This is an announcement of my new hunting/horror game for PC.
Witch Hunt is a horror themed hunting game that takes place in the 18th century. Main focus of the game is on exploration, non-linearity, and atmosphere. Witch Hunt features lite RPG elements in form of a financial system and a skill system.
You play as a witch hunter who took the task of eliminating all evil that settled in the woods near the town of Bellville. To achieve your goals, you’ll be able to use weapons, magic, and other tools that can be found and bought.
Sometime ago I gave an interview to youtuber called Kreal. It should have resulted in a video, but it didn’t happen. Since I’ve spend some time answering those questions, I didn’t want it to go to waste. So here it is. This interview contains spoilers for Gynophobia and Shadows Peak. I'm not a native speaker, so my English isn't perfect.
So how did you get your start? Were you interested in games as a child? What consoles/PCs did you grow up to foster your love for games? What games would you consider your biggest inspirations and/or absolute favorites? Were you always interested in development or was there a certain time where you officially decided to pursue that career? I’m honestly interested in what the gaming scene was/is like in your home country as well, as I am only informed about the American gaming scene.
I’ve started playing games when I was six year old with Chinese clone of Atari 2600. While I had a number of consoles and DOS PC, I would say that I grew up on NES, Sega Mega Drive and windows pc. I did spend a good amount of time playing games, but it didn’t not felt like this is some sort of a hobby, because almost all of my friends had gaming hardware. That’s why I perceived videogames as ordinary form of entertainment like music and films. I remember enjoying playing games on all of those platforms, but for me the most enjoyable gaming period in my life was when we bought our first Windows PC. So I would definitely consider myself a PC gamer.
I know that there are a lot of nostalgic gamers, I’m not one of them, so my top-10 of favorite games is filled with a lot of semi modern titles. Currently my top-3 looks like this. DayZ Origins, Fallout: New Vegas, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. As you can see, I like post-apocalyptic theme and games that offer big immersive worlds with a high degree of freedom and player agency. When I look back at my gaming preferences I can clearly see that I was always drawn to games that offer a big degree of freedom. I should also mention Half-Life and Valve in general as a big inspiration. Half-Life was my favorite game for a long time and it had a huge effect on my life, because my way into gamedev started with Half-Life mapping and modding. And now I sell games on a platform made by Valve.
I did made some games on paper and I did made some maps for other games, but mapping for Half-Life is what had put me on a path that has led me to game development. I’ve started making Half-Life, Counter-Strike maps in 2002 and I was a part of Ukrainian CS mapping community. I also won an online mapping competition and took prize places in other mapping competitions. I was making maps for 6 years during my school and university years, but I never considered gamedev as possible carrier. When I drop out of university I had to find a job. One of my friends from that mapping community showed me website with a list of gamedev job offers. I applied to a tester position and got the job. I’ve quickly been promoted to game designer, because I showed a lot of interest in that position. I ended up as a lead game designer on that project. After couple years in game industry I’ve started making my first indie game in my spare time. After 5 years in game industry I’ve decided to become full time independent game developer and it worked out for me.
There’s defiantly a huge difference between US and Ukrainian gaming scene. There was no Nintendo vs Sega rivalry in Ukraine, because basically everyone played on NES, then everyone switched to Sega Mega Drive and then almost everyone switched to PC. Even today, none of my friends own gaming console. Also for some reason SNES, Nintendo 64 and many other consoles weren’t available in Ukraine. Playstation was available in Ukraine, but I guess it was easier to convince parents to buy PC, because it could be used for more than just games and that lead to PC popularity. Also PC gaming clubs where you can pay to play on LAN connected PCs were really popular at some point.
Reading the description on Gynophobia, I remember reading it was inspired by a Game Jam? Could you go into detail on this? Was the game developed in a small window of time at the Jam or just the original idea?
