EDIT

Wow! We did NOT expect such a response. You guys are AMAZING! It's been really fun answering your questions, but we have to call it a day now. Unfortunately we won't be able to answer the +1200 comments which are posted at the time of writing this, but we will pop in over the weekend and try to answer some more.

Here's Szurek (the Acid Wizard dog) thanking you for all the lovely questions and comments: http://imgur.com/gallery/nODIu

Another edit!

Since many of you had questions about art-related stuff, you might be interested in taking part in the fan art contest: http://www.acidwizardstudio.com/?p=726

---

We're Acid Wizard Studio, three college buddies (and a dog) from Poland who teamed up and decided to make a game. After more than 4 years of development, we have finished work on Darkwood, a unique top-down survival horror that does not rely on jump scares.

Before Darkwood, some of us literally could not sit through some of the classics of the genre. While developing the game, we managed to slowly overcome our fear of playing horror games or even watching scary movies. We can now finally play Amnesia: The Dark Descent (at least in broad daylight ;))

We knew next to nothing about game development before starting work on Darkwood. We all had a background in animation / graphic design, but we had little idea about programming, game design or production. At one point, we sat down and declared we hate our current jobs, and instead of talking all the time about making the game of our dreams, we have to just go and make one.

After a lot of sleepless nights, we had a vertical slice (kind of) of the game in 2013. We made a gameplay trailer using it, and the reactions to it blew away all of our expectations. We thought that we could actually make a living out of making video games, and started a Indiegogo campaign later that year to help us fund completing Darkwood. The campaign was not going well, but a second gameplay trailer wich launched during its last week gave us a big boost, and the campaign was a success. We set a deadline to complete the game by 2014.

Unfortunately, our inexperience in game development led to heavily overshooting that date. We expanded the scope of the game, and made some major changes to the core design of the game late in development, which ate up a lot of time. We were forced to launch in Steam Early Access in 2014. The game was received very well by the players, and sold much more than we expected! Encouraged by this... We decided to expand the scope of the game even more!

After that, even though we committed our lives to finishing the game as soon as possible, we continued to miss every deadline we set for ourselves. Negative reviews started popping up from players discouraged by the slow development or thinking we have abandoned the game. Development was very slow and frustrating. We bit off way more than we could chew, but we knew we had something special in our hands, and we had to complete it in the way we envisioned it. After 3 years of hard, hard work, the game is finished, and we're pretty proud of it.

Proof: https://twitter.com/TheAcidWizard/status/894943579851943936

EDIT: By popular demand, here is our dog, Szurek (pronounced Shooreck) playing Darkwood: http://imgur.com/gallery/2V4Pl

Answering your questions will be:

Gustaw - programming, marketing, PR

Artur - art, sound design, music, story

Kuba - animation

To get a glimpse of what Darkwood is about, check out this trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3S3tmWfFACQ

Find out more about Darkwood here: http://store.steampowered.com/app/274520/Darkwood/

Comments: 1780 • Responses: 46  • Date: 

Veodr4719 karma

How did you guys live and support yourselves financially during the development process? Before you released on early access?

Guteks4635 karma

Gustaw - We gathered funds during a Indiegogo campaign. Before that, we were working after hours, with no funding at all, working day jobs / freelancing.

AllWillBeOne2322 karma

There's a lot of trippy shit in this game. Any real life experiences / dreams that became an inspiration for darkwood?

Guteks3008 karma

Gustaw - both me and Artur suffer from having hallucinations when waking up during the night. I used to even have sleep paralysis, but not anymore. Sometimes I see some really trippy stuff. Today I woke up and stared at a poster on the wall for like a minute, which changed from a hole in the wall to it's original form (a face). I guess those were pretty easy to take inspiration from, at least from the perspective of emotions we wanted the player to feel.

ellaluna4tv3677 karma

both me and Artur suffer from having hallucinations when waking up during the night.

How about you setup a carbon monoxide detector in your room?

Guteks264 karma

Gustaw - thanks, but this is not specific to a place where I sleep (it happens anywhere).

Rock_Me-Amadeus324 karma

He's referencing this legendary Reddit thread where someone posts about strange happenings in his apartment and it turns out- well, I won't spoil the end.

