Creative Director Alexandra Golubeva on why Ice-Pick Lodge are remaking Pathologic.
Pathologic is an upcoming remake of 2005’s psychological horror video game which goes by the same name. The remake is set to release on PC, MAC, Linux, PS4, and Xbox One. The game lasts for 12 in-game days and takes place in a town affected by plague, an enemy you can’t kill.
The game is centered around three playable characters as they receive quests from NPCs, however at midnight of each day, the incomplete quests are erased from the player’s notebook. GamingBolt caught up with Alexandra Golubeva, Creative Director/Writer at Ice-Pick Lodge to know how the game is shaping up.
Rashid Sayed: The game puts a ridiculous amount of emphasis on choices. What kind of branching can players expect? Is it going to be similar to what we saw in The Walking Dead series by Telltale Games?
Alexandra Golubeva: Not really. While we do intend to make a certain amount of branching quests, it’s not the game’s selling point; what we’re talking about are emergent choices (that can even be described in terms of resource management). You main question is always How do I spend my time? Do I risk it hoping to loot a theoretically lucrative abandoned house, or do I play it safe trying to barter with the townsfolk? Do I help someone for the moral reward and the possibility of changing future events, or do I eat to keep myself alive and healthy?
It may sound a bit generic, but with enough variance it’s not. Always being pressured for resources adds weight to every decision you’re making, be it an emergent situation or a “quest-log” thing (although we’re hoping to blur the line). It’s very easy to be the good guy when you’re cozy and warm yourself. When you’re cold and starved? Not so much.
As for the branching, it’s less about creating a number of “parallel universes” (as Telltale did—brilliantly) and more about making sure no choice goes unnoticed. Say, you’ve finished a quest, collected your reward, and things seem to be in order; but are they really? The consequences of your actions may catch up to you later when you expect it the least, and you may not even be aware as to how you’re changing the lives of those around you. You may not get an immediate reward or punishment, but The Town will remember your actions and reflect them accordingly.
"Each storyline gives you answers while piling up more questions regarding the other two sets of eyes. And we hope that’s reason enough to keep playing."
Rashid Sayed: The game promises to deliver 70 hours of gameplay. How are you planning to deliver a storyline that will keep players to go on for that many hours?
Alexandra Golubeva: The story is told through the eyes of three different characters. Each of them lives twelve days in The Town, each day taking two real-live hours. It’ll take 72 hours to live through it all.
The general events of those twelve days remain the same, but you get a different perspective each time you’re living through them.
A bull is found slaughtered in the streets one day, leaking possibly infected blood all over the place. It’s a hazard, so naturally Bachelor issues an order to burn the body. You’re free to leave it as a minor event, but if you try to play Haruspex’s storyline, you’ll find out that the bull was sacred, his blood instrumental in curing The Plague, and get a chance to save the body from Bachelor’s cluelessness. Same event, different interpretation (and no copy-pasted dialogue, of course, everything’s different).
You’re free to play a single storyline (24 hours) and leave it at that. But what could possibly have been Haruspex’s reasoning for butchering that dancer? And did Changeling really infect everyone in the only safe house? And how could Bachelor disregard the lives of children so easily?
Each storyline gives you answers while piling up more questions regarding the other two sets of eyes. And we hope that’s reason enough to keep playing.
Rashid Sayed: Back in 2005, Pathologic kind of revolutionized the survival genre by not opting for a zombie approach, instead opting for gameplay mechanics that include Hunger, thirst, fatigue, immune resistance, and reputation for survival. Do you think it could work its magic again in this age?
Alexandra Golubeva: The age has finally caught up with us!
I’m being ironic, of course, but we really feel that the time for Pathologic has come. While we’re not sure we’re happy with the systems as they were (the reputation system was kinda awkward, unrealistic, and encouraged min-maxing), the general gist will remain the same. The players are unafraid to be challenged with multiple systems these days. The next step is making sure each of them is truly meaningful and doesn’t turn into juggling numbers.
We want to make a survival game that’s not just resource management and optimizing your logistics. We want survival to mean something more than the preservation of the flesh. And that is why The Plague is more than just a disease.
"The Plague is not a simple disease—it’s an entity. It would be an overstatement to way that it has a mind of its own, but it’s definitely capable of decision-making."
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the The Tragedian and The Executor and how do they tie into the gameplay and story line?
Alexandra Golubeva: They are your kind assistants, probably benevolent and mildly useless. They can offer advice and serve as guides when you’re lost. There are actually more than two of them,they just all wear similar masks.
Tragedians are, well, tragedians. They work in The Theatre, trying to make sense of what goes on around them and representing it with silent pantomimes. Remember the Faceless guy from Spirited Away before he turned all weird? That’s what they are—the dolls that require no face, hero platzhalters,actors in the play that bears an uncanny resemblance to life. Or is it the other way round?
Executors are, simply put, plaguebringers. They announce deaths while collecting bodies, and their weird costumes are there to protect them from infection (they are probably just ordinary people inside). Their arrival marks death, but they’re also surprisingly helpful and willing to give some advice while chuckling at your plights.
Rashid Sayed: Tell us more about the kind of realistic behavior patterns that you plan to add to the disease?
Alexandra Golubeva: The Plague is not a simple disease—it’s an entity. It would be an overstatement to way that it has a mind of its own, but it’s definitely capable of decision-making. So that’s exactly what we’re planning to implement: a chance-based system that changes the likelihood of you getting infected and various events happening.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the game’s engine and the kind of updates you have made to it since the original came out?
We did the best kind of an upgrade: we changed it completely. The original Pathologic was developed using our own homebrew engine, and while it was impressing considering the resources, time constraints, and team size, updating it would lead to way too more issues, and creating another one would be unwise resource-wise. So now we’re switching to Unity 5. You can read more about why we’ve chosen it in a Kickstarter update from out CTO, Ayrat.
Rashid Sayed: Is there anything else you want to tell us about the game before we let you go?
Alexandra Golubeva: Well, there’s a whole lot we want to tell, which is why we’re making this game. Deeds and products speak louder than words.