Interview: Arif Majothi – Lead Developer of Dark Fear - Dread Central
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Interview: Arif Majothi – Lead Developer of Dark Fear

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When we heard about the new horror RPG game Dark Fear here at Dread Central, we were certainly intrigued by the concept. So much, in fact, that we decided to reach out to lead developer Arif Majothi to get a clearer insight into this very intriguing looking game.

Dark Fear has just been released, and you can visit the official website for more information.

DC: How long has Dark Fear been in development, and how does it feel to finally be at the end of the long road?

AM: Dark Fear has been in development since July 2014. My original aim was to have it out within six months, but game development is one of those things which rarely ever goes according to plan. Now that it’s all over, it feels absolutely wonderful to see the final product in action. It’s like a weight lifted off your shoulders… that is, until you start the next game development project – then the cycle starts all over again!

DC: Can you talk about the game’s plot and how it features horror elements?

AM: The plot revolves around a mystery. The player wakes up locked inside a small log cabin but has absolutely no memory of who they are, where they are, or how they got there. The only clue is a chilling photo on the wall of a creepy looking old man who makes you feel like you somehow know him. The player eventually escapes the cabin and goes on to unravel a sinister plot involving dark forces at work.

As for horror elements, they vary a lot; and I didn’t just want to be a one-trick-pony and stick to just one type. There’s atmospheric tension, supernatural forces, creepy plot elements, disturbing scenes, etc.

The most important of these to me was the atmosphere, which changes depending on the location you’re in and the events that have occurred there. For example, if you enter a place you’ve been warned about by the NPCs (Non-Player Characters) in the game, the location will feel very creepy and ominous. The dark visuals, combined with the soundtrack, are intentionally designed to portray a sense of fear in the pit of your stomach – like you’re not supposed to be there, and you need to get out now. However, once the location has been cleared of whatever demonic force was haunting it, the visuals and atmosphere completely change and feel bright and radiant – like all the dark, negative energy has been sucked out and you can rest easy. You’re safe, and nothing is going to harm you there anymore. Dark Fear’s audio plays a key role in these atmospheric changes and has been very carefully designed. The game even recommends you use a decent pair of headphones to get the best experience.

Regarding some of the extreme scenes, I’ll admit there were certain times during play-testing where certain elements had to be temporarily disabled because they kept giving me a heart attack while I was trying to fix certain bugs in that area! It’s one of the reasons I felt the need to include a warning at the beginning of the game and on the description in the app store.

DC: Was it a challenge to incorporate both RPG and horror gameplay without alienating fans of either? Did you strive for a perfect balance?

AM: No, not at all. Horror is one of those beautiful themes that you can apply to pretty much any gaming genre out there. Some of the earliest horror games were action-oriented such as Ghosts n Goblins, Castlevania, and Friday the 13th for the Nintendo NES. Although they weren’t exactly scary, it was still a good early attempt at 8-bit horror given the technology of the time.

As for RPGs, traditionally they’re usually based on fantasy, but there’s been many occasions where horror has been successfully applied to role-playing games such as the Vampire the Masquerade series of games for the PC.

DC: Will Dark Fear be more approachable for casual gamers as opposed to some of the notoriously difficult RPGs out there?

AM: Most definitely, yes! This was one of the main design challenges on Dark Fear. One complaint I always hear from gamers who dislike RPGs is the fact that they look overly complicated and cluttered with controls. A casual gamer who has never played a role-playing game can easily be overwhelmed when they first try playing one and are suddenly confronted by all these stats, controls, upgrade trees, etc.

For Dark Fear, my aim was to design it in such a way that even the most casual gamer could pick it up and start playing. This was made even more difficult by the fact that Dark Fear isn’t just an RPG; it’s an adventure game, too, which means you have to talk to people, pick up objects, solve puzzles, etc. The key to bringing all this together was simplicity. Dark Fear’s game mechanics are extremely simplified and easy to understand. The player begins the game with absolutely nothing. Just a blank screen. No instructions, no menus, no interfaces. As the player figures out what to do and each game mechanic is gently introduced, they begin to get a sense of what the game is all about. Before they know it, they’re fully immersed in a role-playing game.

Out of the people who’ve played the game so far, two of them had a dislike for RPGs due to their complexity, and one of them was nothing more than a casual gamer. By the time they were done playing Dark Fear, they were absolutely loving it and were telling me all about how much they enjoyed the way the game gently eased them into each layer of gameplay. I’m really hoping when the game gets released this Friday the 13th, that others will also experience the same thing.

DC: Can you talk about the combat? Will it be turn-based or real-time?

AM: The combat is turn-based, but I didn’t just want to leave it at that. There’s also an element of skill involved which determines how powerful your strike or shot will be. The initial inspiration for going turn-based was from playing Pokemon on the Nintendo Gameboy back in 1999/2000. That’s one of my most loved retro games of all time. But the only issue with Pokemon’s combat system was you press a button and hope for the best, as the game would decide whether or not you missed. That’s why I added a small action-based element to Dark Fear’s combat system. That way the player’s skill would determine how hard you hit rather than relying on just random luck.

