My Game (Thesis) by Tyler

For a long time I’ve been meaning to re-appropriate this blog into a development blog of sorts for my thesis game, entitled Katabasis. And now I’m finally doing it.

I should probably start from the beginning. The initial concept for my game is something known as the Dyatlov Pass Incident (that website may look rather un-legit, but it’s definitely the most well-researched and serious minded collection of information I’ve found on the incident). In short, 9 cross-country skiers in the Russian wilderness died in February 1959 under mysterious and still unsolved circumstances. I don’t want to spend too much time here explaining it. So if you’re intrigued, click the link. What’s important to my thesis game is: 1, the setting, and 2, the fact that there are things, things even that happened over 50 years ago, that simply no one has been able to figure out, and perhaps never will be able to figure out. To put it simply: the inescapable unknown that haunts mankind.

I’ve always been fascinated with the unknown, and things like the Dyatlov Pass Incident are a perfect grounds for letting your imagination run wild (though I should note that I decided not to directly relate my actual game to the incident, as it was a very real and tragic incident, and not something that should be turned into entertainment). A couple years ago, a friend and I were researching the incident, and he managed to find a book of folklore of the native peoples who live in the area where the Dyatlov Pass Incident took place, the Mansi (or Vogul). He found a myth concerning a god called the World Surveyor Man. I won’t relay the myth here (well, at least not right now), as that myth is a major part of the story of Katabasis; but in short, it’s the story of a god’s quest for vengeance on earth, and ultimately in heaven against his father (the chief god).  It is a story of bloody vengeance against the father by the unknown bastard son, and, in a sense, of the exile’s return/ascent.

In my game, you play as a father who has gone, with his estranged son, canoeing in heart of the Russian wilderness. One night, your son mysteriously goes missing. Obviously, you go to find him, and end up travelling deep into a sublime wilderness in which strange things are occurring. Strange things such as mutant wolves running around. I’m still figuring out how exactly I want the gameplay to work, but my concept from the beginning has been to try something different, and focus not on constant doing-of-things, but have periods simply of travelling and exploration of the environment. It worked in Dear Esther. Obviously this will require exceptional environmental work, which is definitely going to be one of my biggest challenges in completing this game. But in addition to exploration will be segments of action and stealth. At various points, the player will encounter the aforementioned mutant wolf creatures. In most cases, there will be three options: simply run (which I’ll want to make difficult so players don’t just sprint through the entire game), try to make a stand and fight, or attempt to sneak around them. That’s all I’ll say about that for now; expect a post devoted my gameplay concepts in the future.

So the title: Katabasis is an archaic Greek word with various meanings. Etymologically it means “to go down”. In literature, it means the hero’s archetypal descent into the underworld (such as Odysseus travelling to mouth of the river leading into the underworld to commune with the dead, and Orpheus’ journey to retrieve his dead love Eurydice). Some modern psychologists also use the term to describe depression in young men attributed to lack of strong father figures and initiation rites in modern culture. Both of these meanings definitely have relevance to the story of my game.

To finish off, here’s what I’ve been working on most recently. This is a ruins of a chapel dedicated to Numi-Torem, the chief god of the Mansi, and the World Surveyor Man’s father. Ignore the environment/setting, because it is nothing right now. The trees also definitely need a lot of work. And some less noticeable things need some UV fixes. And of course the lighting will be a lot better. Bla bla bla. But I’m very happy with how it’s looking: the textures for the most part are looking really good, and I think the design turned out great.

And that’s all for now.

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