Our interview with Poopsy, the solo game developer and author of The Lies We Tell Ourselves, which is set to be released by the end of 2023
The Lies We Tell Ourselves is a 3D first-person psychological horror title full of intelligent and well-finished puzzles with a disturbing and reflective atmosphere. Poopsy, the game’s author, granted us an interview, so we learned more about this fascinating video game and its mysterious creator.
First of all, thank you for this interview, we’re very glad about this. Do you want to introduce yourself?
Thank you for interviewing me! Well, for the sake of keeping my identity as irrelevant as possible, I’m just Poopsy: a retired 47yo art director who lives in Amsterdam with a husband and two cats. I visited the city almost 20 years ago and then I forgot to leave.
Which is the hardest part as a solo developer?
I cannot speak for everybody, however a recurring problem that seems to be shared by other developers as well, is struggling to keep the general motivation up.
Solo dev is mostly about micromanaging a stupid amount of stuff, which very often can feel a little overwhelming. On top of that, you’re the one in charge of giving yourself structure and pace, which is not as easy as one might think.
Finally, the industry itself is overcrowded by hundreds of games being released daily and ruled by questionable marketing practices which seem a little too focused on which streamer/youtuber plays your game, rather than how good your game actually is, to determine its success.
The result is that if a solo dev starts thinking about all that too much, they might quickly lose motivation and purpose, arguably rightfully so.
Which are your inspirations about your work? Only videogames or also books, movies, ecc?
It’s difficult to say: I’ve been playing videogames since I was 4, I read quite a lot of books (mostly classics), I still watch a lot of movies and I regularly listen to my favorite bands, although as I’m getting older I’ve noticed I struggle to find new bands to listen, which is normal I suppose…
I guess my work must be the result of whatever stirs me at a subconscious level, as I never seem to be able to pinpoint exactly what inspired me and when.
If we’re talking more specifically about TLWTO, the only direct inspiration I can think of, in terms of reasons for choosing a particular style of storytelling/atmosphere, would be a weird blend of Dostoevsky‘s “Crime and Punishment“, the Silent Hill / FrictionalGames / FromSoftware series of games, plus bits of lyrics of some TOOL songs.
In terms of what actually inspired me to make the game, ironically is not tied to any media at all and is rather the result of a series of circumstances which had been building up in the previous months before starting the project.
Is The Lies We Tell Ourselves your first title, or have you previously worked in the video game industry? If so, what was your role?
I’ve never worked in the videogame industry as a developer, but in my 20s I was working in videogame-related magazines, when paper magazines were still a thing.
At the same time, I’ve been making videogame prototypes since I was 10 or so, first on the Commodore 64, then on the Commodore Amiga (in Assembly) and eventually on PC in various languages.
I like to understand how things are done and I tend to learn very quickly anything I’ve a real interest in, so when I was a kid most of the fun was figuring out how to do certain type of games or mechanics from scratch, in a time in which there was no internet, no youtube tutorials and very limited documentation available.
Long story short, I made tons of handmade game engines and little prototypes (platformers, point and click adventures, fps and so on) but never completed a single game, as the only real fun for me was the ‘figuring out’ part and as soon as I was supposed to just start adding content, I would quickly lose interest.
Growing up, my interests shifted to graphic design and eventually that kept me busy professionally for many years.
More recently -during the pandemic- I decided to resume designing games, as a way of keeping my mind busy, but this time with the explicit purpose of actually developing a complete title.
We still know very little about The Lies We Tell Ourselves, but by playing the demo, we were able to get a glimpse into the protagonist, Vincent‘s, life. Can you tell us a little bit about him and why you decided to create this character? Were you inspired by someone you know?
As I previously said, the conception of the game is the result of a series of pretty mundane and sometimes funny events that unfolded in the span of some months.
A dear friend of mine loves horror games, but he’s unable to play them, as he gets too stressed.
As a joke, we spent a couple of months playing tons of horror games, big and small, but with a catch: I would actually play the game and stream it on discord for him, but the game would be set in a foreign language neither of us could understand and it would be up to him to ‘translate’ any in game dialogue in real time. The results were obviously incredibly stupid and for me it was double the fun cause he would still end up screaming at every single jumpscare anyway, while also making up very unlikely and often silly interpretations of the games’ story.
As funny as it was and maybe honestly a little too unkind to the games themselves, it gave me the idea of starting developing one myself.
Now, this friend of mine is 25 and still lives with his parents, which is not necessarily a bad thing on its own if due to circumstances, however -just like Vincent- he shows no interest or makes any effort in wanting to change or better his life.
He could easily use the time he has to learn new skills or resume studies, but instead he spends most of it playing videogames while also not contributing to household matters in any way.
