Devil’s Tuning Fork – PAX East Interview with Jason Pecho


The great thing about interviewing a developer of an indie game is that we can point you in the direction of a new, free game to play. Devil’s Tuning Fork is just such a game (and you can get it here: But it won’t always be that way if budding developer Jason Pecho and his team get their way. This IGF Student Showcase winner is getting a ton of buzz, and deservedly so – it’s awesome! At PAX East, we had a chance to speak with Mr. Pecho, project lead on the game, about the inspiration, challenges, and future goals for this clever first-person puzzle game.

CG: To start off, tell us a bit about yourself.

Jason Pecho: My name is Jason Pecho. I’m the project lead and technology lead on the game.

CG: Where was the game developed?

Jason Pecho: Devil’s Tuning Fork was developed at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois for the Independent Games Festival Student Showcase this year.

CG: What is the premise and inspiration for the game?

Jason Pecho: The idea came from a huge brainstorming session. One of the big ideas was being able to see with sound. We really liked this mechanic of echolocation and being able to see a world in a different way. So the premise of the game is that you play as a child who’s trapped in this other universe, and in that universe you don’t have normal vision. The only way to see is through sound, and the only way to do that is to collect the devil’s tuning fork. So early on in the first level you collect the tuning fork and then you use it to make sound. Normal sounds allow you to light up the environment, lower frequency sounds allow you to see through things, and a focus sound allows you to activate bells and reflect off of mirrors.

PhotobucketCG: There’s sort of a horror element to the game…

Jason Pecho: Yep, one of the things we found early on in our testing was that, we threw some placeholder sounds in there and our sound engineer made a soundtrack just for the prototype, and people were saying, “This is really creepy!” You’re in the dark, and the sound that we had for the prototype was already sorta creepy, and we really got this vibe from the game. So from that point on we were like, we should really go with a scary story. When we decided the story was going to be about children trapped in a coma we brought in actual children to do the VO work. We didn’t really realize that the children’s voices in the game were gonna be even creepier, but it was sort of an emergent property of putting them in there.

CG: How many people worked on the game? What kind of environment was it?

Jason Pecho: We started off with 14 people and we ended up with 15 total. That’s a large team for student development but we had a very condensed development schedule. We made Devil’s Tuning Fork over a period of six months. It was sort of like working for a company – not the same hours, but we met 10-4 every day. Through the summer we cranked out a lot, and then when school started again…it didn’t take the back burner but we had to condense it to one day of us meeting. We met every Friday as a team to work on the game, and then the rest of the week was spent doing school work or doing your job, but also if you had any free time, working on the game as well. The development environment was actually really nice. We worked in DePaul’s gaming lab and essentially just took over the entire lab. It was really cool because the programmers were in one spot, artwork was in the next spot, and we had design right behind us, and if anybody had a question about anything everyone was in the same room. You can just talk to each other. It was a really good environment.

CG: So is this the demo, or is it a full game?

Jason Pecho: Originally it was a full game, but now we’re considering it our demo. We’re working on expanding it. We’ve been working on it since our release in November. We’d really like to release it commercially at some point within the next year or so.

PhotobucketCG: What channels are you looking to do that through?

Jason Pecho: I think one of the most obvious ones is Steam because it seems to be a good place for indie games. But it would be great to see it on something like XBLA, PSN, or even WiiWare.

CG: Has the IGF recognition opened up more opportunities?

Jason Pecho: Well when we first submitted the game we weren’t sure how it was going to fare. Then we started getting really great feedback from people on our website. So we decided we should still work on it. We didn’t know how it was going to do in the IGF, and then it was nominated, so we were like, “Well this is a good sign,” and then when we showed it on the GDC showroom floor and got the response from people there it was even more encouraging. We really want to see this thing through to the end and expand the game and make it the experience that we really wanted to from the beginning.

CG: Are there any other gameplay elements besides what was shown in the demo (low frequency sounds, focus sounds, etc)?

Jason Pecho: We had so many more ideas of how to use sound, but because of our condensed schedule we had to pick the ones that we thought would work the best. With more time we’re actually prototyping new mechanics in the game. But we’re also filling out the world a little bit more. We want you to feel like you’re trapped in this world and that it’s lonely, but at the same time we also want to fill out the world and make it a little bit more alive.

CG: Can you go into any of the ideas that you’re tossing around?

Jason Pecho: We’ve been talking about having hostile creatures in there – creatures that you don’t want to go near. But as far as specific details I’d rather not go into it yet.

PhotobucketCG: What kind of feedback have you been getting here at PAX?

Jason Pecho: For the most part it’s been very good feedback. People really like the concept of the game. They really like the look of it. The build has a few kinks that need to be worked out. Specifically, some of the gameplay elements like the cracked floor tiles need to be taken care of a little bit better. But for the most part people have been asking, “When is this game going on sale?” So that’s been very encouraging too.

CG: Do you have any crazy, down-to-the-wire development stories?

Jason Pecho: Our initial submission was November 15th – it was a Sunday – and on November 13th we had a final work period for the game. We all got in at 10:00 a.m. and we had so much to put together and tidy up before the submission that we didn’t end up leaving until 11:00 a.m. the next day. So we just had a 25-hour work period right at the end there. And even when we finished that, we still didn’t have a build. We had it working in Visual Studio but we didn’t have the build completed. We started to have some problems with that – I could barely see at the time because I was so tired – we didn’t actually get the final build together until pretty much right before the deadline.

CG: Close call! So what’s next for the team?

Jason Pecho: Well we’ve been actively searching for a publisher and trying to get it into other channels. If none of that works out we’re just gonna do it ourselves and try to get it on Steam for people to purchase.

CG: Sounds great! Good luck and thanks for your time!

Jason Pecho: Thank you, we appreciate it!

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

One comment

  1. KrazyFace /

    I’ve just had a go on this and it’s looking really good. My laptop seemed to have a few issues running it at full pace and my mouse did seem a bit jerky too but I’m putting that down to my hardware rather than the game itself. I’d be very interested to see this on my PS3.

    It’s true there is a certian ‘spookyness’ to this, but I think that comes from the idea of children falling into comas and the children’s voices throughout also.

    A good idea on the whole though and I really like the idea of seeing with sound.

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