Guteks100 karma

Gustaw - dang... I really need to get some sleep :P

Everyonesasleep60 karma

Ya'll called your company AcidWizard...sure it does not have anything to do with you guys taking copious amounts of LSD? I mean that logo sure seems like it.

Guteks76 karma

Gustaw - we're called Acid Wizard because we make stuff that will make you feel as if you've taken acid.

Guteks226 karma

Artur - when I was a child, I got scared easily. Until 12 years old, I slept by a lit lamp afraid of every sound, shadow, constantly imagining unnerving characters and things that lurk in the dark. In time, I learned to sleep with the light turned off, but the ability to think of creepy stuff has stayed with me ;)

El_Buhdai1181 karma

The sound design, art direction, story, and scripting all seem so well done that they could have each been made by an individual who specializes in those things. How did 3 guys with the support of a dog produce all of these elements so professionally? What was it like studying new aspects of game development (particularly things like the spectacular sound design) that you guys might not have already known between the three of you? Did you ever outsource for any of these things?

Guteks926 karma

Artur - We wanted to work in a small team. This let us have a more or less focused vision and simplified the production process. Of course by going this road, we had to accept that we will have to do things that are out (sometimes a lot) of our competences. My specialization is art, but as I was the only person in the team that had any idea about making sound (although still verry vague), sound design and music fell on my shoulders. Making Darkwood's OST was a never ending improvisation. I was playing with a medium that I did not fully understand. Maybe thanks to that we were able to create something unique and hard to define, something that breaks the common principles (which I did not know about during production). As for the story, it's like when you have a band, but there's no vocalist. There's a guitarist, drummer, someone has a bass guitar, but no one knows how to sing... so the guy that is least scared of making a idiot out of himself grabs the mic... and that was me ;)

Gustaw - I'd like to add that the sound design and music is probably my favorite thing about Darkwood, and Artur is the most talented person I know! :D

eye_spi1151 karma

Is telling everyone that there's no jump scares really just a long-con setup to a major jump scare?

Guteks1424 karma

Gustaw - unfortunately no, but we will use this idea for our next game which will be solely jump scare based.

iameclectictheysay1095 karma

Which programming language did you use for developing this game? And/or did you build upon an existing engine?

Bought your game since day 1 - it was an awesome ride following you guys...

Guteks1377 karma

Gustaw - we used Unity, and everything was written in C#. The main plugins we took advantage of are toolkit2d, A* Pathfinding, 2d volumetric lights, Rotorz tile system, Rewired. Previously we were developing in XNA and the jump to Unity was a tremendous quality of life improvement! Although some versions of Unity are very buggy, I would still heavily recommend this engine for small teams.

Enkrypton87 karma

Did you guys have any prior knowledge on Unity or the C# language before starting development on Darkwood?

Guteks138 karma

Gustaw - I had a little bit of experience in making web sites, flash and apps. But that's about it, I learned as we went ;)

TheRealKingpin7943 karma

Why were you forced to launch the game in early access in 2014?

Guteks1243 karma

Kuba - We were running out of cash, to finalize project. Money from crowdfunding campain weren`t sufficient to make DARKWOOD happen.

McRuggets696 karma

I am also afraid to play horror games. Should I play Darkwood?

Guteks1828 karma

Gustaw - I don't know to be honest. This was meant to be a horror game for players who are not horror fans (made by players who are not horror fans), but after reading some comments I'm not sure anymore, as there are both people claiming that the game is not scary at all, and at the opposite end there are players who uninstalled the game after their first meeting with the Banshee... Maybe wait for some reviews?

Prince_Camo1679 karma

Maybe wait for some reviews?

I love this reply. This isn't something you see developers say about their own game very often at all. The honesty from your entire dev team is refreshing and is one of the things making me want to try this game out. I also enjoy taking part in "labors of love"

You guys seem great, keep up the good work!

DJRES363 karma

They're Polish developers. What do you expect? All the best devs are from Poland.

Hobocannibal134 karma

I'd say all the devs that make the awesome unusual games are from poland.

See: Ice-pick Lodge Edit: actually they are russian, oops. They made some really weird but great games though

Guteks246 karma

Gustaw - I'm afraid Ice-pick Lodge are Russian.

