Chatting with DreadOut 2 executive producer Rachmad

by MaddOx
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In a realm where the lines between folklore and digital pixels blur, DreadOut 2 emerges as a beacon of indie horror gaming. I had the unique opportunity to converse with Rachmad, the Executive Producer at Digital Happiness, the brains behind this chilling sequel. This exclusive Q&A delves deep into the eerie world of DreadOut 2, exploring the inspiration behind its creation, the intricate integration of Indonesian folklore, and the evolution of its gameplay and narrative.

Join us as we uncover the challenges and triumphs in the development of this sequel, which not only embraces its roots in Indonesian culture but also pushes the boundaries of horror gaming. From the artistic conception of its ghosts and supernatural entities to the orchestration of its spine-tingling soundtrack, Rachmad provides insights into what makes DreadOut 2 a standout title in the horror genre.

Whether you’re a fan of the original DreadOut, a lover of horror games, or simply intrigued by the fusion of cultural folklore with modern gaming, this Q&A promises to be an enlightening journey into the heart of darkness. Read on, if you dare, to discover what lurks within the shadows of DreadOut 2.

Hello! Can you start by introducing yourself and your role in the development of DreadOut 2?

Hey everyone, please to e-meet you all. My name is Rachmad from Digital Happiness, I’m an executive producer for DreadOut 2.

What inspired you to create a sequel to the original DreadOut, and how does it build upon its predecessor?

Our first inspiration is always based on our fanbase of the previous DreadOut titles that always support us. Of course, in the world of DreadOut itself, there is still a lot to explore, and we as a developer want to share this with the audiences. 

On the side of the business, we are always inspired and looking at how to build an everlasting popular franchise such as Silent Hill and Resident Evil series. But the difference is as an indie game company we can’t make it in massive ways due to our lack of human resources and funding, for example. That’s why it takes quite some time to make a sequel to the OG DreadOut in 2014.

DreadOut 2 is known for its use of Indonesian folklore. Can you share more about the process of integrating these elements into the game?

Is a bit overwhelming and confusing at first because as the world’s biggest archipelago country, it consists of more than 17 thousand Islands each have its myths, lore, and urban legends. And most of them are very fascinating to incorporate into DreadOut 2. As progress evolves, we need to filter it and adjust those elements to align with a wider audience within our technical limitations, time constraints, and budget as usual.

DreadOut 2 walking down the street

What were some of the most significant challenges you faced in developing DreadOut 2 and how did you overcome them?

Even with our previous experiences shipping 3 titles before DreadOut 2, we still encountered the most basic problem that most first-time indie game developers endured; overscaled, overbudget, and over budget. It shows when it first came into Steam in 2020, and one game-breaking bug ruined our launch from a very positive review and drastically down into negative reviews and the global pandemic started as well. It took us 3-4 months to finally be able to recover the damage and able to gain again positive feedback from the users. It was quite some experience.

How has the gameplay evolved from the first DreadOut to DreadOut 2, especially with the introduction of new mechanics like melee combat?

I guess when we’re talking about the new mechanics on DreadOut 2, it was aligned with our character development progression from our main protagonist as well.  We want to share with the audience to witness the badass demon hunter heroine in the making:) 

When we decided to give Linda a new ability to do melee combat it would become a double-edged sword problem when making it too powerful a protagonist, and the horror feel would be less effective. That’s why we designed a separate world between the light realm and dark realm but in both realms, but still depends heavily on channelling her energy into her phone, while killing the demons, to give a balance between phone and melee combat.

Tell us about the protagonist, Linda. How has her character evolved in this sequel?

Linda Meilinda is an orphan and Taurus girl. Just like any ordinary high schooler Linda just wants to live as a normal girl. But faith has a different plan for her, in this sequel, we will witness her journey from seeking redemption, to finally making peace with her guilty feelings for not being able to save all her friends in the previous DreadOut. And also her acceptance to become the demon hunter, one of the Keepers of The Dark.

Horror games often walk a fine line between scary and over-the-top. How did you balance horror elements to maintain tension and fear?

I like your statement, Good question, and difficult to answer indeed, we still have a lot to learn crafting a horror game, but let me try to answer.

I believe that the basic concept of fear is unfamiliarity and the feeling of hopelessness. With those two points attached, we put them into all the aspects of the game design. From the game’s pace, enemies spawn, difficulties, environment, and enemies design. It’s all about balancing those aspects, when horror games become repetitive, it bores players, and the scare wouldn’t be effective.

