Clifftop Games Joel Staaf Hästö Interview

Joel Staaf Hästö talks about Kathy Rain and starting Clifftop Games.

Kathy Rain

I recently had the opportunity to review Kathy Rain, a point-and-click adventure title by developers Clifftop Games. The video game was incredible and we scored it a 10/10, a must-play for its atmospheric journey about a girl with a troubled past and her investigation of an unfortunate accident that caused her grandfather to enter a vegetative state.

Earlier this week I got the chance to talk with Joel Staaf Hästö, head of Clifftop Games, about his studio and the production of Kathy Rain. To avoid potential game spoilers, I have included a link at the bottom that will take you to the full interview.

When did you decide to start up Clifftop Games?

Not before I actually signed Kathy Rain with Raw Fury Games. Before that, the game was a hobby project on top of my full-time programmer jobs at various Swedish game companies, like Hazelight and Paradox. I needed Raw Fury’s support and enthusiasm for Kathy Rain to have the courage to take that leap!

Most of the game development was done by yourself correct? Could you tell us how the rest of the team for Kathy Rain came to be?

Yes, all the writing, design and programming was done by yours truly.

Almost the entire core team came from the AGS community in one way or another. I found two of my artists, Shane Stevens (characters, animation and GUI), and Nauris Krauze (backgrounds) there. They both worked together on another AGS game called Resonance which was released in 2012.

Daniel Kobylarz, the composer, was recommended by an AGS acquaintance, but not directly part of that community at the time.

The relationship with our VO Director, Dave Gilbert, also originated on the AGS forums. We have known each other for a few years now. I knew voiceovers were something he really enjoyed doing for his own games, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask. He was open to the idea, and ended up doing doing a fantastic job!

Tove Bergqvist, the portrait artist, and I went to the same game Swedish gamedev school (albeit four years apart), called Playground Squad, and I happened to learn of her talent when checking out student portfolios.

How long have you been kicking around the story of Kathy Rain?

Since I first started tinkering with the game way back in 2011. Admittedly, the plot has changed a lot since then, but Kathy herself is quite close to how I envisioned her from the beginning. The narrative and supporting characters have changed plenty, and the final part of the game underwent a massive overhaul in just the last couple of months.

Did the entire game development take very long to complete?

Yes indeed, more than four years, but only about one year full time.

I got a massive feeling of Twin Peaks Going through the game. What was some of the inspirations you tapped into for Kathy Rain’s setting, story, and characters?

Twin Peaks is undeniably a big influence. The TV series LOST, with it’s sense of mystery and rich mythology, is another inspiration. The Silent Hill games too, especially the latter parts of the game.

As for the inspiration for Kathy herself, I’d say well written strong female characters in fiction have been a big influence, like Veronica Mars, Buffy, and Ellen Ripley. I wanted to create a strong but complex heroine, who is badass but also has flaws and fears. I wanted Kathy to kick some ass but also be relatable and human, and the ultimate goal was to try and touch the players with Kathy’s personal journey over the course of the game.

Will Kathy Rain see a launch on any other platforms?

Likely, yes. We are looking into other platforms before starting a potential new project.

Have you started on your next video game? Could you possibly tell us something about it?

I’m focusing primarily on additional platforms for Kathy Rain at this time, but the plan is to start up a new project in the fall. I do have a few options, but they’re still in an early script stage, much too early to talk about in detail.