How ICO, Dark Souls, house moves and financial pressures birthed upcoming PS4 action RPG Fall of Light

Hi everyone! My name is Matteo Sciutteri and I’m the game designer at RuneHeads. Our first game is Fall of Light, a story-driven action RPG, and I’m delighted to share the news that Fall of Light: Darkest Edition is coming to PS4 later this summer (exact date still TBC).

While showing Fall of Light at last year’s Gamescom, to answer the question “what kind of game is Fall of Light?” I always said: “it’s a mix between Dark Souls and ICO”. In response to this, one player asked “Oh, wow! And… how did you have the idea to mix two very different games?” Well…

Fall of Light

A house move and a fateful unboxing

Six years ago, after a brief period in Puglia, I moved back to Milan, where I lived almost all my adult life. It was a time of change and, probably because of this, I was particularly thoughtful. I put all my stuff in boxes. The last one I packed was a box full of videogames.

As I did, there were two games that caught my attention, to the point I spent a few minutes just holding them in my hands, gazing at their cover art. One was ICO, the other Dark Souls.
Two games I really like. I was surprised when I started to think just how much those two games had in common, despite being totally different.

Their mood and story are similar. They talk about loneliness, and the voids both outside and within. Their main characters are brought to an unknown place and try to stay alive while exploring worlds that are falling apart…

Fall of Light

And I asked myself: why is there not a game that merges these two different souls? At the time, I had to put the idea to one side and concentrate on more immediate matters.

Jump to 2017 and, after 20 years as employees, Cristian (RuneHeads coder) and myself decided to become indie game devs. We founded RuneHeads and started to think about our first game. During the initial phase of brainstorming, I said: what if we do a game inspired by ICO and Dark Souls? And that’s how the idea of Fall of Light was born!

Fall of Light

The difference between thinking and doing

Merging two different games like that was a real challenge. We had limited resources and 90% of the budget was covered by our savings. When the project started and RuneHeads was founded, we knew we had only one year to complete the game. After that time, we would run out of money.

So, to achieve our goal, for 11 months we worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week. It was very tough. Especially when the task was a creative task. Because, you know, thinking under pressure, with limited time and the ‘Sword of Damocles’ of the bills on our heads, is not the easiest thing.

Fall of Light

We spent nights talking about game mechanics, such as Aether (the hero’s daughter who accompanies you on your quest) being kidnapped by the Shadows. In ICO, the main character isn’t a warrior and the combat system is based around protecting Yorda only in some specific points of the game. However, in Fall of Light – like Dark Souls – we have a warrior as the main character, and one of the questions was “what should we do if a player is engaged in a fight with a strong enemy and the Shadows appear?”

Fall of Light

A lot of times we asked ourselves “is this idea too much like Dark Souls? Or does it stray too far from the ‘design by subtraction’ philosophy of ICO creator Fumito Ueda?”. We discussed this for every single mechanic. Man, it was the hardest thing in my life as a designer!

Does it work? I think it does. But, of course, the most important words are the ones from the players and I can’t wait for the PlayStation crowd to experience Fall of Light soon! And we can’t wait to find out if you’ll like our game.

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