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  • Carrion's Krzysztof Chomicki On Reverse Horror Design

    - Oleg Nesterenko
  • This interview was originally published on Game World Observer on September 04, 2020.

    Carrion is a reverse horror game in which you play as an amorphous creature of unknown origins. The game received universal acclaim from players and critics for its clever power-fantasy premise, as well as satisfying traversal and combat mechanics, which allow for gameplay that can be both strategic and chaotic.

    The team behind the game is Polish developer called Phobia Game Studio, whose members previously shipped 2D platformer Butcher.

    We caught up with Krzysztof Chomicki, game and level designer on Carrion, to discuss what it took to create the ultimate monster simulation experience of 2020. What follows below is the text version of the video interview that took place on August 13.


    Krzysztof Chomicki, game and level designer on Carrion

    Oleg Nesterenko, managing editor at GWO: Krzysztof, a couple of words about yourself and the studio, please. 

    I'm the game and level designer at Phobia Game Studio. We're a very small development team based in Poland. We all work remotely. I'm based in Krakow, Sebastian Kroskiewicz, who is the brains behind the whole studio and our project, lives in Warsaw. Our sound designer, Maciej Niedzielski, is based in Zielona Góra, which is next to the German border. And on Carrion, video game and film composer Cris Velasco joined our team, he's from LA. He did the music for the game.


    Carrion team.
    From left to right: project lead Sebastian Kroskiewicz, game/level designer Krzysztof Chomicki, composer Cris Velasco, sound designer Maciej Niedzielski

    How did you first meet with Sebastian and decide to form a studio?

    We both got hired a couple of years ago by Transhuman Design. It's a company set up by Michal Marcinkowski. His studio is behind Soldat and Soldat 2, King Arthur's Gold, and Trench Run. He hired Sebastian for a particular project, which eventually got scrapped, but at the time Sebastian was working on his own game called Butcher, and Michal liked it enough to decide to produce it as Transhuman Design and publish it.

    Eventually, they decided to expand the team behind Butcher. They were looking for a level designer, and that's how I got on board. At some point, Maciej joined the team as a composer. We liked working with each other so much that we decided to form our own studio, and that's how Phobia and the core team behind Carrion came to be.

    It's been three weeks since you unleashed Carrion onto the world. What's going on at the studio right now?

    We've just published a major patch, which is live on Steam and Xbox already. It should be live on Switch fairly soon. We are also thinking about some updates, like workshop support for the Steam version.

    But mostly, we just want to get the post-release support done and maybe the PlayStation port and then to take some time off.

    The last couple of weeks was pretty intense. Especially since it was a multi-platform release, which we didn't have previous experience with because Butcher was ported to consoles not by us, but by Crunching Koalas.

    Just like CarrionButcher also had players kill people as an antagonistic entity, and it was a relative success. Does it mean that Carrion was a relatively low-risk project and you were confident that there's a demand for this formula?

    It's not like we knew that a game about an amorphous meat blob would sell. When Sebastian started prototyping the monster's movement and eating mechanics, he shared some gifs on Twitter. They clicked incredibly well, especially compared to what we had with Butcher. Soon after this, publishers started approaching us and asking about the game. "Yes, it's still too early," they said. "But once you have a vertical slice and some proper prototype demo, come back to us and we'll see what we can do."

    That's when we knew that there's definitely a potential in this project.


    You said before that early in development, you used real-time feedback on Twitter to help shape Carrion. How did it work?

    At first, we weren't sure what kind of game we wanted to make, other than it being loosely inspired by The Thing (1982). We were just exploring the controls for this amorphous creature. We also had the general idea for the eating mechanic, which is that you grow larger and more powerful as you eat more people. And that was pretty much the only thing set in stone from the very beginning.

    Everything else we experimented with, posting some gifs on Twitter, and whatever resonated best with people clued us in on which direction we should follow.

    Does the player control just one monster? Should there be more monsters? Should we make it an RTS game, with you commanding multiple creatures?

    Interestingly enough, we didn't implement any of the mechanics we were testing on Twitter. So, the core of the game has not changed since the very beginning. Twitter comments just validated our intuition, which led us to this kind of metroidvania-based exploration / puzzle platformer without platforming.


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