Nerditis’ Interview With the Developer of “DreadOut”

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So if you remember some time ago, Nerditis’ featured one of the most pants-crappingly scariest game this side of Creepsville for all of you ‘PC Master Race’ to enjoy screaming like a little girl to. Last weekend, we managed to get a hold of Rachmad Imron, game producer of “DreadOut” and team leader of the Digital Happiness development team. After presenting Mr. Imron with our laundry bill for all the damages his little game demo is doing to our wardrobe, we sat down and talked about some of the details of this intriguing little creeper.

DISCLAIMER: this interview has been translated from Bahasa Indonesia and portions of this interview has been edited for length and relevancy purposes, but Nerditis has remained faithful in its translation and such editing is in no way deviates from the intent and authenticity of Mr. Imron’s statements. Also, (some) spoilers AHOY!

Nerditis: So first of all, can you give us a quick summary of whatever it is happening in “DreadOut” in terms of plot?

Rachmad Imron: DreadOut tells the story of a group of high-school students who, after the finals, was accompanied by their favorite teacher on a field trip to unwind. It’s a bit of a horror movie cliche in that they wound up in a condemned, abandoned town and one by one started to disappear. The protagonist, Linda, started to feel, well, something strange in that she could actually ‘sense’ that something’s off with this town. Heh, sorry if I’m not making sense: it’s a bit late already. (laughs)

That’s alright, you’re doing great so far. Now, the demo employs “in medias res” when we started playing, but at the end of the playthrough, we saw Linda sitting back in the car with her friends and teacher. Does this mean she’s remembering past events or having visions of the future or what?

Ah yeah, that was a glimpse of her future.

So, Linda has the power to see the future?

Well, it’s more like a dream, and how we dream in a disorganized manner. Dreams come in random sequences and comes to us part by part.

Is this particular ability of Linda a plot device or part of the gameplay mechanics?

Well, it’s a plot device, kind of.

Seems like a crucial one, since you’re reluctant to paint the whole picture for us.

Well, not really, but, well, going back to the dream analogy, all parts of the demo mirrors the kind of experience offered in the final product. But just like how I mentioned that we dream in a disorganized manner, so too is the manner of the demo: it’s part by part of a whole presented in a random sequence.

So, ‘dreams’ are the central theme of the story?

No.

So what is the central theme of the story?

Survival and friendship, as they tried to overcome an impossible situation. There’s also a bit of (the themes in) “Final Destination” thrown in there for good measure.

Heh, it seems you’re trying real hard not to spoil us the whole story, so let’s move on!

(laughs) Alright.

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The smartphone, or more specifically the camera feature of the smartphone, that Linda uses is a bit similar in terms of ability to the ‘Camera Obscura’ used in “Fatal Frame”. Was Fatal Frame an inspiration for this game?

Yes, you can say that. Although in all honesty, there are plenty of other works that are equally inspirational in terms of the making of DreadOut.

Such as?

From games, we (of the development team) all love “Dark Souls” [Ricky’s Note: AAAAAUGH!!]. I personally am a huge fan of the “Castlevania” series and obscure survival horror game “Rule of Rose” for the PS2. From movies, there are the 80s Indonesian horror classics like “Beranak Dalam Kubur” (“Birth In The Tomb”), and of course the (un)holy trinity of Japanese horrors: “Ju-On”, “Ringu”, and “Dark Water”.

Out of all that, which is the main influence for the development of DreadOut?

Gee, it’s hard to say! (laughs) My point is that we (of the development team) grew up with so many great games ever since the NES era that we ended up with bits and pieces of just about everything from JRPG to “Uncharted” to “The Last of Us”. If you’re willing to take a look at our YouTube channel [Ricky’s Note: see link below], you can see how the influences I have mentioned help evolves DreadOut during its development until it came into the final product that you see in the demo.

You mentioned JRPG and Uncharted and other great games from the NES era. If those are also Digital Happiness’ influences, then why a horror game? Why not a JRPG or something like Uncharted?

