Ice Pick Lodge Interview

Rock, Paper, Shotgun interviews CEO Nikolay Dybowskiy and developer Aleksey Luchin of Ice Pick Lodge. While they don't specifically talk about FPS/RPG/adventure hybrid Pathologic that much, it's an interesting read if only for the unique attitude expressed in the interview.
RPS: So let's talk discoveries. If Pathologic is or was a grand exercise in decision making, what were the results? And after seven years spent making games, which tools do you think you're starting to understand?

We're not ready to talk about the results just yet. To harvest and process the result of artistic work there needs to be an important twist or change in your outlook, or you must achieve some new level of maturity.

For now I can only say that the material turned out unsuspectedly and is proving exceptionally difficult and refractory. The root of everything is the player's freedom of choice. The rich variation in the player's possible behavior rarely allows us to create (predictable environments and situations) (as proposed by Stanislavsky for the theatre). Frankly, a man is usually not ready to entertain himself he wants to have a shooting range built for him, then be solemnly led into it, given a gun and offered a variety of targets to shoot at.

In order for the player's decision to mean anything these (predictable environments) must be directed and that's where the turf for research is nearly unlimited. The main idea to keep in mind is that the player must not feel that the game is (working) with the simulation of a player that came before him, but with himself directly the guy who is actually sitting in front of the monitor. The hero's problems should derive from the player's problems. There are no recipes or laws to follow here everything depends on the setting, the game's world and the key goal.

For example, in our current game Tension / The Void the game begins with the death of the main character (who is never shown or referred too), who was lucky enough for his soul to linger in a strange place called the Void. Our main goal as the developers is to make the player believe that he's playing the game in order to save his own soul from disappearing completely. And who knows, what really can happen to your soul in real life and what not? ;)

Besides solving this damned problem the freedom of the player in an (ethically pre-set) setting, the most intriguing directions for research are the flow of real time (the problems of irreversibility of actions) and the potential of Chaos (random events and conditions) within the game world, that, nevertheless, must carry an ethical and meaningful sense.
RPS: More than anything else the design of your games reminds me of the attitude that was so often present in Amiga games - a collection of ideas stitched together, most of them just crazy enough to work. Does your team harbour any disappointment that the rest of the European games industry has grown up to play things so safely?

Of course, one would always want to have a decent artistic competition. I dream of a luxuriant (Renaissance of gaming) when not only the Japanese, but the American, French, English and Russian game industries will create many bright talents, and when players will ask more from the developers because that's when our dream comes to life.

Games will find and acquire their own language. And when they do, everyone will have to use it, and thus develop it (neatly paralleling now, when AAA projects feel they have to use stereotypes from other genres). It'll happen inevitably it's just a matter of time. And most likely the decisive factor to this event will be the appearance of a bright personality, a genius of game development, or possibly even more than just that.

But now it looks like the best thing to do is just work and wait for the cultural breakthrough, bringing it closer as best we can, little by little bringing more intelligence to the boundaries of game production. (Dig the soil that the genius will plant seed into).