In terms of over-the-top design when implemented too much, it would become a laughing stock. I also believe that good formulaic horror entertainment is a mix of satiric comedy and a sprinkle of sensuality. Those aspects are also being utilized as tools to keep balancing between fear and tension. That’s why I like the Evil Dead series, particularly Evil Dead 2, IMO it nailed very nailed on the horror, the comedy, and the sensuality. 

Not sure if it answers the question, but I hope I do.

DreadOut 2 staring at phone screen

What approach did you take in structuring the narrative of DreadOut 2? How does it unfold for the player?

The main goal of DreadOut 2 was to give a conclusive ending to Linda’s journey while preparing her for future adventures. But that would become contradictive for us because while we love Western horror cinemas, as Asians, we would prefer the Asian Horror treatment ending for DreadOut 2. More ambiguous ending to give players some room to interpret the story rather than the concluded ending like most in the Western cinemas. 

With those points taken, we are taking a non-linear approach to DreadOut 2. While the main story was structured linearly, the other parts for the side-quest and tidbit information about Linda’s personality and the world she lived in are told by environmental storytelling.

So far we see most of the players’ responses are positive, some of them even got the theory right.  

Can you talk about the design process for the game’s ghosts and supernatural entities, particularly the Kuntilanak and Gore Surgeon?

Well, there was a time when we were doing a local exhibition in our hometown, and a stranger approached us, and offered to open our “third eye”, free of charge to give an accurate design depiction of the ghost that we already made. We politely refused.

But anyway, most of the Indonesian ghosts that we designed are mostly based on specific local descriptions regarding some particular ghost-like Kuntilanak, for example. We just adding some details and some adjustments for the wider audience.

As for Gore Surgeon, we often got critiques from gamers that we only focused on specific gender fan service through Linda’s design, so we designed Gore Surgeon to answer that challenge.

How did you approach the sound design and musical score to enhance the horror atmosphere in DreadOut 2?

One of the most praised of the first DreadOut instalment was the score and the horror atmosphere. We’re still using most of them but we remix and enhance the quality of the audio. But since DreadOut 2 is more “light” compared to DreadOut, some of the tracks selected were more casual and cheerful to give players a sense of relief. 

Some of our signature tracks that were using traditional Sundanese instruments were still present in DreadOut 2. One of the new tracks was heavily inspired by Deadly Premonition’s Whistle Theme. The last particular “sad lonely” track was also written and composed heavily inspired by Akira Yamoaka’s Silent Hill Theme.

How has player feedback from the original DreadOut influenced the development of DreadOut 2?

Yes a lot, we read most of the feedback. For example, we scrapped our Limbo death mechanics in the first DreadOut.

DreadOut 2 holding a knife

How important was it to accurately represent Indonesian culture and folklore in the game?

It’s more of a choice, not a necessity, to be honest. But is easier for us as Indonesians to make a game based on our culture. As we grow up with the pop cultures around the world, we learn foreign languages, and other cultures through video games, but somehow none of them represent us accurately.

Even a small mention in the Splinter Cell’s game portrayed one of their antagonists as Indonesian terrorist Suhadi Sadono was very delightful for us Indonesians. So if no one makes an Indonesian High school girl the main protagonist, let us make one. So that was the story behind the birth of DreadOut.

And for us as an indie developer, we can’t compete with other Triple-A games with their hundred million budget, hundred people, decades of experience, and technologies, so we utilize our local content as an alternative value-added, telling the untold stories for all gamers worldwide.

Are there any plans for future games or expansions within the DreadOut universe?

Yes, definitely. We can’t promise you guys anything yet, but Soft Source right now is working hard to bring back the DreadOut OG for the consoles as well.

What advice would you give to aspiring game developers who want to create horror games?

It’s a bit cliche, but please start small, start now, sometimes execution is all that matters.

If the characters from DreadOut 2 could crossover into any other video game universe for a special event, which game would you choose and why?

I just remembered some years ago some fanart showing that Linda would become a perfect couple with Alan Wake. Also teaming up with Rei Kurosawa from the Fatal Frame series would be OP as well.

We extend our deepest gratitude to Rachmad and the team at Digital Happiness for granting us this fascinating glimpse into the haunting world of DreadOut 2. Their dedication and passion for horror gaming shine through in every aspect of this thrilling sequel. To our readers, thank you for joining us on this eerie exploration. Stay tuned to FULLSYNC for more exclusive Q&As, where we continue to unveil the secrets and stories behind your favourite games. Keep your eyes peeled and your minds open; the next journey into the virtual unknown is just around the corner!

If you want to continue to follow the developments of DreadOut 2 and Digital Happiness, you can do so on the links below:

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