Interview with Miro Haverinen, the creator of the dark RPG Fear & Hunger

Fear & Hunger (F&H) is a dark and mature RPG, with a strong horror and survival component. The grim world of F&H is definitely a mature experience, dealing with strong topics to create one of the most dark fantasy experiences. F&H is a wind of fresh air in the world of indie RPGs, especially in terms of morality and horror integrated in both lore and design. More information regarding the game can be found in my review.

What surprised me the most is that Fear & Hunger was practically created by just one person: Miro Haverinen. I had the possibility to talk with him regarding F&H, knowing more details about his creative process and his future ideas. Miro kindly answered to all my questions and, if you are interested in knowing more details about F&H, below you can find the complete interview.

Q1: Fear & Hunger is an original RPG with a dark, mature and disturbing setting. How the idea of Fear & Hunger was born?

A1: The original idea was born during my school studies few years ago. In our class we had this tradition of asking random (like truly random) questions from each other. During one class I started asking one of my classmates what he would do in these different morally awkward scenarios that would all happen in a morbid dungeon. The scenarios would continue for a while and more and more people got involved. In the end it started to take a shape of a pen & paper RPG and the dungeons were named ’The dungeons of fear & hunger’.

Later on I had to scrap together some academic credits and I decided to turn the dungeons into a video game format and make a school project out of it. I even ended up writing my thesis about the game. The thesis was about the aesthetics and thematics of horror in video games and the practical part of the thesis was the first demo of Fear & Hunger.

Q2: The setting and the lore of Fear & Hunger are original and interesting. What inspired you the most while creating the game? Which are the major influences for your work and for the complex lore of the game?

A2: I was originally inspired to create a sensation of relentless darkness. I wanted to experiment different ways to evoke hopelessness and horror in a sense. I think this is more apparent in the earlier builds of the game. It has since taken more of a ’video game’ form with the later updates if that makes any sense… As for the influences, there are so many that it’s difficult to pick just few… I guess the biggest influences would be Silent Hill, Hellraiser, Amnesia, Nethack, Berserk and the Souls games. I also want to name Mortal Kombat here, because the lore of MK is really underrated in my opinion. Also the early Mortal Kombat games had a really frightening and vile atmosphere.

The way the lore is presented in F&H is obviously heavily inspired by the storytelling and the world-building of Souls games. But the lore itself doesn’t try to replicate any of those titles. It felt like the game wrote itself on its own really, which is pretty weird looking back to it.

Q3: Let’s know a bit about you, Miro. What did you work before focusing on Fear & Hunger? Were there other videogames/projects before this one or you worked in a completely different field?

A3: Ah, well… I did play around with game developing when I was really young. I found game engines like the RPG Maker and Game Maker among others, but I couldn’t really concentrate on any single project for long and most of the games I made back then died within few weeks or months. I did release a couple of game demos back in the day but unfortunately I don’t have them anymore.

Eventually I drifted away from game development, thinking that there was no future in playing around with simple 2D graphics. Funny enough, right after I quit, the indie gaming exploded so it wasn’t necessarily the best move at the time. Later on I got into graphic designing and I really wanted to make art. Graphic art, music or whatever. There are some album covers around with my art and also some light graphic novels in which I took part. I didn’t really consider game development until I had to get those academic credits from somewhere. I decided to revisit RPG Maker as it was the engine I was the most familiar with. Then people seemed to like the early versions of the F&H and after the first Let’s Plays of the game I was hooked. With games I could fuse together all my interests in different art forms and it was very rewarding to see the immediate reactions Let’s Players had with all the things I had created.

Q4: Which are your favorite videogames?

A4: I have a deep love for Souls games. Demon’s Souls especially awakened something inside me. Also the first three Silent Hill games have a special place in my heart. I’ve never felt the same kind of dread as the 10-year-old me felt with the original Silent Hill. Other than those, I’d say Final Fantasy VII, Ocarina of Time and the original Resident Evil 2 are probably my favourite games of all time. It’s a pretty boring and obvious list haha. Maybe I should throw some more obscure names here too? From the top of my head – A Blurred Line, Legion Saga 2, Devil May Cry 3, Seiken Densetsu 3 and Lost Planet 2 are all cool.