Yet, he constantly complains of how unfair life has been to him, even though in my opinion he’s in a very safe, very sheltered situation.
Even though I love him and I really would like him to be happier, I can’t help but to think how his supposedly sad life is really only the result of choices he made and responsibilities he doesn’t want to take.
Although the basic premise of the game is clearly inspired by him, that’s where all similarities end. Vincent -as a character- is certainly a blend of real personalities (mainly my brother) but not directly tied to an existing individual, although I’m fairly sure we all have met someone like him, at some point in our lives.
Based on the demo, it appears that you have decided to focus the gameplay primarily on puzzles. Are there more complex action and combat sequences?
There’s no direct combat: no weapons nor zombies to shoot, it’s really not that kind of game. To a certain extent, it’s not even properly a horror game, as scaring the player is not the main purpose.
The game is a narrative-driven experience, which means that the story is the main factor driving everything else. Puzzles serve the story and they are all contextual to the story itself.
However, the game certainly features more action-oriented situations like stealth, chasing and boss fights sections; the catch is that you won’t directly fight a monster with weapons, but rather abuse a specific mechanic in that particular area (that the player will have to figure out) to overcome it.
I’m trying to have a nice blend of different types of gameplay -even when the main task is to still solve a puzzle- but never with the purpose to just lure more people in, with a promise of something the game is not really about.
While I’m sure this might sound off putting to a certain category of gamers, at the end of the day I’m well aware I’m making a niche game for a niche audience. It might be boring to some, but I really hope those who end up experiencing it, really really love it.
Your graphic abilities are undeniably impressive, and I was particularly taken with the “pictorial” aspect of the artwork you used for the game’s cover. What kind of background do you have in this field? Do you only work in digital or do you also have experience in traditional arts?
I’m completely self taught, as honestly with anything I learned to do professionally. My studies are actually Humanistic and I have a master in Psychology of Literature, not that I ever did anything noteworthy with it…
As a kid, I would spend several hours a day practicing drawing with pencil and by the time Deluxe Paint was released on the Commodore Amiga, I fell in love with digital design and eventually made it my main profession for many years.
I worked in almost every field related to graphic design, from the more ‘artsy’ to the more technical, each requiring a specific subset of skills to learn. At the pinnacle of my craft, I worked as an art director, managing advertising campaigns for a fashion company in Milan and later for a motorbike company here in Amsterdam, before being forced to retire for health reasons.
You’ve chosen to address sensitive issues such as mental disease in The Lies We Tell Ourselves, which I find very intriguing. Why did you make this decision? Do you think it’s important to deal with the subject, or is it just relating to the type of story you’re writing?
At its core the game is about exploring someone’s adult personality as the result of choices they made (or didn’t) throughout their life, but it also acts as a weird cautionary tale about consequences and accountability, for those who wanna read between the lines.
The basic idea is that every single event in one’s life, even the apparently most insignificant, will contribute to shaping one’s adult personality.
Mental illness is one of the themes players will be confronted with in game. It is a subject that unfortunately I have direct experience with and that I tried to tackle with respect and no judgment, however it’s not the main theme of the story.
Throughout the game, players will experience direct or indirect references to abuse, depression, suicide and other mature subjects, but never with the intent of making them a spectacle or for shock value, but rather as unfortunate elements of life that can greatly affect the outcome of said ‘choices’ or sometimes stop someone from making any choice at all.
However, the game is still just a fictional supernatural story and -if anything- is meant to offer little moments of reflection for the more introspective players, rather than provide answers for or insights into subjects that are way too big and complex for the purposes of the game.
What stage of development are you in? Do you have a release date set?
I would say I’m halfway done: the first half of the game is in the final stages of polishing and the second half is a mix of whiteboxing with final assets slowly being integrated in.
I’m more or less on track with my plans, although some external factors are slowing the process down more than I’d want to and I’m currently exploring the possibility of adding voice acting to the main character, which in turn could slow things down a little more.
The game is still set to be released by the end of the year, but I don’t think I’ll have a specific date until the beginning of Q3, as the decision will strongly depend on what else is going to be released during the same time frame.
What about the next step after The Lies We Tell Ourselves?
After The Lies We Tell Ourselves there’s gonna be… more The Lies We Tell Ourselves!
The game has been designed to have two more self-contained separate chapters, with a yearly release schedule, however it will all depend on how well the titular game will perform.
If you’re interested in the game being successful, even if you don’t personally plan on buying it, please consider whishlisting it on Steam! It really does help, as the number of whishlists will have a great impact on the store visibility on release day.
Well, thank you very much for sharing with us your incredible and interesting path. We look forward to playing The Lies We Tell Ourselves and, at this point, its future chapters.
Thank you for taking your time to know a little more about me and my game, I really appreciate it!