Interview with Joel Staaf Hästö (Kathy Rain)

Joel Staaf Hästö Image

Okay so tell me about yourself?
I’m 31, Swedish, and I live near Stockholm, Sweden together with my girlfriend. I’m a full time indie dev, working on my own games from home since 2015.

What other games have you worked on?
Kathy Rain is my first project in a creative capacity, but before that I worked as a gameplay programmer on Syndicate (2012), Bourne (cancelled), Brothers: a tale of two sons (2013), Magicka: Wizard Wars (2014), Magicka 2 (2015), and A Way Out (not yet released).

When and why did you start Clifftop Games?
In 2015, mainly to have a company brand for Kathy Rain and other games of my own. As for why I chose to go into indie development, I always wanted to make my own games, and really only a lack of confidence kept me back. Raw Fury (the publisher) taking an interest in Kathy Rain gave me the courage to take that leap.

How long had you been working on Kathy Rain prior to going to Raw Fury?
About three years, in my spare time.

So how much of the work on Kathy Rain did you do yourself?
I did all of the coding, game design, writing, project management, sound design (apart from music and V/O editing), and also some visual effects.

And can you tell me about any other members of the team?
Shane Stevens did all characters and animation, Nauris Krauze made the background art, Tove Bergqvist created the character portraits, and Daniel Kobylarz composed the music. Dave Gilbert directed the voice overs from NYC. Many more were involved of course, such a voice actors, translators, beta testers and such, but that’s the basic team.

What were your influences for the story?
Veronica Mars, Twin Peaks, Gabriel Knight, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo books, Silent Hill, among others.

Why did you set the game in the 90’s?
Partly as an homage to the classics and other influences in fiction, also due to personal nostalgia, and finally because I think detective work was much more interesting before the age of smartphones and Google.

Why did you choose a Journalism major for your main character?
It seemed to be a good fit, given her inquisitive nature, but I don’t see it as a critical aspect of her character. Her studies are never directly brought up much during the game, nor do they influence the path she takes in the story.

What can you tell me about the potential Kathy Rain sequel?
Not too much at this point as it only exists in my head, but both Kathy and Eileen will return, and the game will likely take place in the unnamed city where they go to university.

Some of the other minor characters will return, but I’d rather not promise exactly who at this point. We may also meet some of the characters that we only know by voice or by name.

I’d like to get the same voice actors and actresses to reprise their roles from the first game, but that will depend on things like budget and who will handle our V/O in the end.

KR2 will definitely not be played in a 4:3 aspect ratio like the original, since that caused way too many technical problems. I may also bump up the resolution, depending on budget and the artist(s) I’ll be working with.

If you could be one minor character in Kathy Rain who would you pick and why?
Claude. That guy can lift!

What was your favourite and least favourite part of the game?
My favorite part is probably any scene involving Kathy and Eileen in the dorm and their banter. Had a great time writing that! My least favorite part is the ending. Could have been better.

With hindsight is there anything you’d change about Kathy Rain?
One thing is that I would do is resolve Sue and Nathan’s fate better. Right now, it ends with a creepy painting left by Kathy in plain sight in the cabin, and we never learn more about what happened to them.

Another is that I would probably flesh out the ending in Conwell Woods and the buildup to it a bit more, and look over the pacing in the final act.

I would also add a few more references to Kathy’s abortion prior to the ending and how it has affected her, as we only really have the dream sequence between days 1 and 2. Some players rightly felt that plot point wasn’t as well supported by the game as it could have been.

Lastly, I’d tone down the profanity of the young biker who assaults Kathy in the biker club. I went too far there, it was unnecessary.

What can you tell me about Whispers of a Machine?
WOAM is a collaborative effort with fellow indie dev Petter Ljungqvist of Faravid Interactive, who released an adventure game of his own called The Samaritan Paradox back in 2014.

As for the content of the game, I can’t say too much that isn’t already public information, but the major difference from Kathy Rain other than the setting, characters and themes, is that the game allows for different paths and strategies, and the player can shape Vera (the protagonist) more to their liking.


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