Darkwood Developers Talk About All The Ways They Want To Scare You

With Darkwood right in the midst of its IndieGogo campaign, we figured it would be a good time to sit down with Acid Wizard Sudios and discuss why exactly you should fund their (hopefully) upcoming rougelike horror title. Even in its current pre-alpha state, there is enough interesting bits to make Darkwood a game worth rooting for. While we managed to have the Acid Wizards with us, they talked about why top down games can still be scary, some of the items you can expect to make in Darkwood, and why quicksaves are for chumps.

[Hardcore Gamer] Tell us a bit about yourselves. How did the three of you get together? Any prior experience developing games?

[Acid Wizard Studio] Hello! We are Acid Wizard Studio, a group of 3 young nerds who one day decided to quit their jobs and make a living out of making video games. We met in college and from that time we played a lot of games together, and our only game that we made together is Kevin Costner’s Tatanka Hunting Simulator 2013, which is a entry for this year’s Global Game Jam, a competition where you make a game in 48 hours. It’s pretty…silly, to say the least.

[HG] Could you talk a bit more about the gameplay itself? How will combat work? The pre-alpha trailer showed the character barricading certain doors and windows. Will this be a viable option to get through the game? Can you wait enemies out, or will this only slow them down?

[AWS] There will be lots of different enemy types, and each has it’s own behavior and goal. Not all of them have a single purpose in life – to destroy the player. We want to create a kind of a ecosystem that reacts accordingly to the player’s action, at least to the extent that is technically possible for us. There will be no hordes mindlessly attacking your home all the time, so you can definitely wait enemies out.

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“We want to create a kind of a ecosystem that reacts accordingly to the player’s action, at least to the extent that is technically possible for us.”

[HG] How exactly will the random events and locations work? Will you be playing through the same events in each playthrough, just in different locations and order, or will there be some events you might find in one playthrough but not in others?

[AWS] First of all, we want to find a balance between random generation and hand crafted locations. Visual quality is very important for us and we want to have control over it to some extent. There will be some locations, characters and events that will happen in every playthrough, but if you want to discover everything Darkwood has to offer, you will have to do several.

[HG] Some of the key features you mention are perks and abilities. What exactly are these and could you give us some examples of the kind we might find in Darkwood?

[AWS] There will be passive and active skills that help out in different ways, like the ability to have a 360 degree view for some time, or passive likes like better crafting or special melee skills.

[HG] What sets Darkwood apart from other horror titles? How do you approach horror differently? Why should gamers fund Darkwood instead of the other options out there?

[AWS] First of all, Darkwood has a lot of deep gameplay elements and random generation which lets us make it unpredictable, and a lot of horrors out there focus solely on the scare aspect, often relying on jump-scares with a linear story and path. We want to achieve a kind of a psychological horror atmosphere, playing tricks with your mind and letting your imagination run wild.

Second, Darkwood has a top-down perspective. The #1 comment we get is “how can you be scared when you see everything around you?” Well, you only see characters when they are in your field of view, which changes depending on what you’re currently doing. This makes for pretty weird situations when you sometimes see something moving outside your FOV, and you won’t know what moved it until you go see and check it out or IF it moved at all or was it just your imagination.

This perspective also makes everything you see less literal, as you sometimes can’t clearly identify what you see on the screen. This is also fueled by not using voice acting, so you have to actually imagine the character’s voice. We find that the fear of the unknown is very powerful, so we want it to show not only in the gameplay, but also the art style.

[HG] Pacing can go a long way to make a good horror game a great horror game. You’ve talked about the fear of the unknown and the unexpected on your IndieGogo page, but how will you balance these sorts of things with the hordes of enemies you usually face in a roguelike game?

[AWS] We don’t expect you to face hordes of enemies, that would definitely ruin the atmosphere. Some enemies of course hunt in packs, but they will have different behavior than just running mindlessly at the player. As for the pacing…we want to deliberately make it uneven. There will be times where you won’t encounter a single enemy for long periods of time, and sometimes you will have to fend off a large assault. This makes the gameplay unpredictable and further fuels the fear, so you can’t expect typical pacing seen in other games.

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“We want to achieve a kind of a psychological horror atmosphere, playing tricks with your mind and letting your imagination run wild.”

[HG] How long do you anticipate it will take an average player to reach the ending? Is there any hope for the inclusion of some sort of endless mode that will just let us go until something finally eats us?

[AWS] The game is actually a kind of an endless mode, but at the same time can be “finished” by reaching certain criteria. This will be hard to reach not only by difficulty, but also by finding HOW to do it. So I’m not going to spoil it to you any further…

[HG] Permadeath is obviously a core feature to Darkwood. However, will there be an option for a quicksave if the player needs to run off to do something or pee? YOU WILL LET US PEE, WON’T YOU? I have a feeling this game will do bad things to our bladder…

[AWS] NEVER!!11 Just kidding, you will of course be able to pause the game, but no quick-saves. Consequences to actions are very important to us, and having the knowledge at the back of your head that you can just load a quicksave from 30 seconds ago ruins this idea completely.

[HG] How many different combinations do you expect there to be in the final game? Could you maybe tell us a couple interesting combinations we can expect to find?

[AWS] The game will feature tons of scavenging and we want to make a crafting system that lets the player experiment with items he found. We want to do this by having recipes that can be found or bought, or just found out by yourself by combining items by yourself. As for examples…you will be able to create new items from existing ones in a makeshift fashion, like a time or nail bomb, molotov cocktails, barbed wire, or modify existing items with silencers for example.

[HG] One of your stretch goals allows for the inclusion of multiplayer. What exactly would the multiplayer mode be? Would it be cooperative or competitive? Any chance it would allow for more than two players?

[AWS] The Acid Wizards love co-op games, and we think that Darkwood has a lot of potential for this kind of mode. So if we would reach this goal, expect something in the spirit of Terraria (we really played the crap out of this game together). In Darkwood of course we would have to make it a bit different from the singleplayer mode to keep the atmosphere so I guess we will have to test out multiple approaches and see what’s the best one.

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“We find that the fear of the unknown is very powerful, so we want it to show not only in the gameplay, but also the art style.”

[HG] You wouldn’t happen to have any more footage you could possibly share with us, would you? Any images of the kinds of enemies you’ll be facing off against in the game? Anything that would make it harder to sleep tonight would be much appreciated.

Well…actually there will be something new to be released really soon…but I’m not telling you any more!

[HG] If Darkwood is a success, what’s next for you guys? Have you guys kicked any other ideas around for other games?

[AWS] Well yeah, we have tons of ideas that we gathered in our heads over the years, but right now we’re focusing 100% on Darkwood and we’ll see how it’s production goes and how it’s received when it’s launched. Right now the process is extremely satisfying and rewarding for us, so if all goes well we would like to support Darkwood for some time after the launch with additional content and patches.

Darkwood still has more than a week left in its IndieGogo campaign. Check out our preview here, and you can fund them here if you so desire.