Game and level designer Krzysztof Chomicki speaks with GamingBolt about the unique “reverse-horror” title.
What if you could play a horror game in which you play the monster that is eating people alive? With Carrion, developers Phobia Game Studio are looking to answer that question exactly. It sounds like a unique and exciting premise, and combined with its pixel art style and its metroidvania structure, Carrion has the potential to be something quite special. Curious to learn more about the game, we recently sent across a few questions about it to the developers. Read our conversation with game and level designer Krzysztof Chomicki below.
"We were abducted by amorphous alien beings and they told us “please make a game with us as main characters”."
Turning the tables and letting players be the ones making everyone else miserable is a great idea for a game in a horror setting- how did the concept come about?
We were abducted by amorphous alien beings and they told us “please make a game with us as main characters”.
Why did you choose to go with a metroidvania design approach with Carrion? Can you mention any games, recent or otherwise, that have been influential for you during development?
Once we decided how the monster would interact with the environment and how it would evolve new abilities throughout the game, we realized what puzzle-solving potential this would yield. Building the whole world around the skill progression was the logical next step, and that’s how we ended up designing a Metroidvania, albeit a somewhat unorthodox one.
When it comes to influences, the most evident ones would be the Metroid and Alien vs Predator games – for obvious reasons – but when it comes to things such as level or puzzle design, we should probably mention the Zelda and Souls series, as well as The Witness.
Can you talk about the in-game mechanic of rejecting mass, and how that interacts with what abilities players, as the monster, have access to?
It’s what we call a mass-based class system. Depending on the current size of the monster, it has access to a different set of abilities, most of which have different combat and puzzle-solving appliances. The monster grows by consuming people, but it can also lose mass – either by purposefully depositing it in designated spots or losing health in combat. Players will have to learn to utilize those mechanics to manage how large their monster is and overcome the challenges the game throws at them – being as large as possible isn’t always the answer here.
Can you tell us about how combat will evolve through the game as players gain more powers and become stronger and larger?
First of all, the combat becomes more varied with time, as players will have to start actively rotating between the classes (sometimes even mid-combat), so eventually it’s all about them being able to dynamically adjust to the situation on the battlefield. It’s not only about the opponents they’re currently facing, but also the active skills at their disposal.
Secondly, humans quickly realize that simple handguns won’t cut it anymore, so they start utilizing heavier weaponry, as well as mechs and automated defense systems.
"When it comes to influences, the most evident ones would be the Metroid and Alien vs Predator games – for obvious reasons – but when it comes to things such as level or puzzle design, we should probably mention the Zelda and Souls series, as well as The Witness."
What was the process like of settling on mechanics for how the monster would fight enemies, and stalk its prey, and consume their flesh? Was there ever a fear that the player might end up feeling too overpowered?
The process was filled with pain and suffering, not unlike the process of being eaten alive by a hulking mass of living flesh (if you need more details, please ask the aliens who abducted us, we’re actively trying to repress those memories). The main problem was that – as far as we’re concerned – there’s hardly a gold standard for playing as an amorphous tentaculated meat blob, so there was lots of trial and error involved. In fact, we’re still tweaking those mechanics, as we’re constantly finding new ways of making the experience more heartwarmingly gruesome and satisfying.
Map design is something that can make or break a metroidvania title- what can players expect from Carrion’s map, in terms of both size and variety?
We believe in quality, not quantity, and we wanted the game to reflect that. The map isn’t overwhelmingly large, which allows us to provide players with a steady influx of new skills, enemies and obstacles that should keep the experience fresh throughout the whole campaign.
We also took some liberties with the classic Metroidvania formula. Given the reverse-horror nature of the game, we wanted the players to feel the gory impact they make on the world, and so we decided that – unlike in most Metroidvanias out there – all defeated enemies would stay dead and remain such even after you left the area. This decision prompted us to design the map in a way that would cut down on needless backtracking, and we achieved that by splitting the map into separate, largely self-contained zones (each being like a mini Metroidvania in and of itself), all connected by an overworld. In a way, it resembles the classic Zelda “overworld and dungeons” formula, when you think about it.
Roughly how long will an average playthrough of Carrion be?
Hopefully long enough to exceed the Steam refund time limit!
Are you looking into next-gen versions of Carrion as well, especially as get closer to next-gen console releases?
For now, we’re focused 100% on the current-gen platforms. A next-gen release isn’t out of the question, but given the art style and low hardware requirements of the game, it wouldn’t differ in any substantial way. Once you take backward compatibility into account, the main reason for making those ports would be to earn us some sweet indie game dev street-cred for having an early next-gen release.
"For now, we’re focused 100% on the current-gen platforms. A next-gen release isn’t out of the question, but given the art style and low hardware requirements of the game, it wouldn’t differ in any substantial way."
Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game?
If the game sells well enough, then maybe we will be allowed to live on Earth again among other human beings like ourselves, so please take that into consideration. Thankfully, our new prehensile appendages, extra eyes, and multiple minds interconnected within a single body help us boost our skills and productivity quite extensively, so we’re able to tackle any threat with confidence, whether it’s a flamethrower, or a game design mind-boggler to solve. If that was your last question, then let us slither away back to our hive so we can carry on making the game. Or, better yet, would you like to come over for dinner?