DC: What kind of monsters will the player encounter?

AM: Enemies in the game vary. You start off fighting regular creatures such as coyotes, wolves, etc. But then you’re suddenly hit with demonic entities, paranormal beings, zombies, and even mythological creatures – some of which require more than just powerful armor and weaponry to deal with. I can’t really say a lot here because I don’t want to give too much away.

DC: Can you talk about how exactly the RPG elements work? Will there be crafting, leveling up, etc?

AM: The RPG system is extremely simple. There’s a health system (HP) which is dependent on the armor you’re wearing. Armor can’t just be bought. You need to hunt certain animals whose pelts are required for the armor. The weapons system starts off fairly straightforward with melee weapons, but soon the player progresses to better weapons which open up a lot more possibilities as the amount of damage they can do depends on what you load them with. Certain enemies are extremely vulnerable to certain weapons, which means they cause a lot more damage than they normally would. There’s also other RPG elements which I’d rather not disclose because I want the player to discover those for themselves.

DC: As this is an RPG, will there be a large open world that feels alive?

AM: The game is 2D and it’s all the effort of one person, so it’s very difficult to create a large open world within those restrictions. The game has a diverse landscape which the player is free to roam around in (once you learn of each location), but besides that, no, it’s nothing on the level of open world games like the Elder Scrolls or Fallout series. Those games have teams of hundreds of people working on them for several years.

DC: Why did you opt for a retro art style?

AM: I grew up playing old PC games so I have a love for that style of artwork. My most treasured gaming memories are of playing adventure games by Sierra Online. People like Ken & Roberta Williams and Al Lowe are like heroes to me! I love the look of the older Sierra titles, and so I decided to replicate that style within my own game. The advantage of using pixel art is it’s relatively quick to draw and it doesn’t take up a lot of space. There’s also recently been a resurgence of pixel games, not just on the PC but on mobile devices. It’s an art style that’s still admired and loved because it has a certain charm to it. If I see a game on the App Store which has a retro look to it, curiosity naturally takes over and I have to go see what it’s all about purely because of how the icon or the screenshots look. Fair enough… not everyone appreciates it, but there’s still a large number of people who actually do, and I don’t just mean retro-gamers like myself.

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Check Out the Opening 2 Minutes of Another WolfCop

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It was just earlier today that we brought you guys The Dude Design’s the newest poster for writer-director Lowell Dean’s horror-comedy sequel Another WolfCop.

And now we have the movie’s opening 2 minutes!

The clip showcases the new flick’s villain trying to sell us on his “Chicken Milk Beer” before losing his cool and taking it out the commercial’s crew. We then cut to a ragtag group of criminals, dressed as homeless Santas trying to outrun the cops.

A fun two-minutes if you ask me!

You can check out Another WolfCop‘s opening scene below and then make sure to hit us up and let us know what you think in the comments below or on social media!

The film is written and directed by Lowell Dean, produced by Bernie Hernando, Deborah Marks, and Hugh Patterson, and distributed worldwide by Cineplex.

Another WolfCop co-stars Amy Matysio, Jonathan Cherry, and Serena Miller. The film also features special appearances from Canadian music icon Gowan and legendary filmmaker Kevin Smith. It was executive produced by Sean Buckley, J. Joly, Bill Marks, Brian Wideen, Michael Kennedy, and Michael Hirsch.

The film is slated for a wide Cineplex theatrical release on Friday, December 8, 2017, with the film seeing a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital home entertainment release through A71 and Black Fawn in 2018.

Synopsis:

A month has passed since the eclipse transformed hard-drinking Officer Lou Garou into the crime-fighting hellion WolfCop. Although the Shape Shifters controlling the town have been extinguished, Woodhaven is far from returning to normal. Lou’s liquor-fueled antics and full moon outbursts are seriously testing his relationship with Officer Tina Walsh – the new Chief of Police. An old friend has mysteriously reappeared with a truly bizarre secret to share, and a homicidal new villain has emerged from the shadows looking to finish what the Shape Shifters started. To defeat this lethal adversary, it will take more than a lone wolf packing a pistol.

Prepare for the next chapter of WolfCop that will be more dirty and hairy than the original! Consider yourself warned.

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The Axiom Review – A Stylish and Clever Slice of Independent Horror

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Starring Hattie Smith, Zac Titus, Nicole Dambro

Directed by Nicholas Woods


The Axiom is an ambitious, well directed, impressively acted and stunningly shot independent horror film that has just a few, teensy little flaws holding it back from greatness (and therefore will have to settle for just being really, really good, instead).

The first thing you realize when watching The Axiom is that this is a beautiful film. Everything is framed and shot in a lush and stylish manner, but one which is always tonally appropriate for the scene.