In 2014 I’ve found an online game jam with theme phobia. I didn’t participate in that game jam because I was working on my own game and I don’t believe that you can make a good game in just one week. But it got me thinking, what game would I make if I did participate in that game jam? Couple days have passed after the end of that game jam. I had a sleepless night, where the whole idea of Gynophobia game came to my mind. I did write the whole idea and I really enjoyed it, but I couldn’t tackle it, because I was working on a different game.
Couple days after that night, I’ve found out about upcoming game making competition. This competition had a free theme and basically the only limitation of competition was a time limit of one month to finish a game. Since, I’ve had some experience making first person shooter games, I’ve decided to temporary freeze my current project and make a basic version of Gynophobia for that competition. Of course I’ve put a lot more time in current version of the game to add more content and polish.
Does Gynopobia (It’s title, and concept) come from a personal place or inspired by someone? Why did you choose to explore ”Fear of Women” in your game?
While I’m an introverted person, I’m not suffering from that disease, but I can relate.
Creative process is a mysterious thing, so it is really hard to pinpoint what exactly lead to this specific idea. I did work on first person horror shooter at that time. Phobia theme was on my mind, because I saw game jam with that theme and also saw model of a spider women hybrid on a web, which was used for final boss. Somehow that lead to the idea of Gynophobia to be born in my mind.
Gynophobia seems to be primarily a shooting gallery, but the in-between sections of each level has a surreal narrative aspect to it while you look around your character’s apartment. Which do you prefer of these two styles? The mindless gameplay-heavy action of the shooting levels or the subtle exploration of the apartment levels?
While I do enjoy shooters, I was never was big fun of mindless singleplayer shooters like Serious Sam and I usually need more than just shooting gallery to get enjoyment out of first person shooter. I do really enjoy exploration in video games and I think you can clearly see that my next project Shadows Peak moved in that direction. However I don’t enjoy games with low level of interactivity. I will definitely try to push my games into direction of exploration and non-linearity even more, but it doesn’t mean that there will be no guns.
Do YOU have dreams like in Gynophobia where you run around with an assault rifle shooting spiders? (That sounds like a pretty kick-ass dream to me honestly)
I don’t :) But I did have dreams when I continue playing game that I was playing before going to bed. I also remember dream when I continued making a game in my dream.
The jump in quality from Gynophobia to Shadow’s Peak was really impressive–The improvement between these two titles is astounding. Did you take time to hone your skills before developing Shadow’s Peak or did you just have more time to work on it? Is there anything you particularly learned or liked about Gynophobia that you decided to bring into Shadow’s Peak? (I noticed the spider from Gynophobia is crawling on the whiteboard in the trailer location of Shadow’s Peak–Great easter egg for your fans.)
Fun fact. I’ve started making Shadows Peak before Gynophobia. Of course it was put on hold for a long time and I continued making it only after I’ve finished making Gynophobia.
There are three factors that contributed to quality difference between those titles. First is that Gynophobia and Shadows Peak are projects of completely different scale and budget. Gynophobia is basically 6 month project, while Shadows Peak is a 3 year project. So Shadows Peak is far more expensive game compared to Gynophobia.
Second factor is that Gynophobia proved that it’s possible to make money creating indie games and that allowed me to invest more time and money into Shadows Peak and not be afraid that it will not sell.
The third factor is that of course my skills has grown. The best way to improve your gamedev skills is by making games, so when I’ve returned to Shadows Peak my skills grew immensely. By the way I still consider a miracle that I’ve made playable version of Gynophobia for that competition in one month, because my previous game on that engine looked like this. I was also able to use some systems from Gynophobia in Shadows Peak. Same goes for my next game. With my next game, I don’t need to make, menu system, save & load system, music system, ai system etc. This means that I could dedicate more time to important parts of the game like gameplay and content.
Most people seem to dislike the early access games Steam offers because developers more often than not, never finish the actual product. But you finished your game on schedule, and to some pretty great reviews from your supporters AND people who purchased the final release. Did Early Access purchases help you complete the project and/or help you in any way? I’d be really interested in how this helped funding/scheduling development time and any advice you can give to Early Access developers in the Indie scene on how to stay on schedule/work with Early Access.