C-zom534 karma

Hey there! I never had any exposure to Darkwood until it released on Steam, whereupon I quickly bought it and have enjoyed six hours so far. It feels like if Sunless Sea had a kid with Dark Souls to me, in all the right ways.

Now that you've established a very heavy lore, where do you go from here? Expansion pack? Sequel with some of the side characters? You may have known the Darkwood world for five+ years in development. Tired of it. Saturated in it. Wanting to move on. Working on it /every day./ But for us fans, maybe we've only known hours of it, and would happily pay for more exposure in this world if the DLC was done right.

Thank you Acid Wizards, best of luck to you in the future!

Guteks843 karma

Gustaw - Actually no, we'd like to milk this cow dry! We already have a DLC planned for next week, where you can customize the protagonist's face in any way you wish! Too bad you won't see it from the top...

No but seriously, we don't know. We will have to talk about this after getting some rest and sleep (we're very, very tired right now). I love Darkwood, but this project was also a source of great frustration for me and made me neglect many aspects of my life. There is, however, a huge list of things that we wanted to implement, but we did not want to delay the game more. So who knows?

hypnoaardvark327 karma

This looks fantastic! Why did you decide to do top down instead of an over the shoulder 3rd person or first person view?

Guteks472 karma

Gustaw - it was not a conscious decision actually. We started by making a "top-down tower defence game" that was going to be made... IN A MONTH ;) But then we saw that this had some real potential for heavy atmoshpere and the project grew and grew from then on. I guess this makes Darkwood pretty unique!

uefigod250 karma

How did the dog help?

Guteks550 karma

Gustaw - he defended our hideout with his life!

uefigod74 karma

And what's his name?

Guteks202 karma

Szurek! (pronounced Shooreck!)

IHTPQ44 karma

Can you share a photo of the dog?

TravlrAlexander223 karma

How are the animations made? Frame by frame, pixel by pixel, or is it done another way and then pixelised to your style afterwards? Sort of like a filter over the animation to make it look pixely?

Guteks324 karma

Kuba - Character animations were made frame by frame. I was working on bigger image, like 4x bigger than destined sprite. When we were exporting sprites we scaled sprite 4x smaller and then we were scaling it 200% so it was working like a filter pixelating graphic.

mnemonic-glitch198 karma

Are you planning a Playstation 4 release?

Guteks283 karma

Gustaw - we'd like to, yes! But currently there has been nothing done towards this, we've been to preoccupied with the PC release.

FILTHY_GOBSHITE173 karma

Dudes. Your game is terrifying. I got it yesterday (steam watchlist) and the last time I've been so creeped out was playing Dark Descent.

I can only play for a few minutes at a time before I need a break. That's a compliment.

What are you planning for the future of the studio. Is horror "your thing"?

Guteks99 karma

Gustaw - Thanks! I don't know about the other wizards (we haven't had the time to talk about this), but most of my ideas on next games are not horror- related.

Wunderwaffe_152 karma

How are the characters "done"? For example, the Wolfman. Did you took photo of some dude in a coat, photoshopped wolf's head in and edited it slightly or is everything hand drawn?

Guteks309 karma

Artur - Every character is draw by hand, from scratch. I did not use photos as a backdrop to draw on (except the tractor for the Musician). I cut the image to parts and then sent to Kuba for him to animate.

SpoogeDoobie110 karma

What was your favorite food during the development process?

Guteks216 karma

Gustaw - Kebab + vietanamese restaurant close by.

Crazy8852795101 karma

What do you guys use to learn programming so well? I am curious what kind of tutorials you used.

Guteks129 karma

Gustaw - In the beginning, I tried recreating other games, like Terraria. It was fun! Then I pretty much just went and experimented with stuff.

vdlb8828 karma

Do you mind explaining this a bit more? How did you recreate it? What game engine did you use? Any books you found useful?

Hviterev67 karma

At first they were on XNA then moved on to Unity. There's plenty of tutorials and on big game engines like Unity/UE4 books, unless you're already high level, would be a waste of your time. Fuck around, follow video tutorials and work hard and it'll come faster than you think.

cheers

Guteks64 karma

Gustaw - what he said!

