for more moments like that in Perception.

What’s your position on playing other games in the genre while you’re making your own game? I know some teams use it as inspiration while others shy away as to not subconsciously crib ideas.

We have inspirations from years of being gamers, but mostly our references aren’t super recent. They wouldn’t be our contemporaries, for example. We are a very small team, so our time to play games is limited right now, but we have that huge repository to draw from. Yes, we love to keep up with what’s new, and we definitely look into everything, but I wouldn’t say we draw from our contemporaries.

How long has the Perception been in production? And how much has changed since that first design document. Or has development of the game been pretty consistent on what you first envisioned?

A little over two years. The original document hasn’t changed much, since we had a pretty strong vision for what we wanted, but a lot of lines and dialogue have changed, and there have been seedlings of ideas that have really bloomed into big parts of the game. One of those is “Friendly Eyes”, an app Cassie has that gives her descriptive assistance. What was once something you can do once or twice in the game, has turned into basically a new character for us in the game. It’s really exciting.

Friendly Eyes sounds interesting. I’m imagining some type of digital assistant, similar to the various AR modes that became popular with the Arkham games. But in this instance Cassie actually needs descriptive assistance because much of the game is shrouded in darkness. Is that accurate? Or would you describe Friendly Eyes as something more?

I’d say that Friendly Eyes is much like Be My Eyes. It’s just a guy who receives a message/text from Cassie and tries to tell her what he’s seeing in the picture. As you can imagine, this is helpful for Cassie and the player, but can also be decidedly creepy.

Friendly Eyes sounds so much cooler than what I imagined. As creators how do you decide what stays in the game and what gets put on hold for a possible sequel? Which leads me to another question, do you see Perception as a franchise you’d want to expand on if you had the chance to?

There are no plans for a sequel right now but that doesn’t mean it’s ruled out. Bottom line is there isn’t really a cutting room floor – we just do what’s best for this game. 

We’ve seen some gameplay footage of The Presence, it’s design looks terrifying. What, if anything, can you tell us about it?

The Presence is what haunts Echo Bluff, and he’s shrouded in mystery. (We’d rather keep him a secret. More fun that way.)

One of the more intriguing promises is to “travel back in history to exercise your own nightmare” is there anything you can tell us about Cassie’s nightmares? And how traveling back in history will work?

Cassie always sees the same items in the haunted house from her nightmare – a rope, a ticket, an apple, and an axe. These are key items you need to find throughout the game. Whenever she solves what happened to the people who live in the house in a certain time period, the house travels back in time to her last iteration. It’s fun to watch the house de-evolve into its eventual original form. Watching hallways come and go, rooms repurposed, etc, is really exciting.

Perception sounds like its chalked full of great ideas, I can’t wait to get a look at it. I think that about wraps it up for me. Unless there is anything else you want to add. Thank you again for letting me interview you about the game and the team, I’m really looking forward to Perception and your future projects. Hopefully we meet again!

Ok, thanks so much, Jason. 🙂 Just make sure you mention our publisher, Feardemic.


Yes, they’re a publishing company out of Poland who is dedicated to psychological horror and other games that “mess with your head”.

That sounds good, I’ll do a little homework on them. Thanks again Amanda. Good luck with Perception, really looking forward to it!

(Note: I did my homework, I found the CEO of Feardemic and threw some questions at him, but publishing a game is a lot of work so he couldn’t get his answers in on time. When he gets back to me I’ll update the article.)