Let’s start with the fact that I didn’t have any schedule. I basically worked 40+ hour weeks and never confined to any specific dates, because in a game dev it is really hard to predict those. I asked players not to buy Shadows Peak if they want to see specific release dates.
I would definitely complete Shadows Peak even if it had low sales, because that is what developer promises to players when game is released in Early Access. But I do think that decent sales helped improve Shadows Peak quality and speed of development, because I was able to invest money into better art and tools.
I’m a big fan of playtesting, so other big advantage of early access is the amount of feedback that I get. Let’s plays are especially usefully. If I would hire a company to make playtesting videos for me, it would cost me a fortune, but with game on Early Access and let’s play culture I get it for free and this definitely helps me improve the game. I also really enjoy releasing updates to the game. Because every update feels like a small project, but instead of spending years on that project, I need only two weeks to finish it and release it to public. This really helps with motivation during game development.
So my first advice to Early Access developers is to release game on Early Access, only if you have the means to finish the game even if it will sell zero copies. Or at least make it super clear, that you don’t intend to finish it if it will not sale. And make sure that people will see that warning, because most people don’t read Early Access FAQ.
My second advice is not promise something you’re not 100% sure you’ll be able to deliver. And that’s why I also advise not to announce any dates, because you can’t predict future. Even if you can predict your development time decently, other life circumstances still can get in a way. Broken promise is a broken promise, no matter what.
I would also advice to release updates at least once a month if possible. This is the best indicator for players that you’re working on a project and you didn’t abandon it. Unfortunately for Shadows Peak, there was a necessary gap in updates due to the fact that I needed to focus on chapter 2 development, so I understand that it’s not always possible.
I definitely encourage developers to not ignore community and be active on game forums and reply when you do have something to say.
Also you should realize that player expectations are quite high, so your initial release should be relatively content rich and as bug free as possible. Same goes for game updates. Making every update as bug free as possible, should be priority number one. Although this is probably doesn’t apply to every kind of game.
Did you set out to have Aliens being the reveal at the end of Shadow’s Peak or was this decided on during development?
Shadows Peak idea had evolved from 2d game with random generation and no story. But chapter one ending was there from an early stage of story development. Story for chapter 2 however changed quite a bit during development.
Do you have an interest a personal interest aliens or was this just an interesting plot for this project?
I do have “I want to believe” poster on my wall and I was fascinated by aliens when I was young. Now I’m a skeptic, but I do enjoy aliens theme in entertainment.
Are you an alien?
Don’t think so, but I do sometimes feel like one in this crazy world of extroverts ;)
I found a Necronomicon hidden in a secret passage in Shadow’s Peak–Does this mean you an Evil Dead fan?
Evil Dead 2 is defiantly among my favorite horror films.
Will you be adding the ability to summon the Deadites and forces of Evil with the Necronomicon in the future?
The answer is no. Shadows Peak already has too much staff that shouldn’t be in a game about aliens :)
The “psychic” enemies that caused your vision to fill with static reminded me of the psychic enemies in the STALKER series? Was this an inspiration or was this merely coincidental?
STALKER is one of my favorite games, but I think most people would feel that this ability is more inspired by Slender game. The reality is that everything is a remix, so there’s probably even more games, movies, visuals that inspired it.
The Teddy Bear sequence was particularly impressive, how did you decide on making a teddy bear the main villain of the first chapter of the game?
Teddy Bear was in a game from the start, but it was a small part of the game. Just like with Gynophobia, I had a sleepless night and there is when idea for Teddy bear boss fight and backstory came to me. And yes, after Gynophobia, I sleep with a notepad and pencil beside my bed, because that bed generated quite a number of ideas for me. :) I’ve got really inspired by that idea and worked like crazy for a week to add it to the game.
