The Black Glove is a creepy, surreal first-person game with a time-bending twist. It takes place in a 1920s hotel called the Equinox, which is inhabited by a host of remarkable individuals. One of the objectives of the game is to influence their pasts in order to change the present-day world. While playing, you also have to face the Equinox's chief adversary, the Space Minotaur. And then there's the eponymous glove, which has some unique properties of its own.
We talked to Joe Fielder, one of the co-founders of Day For Night Games, about how the world of the game came together.
First some background. You've all worked on some more mainstream stuff, but this game is pretty untraditional. How did you arrive at the concept, and what about it appealed?
We wanted to make a game that not only played into our team’s experience in creating immersive worlds and compelling game narrative for the BioShock series, but challenged us to develop our skills even further. Many narrative-focused games are mainly about uncovering the narrative, so we wanted to give the player direct control not only over altering the course of the story, but the world around them.
It became clear that taking an eerie, surrealistic route along the lines of Jean Cocteau, David Lynch, and Alain Resnais would be really fun, but we also found ways to work in our love of Jack Kirby, William S. Burroughs, Laurie Anderson and more into the mix, as well as our fondness for “so-bad-it's-good” things like black velvet paintings, sad-eyed clown art, and B-movies.
There are meta-games contained in the game — what is their function? Also, why the anachronism of retro '80s-style arcade games?
The premise allows us to create dozens of different environments and stories for the player to explore, which they unlock by playing — yes, I know this sounds strange, but trust me it’s all tied in — the coolest '80s arcade game that you’ve ever seen, heard, or played. That’s The Maze of the Space Minotaur, which I’ve heard some people describe as “Wizard of Wor-meets-Bomberman.”
I wrote an article about how it came together, but in a nutshell, we’ve seen a lot of response from gamers who were tired of having to constantly kill or be killed in narrative-focused games. That doesn’t mean they don’t want gameplay though, so the part of The Black Glove’s premise is that there are certain games of skill and chance that allow us to interact with fourth-dimensional space. It’s kind of a gamified take on William S. Burroughs’ cut-up method, which he felt allowed art to connect with different time periods.
In it, you’re trapped in a labyrinth full of cosmic monsters and have to collect energy to power your blaster, laser sword, teleport pack, or bomb pack. Some creatures hunt by sound, some by sight. Some teleport, some charge. You need to accomplish “feats” — achievements that spotlight particularly fun aspects or push you to learn clever strategies — in The Maze of the Space Minotaur in order to summon The Black Glove and change the past.
The plot and setting feel very cinematic. What are some of your non-game world influences (visual art, film, etc)? What about influences within the game world?
I mentioned a few above, but I’d also add films like La Jete, Eyes Without a Face, Seconds, and even Duck Soup, as well as b-movies like Monster Dog, Gamera, and The Legend of Boggy Creek.
Some of the early ideas from the game came from seeing the play Sleep No More, which is a series of concurrent narratives played out across different areas of an old school or hotel. It’s an amazing environment that you could wander around exploring for hours, but being a gamer, I wanted interaction… to be able to affect the narrative. That’s probably a little much to expect from a play, but it’s perfect for a game.
In the game world, the BioShock series is probably the biggest influence. It taught us all a lot about creating environments that have a real sense of space, time, and place and crafting narrative that makes you care about the characters that inhabit that world. Oh, and plenty of shocks and surprises.
Playing with the idea of nonlinear time is one of the coolest parts of the game. How did you achieve these aspects of the game, visually and plot-wise? Can you talk a bit about building up the world of the game in general?
In the game, when you summon The Black Glove, you can change one aspect of a creator’s past, specifically, their Medium, Message, and Muse. One alteration and everything in that character’s environment and story changes. You’ll be able to hunt down hints at what to alter next, but even a wrong choice should give interesting results.
That give us many interesting challenges for the narrative and art, and generally a game that’s really fun to make is really fun to play as well. For the player, it gives a chance to visit places that you’ll never see in real life and we can work in mediums that are normally a little dangerous to be around, like x-ray light and fire. A standard play through will take several hours, but in order to see everything, it’ll take many more. The game’s designed to be fun to play multiple times, with its expansive nonlinear narrative, dozens of environments to explore, and many challenging arcade feats.
What is the black glove — the object — in a nutshell?
It’s the most stylish transdimensional object around. It’s the ultimate in wish fulfillment, comes complete with an inexplicable hole through the center, and goes well with every outfit.
You just had several big announcements in the last week. What were they?
First off, we’ve released an updated trailer with new footage that shows that the Maze of the Space Minotaur creatures are beginning to seep into the theatre's reality and hints at the larger narrative behind The Equinox and The Black Glove. It’s perfect timing for Halloween. (We’re also releasing a free printable Space Minotaur Halloween mask, I should add.)
We’ve also announced that comic writer Charles Soule (Death of Wolverine, Superman/Wonder Woman, Swamp Thing, Letter 44) will be helping me script the game. He’s fantastically adept at both big plot reveals and quiet character moments. He’s also a gamer and I had a great time working with him on an as-yet-unannounced game earlier this summer.
Last but not least, we’ve revealed that we’ll not only be bringing The Black Glove to PC/Mac/Linux, we’ll also be supporting the PlayStation 4. Our backers demanded it and when they do that, we take it really seriously and do what it takes to make it happen.