The second thing you’ll notice, and keep noticing as the film plays out, is that the movie really struck gold with this cast. Not only is there a total lack of the sort of stilted and unnatural acting seen in countless other microbudget horror affairs, but the performances are genuinely fantastic across the board. The main characters are believably chill and relatably normal in the early scenes, and the acting remains just as impressive once things start getting a bit more… intense. It’s not often that an independent horror film has so many good performances that it makes it hard to pick the movie’s acting VIP, but that is undeniably the case here. Taylor Flowers delivers what is probably the showiest performance (and does it very well, indeed), but the entire cast really is quite good.

The central premise of the film is both interesting and original, and touches upon the real life fact (given some recent attention in the ‘Missing 411’ books and documentary) that a lot more people sure seem to go missing out in the woods than seems reasonable, while simultaneously weaving all sorts of folklore, fairy tales and urban legends into the mix. It’s also clever in the way that it very naturally reveals aspects to the relationships between characters that serve to later – or sometimes retroactively – explain some of the more questionable decisions they make or attitudes they display. While that may sound like screenwriting 101, it’s surprising how many films fail to do this. The Axiom rewards the viewer’s attention in other ways as well, with many aspects of the movie that initially feel odd or unnatural receiving reasonable explanations (within the context of the movie) by the end. It’s not quite as challenging (or as rewarding) in this regard as, say, something like Session 9, but it does add a nice layer of complexity to the storytelling.

The film’s score, by Leo Kaliski, is also quite good. There may be a moment here or there where the music hits an overly familiar beat, but overall it not only fits the movie’s tone, but does quite a bit to help set that tone as well.

The only thing that I don’t feel the movie quite pulls off – and I’m trying to be vague here, because I feel like the less you know going into this film, the better – is some of the makeup effects work. The gore stuff is very well executed, but some of the other stuff feels like it was crafted with the intention of shooting it in a more… stylized manner. Instead, filmed as it is here, the result is sometimes less than impressive and can fail to make the impact that the movie seems to be implying that it should. And while some of what the makeup effects lack in execution is made up for with the ingenuity and creativity of their design, it’s still a bit of a shame when they don’t quite pull them off because, aside from a few niggles that I have with the writing, the effects are the only aspect of the film that occasionally fails to live up to the high level of technical proficiency that The Axiom otherwise demonstrates.

ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS:

  • Man, the acting in this movie is really good. The dialogue may stumble once or twice, but these actors always sell it anyway.
  • Give back Mia Sara’s DNA, Hattie Smith!
  • If you’re going to put your female lead in shorts this small, I hope you’re not sensitive to viewers unleashing a nonstop parade of “Has anyone seen my pants / OH GOD WHERE ARE MY PANTS!” jokes.
  • “You just pop this here ‘Blair Witch Stick Person / Anarchy sign’ sticker up on that there windshield of yours, and them park rangers? Well – heh heh – they won’t bother you none, no sir.” Hmmmmm…
  • The film really is shot amazingly well – better than a lot of mainstream releases. Cinematographer Sten Olson has a real future ahead of him.
  • As does writer / director Nicholas Woods, for that matter. Any director who can get this level of quality out of their cast and crew on their first ever film is someone to keep an eye on.
  • “I’ll make a run for it and get help,” says the female lead, and I’m like “Yeah, let her go – she has no pants to weigh her down.”
  • The gore effects in the movie are both realized and utilized very well.
  • Welcome back to horror movies, “I’ll be right back” dialogue spoken unironically by and/or to ill-fated characters.
  • The Axiom
4.0

Summary

In the end, The Axiom is a solid and entertaining flick that manages to wring a level of quality and originality out of the somewhat tired “Don’t Go in the Woods” horror subgenre not seen since 2012’s Cabin in the Woods. The cinematography and acting are hugely impressive, it features a nice, unnerving score, the premise is original and captivating, and the whole thing moves at a nice pace that helps keep the film’s flaws from dragging it down.

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User Rating 3.86 (7 votes)
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Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation – First Trailer and Artwork!

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As a fan of flicks like Mad Monster Party, I was surprisingly pleased with the last two Hotel Transylvania affairs. For my money you can put the classic monsters in just about anything, and I’ll watch it happily, and these animated features feel like a natural progression of the 1967 Rankin and Bass classic. Which is why I’m looking forward to Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and if you are too, check out the film’s new trailer and poster.

Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky, who co-wrote the film with Michael McCullers, Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation features the voices of Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Fran Drescher, Steve Buscemi, Molly Shannon, David Spade, Keegan-Michael Key, and Mel Brooks.

Look for it in theaters on July 13, 2018.

Synopsis:
In Sony Pictures Animation’s Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, join our favorite monster family as they embark on a vacation on a luxury monster cruise ship so Drac can take a summer vacation from providing everyone else’s vacation at the hotel. It’s smooth sailing for Drac’s Pack as the monsters indulge in all of the shipboard fun the cruise has to offer, from monster volleyball to exotic excursions, and catching up on their moon tans.

But the dream vacation turns into a nightmare when Mavis realizes Drac has fallen for the mysterious captain of the ship, Ericka, who hides a dangerous secret that could destroy all of monsterkind.

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