Welcome, CryEngineers, to a special community spotlight feature! As you know, the CRYENGINE Indie Dev Fund is now open to submissions. Many of you may have applied for this fund, and we wish you the best of luck! So as part of our community spotlight, we will be bringing you features covering the talented developers contending for the Indie Dev Fund to make casting your vote an even harder choice. Today's feature, Darkness Anomaly developed by dedicated one-man-army Roma Hassanih, continues to delve deeper into the mystery and intrigue that shrouds the sleepy town of Kingdom Valley, giving us an even better look at this complex and allegorical spin on the classic horror genre.
Far from the average horror shooter, Darkness Anomaly is a game of exploration, a game of choices, with any wrong move posing the potential for disastrous consequences. A deep underlying theme draws the player in, investigating the string of religious murders that have rocked this sleepy mountain town. Navigate your way through a fully interactive environment, enlist the aid of the townspeople and cut to the heart of a mystery that threatens the existence of mankind. But this far off the edge of the map, you may find more than you bargained for. And you may find that even demons sometimes need a helping hand...
To find out more about this exciting project, we sat down with Roma and dove a little deeper into the background of Darkness Anomaly.
If you could, give me a brief overview of the game. In ninety-nine words how would you describe the gameplay, and what the player can look forward to experiencing?
A really unique way of questioning suspects while solving some cases which includes how you handle your mark as a detective, the holster your weapon is in and the weapon itself. You can decide where you put your hands for example, and see the reaction of your suspect. Are they scared? Or even aggressive? Since you have a weapon you will come across situations where you'll be forced to use it. That includes to manage your ammunition stock, you can only restock at the police station. Also the riddles, which will require to act outside the game, do things, research things and act like a real detective!
Just seeing what you've already shared with the community, the game features quite a few distinct themes. Care to elaborate on these? What motivated you to pursue them?
Darkness Anomaly touches topics I feel game developers shouldn't shy away from. I think topics like child abuse might be delicate, yet it's something that happens everyday and I thought a lot about how it affects people who grew up not only seeing things like that, but experienced them first hand. I want to show that people can be cruel; that the world is cruel but nothing is black and white. Everybody has their own motivation. For example, i came up with the first case, Jenny, the woman you will find dead in the alley. She lost her husband and her daughter in an accident. Further on you will find information about her, some diary entry's, that she married her husband way too soon and actually doesn't love him anymore, started to hate the family. On a trip, she'll meet a man she fell in love with and start cheating on her husband over the years. Her hate grows but she can't leave her family. That's the information you get in the game. If you look further you may find a description, instructions on how the breaks of a car work and how they can be manipulated. Despair, a feeling I want to create with every step you make as a player. Who is the evil one? Was it right to kill her because she might have killed her own child and her husband?
Or was it just a coincidence that you've found some instructions how to manipulate the car's vital functions and the poor woman just lost her child?
You will have to struggle with questions like this and your own conscience throughout the whole game.
"My motivation to pursue them is in fact a simple one. I want to tell an amazing epic story and want to evoke a variety of emotions."
Darkness Anomaly features some very interesting characters, all with compelling backstories. Could you tell me a little more about them and how they interact? What was your process for developing them? Are there any real life inspirations or influences that you drew upon?
Indeed the three main characters are something I am really proud of. Those three "factions" will interact in a mind game with each other, as I've said previously nothing is black and white everybody has their own motivation, which seems to be clear at first. But through the game they will change, especially the main character. He will go through a lot and by a lot I mean a lot. That's also something really important for me, character development has to happen in a realistic and understandable way. Nick will be able to speak to Vassago in different ways and also they will encounter Aaron multiple times in the game. I took a lot of inspiration for Nick from a real person, Keanu Reeves. I am big fan of his movies especially in this case: Constantine.
Vassago is a Goetic demon described in the book of King Solomon. He's a prince of hell but of good nature, actually. So I took this character and defined him for Darkness Anomaly in a new way; making him a fallen angel and the left hand of Lucifer to make his character a little more shady.
Aaron , the cult leader, his ideology was inspired by the manga/anime Death Note and its protagonist, Light Yagami.
"All the events [the characters] will go through...will change them in a realistic and understandable way"
What can you tell us about the level design of Darkness Anomaly? What sort of surprises can the player look forward to in the city of Kingdom Valley? You mention solving riddles to be a key gameplay element, so how interactive will the environment be?
