Horror can be hard to execute and get right, but Mr. Pohlak manages to do it in Dark Antarctic, and so I wanted to hear his thoughts on horror, hard games and atmosphere.
Tell us about yourself, Rain Pohlak.
I hail from Estonia, play in my brutal death metal band called NEOANDERTALS, live in the woods and drive an old Volvo running on waste vegetable oil for free. I have for many years now built my own log cabin for less than 500 euros with only my axe and local resources. I think everyone brave enough should quit the rat race and build an off-grid tiny house with their own hands. Never slave anyone, work only for yourself. Grow your own food. Here is a TV documentary about us building our log cabin, performing music and talking about our off-grid philosophy:
And of course I recently released my brutal ultra underground indie game Dark Antarctic. I am a very frugal and DIY kind- of-guy, who makes everything by himself. I create my own home, garden, food, fuel (veg oil), music and games.
What can you say about Dark Antarctic? By the way, I notice the price of the game is $6.66. Ha!
Dark Antarctic is a raw and brutal 2D game set in the darkest depths of the cold and frozen Antarctic wasteland. It is supposed to be dirty, pixelated and twisted! You will slay and tear apart communist undead in the Soviet polar bases, Nazi “werwolf” (sic!) undead in the secret bases and the American undead will be cut to pieces with a chainsaw in the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station.
There are two game modes, “Light” and “Dark”. In the “Dark” game mode every single mistake is punished with permanent death. You can never miss a hitting and blocking sequence.
You’ll get a lot of brutal bang for your buck. I used the $6.66 figure, because that just is pure fucking evil! Just like in underground music, the poorer the developers or musicians are, the more hardcore they are in creating interesting or just strangely bizarre experiences.
What did you make the game using?
A wonderful little program called Stencyl. I consider myself foremost a death metal musician who likes to play and create violent games to help me relax. Dark Antarctic was a spiritual ride for me to help get my mind off from some insane shit I had to deal with regarding my rat race years. It is good that all the sick ideas were formed into a game. Making a game can be quite therapeutic.
So Stencyl was the obvious choice for a musician who had no idea how to properly code in creating a sick and dark PC game. Stencyl has its limitations and there were some nasty bugs I couldn’t fix like some slow region detection when exiting the screen. I just hate that glitch, but it’s the engine, couldn’t fix that.
For music I recorded some lonely and dark bass lines, which fit the corridors of the Soviet polar bases. The bass uses low frequencies only to get the best effect, people with laptop speakers will miss out on some great bass heaviness.
The voices of the undead “werwolves” were my vocals from the debut album of NEOANDERTALS. No pitch shifter used, this is my real voice!
Any anecdotes involving the game’s development?
I finished some of the game while living in my car. I live most of the time on my own land and I don’t have the floor in the log cabin ready yet. I live and sleep with my beautiful girlfriend Sandra in my old Volvo 740, while taking electricity for the laptop from a deep cycle battery.
What inspired your decision to make the game hard and brutal? What did you do to make sure it felt fair?
My biggest fear was that my game would be too easy. I’m pretty sure that the hard learning curve will sink Dark Antarctic into the obscurity of underground gaming. Seeing beta players die over and over again made me smile. The game was not as simple as they thought. I think once you’ll understand how the game works, things get much easier. The game is not ultra hard and not totally unfair, it just uses different gameplay mechanics which are meant to be learned through dying. Pay attention and don’t let your guard down and you’ll do fine. Always hit the monsters when they collide with you, it’s nothing complicated.
I already did a small update and added an animated tutorial explaining combat. People never read texts describing the controls and some gamers don’t like dying. They get mad at the game and write it off as some piece of shit. I’m not a fan of games where you cruise through digital worlds and never get frustrated when you die.
That’s why DayZ is one of the best gaming experiences in years. The ARMA 2 mod DayZ and the original Fallout are some of my all time favourite games. In DayZ you’ll feel the pain and extreme frustration when you die.
If everything goes according to plan then there might be a demo version of the game which already has an extremely easy difficulty mode. Just to give gamers a taste of the brutality Dark Antarctic has to offer.
The aesthetic and art style of the game is really neat! What gave you such an idea, and what do you think makes it work?
Brutal Doom sparked in me the desire to create something unique and gory myself. I will never get tired of ripping apart the “zombieman” with tons of pixelated blood. The executions in Brutal Doom looked simple enough for anyone to get the animations done and yet they were insanely effective in creating one of the most violent atmospheres ever created. I was hooked, I wanted more. I just had to create my own brutal game!
And of course the wonderful masterpiece that was Lone Survivor was a big inspiration. Executions are always fun, even if it is some pixelated, dirty art style. Pure violence makes it work.
In your opinion, what is the ultimate way to induce horror in the player, and to build the atmosphere?
Darkness, limited visibility and inhuman sounds are some neat ways in inducing horror in the player. Dark Antarctic however is more about the splatter horror, where extreme executions and lonely corridors create the blood-soaked atmosphere. I urge anyone serious about Dark Antarctic to play it to the end. The ending will surprise people.
Although I like true horror like Slender: The Arrival, I always rather prefer gory games. Feeling fear is awesome but can become a bit tiring when playing for many hours straight. However with gore you can never get enough. Blood never bores me.
Anything else you wish to say?
Long live brutality in games!
Interesting Articles From Other Sites
- Grizzly and grim chalk-style horror game Dark Antarctic available now (indiegames.com)
- Learning Stencyl 3.x Game Development: Beginner’s Guide (emanueleferonato.com)
- DayZ Arma 3: the reason you should play the DayZ mod again (pcgamer.com)