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‘Darkwood’ Dev On Designing A Successful Horror Game

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Acid Wizard Studio, a small team of Polish developers who are currently hard at work on the extremely promising indie horror game, Darkwood. Of the myriad exciting indie horror games we have to look forward to in the coming year, for me, this is one I’m most excited for. After the break we discuss the perils of creating a horror game — spoiler: it hasn’t been that perilous for them — what we can expect from the game’s DLC, and when we can look forward to getting our anxious hands on it.

BD: You call yourselves Acid Wizard Studio. I’m a fan of the name, but I have to ask: what’s the meaning behind it?

There are already a lot of Fire or Water wizards out there so we decided we need to stand out from the crowd and be Acid wizards instead. You can say we’re wizard hipsters.

BD: Anyone who’s familiar with Darkwood knows it’s a procedurally generated sandbox survival horror game with elements of RPGs and roguelikes. Can you break that down and tell us what this game is about?

In terms of gameplay, Darkwood is about striking a good balance between gameplay mechanics and horror, something we feel is rare these days – you have your zombie shooters which most of the time have a lot of survival elements, and on the other hand there are some very creative and intense horror games, which often lack in atmosphere and any real mechanics other than scaring the crap out of you.

BD: Since Darkwood is an open world game, that makes it unpredictable, so you’re not able to script events or lead the player to a certain scare. Has that made it more difficult to make this game terrifying, or are you relying on other ways to terrify players?

Actually, it made it much easier to scare the player thanks to that unpredictability. In a horror movie or game, after some time you get to know how the game operates and can get into the mindset of the level designers and predict to a certain degree what kind of things you can expect. Here, we embrace the lack of control of how the game is going to unfold, and sometimes it makes up for some very weird and scary situations.

BD: Crafting a successful horror game is no easy feat. In your opinion, what makes a horror game successful, and how are you incorporating that into Darkwood?

The fear of the unknown, definitely. We empathise this in the way the world is different in each playthrough so you can’t really predict what is going to happen in a location that you visited in a previous incarnation, and also in our art style, which is pixelated. This way, your imagination will have to constantly work to figure out the things you see on screen. Additionally, you can’t see enemies outside your field of view, but can see how they interact with the environment, so this also makes your imagination work against you.

More on the game’s DLC and when we can expect it after the jump!

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