Developer interview: Dark Moonlight

After wrapping up Resident Evil Village, we’re already looking forward to our next horror experience. Dark Moonlight is currently being developed by Silent Bear Studio and will be published by Black Rose Projects, and it’s a survival horror that features a protagonist with mental health issues whose treatment is the start of a descent into a horrifying new reality. We got in touch with Grzegorz Misztal, the team lead for Black Rose Projects who is working on the game – here’s what we found out.

Who is on the team behind Dark Moonlight?

Our team, Black Rose Projects, is a small studio from Poland. Our company ported over 50 projects for different consoles, mostly Nintendo Switch. We always wanted to make our own games. We’ve teamed up with Marcin and Ewelina, a couple with years of experience in the game development process. They’ve come up with the idea for Dark Moonlight, and we absolutely loved their take on the horror genre.

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Dark Moonlight was inspired by modern sci-fi series – which ones were especially influential and why?

Oh, we had a lot of different kinds of inspiration during the development of the game. Our game is strongly influenced by games like The Evil Within (a great variety of gameplay features, where every chapter is something new), Silent Hill 2 (a big emphasis on story, with a lot of questions about the past of our character), Resident Evil 7 & 8 (linear, first person perspective experiences with a lot of cinematic moments), and Dante’s Inferno (different layers of hell and diabolical theme). We also really like Hellblade (diving into madness) and tv series like Black Mirror (watching the show makes you question a lot of things, and makes you think about reality). There will also be chapters in the game that were heavily inspired by Lovecraft.

Aspects of mental illness also feature in the game – how are you approaching this from a gameplay and narrative point of view?

Mental illness, or madness, is a very strong and obvious theme in our game. In Dark Moonlight, you will play as David Kellerman, a man who is going through a very dark moment in his life. His wife has gone missing, his only child is acting in a really strange way and he feels like he’s losing his mind. He decides to enter a special, innovative mental treatment program called Dark Moonlight. As a player, we will slowly discover, step by step, what is happening to David. Why is he acting the way he is, what happened to his wife, what past traumas/diabolical force is making him descend into madness? Our character will face a lot of hallucinations and enemies in the shape of various creatures and horrors inside his own mind.

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How did the visual style for the game come about?

We’re using Unreal Engine 4 but we’re planning to switch entirely to Unreal Engine 5 later on during the development process. Players will visit a variety of levels in the game with a lot of unique themes. Some levels will be more dark and story oriented, while others will be more action paced. Think about an excellent game – Psychonauts, but from a first person perspective, with mature content and a lot of horror creatures.

As with games like Resident Evil, Dark Moonlight will contain both action and puzzles – how are you balancing the two?

We want players to feel excited and engaged with a lot of gameplay mechanics and the story. There will be segments of the game, in which our character doesn’t have any weapons and they might sneak/escape monsters. For example, at the beginning of the game, we won’t fight much, our character will still try to figure out things and fight *light* themes of his past trauma. We plan to make the game around 40% action paced, 40% story driven and 20% filled with puzzles. We’ve asked players and they tell us that they don’t want another walking simulator, they want to fight back any horror they’ll encounter and trust me – they will have means to do so.

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The survival horror genre is a crowded one – how will Dark Moonlight set itself apart from other games in the genre?

I really feel that it’s not that crowded to be honest. We had games like Resident Evil 8, but there aren’t many engaging horror games out there. We really want to make a solid entry into this genre, with a deep and engaging storytelling and with incredible monster designs. During the gameplay, you’ll have important choices to make, which all contribute to different endings (like in Silent Hill). We also want to add a metroidvania element inside our game, provide a variety of gameplay and a really satisfying finale.

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