Halloween might be behind us but that doesn’t mean the horror season has to be over. In case you missed its release on Android and iOS in February this year, Haunted Dorm is the chilling tower defence game by indie studio Mihuan Limited and its one of the few genuinely nerve-wracking and original horror releases to spring up in the past year.
There are of course good reasons for this; most major studios tend to shy away from horror-themed games in general as it’s a niche market, and building an original game that’s genuinely scary is a challenging task. For Mihuan Limited, this challenge was made all the more tricky due to China’s strict censorship rules on horror games – which required some ingenious workarounds where the Ghost antagonist for the Chinese version is disguised as a teacher, stalking the school dorms – as well as continued claims of plagiarism from other studios.
As Haunted Dorm was in development well before its accusers released their titles, Mihuan Limited has managed to rise above these allegations. However, it does illustrate one of the many difficulties an indie studio can face in the game’s industry, and is one of the topics we discussed when we spoke with Haunted Dorm’s Producer, Meiyu Li.
First off, what was the inspiration for making Haunted Dorm?
I once had a nightmare in which a ghost attacked my house, destroying my door and coming through my window! I resisted with sticks and brooms, but they did nothing. I knew the end was coming!
Before anything could happen, I woke up from this nightmare. My heart was beating really fast, and I was sweating! The strong emotions this experience brought out inspired me to make a game that could recreate that dream, feeling, and moment and share it with the world.
Regarding other inspirations, I thought about combining the decryption gameplay of Blue Demon and casual gameplay like Hide and Seek with tower defence games like Plants vs. Zombies.
What features of Haunted Dorm do you feel make it appealing to players?
The school dorm setting is original, and many players have responded well to it. Plus, many reviewers have admitted they get an adrenaline rush from playing the game. It can be genuinely scary for some!
Recent updates have seen us design and include unique props like a coin-making frog, some wacky weapons, and a God Box, which may catapult the player out of their bed! So we’ve got a good balance of being scary and fun.And how has it performed so far?
We’ve seen great results since launching in China last year. Over 9 million Android players have downloaded the game on Google Play, and we reached 4th on the iOS free downloads chart.
With the trailer, we have accumulated over 6 billion views on DOUYIN – the Chinese version of TikTok – and it’s been really rewarding to see people embrace the game.
You began this genre/style of game, but it quickly filled up with similar titles; has this hurt the game’s performance in any way?
Many games have taken elements of Haunted Dorm, which has resulted in us losing out on potential players.
Because there are so many other games like ours, we’ve been accused of plagiarism by people who haven’t realised we were the originals! So, we’ve dedicated a lot of time and resources to telling players our story and how other developers have replicated our idea.
We have also spent a lot of legal fees in the rights protection process due to this situation. In just three months, from January to March, we submitted 48 copyright infringement complaints, of which 20 were successful.
Do you have anything planned in terms of future updates, and if so, can you give us any details of what these might include?
We won’t deviate from the design that has made us successful. In the future, we look forward to offering more modes of play, more levels, and an improved narrative.
Winning a game means the next level will become harder, and this will continue on and on to provide players with a real challenge. There may even be some ‘easter egg’ levels that can be unlocked under certain circumstances – we hope players will enjoy trying to find these!
Another area to look out for is multiplayer. We’ve begun planning and production on it, and we can’t wait for players to experience it when it’s ready.