Q5: Fear & Hunger is a really mature game, including sex and gore. In my opinion everything is not gratuitous and it adds darkness to the world, but I was curious: was there something that you deleted from the final release because you considered it too mature or dark?

A5: No, not really. Every time I felt bad about making some things I figured I was on the right path. If it created a repulsive feeling in me, it had to have an effect to people playing the game too. There were some things removed though, but not because they were too dark or mature, but because I felt they took the game more to the meme territory. Like for example the ’Stinger thrust’ attacks of the guards originally caused – erm – …different bleeding statuses during the combat. It was a bit too silly. The status ailment is still in the game, but it’s not too frequent now.

Q6: Personally, I love the monsters of Fear & Hunger, both in terms of design and for the unique battles. Which is your favorite monster and why?

A6: I really like the Skin granny [Figure 1]. Her design is really cool and menacing I think and on my playthroughs she is always one of the more intense fights. If you miss some of the attacks on the first turn, things can go south really fast. Also I think the very first enemy most people run into, the guard [Figure 2], is really the best enemy as far as the gameplay balance goes. In general I’m really happy with the way designs ended up too.

Q7: Developing a videogame could be complicated and many ideas often are cut from the original plan. What was an idea you wanted to implement but at the end was cut from the actual game? A creature or boss fight?

A7: Seeing as I still keep updating the game, I can’t say any of the features were really cut from the game really. They could just be waiting for the future updates! But originally I planned that in the place of the Salmonsnake boss fight [Figure 3], there would’ve been a random variation to the boss fight with a tentacle monster instead. I thought it was a pretty cool idea to go to the lengths of making randomized bosses too. But since that fight is optional to begin with, I felt that that the time it would have taken me to make that functional would be better spent elsewhere. So that’s probably something that will remain cut from the future updates too. There were also supposed to be swimming sections to the game in underground tunnels, but that might be cut out entirely too. Who knows?

Q8: What was the most challenging part of Fear & Hunger development?

A8: Things have gone relatively smoothly with the development. I’d say the most challenging part has been finding the time to make the game. It has demanded so much time for the past 2 years. I really can’t recommend game development to anyone who wants to keep on to their other hobbies and social life haha.

Q9: Fear & Hunger can be a really challenging and punitive game. During the testing, which was the monster/trap that killed you the most? I am talking about something that you really hated yourself, and maybe you also ended up fixing a bit for how much difficult it was.

A9: I didn’t really hate anything during the test runs. Otherwise I would have removed those elements entirely. If I die on my test runs, it’s usually within the opening hours and the cause is the guards. They can be pretty punishing if I go about too carelessly.

The boss fight of the Ending B was originally meant to be hard mode only, but since I could never beat the boss on my test runs, I changed it so that the boss appears in the normal mode as well. I can’t really think of other things… But I’ve changed many things according to the feedback I’ve gotten from the other players though.

Q10: Miro, what is your plan for the future? Are you planning to add contents to Fear & Hunger, or already thinking/developing a new game or a sequel? I would be curious to know some details, if for you is ok.

A10: I’ll continue updating Fear & Hunger to some extent. It has still been my priority, but I’ve also started to plan and make some early work for a follow up game. After the next update I think the priority will shift more towards the next game. So yeah there will be a ’sequel’. But it’s going to be different. I’m not sure if all the people agree with the direction the next game will take, but I feel like I want to make something a little different for a change of pace. And some details? Hmmm…. The game will use the same lore, but won’t be a direct sequel per se. Although it is going to follow one storyline F&H set up already.

Acknowledgements:

I would like to thank Miro for the friendly talk and for his cooperation. I will curiously wait for more news regarding the future of F&H. I would like also to remember the Fear & Hunger is available at itch and STEAM.

Reference Figures:

fear_old
Figure 1: Skin granny
fear3
Figure 2: Guard
fear_salmon
Figure 3: Salmonsnake

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