We discussed the upcoming exploration/horror hybrid Kholat with Łukasz Kubiak, co-founder of development studio Imgn.pro. The Unreal 4 engine-powered game about the mysterious Dyatlov Pass Incident, narrated by Sean Bean, is looking gorgeous and will be out in just a couple of weeks.
The trailers reveal that the game is heavy on atmosphere and suspense – which design choices led to this gameplay style?
We call Kholat an exploration/experience game with elements of horror. There are already some exploration games out there, let’s take Dear Esther (which is our inspiration) – but its atmosphere is not so tense. We wanted to achieve the feeling of anxiety and insecurity, mostly by means of level design.
The main open world map is full of steep passages, sharp rocks and sinister looking trees. It’s dark and you can only rely on the moonlight and your not so effective flashlight. Howling wind and ubiquitous fog also doesn’t help to feel safe.
With recent movies and documentaries, what do you think marks the increased interest in the incident?
There may be few factors – first of all the Dyatlov Pass Incident is a real story, unlike some other creepypastas. It really stimulates your mind, there are real victims, so many years passed and we still don’t know what happened. Another thing is that people may be simply bored by another story happening somewhere in the western world, most probably on some desert near Roswell. The Ural Mountains are not so often present in the pop culture, so if something is happening there it’s fresh and appealing.
With so much mystery surrounding the incident, what did you base the narrative on?
Actually we’re not inspired anyhow by the movie or any works of art related to this topic. We’re basing the game on our own research, documentaries, books, old photographs, satellite maps etc.
The event is truly mysterious, there are dozens of theories but each has its weakness. Kholat is not trying to be another scientific or documentary approach to the Dyatlov Pass Incident. It’s our inspiration, but we’ve built our own story on its base. We let our imagination run wild – that’s how the narrative is created.