Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your role with the development of Kholat.
Bartosz Moskała: I’m a co-owner of IMGN.PRO and together with Łukasz Kubiak we are the founders of Kholat as a game concept. My role in the development team could be most accurately described as game scenarist.
Łukasz Kubiak: Same as Bartosz. I’m a co-owner of the company, and scenarist as well. Together we are responsible for the entire plot of the game and all non-technical aspects of the game creation process. In other words we take care of everything except coding and graphics design. The rest of the team comes from new development studio, called Wohoo, there are also few freelancers working on Kholat.
How did you get started in developing PC games?
Bartosz Moskała: We have been working with Łukasz in the industry for 7 years now. 4 years ago we have started IMGN.PRO – our own company. It’s specialized in services for the gaming industry, like worldwide publishing, distribution and localization services. Currently we are working with companies like Red Thread Games, SCS Software, Oovee Games, 11bit and many others.
During the entire time, that we spent on building IMGN.PRO current position as a service oriented company, we had an idea of creating our own game. It was our dream. We have decided that we’re mature enough, to make the dream come true.
Where did the idea for Kholat come from?
Łukasz Kubiak: The initial idea was that we’re making a horror game which is somehow different. While searching for the inspiration we have red about many scary stories from different parts of the world. Dyatlov Pass incident was the one that we found most disturbing. It’s a real story, which involved real people and although many years that have passed, there’s still no explanation of it.
In terms of the game form, we had considered many concepts including also these weird and experimental. That was until we played Dear Esther for the first time. We were impressed by they way in which the story was told, and we thought that it might be a good base to start with our game. Of course in Kholat we have implemented our own approach to it.
What are some of the successes and failures you learned from in developing Kholat?
Łukasz Kubiak: Kholat is our first own project and we become aware of our mistakes after making them. We try to fix them immediately but it’s time consuming process. However it enables us to draw conclusions and this makes our game better and better. We have received a lot of positive feedback from gaming community and it confirms our belief in our idea.
In its current form, how close is Kholat to your initial vision?
Bartosz Moskała: Taking into account the fact, that initially Kholat was planned to be a story of father that lost his children – it’s quite far from the initial vision. Anyway, we are going to use some ideas from the original concept.
Some devs admitted their games were too hard upon release because they became experts as they developed the game. Talk about setting the difficulty levels for Kholat and if you faced a similar challenge.
Łukasz Kubiak: Kholat won’t be a difficult game in terms of gameplay, neither it won’t lead the player by the hand. The main difficulty will be navigation in the world and finding the special places, which are neceassary to push the plot forward. The only navigation tools available will be a map and a compass, which player will use in real time, being exposed to potential dangers.
Please talk about developing the art style, level design and music for Kholat.
Łukasz Kubiak: Our goal was to create a convincing, realistic world, because our game is based on the motives of real event. Kholat’s world, although not being too big, it’s open and can be explored freely. Soundtrack and sound effects are still in progress. The person responsible is Arkadiusz Reikowski.
Outside of creating the game itself, what is the toughest aspect of being an indie developer?
Łukasz Kubiak: We stand in slightly different position than a typical indie developer. We don’t need to seek for an external funding because we can rely on IMGN.PRO second business pillar, but this really seems to be a problem for other indie devs. Another tough issue is finding a publishing/ distribution opportunities. Of course today you can self publish yourself using for example Steam Greenlight program, but this way you’re reaching only a part of the available market cake. We understand these problems and as IMGN.PRO, we go out towards promising indie developers with our helping hand, offering them distribution opportunities.
How did you go about funding Kholat and did you receive financial or emotional support from friends and family?
Bartosz Moskała: As Łukasz already said, we’re financially independent so we didn’t need to rely on anyone’s help in this matter. However emotional support that we’ve received convinced us that we’re walking the right path.
Tell us about the process of submitting Kholat to the various digital distribution platforms and if you encountered resistance in doing so.
Bartosz Moskała: Regarding Steam, we became a part of the Greenlight program. It took only 6 days to see Kholat being elevated by Valve’s platform. We believe that the attractiveness of the game itself, together with professionally carried out marketing campaign were the factors responsible for this rapid success. When it comes to the other digital distribution platforms, IMGN.PRO has established contacts in most of them, so we’re standing in really privileged position.
How important is it to get instant feedback about Kholat from users through online message boards and other social networking sites?
Łukasz Kubiak: I think it became a normal part of the development process for indie devs. You can ask and evaluate different things on the fly, implement them or change depending on the community feedback. We’re open for any suggestions. For example Mac version of Kholat was the community request.
How do you feel about the various indie bundle promotions and the “Pay What You Want” pricing methodology? Would you be interested in contributing to a project like that in the future?
Łukasz Kubiak: It might be something interesting for us. As gamers buying lots of titles, we took such opportunity more than once. Additionally, the possibility of supporting some kind of charity is a great thing.
What are your thoughts on how the PC gaming industry as a whole are dealing with the problem of intrusive DRM and piracy?
Łukasz Kubiak: I think that working on new security features is pointless. In the end all of them are going to be broken. You need to make sure that your game is interesting and polished product. Another important factor is relevant pricing, gaming community shouldn’t feel cheated.
How do you feel about individuals posting videos and receiving monetization of Kholat?
Bartosz Moskała: We don’t see any problem. It’s ok unless someone is misinterpreting or drastically changing our materials. In the end it’s just another source of promotion for our game.
How do you feel about DLC and its current implementation in the PC gaming industry?
Łukasz Kubiak: Personally I’m not really into paid DLC’s – especially if it’s a cut part of the full game. In the future I would like to create free mini-DLC’s, which could refer somehow to the original title. It might be something that brings more depth to the story, shows some events from different perspective, or be a bridge joining 1st and 2nd part of the game.
How do you feel about the online modding community in general and specifically if mods were created for Kholat?
Łukasz Kubiak: We all know the names of great titles that were initially created as mod for some game. Modding community gathered around your game is a good indicator of its quality and players engagement. Of course not all genres are ‘modding friendly’, and Kholat definitely belongs to this group. At least I think so – however community creativity is boundless, so we may be surprised someday.
What advice would you give up-and-coming indie PC developers who are trying to break into the business?
Łukasz Kubiak: Be original and true to yourself – do not try to copy someones else success. Listen what the community wants to communicate. And If you think that your idea is really brilliant, drop us an message – we would love to help!