On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

Ice-Pick Lodge on the many lives of Pathologic

Posted by Olivia Cottrell on September 15, 2014 | Jump to 0 comments

Pathologic hasn’t quite left our brains since we reported on the remake’s Kickstarter campaign last week. After perusing articles and Let’s Plays of the original, cult survival horror game, we approached Ice-Pick Lodge’s Ivan Slovtsov to talk a little about how their game has mutated from play to video game to tabletop game to… book? Read on…

BitPulse: Were you aware of the original’s cult status? How much of that informed the decision to take the remake to Kickstarter?

Slovtsov: We knew that original Pathologic has a strong fan base in Russia, but we never realized how many people in the West liked the game too. We knew that there are people out there who want Pathologic to be remade and we decided to make it for them (and for ourselves, obviously, since we believe that Pathologic deserves a second chance), but we were blown away by the feedback we got after we’ve made a pre-Kickstarter announcement!

And still until the very first day of Kickstarter we were not sure if we will be able to reach our $250k goal. We even considered lowering it, but in the end decided that asking for less and promising a good game would be dishonest. So what’s going on right now is really just amazing: seeing our fanbase united together to make this Kickstarter happen, seeing new people who’ve never heard about the game getting intrigued by the concept and “joining our cause” – that’s just… wow.

How will the board game version of Pathologic and the video game interact? Will one expand on the other, or are they more like variations on a theme?

The video game and the tabletop game show similar characters and events, they complement one another. But the tabletop game is an independent thing, you can play it without knowing anything about the setting. If you have played Pathologic, though, you might be interested in additional lore included in the tabletop game: there are new facts, descriptions, and letters that allow to learn more about the Town and its inhabitants and possibly look at them with new eyes. The gameplay keeps the key features of Pathologic, but it’s quite different (it makes sense since a board came is a completely different medium). You can take on the role of The Plague, for example, and try to destroy The Town, not save it.

The phrase that struck me from the Kickstarter was ‘a good play staged by a different director’- there is something very theatrical, very self aware about Pathologic. In some senses it reminds me of seeing a Shakespeare play where there’s no fourth wall. What are the advantages of this attitude?

Originally Pathologic was written as a theatrical play and then was “adapted” into a video game. We believe that video games are about the interaction between the medium and the player. So what we are trying to do is not communication with an in-game character (it is pretty easy to distance yourself from them since it’s “not you”), but communication with the player behind the keyboard (or gamepad). If we try to sell the idea that everything that happens in the game is actually real, it might touch the player when he “immerses” himself into the game world, but they’ll remain untouched outside of it. But what if we try to reach out to the actual physical person? Yes it’s just a “game”, but maybe this “game” can tell you something important about yourself if at some point we will throw all “roleplaying” and pretending aside?

Some of the townsfolk gather outside the theater where the game begins

Do you think there’s room for other interpretations of Pathologic beyond the board game and remake?

Well… There is also going to be a book. In fact world and lore of Pathologic is so rich that we believe it has a huge potential for different interpretations.

Can you talk a little about the challenges of translation? There’s something very Russian about Pathologic- how can you effectively reconstruct the feel of the game in, say, English?

Oh yes. We can write a book on this issue. There is going to be an update on our Kickstarter page about it soon, so stay tuned. It’s a very tough challenge, and we’re aware of that.

What are the lessons you’ve learned from Knock-Knock that will inform the Pathologic campaign?

Communication. During the Knock-Knock Kickstarer campaign we wanted to create a mysterious atmosphere, so we tried to stay in the shadows and be as vague as we can about the game. But it backfired, because it looked like we were arrogant and disregarded our backers which was never the case! Now we try to address all questions that appear in the comments and keep a steady stream of updates.

Some might argue that the original’s clunkiness was part of its weird charm- how do you address this attitude?

The original Pathologic was an experiment. A game of accidental discoveries and breakthroughs. We do realize that a huge part of the original’s charm comes from the things that were not actually “intended”, but happened by themselves. What we want to do now is making another experiment using the results of the previous one. Now that we know what worked in the previous game and why, we can do it again, but this time we will try to make the effect the previous game had more “pure” by making those accidental discoveries into intended parts of the game. And… I’m pretty sure there will be more discoveries during our second experiment as well.


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