Catching Up

Indie Hit Sara Is Missing Creators Explain Why They're Not Just A One-Hit Wonder

Editor’s Note: Monsoon Lab was the Marketing Partner during the early launch of “Sara is Missing”. However they are not the developers of the game and are not involved in the next installment of “Sara is Missing”. The developers of the game are now known as Kaigan Games.

As we previously covered on Vulcan Post, Sara Is Missing is a Malaysian-made demo of a game that enjoyed explosive Halloween success last year. Their found-footage-based mobile game gained traction on a worldwide scale, and even found itself featured in popular international YouTuber Let’s Plays.

Now that the flurry of media coverage has slowed down, the team behind Sara Is Missing is doubling down on the arduous work of getting a full-fledged game out. The demo led to explosive global recognition for the team and now they’re focused on creating a full horror game that will live up to expectations.

Hard at work, the behind-the-scenes of the workspace has been described as being “full of swear words and fisticuffs” among a “chaotic mess of notes and writings on the walls”.

With a projected March to April release for SIM, the clock is ticking.

Sara Is Missing

In fact, to build up on the success that they have gotten from the game, it seems like Monsoon Lab found a niche in this missing girl concept because they recently told us of the name of their upcoming work-in-progress title—Aphra Is Missing (Or AIM, in yet another play on words similar to SIM).

“Under-promise and over-deliver,” the mantra repeated by all of our interviewees in Monsoon Lab, describing the work-in-progress and about their approach to SIM in general.

With two wins under the Mobile Gaming Awards Southeast Asia under their belt and global acclaim for the very first game that the team has ever made together, anticipation is high for their next offering.

Could It Be A Fluke? 

Behind the scenes of SIM on-location

According to Shahrizar, part of the development team in Monsoon Lab, “A one-hit wonder randomly hits the the magical combination of parts and never finds out what the system was. We on the other hand, have made it our core drive to find and expand on what worked before. Understand it better and expand on it.”

The actual breadth of the game’s reach may have been humbling for them, but the team stands that it is no accident.

“From the beginning of SIM, we have crafted it to be as attention grabbing as we can,” said Shahrizar. “From it being a horror themed game launched during Halloween, putting it on an indie-centered platform.”

“Even the name ‘Sara’ was carefully picked to be as ambiguous as possible. Sara can be anyone from anywhere. You can have Sara in Malaysia, or Canada or even Japan. So yes, most of the drawing points were crafted from the get-go as to reach the most amount of players.”

Footage of Gameplay (Image from Killscreen.com)

And while the game does boast a very realistic and relatively in-depth iOS interface that helps players dive into the immersion, it does also mean that once the novelty of the gimmick has passed, players are still stuck to the limited interface of a girl’s phone.

To this, Jeremy Ooi the game designer, has this to say, “Some of the best games have only a handful of mechanics, it is what you do with them that makes a game fun. Take Megaman for example, where you can only run, jump and shoot. It is currently one of the biggest game franchises in the world and the mechanics is pretty much the same.”

And this sentiment is one that the entire team shares. It’s not so much how much (or little) you can do; it’s the execution of those points that makes or breaks a title. As to how much of the actual game will live up to the promise of the demo, we’ll have to wait until the full version is released.

The Pressure Is Mounting—Is It Reaching Critical Point? 

Monsoon Lab behind the scenes.

“Pressure? What pressure?” Buddy the lead writer, said with a laugh. “We set our own goals and try to craft an experience out of it. It’s really no different from daily working stress and pressures. I personally don’t feel like I’m working if I’m not pressured or stressed.”

An out-there example of someone who faced explosive initial success only to crash and burn under the attention the popularly maligned M. Night Shyamalan (who did regain some street cred after Split) with the obvious trajectory between the Oscar-winning Sixth Sense, to the disappointing The Last Airbender.

But without Hollywood money to back the team up, any failure might just bring the team down without giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

The team told us that while initial success does lead to a certain amount of pressure, they’re choosing to take the feedback to help themselves improve. According to Jeremy, “The amount of coverage from the demo did give us clarity on who are playing our games and therefore able to tweak it to fit their tastes better.”

They are listening to the complaints of how linear the demo is, and they’re glad to know of what everyone from all corners of the world thinks so that they can craft the best version of the final game that they can.

Fitting SIM To User Expectations

That looks like a lot of routes.

“Games are an iterative process and it always goes back and forth,” said Jeremy, when we asked about any post-success design changes. “The gameplay exists for the right story to fit into it, then it is all refinement from there. We meet up a few times a week to discuss gameplay and story blocks, then breakout to work on them, we come back again, to review, discuss and implement. Rinse and repeat.”

Making the game linear or non-linear was also a topic of heated discussions. The team weren’t ready to reveal the path they went with, but they believe they’ve devised something that would satisfy the players.

“We’re making sure that players have more things to explore,” Saqina concluded. “There’s really no right or wrong way to play the game. If anything, the amount of content we’ll put in will hopefully be the fun part for players to go through.”

Sara Is Missing is still a short build demo that was released for Halloween. The full product will possibly see a full release by Q1 2017. Currently the demo is available on Windows, Mac OS XGoogle Play, and the Apple App store. Sara Is Missing was also greenlit for Steam.