BoomerGar99 karma

Congratulations guys! It must feel great! At any point during development were you tempted to throw in the towel?

Guteks185 karma

Kuba - Everyone of us had nervous breakdowns from time to time... almost 5 years of developing is heck of a marathon. I recall begining of this project (after crowdfunding campaign - that one was stressful) as the best time.. propably one of best times in my life to be honest ! :slightly_smiling_face: People were really exited about darkwood, we were full of energy, we were working whole week, cause we wanted to! After some time things become more and more complicated. The deeper into the forest, the more trees...

Gustaw - I agree with Kuba. Making the Indiegogo video was extremely fun, as with most of the things that happened during that time (although the campaign was stressful). The continued delays weighed very heavily on me, I hope we will do a reset now and continue our next endeavors in a more relaxed way :)

Guteks83 karma

Artur - the fact that people paid for Darkwood (especially during the Indiegogo campaign). On the one hand, it was very motivating. On the other, especially during the last 2 years, kept me awake at night.

UberPrioritizer85 karma

Hey guys, congrats on all your achievements!

I'm a mid-30's guy in a completely different industry than game development who is currently seriously considering making a career switch. I have zero programming knowledge but tend to have a creative personality, and game making always fascinated me. I have the fortune of having started a very modestly successful business, so I would have some income from that to keep me going during my learning period. My family is supportive of my goals.

My question(s)... what has been the good and bad about changing careers at this point in life? While you were still figuring out game development, how much did you regret leaving your former jobs? What would you have done differently in the beginning to better prepare yourself for today?

Guteks87 karma

Gustaw - I don't miss any part of my past jobs. Working on Darkwood was great on many levels, but also very stressful. The industry is not what it was a few years back, and marking a indie game nowadays requires a lot of luck to be successful, so it's a great risk. I know many people who made games in which they invested a lot of time and money, and they flopped. In short - it can be a wonderful journey, but it's also a very risky one in the current state of the gaming industry.

ShadyS55075 karma

Tell us more about specific roles of each Wizard in your project. Is Artur can be called "Soul of Darkwood" as he worked on dialogues, characters and music design, videos etc.?

Guteks153 karma

Gustaw - Hi Ivan :D I would say Artur had by far the most influence on the project, but we have a very democratic process about pretty much anything in (and about) the game. It's part of the reason of why we're pretty slow in development, but that way Darkwood is the child of the man-love of all of us, and not a single person.

biodrones68 karma

What are some differences between publishing with GOG and publishing with Steam? Do they take different cuts of sales? Is one easier to work with than the other? Does one promote your game more than the other?

Also, what is the process like for getting something published on each, from "Hey we've got this game and we want to sell it on your site" to "add to cart"?

Guteks107 karma

Gustaw - I'm not allowed to post specifics about the cut they take I'm afraid. For me, GOG is more personal and curated, as a lot of stuff has to be done through GOG's staff, whereas most of the things on Steam are done through the Steamworks portal.

We went through greenlight to get published on Steam (I actually forgot to post info about this), and GOG reached out to us personally.

Heyello64 karma

I hate jumpscares too! Question is though, if given the extra funding and/or time, would you do it in VR?

Guteks87 karma

Gustaw - Top-down in VR? That's a interesting proposition, we'll have to check it out ;)

GiffKeplen55 karma

What input did the dog have on the finished game?

Guteks67 karma

Gustaw - he defended our hideout bravely, but he actually made sounds for the Mutated Dog enemy in the game!

Kais_11743 karma

I interviewed Gustaw over email for The University Observer in 2014/15! I was so excited for Darkwood because I hated the way 'horror' games were going!

How did you find Early Access? If you could create Darkwood again, without needing funding, would you choose early access again or go the traditional route?

Again, congrats on creating an amazing game. I look forward to what you do next!

Guteks37 karma

Gustaw - Hi! I guess that depends on the game we will want to do. Early Access was both a blessing and a curse for us. Thanks to it, we were able to finish Darkwood and benefit from the community's feedback. But it was also a source of great anxiety, as people were beginning to be angry about the delays.

