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‘DreadOut’ Devs Inspired by Indonesian Myth, PS2 Era Survival Horror

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Written by T. Blake Braddy, @blakebraddy

DreadOut is an Indonesian-developed survival horror game that sends players into an abandoned town with only a smartphone to protect them from the souls of tormented spirits. For all intents and purposes, it’s very much like a playable J-Horror flick ported to PC, complete with some interesting character designs and hair-raising jump scares.

The first act was released a few weeks ago, and although the game didn’t quite reach its potential – you can read my review here – the team at Digital Happiness has been nothing but humble about developing their first full-length game. One only need go to the Steam Community Page to see a group of people readily interacting with their fans to make a great game experience possible. It’s the sort of thing that makes you want to root for them in the future.

For this interview, DreadOut’s creators talk Indonesian mythology, the importance of player feedback, and the release of the game’s crucial second act. The game is available on Steam for $14.99 on PC.

BD: Recently, survival games have made a comeback, but DreadOut in particular feels much more like a concerted effort to make a horror game of a distinct era. What inspired the team to do this kind of game?

Well, most of us had a blast with video games from that era. Throwing our controller when playing Resident Evil, getting that eerie feeling playing Silent Hill, Fatal Frame, Siren, Rule of Rose. I think that they tend to stick in our memories forever, And one thing is that we actually had enough playing FPS games these days, so we wanted to create what we love in a third person horror / survival game.

BD: What is the game development scene like in Indonesia?

It’s still in a developing stage. There’s no AAA developers around, mostly just for mobile games, advert gaming, and such, and there’s no government funding for games developers.

We have a lot potential talent in our country, but many of them went abroad since there’s no real game development scene over here.

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BD: The enemy designs were pretty novel-looking, kind of like Miyazaki mixed up with Parasite Eve. Which of the ghosts do you think best embodies the overall tone and feel of the game?

Is that so? Thank you very much. Hmm, I think that’s a difficult question to answer, since right now, it’s only half of our release. Basically there’s two main ghost concepts that are present in DreadOut, supernatural beings, and physical beings. Since we’re avoiding the gory and bloody stuff in DreadOut, I think the mysterious lady in red fits the tone and feel of DreadOut the best.

BD: How much of the Indonesian mythology presented in the game is true to the Indonesian experience? Will more folk legends and so forth be layered into the next release?

For Act 1, almost 80% of it is based on Indonesian myths. We have 17000 islands spread around our country, more than 50 languages, 250 million population, Naturally, it is very interesting to us and we look forward to digging those stories and present them in our game.

BD: How did you come to decide to release a manga alongside the game? Did that come out of the Indiegogo campaign?

Yes, it’s actually a working collaboration with our local fans. We wanted to expand the lore of DreadOut in a different timeline, with different characters and so on, and certain items in our game’s backstory are also revealed in the manga.

BD: The game’s first act seemed to be intentionally secretive about some of the plot details, perhaps in an attempt to keep players guessing. Can you give us a preview of where the second act will take players or what can be expected?

The second act will be our concluding act for Linda’s journey through that haunted town. She will meet her friends, perhaps even save them. Linda will encounter more terrifying enemies, also she will battle the mysterious lady in red again in a non-stop horror experience and hopefully, this time, less frustrating.

BD: Do you have a set release date yet for the second act?

We are aiming for later this year for the release.

BD: The team at Digital Happiness has been really focused on interacting with the community since DreadOut’s release. How does that sort of interaction affect how you look at your own product?

Since this is our first major title, just like with our demo, we take input and suggestions seriously. While we’re so head-over-heels when people like our game, it kind of feels like a stab in the heart when somebody got angered by or hated our game. I guess those kinds of feelings are common when we’re involved too deep into our development. Overall, it was a huge but humbling experience for us developing the game.

BD: Does community feedback right now affect how you are approaching the final tweaks for the next act of the game?

Aside from our limitations, we want players to taste the whole of experience of DreadOut. Beginning from the demo, Linda entering the haunted town, and our next concluding act. We prefer not to label it as DreadOut and DreadOut 2 and so on, since DreadOut was conceived as a finished story.

Our initial design for the second act will focus more into the horror “action.” the sense of dread will arise more during battles with the variety of ghosts in different areas. The puzzles will be more subtle. In our first act, we wanted to give players a sense of dread and helplessness with trying to exit the school. As for community feedback, we’re planning to add those “Limbo” messages, Limbo’s length, ghost vignette, blue vignette, and camera glitch mechanics as optional. In our community, part of it welcomed them and even wanted more challenges, and some want the game to be less frustrating.

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BD: What kind of feedback has been most crucial so far?

Right now the major complaint for us is the Limbo journey and some messages that some say break the immersion. Some are angered with one particular entry (We actually put it there as a tongue-in-cheek message for not taking the game too seriously even when it’s definitely a horror game.)

Some are also really frustrated by the Scissor Phantom battle. It’s not that we aren’t aware of any of these things. For the Limbo journey, actually we’ve already prepared it with a remedy for shortening the limbo journey drastically by collecting certain items. As for the Scissor Phantom, there’s actually a strategy to defeat it, it doesn’t depend on luck. But overall we are very happy that everyone have been so supportive, our community, our reviewers, we really don’t know how to express our thank you to all you.

BD: What sorts of changes are going into DreadOut right now?

Aside from preparing for Mac and Win 32, minor tweaking, mostly for GUI options, inverting mouse, gamepad optimization and so on.

BD: Is it difficult to wade through all the user comments – on Steam, say – and be able to understand what might need to be tweaked?

Of course, but the great thing is that our community has supported us, some users even helped us out by collecting all the inputs, pros and cons, it really help us lots.

BD: How about taking it to consoles?

We would love too. But since PlayStation license isn’t available for our region, we will need a helping hand from publishers to do that. But I think it would be wise for us to finish our second act first and then later porting the game into different platforms.

BD: What’s next for Digital Happiness?

To get a 10/10 review from Bloody Disgusting. Just kidding! But seriously, we hope that the second act will change a lot of minds.

BD: Are there plans for more DreadOut, or is the team going to branch out and do a new IP?

Yeah hopefully we can branch it more into some kind of “Dread” series, Dreadnight, DreadEye. Events which will happen after DreadOut ends.