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by Sam Derboo - May 14, 2013

Interview with Digital Happiness

This school trip is about to go horribly bad...

Fans of the survival horror genre find themselves in kind of a dry spell these days. It seems all the big series, from classics like Resident Evil to modern greats like Dead Space have shifted more and more towards that amorphous "action adventure third person shooter" mass. Fortunately, indies like Amnesia: The Dark Descent, Lone Survivor or Slenderman are there to pick up the slack. Coming from a very unexpected location is another intriguing independent project. Developed by Digital Happiness in Indonesia, DreadOut promises a distinct setting that feels like it came right from a Southeast Asian horror movie: On a school trip that went wrong, the heroine Linda ends up wandering around a creepy ghost town, only armed with the digital camera on her smart phone to fight of lots spirits with some really inventive and creepy designs. If that conjures up memories of Fatal Frame, back from before that series jumped the AR shark, then that is no accident: DreadOut is meant in part as an homage to Tecmo's cult classic.

Right now Digital Happiness is running a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to try and help expanding and speeding up the development process, as financing the game is not easy for them, and they have had it running as a side project to their usual business of contracted 3D animation work for the past 2 years (during which the concept underwent some interesting iterations). As an Indonesian developer, Kickstarter doesn't seem to be available to them, leaving the team to count on the niche platform Indiegogo. That unfortunately means that despite the humble target of $25,000, the campagin is struggling to meet its goal, and it's running out on May 18th! (The way it is set up, Digital Happiness will get the support even if the goal is missed, but Indiegogo's share would be much bigger that way.) So if survival horror and/or Asian horror cinema is your kind of thing, you should definitely consider supporting it.

Update May 21, 2013: The crowdfunding campaign has ended successfully! Further information about the game can be found on its official homepage.

Of course we had a bunch of questions about such an interesting and refreshing project, and the game's producer Rachmad Imron was so kind to answer them for us:


Why did you chose a horror theme for your first game? Aside from films like The Raid, many of the Indonesian movies we get in video stores are also horror themed. Is horror such a big genre in Indonesia, or is that just the filter of what we get to see overseas?

First, we really love a horror games, and we miss that kind of sensation playing similar games back in the day. Yeah Horror is big in Indonesia, but not in a good way. You can just make a small budget movie and label it with some Indonesian ghost, and it will become a box office hit, lol... Almost all horror films nowadays in our country are filled with some silly sexy-bikini ghost kind of thing, we're creating DreadOut not based on that, btw. lol... Even some local movie producer is also interested in our game, but we don't want to spoil our IP... Geez, it's not even released yet for Gods sake... :( We would love too... if Takeshi Shimizu would be directing it, for example :p

Misteri, the real magazine that inspired Klenik

A backer reward you've added just recently is "A ghost lore encyclopedia in the form of a cheap Indonesian supernatural magazine," called Klenik. Is that an actual genre around at stores? If yes, what are those like? Any chance you could show us some actual magazine covers?

Haha yeah sure, "Klenik" is some kind of parody from an existing actual magazine in our country :)

Your highest reward tiers allow backers to design their own ghost which will put in the game. Any worries they might come up with something that doesn't fit in with the rest of the game?

Not actually, their ghosts will not be related on main story, and will be featured in our "Ghost Hunting" mode. Some of our backers who already sent in their ghost and their background story have actually been great, and our game director guarantees that, even your design is as silly as teddy bear we can make it a scary. Though you should try for yourself lol. :p

Your developer diary videos talked a bit about how you aim to create an authentic Indonesian atmosphere with DreadOut. Are there any real locations in particular you've tried to transfer into the game?

Although DreadOut is based on fictional events and places in Indonesia, yes, a lot of our level design is inspired by lots of actual "haunting places" in our country, so we kinda mix it a little bit more.

The DreadOut team at Digital Happiness

Most of the Indonesian game developers we've heard about specialize in smart phone apps and social games. How hard is it to get a core PC game made? How big do you expect is the audience in your country that will go and buy the kind of game you're making? Do you know of any other Indonesian PC game projects the size of DreadOut?

It's hard lol, we really appreciate all of our fellow Indonesian fans who support DreadOut, it's kinda new to us, to them to support, and even to buy/pre-order DreadOut when it will be released later this year... mmmhh... piracy is very high on our country, so in terms of buying our game... I don't know... we will see... :p Other PC games? I'm afraid not.

Your company is mostly a 3D animation studio, right? What where some of the biggest challenges in making the transition to game development?

Yeah... First we thought development games would be similar like when we were doing our animation projects by commission... And we were wrong, it's a lot harder than that, lol... Right now, aside from financial issues (cliche, isn't it? :p) the hardest part in developing DreadOut is try to find a way to speed up production, working optimize to minimize waste of work and assets. :)

Hallway Raid offers a difficult but interesting point&click
variation on quick-time events

Before DreadOut, Digital Happiness has made Hallway Raid, a little fan game of the film The Raid. That's a very different game, and less interactive than DreadOut, but was there anything you could take from that experience that helped you while developing DreadOut?

Sure when we created Hallway Raid, we wanted to make sure that people can enjoy our game without limitation, we learned to do viral marketing, and we learned a lot when we were pushed to take down our game for violation on copyright issues. lol, it is a tribute fan game, and we're not even monetizing that... :D

Hallway Raid has a few humorous options, like the ghost mode and the one with the funny sound effects. Will there be similar fun stuff and easter eggs in DreadOut, or are you going for an all serious tone?

We want to create heavy horror tones in DreadOut, but we still want to pepper things by adding more fun and easter eggs on it... :D

DreadOut campaign poster

On the DreadOut homepage it is stated that the game is published by PT Digital Semantika Indonesia. What's their role in the production of the game? Will there be a regular retail release for the game, or will it be all digital (aside from the Indiegogo rewards)?

PT Digital Semantika Indonesia is our legal company name, it will help us protecting our IP, legal things, finance etc. Yes, we will release a regular retail beside digital download.

It's clear that DreadOut has gotten inspiration from the Fatal Frame series, but what are some other games (horror and otherwise) that influenced the team members?

Personal fav of our game director is Demon/Dark Souls, and for sentimental reason I really love Castlevania SOTN and Lords of Shadow. :D

Which horror movies have been the most influential for your team?

Ju-on, Shutter, Dark Water, El Espinazo del Diablo, our '80s Indonesian Horror movie such as Beranak dalam Kubur and Telaga Angker. Those really gave us nightmares when we were kids. :D

When video game industries first came about in the Europe and the US, it took quite a while before "game developer" was established as a respectable profession. Since the Indonesian industry is still rather small, how is the status of a game designer in the society? What are reactions of families and friends when you guys tell them about your game project?

That's a deep question... Haha yeah, until right now the most respectable professions are still Doctor, Civil engineering etc. Game developer? It's been out of the chart lol, but even right now it's difficult: "Are you game developer? Yeah sure, cool... Can you make mobile games? Facebook games?" ...mmgghhh... "Hey i've got $5,000 can you make a Farm Ville type of game?" ...wadafuk lol.

Like in Fatal Frame, ghosts are fought with a
camera - only here it's a smartphone cam

This is a favourite interview question of one of our staffers: What do you see when you look outside your office window while working on DreadOut?

Hahahaha... Maybe you already heard from another interview from other sites... Aside from being offered by some "spiritual" expert to open our "eyes" to make it more accurate, our sound director went to ICU when he had an asthma attack and his nurse's name was Linda. Our Kinect always detects some movement while there's no one there, and suddenly our office smells like flowers... Aside from that, not much is happening - right now, lol.

Thanks again, a great interview! Wish us luck on our development.

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