So the level design of Darkness Anomaly is built on exploration. Many things will be hidden from you and not necessarily an objective, there will be many ways to get somewhere and you won't have a map in your inventory so you have to ask people for the way when you get lost. The riddle design is very retro, as you might say. They are hard and will require to do things off the beaten path, do research on the internet or maybe go to a library. I'm still not set on the idea to give players a notepad option in game, so they can write things down or just telling them to get an actual, physical notebook to do so - but one thing is for sure: you will have to take notes to beat the game.The environment will be a part of that mechanic.
Have an example: There's a point in the game where you need to find the entry code for an archive that you need to access. The only hint that's dropped in the game is, that it's at the graveyard. So the player will look there and will find nothing. Unless you notice that the gravestones are in a strange order. You need to pay attention to such detail and think out of the box. When you write down the order of the gravestones, you can toy around with it, change your position and eventually, when you get to higher ground, everything will suddenly make sense when you look at it from a different perspective.
Open-world horror is an ambitious genre. Did this pose an unique challenges on the level or game design?
In my opinion, open-world gives you the perfect scenery to develop horror. You can work on many places and let the player decide by themself what they want to see and explore. Granting this level of freedom binds the player to the game emotionally as everything that happens is a result of their unique choices; it's that kind of immersion that creates the perfect incubator to unleash horror elements to great impact.There's no game in the same genre I know of that incorporates personal choice as much as Darkness Anomaly does, so I am looking forward to see the reactions.
"...this will be an amazing and unique experience for the players"
Darkness Anomaly features some paranormal, almost religious overtones. Fallen angels, lost souls, and so on. Was there any religious inspiration for the game?
I am an atheist. But to be an atheist I also have to prove myself why am I an atheist, so I've read the bible and I just think, those themes make for a perfect playground for an amazing and epic story. But the biggest inspiration for the theme of religious events was the book "The Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri.
What platforms will Darkness Anomaly be released on? Will newer technologies such as VR be supported?
I've talked to Microsoft and I want to release the game on Xbox One. Didn't have a chat with Sony yet, but I want to see how the Indie Dev Fund campaign will turn out first. And yes I would love to work with VR since I've experienced the groundbreaking possibility's of VR with Robinson The Journey. But for now I can't say much about it since I don't have the financial means to develop on VR headsets at the moment.
What inspired you to undertake Darkness Anomaly?
Making games is something I've always dreamed of. I worked with Unreal and got some experience there before using CRYENGINE. So my inspiration was my childhood and my desire to create worlds. Main inspiration for Darkness Anomaly came from the books "Sharp Objects" by Gillian Flynn and "The Divine Comedy".
"...My inspiration was my childhood and my desire to create worlds"
What can you tell us about yourself, your studio?
Well, I'm Roma, 23 years old and almost for two years now into the development of Darkness Anomaly. I do game design, level design, i write the story, the screen play, scripts. Vassago Studio is a studio i want to create one day and be able to hire some creative people to create more games like Darkness Anomaly. For the moment I am alone developing the game, but I receive some great support from the community and work with professional voice actors & composers.
What motivated you to choose CRYENGINE for development of Darkness Anomaly? Are there any unique features that aided development?
The moment I started the engine, I felt in love with how fast and easy I can create an amazing looking environment, there where things I could learn and understand (even though they where not easy, as you know). You guys do care about the people and the community which I like. Besides, it is the most powerful engine in the world. I like the people I work with and the community. So yeah on my next project I will definitely work with the CRYENGINE again.
"You guys do care about the people and the community which I like. Besides, it is the most powerful engine in the world.
If selected as a winner for the Indie Development Fund, what are your plans for the future?
Hire some good people I have in mind right away, create the Vassago Studio as an actual studio including professional hardware, MOCAP, faceware. Of course be able to pay the composers I work with, sound design and the localization in other countries like, Germany, Russia and China.
Anything else you'd like to share with the community?
I want to mention that this game will have some really cool and amazing voice actors in it and of course a great score which is very important to me. People will be able to play a demo and find out for themselves in a few weeks with some good 2-3hrs of gameplay.
That's all for today's feature! More information about Darkness Anomaly can be found on the Indie Development Fund Page, as well as many other promising and exciting projects! Be on the lookout for our next exciting feature and don't forget to vote!
- Tracer & Nic