However I have mixed relationship with that Teddy Bear :) I know that Teddy Bear has it fans, but for a lot of people it was out of place and made story more confusing. I definitely see that point of view and agree with it. Unfortunately Shadows Peak isn’t a long game, so cutting it out of the game wasn’t an option. Teddy Bear will be my reminder about importance of story consistency and story expectations for future projects.
Should I be worried about my daughter’s Teddy Bear in real life?
If you didn’t perform satanic rituals on that Teddy Bear, she should be fine. :)
Lastly, any advice or words of wisdom you want to give for any other indie developers out there? How do people get their games made and out there for the world to see?
Don’t be afraid to take shortcuts! Of course quality of final product is very important, but it doesn’t matter how you get there. For example there’s a stigma related to visual programming and stock assets. But in reality people don’t care how you made your game and what assets did you used if they are used in an engaging game that they enjoy playing.
Demo version of Shadows Peak available for download! Demo version save file is fully compatible with full version of Shadows Peak, so you will be able to continue playing from the last save point if you buy Shadows Peak.
- Achievements added to the game. - Korean translation added. - When stamina isn't fully depleted, it will restore two times faster than before. - Japanese translation improved. - German translation improved. - Fixed bug that caused dog to not deal any damage to player, when it bites. - Changed positions of some alien skulls and added more of them. - Fixed bug that damaged player when npc triggered bear trap. - Fixed bug that caused beast to deal damage when it died, if the player was in front of it at that moment. - Fixed bug that caused a possibility to find live Jenny, when she died in a car accident. - Fixed bug that caused controls changes from pause menu to not get saved. - Other small changes and improvements.
Achievements names and descriptions are not yet translated to all languages.
Shadows Peak is finally released out of early access. You can grab it right now with a 33% discount. I want to thank everyone who provided feedback and helped me to make Shadows Peak a better game! I still plan to release updates for the game. Upcoming updates will add achievements and Korean translation to the game.
I plan to release Shadows Peak out of early access on March 13 with a 33% discount.
I also plan to add achievements to the game in a week or two. Because of this, soon you might see information that Shadows Peak contains a lot of hidden achievements on steam. Those achievements will be added to steam and partially hidden for test purposes. Unfortunately steam doesn’t allow to completely hide this information from a player. Current version of the game can’t trigger them, so don’t think that it’s a bug. I will post an announcement when version of the game that can trigger them will be uploaded to steam. If you have any ideas for interesting achievements, you can post it in comments below or on Shadows Peak steam forum.
- German translation added to the game. - Performance improvements on forest level. - Additional translation of key binding menu. - Look sensitivity on gamepad was framerate dependent. This is now fixed. - Improved final cutscene. - Added news broadcast to the radio near camp in first chapter. - Default look sensitivity for gamepad increased. - Added Russian voice over for moment when James finds his sister. - Fixed bug in key binding menu that prevented some text from being displayed. - Fixed bug that made Michelle's phone to be both in hand and on windowsill. - Other small changes and improvements.
- Chinese translation added to the game. - French translation added to the game. - When map is opened, hitting map key will now close the map. - Default map key changed to Q. - Map no longer can be opened using next/previous weapon keys. - Added gamepad vibration to some events in a game. - Controls shortcut added to pause menu. - Added ability to set mouse/gamepad sensitivity in pause menu. - Player can now switch weapons in air and when he is sprinting. - Level design changes. - Fixed bug where music volume slider didn't affected music volume on some levels. - Fixed bug when music sometimes didn't stop playing when it should have. - God Rays effect disabled for fastest graphics quality setting to improve performance. - Pills no longer getting used if player health is full. - Fixed lack of auto save when player exits out of first cave. - Lots of small fixes and improvements.
If you think that some other events should also trigger gamepad vibration, leave your suggestion in comments or steam forum.
I know that not everything in input menu is translated. I will look into adding more translation to that menu later.