Silt is an underwater puzzle-adventure game coming from the minds at Spiral Circus. The indie title boasts horror elements, a monochromatic art style and a haunting soundtrack. The player character is a deep-sea diver, exploring underwater with diverse marine life.
I recently had the opportunity to engage with Tom Mead, Art Director of Silt, regarding the game's developmental journey, bringing their imagination to the screen, the reaction from players, and more. Nick Dymond, the sound designer of the project, chimed in, explaining how they created the unique soundtrack of Silt.
Silt's team talks about how their world came to be
Q - Starting off, will you please describe Silt for our readers?
Tom - Silt is a surreal underwater exploration game set in a deep dark abyss. You play as a diver who can control the creatures of the deep to their advantage. Along the way, you solve strange undersea puzzles, steal the eyes of great goliaths and traverse ever deeper into the darkness.
Q - This is Spiral Circus’ first project and with that, I am sure, comes a bunch of hurdles and expectations. What has it been like to dive into the realm of creating games?
Tom - Challenging but in the end very rewarding, we have certainly learnt a lot in the past few years! I was a Fine Artist/Illustrator previously and Dom, the co-founder of Spiral Circus, was a research scientist and bee specialist!
So it’s been a massive undertaking, but frankly for both of us it's absolutely life-changing and we wouldn’t change a thing. We would both be very happy if we were able to continue pushing our creative boundaries to create more games in the future.
Q - How was the experience of developing the game? What was the inspiration behind creating Silt? Any unexpected challenges or novelty stories you would like to share?
Tom - The experience was immensely exciting. To see my characters animated was a daily joy for me and the novelty of that didn’t wear off for a while. I also had to get used to working with a team as, previously, I worked alone, so that was a challenge in itself. Fortunately, everyone we work with is fantastic and very professional, so that was a breeze.
As for inspiration, I have always drawn my fears, one of them being Thallasophobia, a fear of deep undersea spaces. When I met Dom, I was painting a watercolor series on this subject matter and we decided that this would be a great theme to explore.
As a little side note, one of those paintings is called Silt and is one of the smallest paintings I have done! Very ironic considering it sparked the biggest project of our creative lives.
Q - When I first saw Silt, the thing that came to mind was Limbo. What were the inspirations for you all in creating this project?
Tom - Limbo was only really the spark, in that, I saw that moody atmospheric games were possible. Previously I hadn’t played games since the N64 days, so Playdead in general are the ones that pulled me back in.
For me, the main inspiration came from Ecco the Dolphin, which was one of my favorite games as a child and also, when we started Silt, was the only game reference for me. Since then, I have binged FromSoftware’s catalog and more, catching up with all the amazing games I had missed!
Also, we have both always been big David Lynch fans (and weird films in general), so they became a big reference at the start. I think that will be the case throughout our careers, though, as we have both always wanted to make filmic games. Other influences would be early Tim Burton (Nightmare Before Christmas, Vincent) and H.R. Giger, who has always been a massive influence artistically for me.
Q - How would you say the color palette of Silt affects or enhances the experience and the immersion of the game? Why did you choose to give it a monochrome appearance along with the oceanic environment?
Tom - I don’t use color so it was never really a choice. I had a bunch of concepts I had already done and it was more a case of us wanting to find a way to replicate that style and look with the tools that we had. Personally, I feel that the palette makes the atmosphere even more tense; there’s something about monochrome that just does that with ease.
Possibly this is down to early horror films all being in black and white or that the stark contrast just makes it feel bleaker. I would say though that if we were to do an undersea game again, I would consider using spot color in places to be able to lead people to conclusions a little easier. Designing a poison plant without green or purple was certainly a challenging feat that would have been slightly easier with a splash of color!
Q - Continuing on the previous question, another aspect that perfectly adds to the game’s haunting experience is the audioscape. Can you share something regarding the thought process behind sound designing?
Tom - We always wanted a very immersive soundscape and Nick, our sound designer, was the perfect person to take on this challenge.
Nick - My approach to the sound design and music was to try and match the esthetic and narrative tone of the game. I worked hard to try and get real depth and texture to the ambiences, which were the starting point and main thrust of the audio design. Everything led on from there.
I wanted the ocean to exist beyond the edges of the screen. It needed to feel vast. I could then situate the players’ listening experience inside the helmet of the diver to create a sense of vulnerability when compared to the ominous and reverberant sounds around them.
I also needed to convey a sense of being underwater but without making it unpleasant to listen to for long periods of time. The movie sequences that do these type of effects don't often last very long before returning to an interior space, whereas in Silt everything is underwater. So I had to figure how to communicate the water without it becoming fatiguing.
Q - Given Silt has been out for nearly a month, how has the community reaction been to the game?
Tom - It’s been great, the reaction has been pleasantly surprising! We are still loving watching streams of the game and people have been very complimentary. We couldn’t have wanted more for our debut title, so we are excited about the future.
Q - In conclusion, I would like to ask, what can we as the players expect next? Have you decided on any future projects?
Tom - Undecided as yet, but definitely expect something very surreal and strange. That's how I draw (and will always draw), so we as a company have no intention of suddenly making a fluffy, colorful cat simulator game!
We are both at a lovely stage of being able to think of new ideas and start this whole process again, which is really very exciting. The best way to know about new projects first is to come join us on @Gamescircus on twitter or join the newsletter at www.spiralcircusgames.com.