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An interview with Giovanni Debidda, the developer of Hell Hunter

Giovanni Debidda is the developer of Hell Hunter: Anti-Nomen. Here he talks about himself, his interests and, of course, about his new audiogame! 

Can you talk a little about yourself? Where do you live, what are your studies, how did you approach the world of development?

I’m 28 and I live in Italy, in Reggio Emilia. I love video games and reading manga. I studied for a bachelor in Information and Technology but I retired before finishing. I always wanted to make video games, but since I got my first PC when I was 14, I never had the chance to make more than playing them. Starting from there, I messed with game editors and tried to mod existing games or create something with Game Maker or RPG Maker XP. During my university years, I also started to make some ROM hacking for SNES games and joined some other projects. Finally, last year, I had the chance to follow a game design course and, this way, I got access to the world of audiogames.

Is Hell Hunter your first game?

Despite I messed with mods and stuff, I actually never managed to complete any minor project, leaving behind me just a trail of WIP projects, so Hell Hunter 1 and Hell Hunter 2 will be my first developed games.

Can you give us a sneak peek of Hell Hunter?

Hell Hunter tells a story about Elyon, the main character of the game: he is a dhampir,​ so the son of a vampire and a human, and he’s obsessed with hunting the vampires, in fact he’s a vampire hunter, but on the way he also fights against creatures of the night in general. At the time the game starts, he has a long career on his shoulders and decides that it’s the time to slay Dracula, the lord of darkness, for the sake of his personal mission. The story takes place in our days, that means the present, with humans and technology, internet and smartphones. People are not aware that vampires exist for real and some of them even managed to live among society: Elyon, officially, is just a hunter, because he can’t simply wander around with weapons and kill creatures, so that’s his cover for the law. However, more precisely, he’s somewhere in Transylvania and most of the events will happen far from the eyes of people. During his travel, in Hell Hunter 1, Elyon will also be chased from a deadly threat, wherever he will go.

Hell Hunter is a horror audiogame: how did you manage to bring the horror part into the game?

I pulled a lot of effort in the script of the story and tried to be quite detailed in some parts of it, especially the creepy ones, yet I think that script and many monsters alone won’t do the job: the point is that I believe the most important thing is to invoke the right mood during a horror game, and the audio has a key role in that. Since this is an audiogame, I can’t count on the graphic, hence that is even more true. That being said, it’s also necessary to time the audio properly, so I had to program many extra features just for that. To me, deciding which type of audio and when to play it was probably the most difficult part in the whole development of Hell Hunter, also because, aside planning that, I had to create most of those type of sounds and music on my own – to be honest, it’s my first experience with audio files so I can just hope I managed to achieve a good result. Finally, I programmed some extra game design features which allowed me to use the audio in an interesting way for my purpose: I tried to not rely too much on the jumpscares and tried, instead, to make the player feel anxious for wider periods of the gameplay, with the help of dynamic environment music and many other tricks.

Are there any innovations in the gameplay structure?

Rather than calling them innovations I’d call them enhancements: Hell Hunter has a similar structure to Blind Quest – The Enchanted Castle, anyway I decided to stay “classic” instead of changing the structure into something else. The battle works in the same way, I even kept the fact that you have to press up to attack without any restriction on the time among the attacks, so technically I kept the issue about mashing the up button as well. That said, I think I fixed the issue with some programmed extra enemy features and game balancements, so now, among an enemy attack and another one, the player won’t have much time to simply spam the attacks, which means such a tactic won’t pay very much and actually could quickly lead the player to a game over; besides, some enemies will even stop taking damage if you keep spamming attacks without dodging. The battle system of Hell Hunter is designed so that the player should rather play safely, dodging the enemy attacks and not being too greedy when attacking the enemy. Anyway, the actual enhancements are various extra behaviours I added to the enemies: during the battle, some of the enemies will be able to make what the game calls “deadly attacks”, which are powerful attacks with different extra effects among them. Among the effects there will be buff to the enemy or debuff to the player, also different enemies will have to be approached in a different way, some of the enemies will be defeated dodging instead of attacking, and it will be even more efficient in that way. These and other gimmicks will be found among the enemies of the game and the player should be able to recognize the behavior of these enemies from their descriptions and from the sounds during the battle. During the exploration, there will be some of the gimmicks I mentioned before which will restrict your movements and other nasty situations that will enhance the game experience of the player. On a side note, not all the gimmicks, both in battle and exploration, will be revealed in the demo, so the players can expect much more in the full version of Hell Hunter!

Which were your favourite parts, both to design and to play?

I can’t tell for sure about design and gameplay, since I still have to complete what happens after the demo, but I must say that the part of the story I like the most is near to the end of the game, so I won’t spoil anything to the players! Instead, I’ll stay inside the scope of the demo: without any doubt, the part I liked to design the most is the manor. It took quite some time making the level design of the area, especially due to the gimmick of the place, then all the events inside it and the design of the music at last. I wanted to create a certain mood, so I hope the feed of the players will be positive.

Here’s the demo of Hell Hunter: Anti-Nomen on Audiogame.Store:
https://www.audiogame.store/en/shop/hell-hunter-anti-nomen-demo/

If you want to listen to this interview, you can find it here: https://youtu.be/O-NrQ5uEx1w