Saturday, August 23, 2014

Pathologic Remake on Kickstarter

A remake of the fantastic survival game Pathologic is due to launch on Kickstarter (see the above video). If you've never heard of Pathologic, READ our lengthy feature on it. If you've already been charmed by its bleak landscape, read on!

First released in 2005, the original Pathologic was a phenomenal blend of bleak narrative, set in a remote Russian town, and deliciously complex mechanics: you had to manage hunger, sleep, immunity, infection and reputation, through use of medicine, guns, and a selection of foods, all wrapped up in a fluctuating virtual economy. Although "survival" has become a hot videogame theme in recent years, for my money nothing has yet to match the ingenious set-up of Pathologic.

The game was re-released on GOG not long ago, for only $10, thereby allowing anyone with a computer and internet connection to play it. Such a re-release (which would come with GOG's technical support for running on modern systems) removed any fears I had about the game eventually becoming non-functioning. Despite being nearly 10 years old anyone can access it, and I recommend it highly.

If you've read my article on the game you'll know it's an all-time favourite. So the announcement of a remake via Kickstarter, to be launched in SEPTEMBER, interests me a great deal. As told to us by Ivan Slovtsov:
I’m a part of the Ice-Pick Lodge team. We’re the guys that have made Pathologic, The Void, and Knock-Knock. Now we’re making something new - or rather remaking something old, and we thought it might be of interest to you. You may have heard that we’re planning to remake Pathologic - a game that many consider to be our opus magnum and that has defined us as a studio. So we’re launching a Kickstarter campaign soon.

An interesting premise. For me the game is already flawless, its idiosyncrasies adding to the enjoyment. However, there will be some who are put off by the visuals and non-existent enemy AI. There are a few places it could be improved:
* Dynamic lighting and improved visuals
* Realistic reloading animation for the shotgun, so if you fire one bullet, only one empty shell is replaced upon reloading
* More varied architecture, so for example the Tanners' district appears visually distinct from Bridge Square
* AI that doesn't simply rush at you
* More complex system for dealing with wounds (akin maybe to MGS3?)

Of course, the fear is also that trying to improve the formula might ruin it. Much of the game's appeal lies with things which at first appear to be negative.

For example the repeated character models for generic NPCs, compared to key characters found indoors. There's a very specific, and very important reason for this - the generic NPCs need to all look alike for the narrative conclusion to function.

Then there's the difficulty. If you can't handle the original, either improve your skill or go watch a YouTube longplay. Pathologic is meant to be difficult. I sincerely hope Ice-Pick Lodge don't make it easier in the hope of gaining mass appeal. Demon's Souls, Dark Souls and Dark Souls II all showcased their difficulty with pride.

My biggest concern is the localisation. I am revising whatever I said about the original. The localisation is perfect, at least for the first 2 scenarios (I've not played the 3rd, though it's said to be unintelligible in English). The way the text was translated for Pathologic is epically poetic. It's not always neat, or grammatically clean, or even contextually believable, but it is grandiose and melodramatic in the best way possible. It's like the difference between the delivery of lines in a serious film, or an exaggerated stage play. HG101 forumite Garamoth posted some of his favourites in our forum topic on the game:
- We resist our passions not because we are strong, but because they are weak.
- The best way to be deceived, is to consider yourself more artful than others.
- Even the most reasonable people are reasonable only in insignificant matters. In the significant affairs, the reason usually fails them.
- The main thing is not to have time to think. This... is a ticket to paradise.
- We are all strong enough to bear a misfortune of the neighbor.
- We promise in accordance with our calculations, and we carry out in accordance with our fears.
- Happy people are incorrigible. Destiny does not punish them for their sins, and they consequently think themselves innocent.
- The world is ruled by destiny and whim.
- I have danced all my dances. The show is over.

The character profiles in the main article also feature quotes from each of them. One of my favourites:
"We are afraid of everything, brother, as all mortals are. And, we want everything. As if immortality is granted to us."

Now, can you honestly imagine these lines coming through with the same gravitas, if localised by a different company? The dialogue is rich with the atmosphere and art style of the game.

I mention this concern because there was an attempt at a fan retranslation. It never came to anything, which is fine by me, but the developers might feel the need to revise the script for its English release. My hope: they include original Russian voice acting, with English subtitles, translated as above.

I mentioned all my concerns to Ivan, finishing the email by saying they should ignore everything that myself or other fans say, and simply create as true to their own visions as possible. He was quick to reply:
Thank you John for the kind words. We will do our best to not disappoint our fanbase (and that certainly includes you) and will stay truthful to the principles of the old game during the remake. 

However this proceeds, and whatever the final result, I have not been this interested in a Kickstarter campaign since Shadowrun Returns. There really is nothing else that quite scratches the same itch as Pathologic. Not DayZ, not Don't Starve, nothing else quite matches Pathologic. I like how the video above describes the world as a simulation - the number of variables to deal with does make it more akin to a sim than a traditional adventure or FPS.

To generate publicity the team have set up a website where you can sign up and become part of an Augmented Reality Game narrative...

But before [the Kickstarter launch] another curious thing will happen: a website will be launched allowing anyone interested to subscribe to… something. It’s not your everyday teaser though; everyone who subscribes will become privy to a short interactive story leading to the launch of the Pathologic Remake Kickstarter campaign. But stories like that are only interesting when they have an audience ready to discuss it and crack its puzzles. It offers you a chance to be a witness of, or even participate in... events that will be happening soon.

Spread the word, talk about it, play the original if you have not already. Keep an eye on the developer's Kickstarter profile

Prepare yourself for the glorious return of the Sand Plague.

1 comment:

  1. Ice-Pick Lodge is one of my favorite developers ever. I'm just waiting to throw money at them.