Several reasons, primarily being that, like I mentioned earlier, we are all passionate about the horror genre, be they movies or video games. We decided on horror because of budget reasons as well, though mostly we decided on horror because of its strong ties with our traditional cultural heritages. Everybody (in Indonesia) have, to some degree, experiences with the supernatural and urban legends, and thus made it easier for us to craft the concepts of DreadOut.

Alright. Now, this smartphone Linda carries with her, uh, what was it called?

The Irisphone.

Right, the Irisphone. Now, does this Irisphone have anything else special about it?

Well, it has a signal strong enough to allow communication in that remote area.

No no, what we meant was, does it have any other function other than killing ghosts using its camera?

Well, Linda can receive messages and calls from her friends asking for help.

Supernaturally, does it have any other functions?

Well, no. It’s just a normal smartphone.

Normal smartphones don’t usually shows creepy ghosts when you switch and peer through its camera mode.

Well, that depends on the person, really.

Oh?

Here’s a story: one time we were watching one of those (local Indonesian) ghost-hunt reality TV shows. A friend of mine was watching with us while cooking in the kitchen, and just as the designated ‘paranormal guide’ on the show was about to reach this one haunted spot with the TV crew, my friend said to us, “They’re going to describe a giant invisible snake.” Moments later, the paranormal guide on TV described the exact same thing that he mentioned.

Is this also an inspiration for the game?

(laughs) More or less. The point is that while Linda travels with various gadgets and digital devices through the game, it’s not about how magical these items are: it’s about Linda, and her abilities that allows her to see these things that are invisible to the naked eye.

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Okay, this is getting creepy and we’re a bit of a coward, so let’s move on! What other features the final product is going to present to us?

(laughs) Okay. Well, there is the ‘Ghostpedia’ feature that records and describes all of the ghosts you’ve encountered so far. There will also be new costumes unlocked for Linda as a reward, and a yet-to-be-named feature that allows the player to explore new, previously inaccessible areas with new ghosts previously unseen in the main storyline. They’re mostly there for completionst, but there are also details there that further expands the plot and setting of DreadOut for those who are interested as well.

Now, let’s talk a bit about Digital Happiness. Can you give us a quick history of the development team?

Well, we’re basically a group of 3D artists and 3D animators with our usual daily job. That is, until recently when we took the initiative to step out of our comfort zones and decided to form this development studio, with DreadOut as our very first IP.

Is everyone in the team graduated from the same school? How did you all meet?

Some of us are from the same alma mater, yes. We previously belong to an animation studio, which has been relegated to another party so that we can focus on the development of DreadOut. A little FYI: the animation studio is called “Iris Desain” [Ricky’s Note: see link below], and that’s where we got the name “Irisphone” for Linda’s smartphone. You know, as a tribute for all their support during the development (laughs)

So then, what does the future hold for Digital Happiness?

Our goal is to create another goal. We aim to push DreadOut as a continuing IP, but more important than that, we aim to continue to develop more games and continue this work that we love so much.

Any plans for the next project? An RPG to rival Final Fantasy, perhaps? Or maybe a mix of horror and RPG, like the “Shadow Hearts” series?

(laughs) Well, we do have plans, though most still revolves around the horror genre. We did an experiment we call “DreadEye” with the Oculus Rift and the leap motion controller, and we’ve shown it to a limited audience in the previous INAICTA (Indonesia’s ICT Award) event.

Lovely. We’ll be sending you our laundry bills. Now, the most important questions: When is DreadOut coming, uh, out, and how much will it cost us to shit our collective pants?

(laughs) Well, if everything goes well, it’ll be out by the end of this year. We’re still waiting for Steam to clear out the administrations, so hopefully nothing goes wrong to cause a delay. As for the price, we can’t give a set one yet, but we can tell you that it is either going to be or less than $19.99.

Well, at least the price isn’t pants-crappingly frightening. Anyway, thanks for your time, and best of luck to you and your crew!

My pleasure, and you’re welcome!

Digital Happiness/DreadOut’s YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/DreadOutgame

Iris Desain homepage: http://www.irisdesain.com/

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