Little Nightmares 2 producer Lucas Roussel speaks with GamingBolt about the horror title and the future of the franchise.
Little Nightmares 2 has been out for a few weeks now, and there’s little doubt to anyone who’s played it that it’s every bit as good as its predecessor, and then some. Charming yet horrifying, grotesque yet oddly beautiful, Little Nightmares 2 feels like the perfect follow-up to the wonderfully unique game that was its predecessor. Like with most people who’ve finished it, we still have plenty of questions swirling in our minds about the game, about its future, and the future of the franchise as a whole, and we recently reached out to the people behind Little Nightmares with a few of those questions. You can read our conversation with Little Nightmares 2 producer Lucas Roussel below.
"This was one of our challenges in development. How can we bring new features while keeping consistency with the previous installment?"
With Little Nightmares II, it’s clear why the decision was made to keep this a single player experience in spite of Six being there with Mono as a companion character, but was there ever a conversation during development to have co-op in the game? Could this serve as a springboard for post-launch co-op support, or perhaps a separate co-op mode?
At the start of pre-production, we discussed if this game could be/should be co-op or not. But quickly, we discarded this option since our story was a much better fit for a single player experience.
Little Nightmares II expands upon the scope of its predecessor in various ways, with a story of much larger scale and even with a setting that’s far bigger and more varied than The Maw. How did you ensure that in spite of that larger scope, the game didn’t lose the intimate horror and tension of the first game?
This was one of our challenges in development. How can we bring new features while keeping consistency with the previous installment? We went through a lot of iteration on the new features. Let’s take the ability to pick up and wield a weapon. We decided to make it quite hard for the character to carry and hit. This design choice was mainly to avoid the player feeling too much empowered towards environments and enemies. It was critical to keep this oppressive feeling from the first game. Yes, you have a companion and yes, you can find some weapons in the game. But you remain a small child struggling in a world not meant for kids.
Like the first game, Little Nightmares II has its fair share of moments and sequences that aren’t afraid to get dark. Things happen in the story that are far from happy or optimistic, and I guess that’s a crucial defining factor of the series. But have you ever wondered during the development of these two games whether something might be too dark? How do you strike that balance between being bleak but not hammering that bleakness home?
You need to find a good balance. Sometimes, we felt the need for a nice emotional moment that contrasts with the bleakness of the world. And the addition of an AI companion was great for that. But the world of Little Nightmares is bleak and we should not artificially make it more cheerful. The kids are the glimpse of hope that will contrast with everything else. They will do kid stuff that will remind us the best of our nature. A good example is Six playing in the schoolyard while this location looks like anything but a friendly spot. Also I think that the grotesqueness of the antagonists make them feel human, sometimes comical and touching.
"Sometimes, we felt the need for a nice emotional moment that contrasts with the bleakness of the world. And the addition of an AI companion was great for that. But the world of Little Nightmares is bleak and we should not artificially make it more cheerful."
What was behind the decision to have players step into the shoes of a completely new character in Mono and having Six factor in as a companion character?
We wanted to show that they are more kids out there. We wanted to emphasize the world, rather than focusing on Six only. But everyone feels strong about the character and we had more story to tell about her. So, when we came up with the idea of having Six as our AI companion, we were all like: “Yes, that’s it. We nailed it.”
Much like its predecessor, Little Nightmares II tells its story completely wordlessly, and it does it very effectively. What’s the process like of figuring out that balance of telling the story you want to tell, but still leaving more than enough room for players to interpret things their own way?
Dave [Mervik], our Senior Narrative Designer, has done an incredible job expanding the lore of Little Nightmares before focusing more specifically on Little Nightmares II’s story. Then, the artists have done their magic to recreate our story through environments, effects, antagonists, etc. And we should not forget the amazing sound design that really helps build such a great atmosphere.
It’s very impressive to see how the Little Nightmares IP has created such a rich universe in such a short time, with so many narrative threads and characters and places that resonate with players and audiences. Is this something that you have long-term plans for, as far as sequels or spinoffs are concerned? I know Little Nightmares II is still extremely fresh, but after its ending, it’s a question I can’t help but ask.
When Tarsier Studios pitched us the first game, we did not only see the potential of a great game, we saw a huge potential in the universe, and Tarsier shared the same vision. We currently don’t have plans to announce for the future of the brand, but we will reveal more when we are ready.
At this point, Little Nightmares has established a strong aesthetic and identity for what a new game in the series should look like. Have you ever considered different approaches to how Little Nightmares might play? For instance, have there ever been any ideas floating around for, perhaps, a spinoff or expansion that doesn’t play as a 2.5D game?
There are ideas for a lot of things! A good example is our mobile game, Very Little Nightmares (released on iOS and Android). It is within our universe but has a slightly brighter tone, an isometric 3D perspective with a different art direction.
"When Tarsier Studios pitched us the first game, we did not only see the potential of a great game, we saw a huge potential in the universe, and Tarsier shared the same vision."
The first game received really good post-launch support. Do you have similar plans for Little Nightmares II as well?
We cannot reveal our future plans for the franchise just yet, but we’ll be happy to do so when we are ready.
What sort of enhancements can players expect from the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S versions of Little Nightmares II when they launch later this year? For instance, are you planning on leveraging the haptics and adaptive triggers of the DualSense?
We’ll share information soon on our PS5 and Xbox Series X/S version, so please stay tuned.
This isn’t as much about Little Nightmares as it is about you as developers. What would you say your favourite games in the last few years have been? Did any of them have any influence on Little Nightmares or Little Nightmares II?
I don’t want to speak for the whole team as the guys have different tastes and play very different kinds of games. Also I don’t think there is any game that would influence us like “let’s recreate this in Little Nightmares”. But I can imagine that there are some games that will give the team something to chew on and they will come up with new ideas later. But that is also true with books, movies, TV series or any kind of artistic material.