CVance132 karma

Has Silent Hill been an inspiration for you? 2 especially is what I consider the best horror game, especially since it's so atmosphere heavy

Guteks32 karma

Gustaw - I loved the game and it was a big inspiration (the rest of the team did not play it however, although it was a huge influence in terms of music).

arrigh130 karma

Are you only saying this so we relax and get caught off guard by the jumpscares in your game?

Guteks45 karma

Gustaw - unfortunately no, but we will use this idea for our next game which will be solely jump scare based.

emersonbaillie20 karma

Your wages came from the Indie Gogo campaign after you quit full-time. How do you decide a reasonable level of pay for all working in the project? Do you split it evenly, or for hours worked? Do you consider overtime? For a project where all the money is upfront, then equity after the games launch starting the cycle again for the next project, I've always wondered how you work out wages.

Guteks29 karma

Gustaw - our pay was split evenly, and we worked as much as we liked (which was pretty much all the time). Our pay was well, honestly the minimum to get by without having to worry about not making rent. This changed after the Early Access launch, and we had more funds to outsource some of the stuff we were not very good with (like rewriting the texts and translations).

YuriNikolai18 karma

Is there any interesting idea/character/creature cut from the game in early development that you would like to share with us?

Very happy about this, congratulations!

Guteks16 karma

Artur - At one point, the giant larvae location was cut from the game. You can see it on the second pre-alpha trailer (it was in the alpha for some time after that though). The talking generator was also removed. We wanted the player to gain the ability to talk to him after injecting a cerain amount of essence, but the ideas for actual implementation were too vague and he didn't make it for release. Null Winter, our moderator on the forums had a great idea of implementing a "tumor" that sits on the hotbar and talks to you, but it was very complex to implement. There was also a great idea about adding a mirrors mechanic to the game to play with the FOV, but it was too hard to make.

P.S Catch it CROWBORN ! ;) https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CVbPb_5W4AEr_Fq.png:large

ShadyS55015 karma

Tell us a story of how you started making first concepts and ideas about Darkwood. How did you met with each other?

Guteks43 karma

Kuba - We met at the college. We were studying computer graphics/art. First concepts of darkwood started when Gustaw was making his firts steps in programming, we wanted to make our first quick game. It was somehing like tower defense/Home alone kind of thing. We were trying to do it in week or something like that... that thing evolved into DARKWOOD :smile:

ineffiable15 karma

Will you be launching to other platforms, like PS4 or possibly Switch?

Guteks16 karma

Gustaw - we'd love to, but we can't confirm anything at this point.

Cpt_n0rmal13 karma

Are there any Plans for the Future like, DLC's or Free Updates to expand?

Guteks43 karma

Gustaw - At the time being, no. We have a huge list of stuff we wanted to implement, but did not have the time (or at least, we did not want to delay the game any further) to implement. Maybe a DLC, Darkwood 2, or something else entirely? Who knows. We will definitely try porting Darkwood to consoles though!

BowlOfStruggles1 karma

What was the deciding factor to go with the isometric top down view?

Guteks2 karma

That was one of the first assumptions that weve made when thinking about project that wasnt even called DARKWOOD back then. We were 2 guys after 2 game jams and one guy making his first steps in programming, and we wanted to make our first basic game. Top down view seemed to be the easiest path :smile: :smile: :smile: Many things from that early concept of a game were changed, but top down view stayed with us, after some time, horror in top down view became something very intriguing for us. We wanted to explore this perspective more.

Lilindey1 karma

What was your inspiration(s) for the lore?

Guteks1 karma

Artur - when I was a child, I got scared easily. Until 12 years old, I slept by a lit lamp afraid of every sound, shadow, constantly imagining unnerving characters and things that lurk in the dark. In time, I learned to sleep with the light turned off, but the ability to think of creepy stuff has stayed with me ;)

AnAverageGameDev1 karma

Where did you get the inspiration for the story and horror events?

Guteks2 karma

Artur - they were mainly outside of the horror genre. To avoid spoilers, I will say that the books by Stanisław Lem, and the book Snail on the Slope by the Strugacki brothers were a big inspiration. As for games, I would name Darks Souls as a big infulence (for the way the story is told in the game, the atmosphere, visuals and gameplay).