“The horror genre is kind of stagnating, there’s no fresh ideas.”
Driving isn’t always enjoyable. In fact, if you’ve ever been stuck in rush hour traffic, then you know what it is like to experience true horror. Driving thriller Beware tapped into the collective fear of being stuck in a motor vehicle surrounded by unimaginable creatures and presented it to the world in the form of a demo. Beware would go on to capture people’s imagination the world over with a number of high-profile YouTubers and gaming sites covering the game. That coverage would praise the game for its dark atmosphere and surreal visuals, propelling the game into the mainstream spotlight. We recently had a chat with solo developer of Beware, Ondrej Svadlena, about what he feels made the game so popular and what fans have yet to see of the game beyond the slice of gameplay offered in the demo.
What was it that inspired you to create Beware?
Ondrej Svadlena: “It’s more like psychologically because I’ve had this experience of fleeing with my parents when I was six. I know the feeling of being on the run. I always enjoyed car games – car was my first word. And then I watched the film Vanishing Point, the original one from ’71. The car, freedom, escape. What got me to go into video games [was] lots of the fans of my short animation films were sad it was only 10 or 15 minutes long and they were like ‘it’s such a pity, we would have liked to stay in those universes you created much longer’. So, an interactive medium made sense to me.”
“That’s one reason; another is that I’ve always wished for an open-world game with realistic driving physics and since they didn’t exist, I thought ‘oh okay I’ll just try it myself.’ Completely naively, almost eight years ago I just downloaded Unity and started messing around. The car chase is similar, I’ve always wished myself for a game with car chases and there are games like that. I used to play Driver and I really enjoyed that except that it’s kind of obvious they’re cheating on physics, so like the cop cars are really heavy and I wished I could avoid that. That was a big goal of mine, to be able to program AI that’s competent enough to be as good at driving as myself, who’s had 20 years of experience. That was really difficult because I have never programmed before, so you can imagine.”
So, tell us some more about the themes in the game.
Ondrej Svadlena: “I’m interested in contemporary themes, so it’s really subtly hinted in the demo, there’s this thing about the electricity you can switch on. Basically, one of the themes is our dependence on energy and climate manipulation. A theme that has really been intriguing me since a couple of years now is artificial intelligence but, in a sense, like of global artificial intelligence. So, it’s basically all the people and teams and companies and governments that are invested in creating something that is going to be more intelligent than human beings and the repercussions that could have. That’s one of the big themes of the game. I have not revealed it; for me it was important to first of all test the gameplay aspect, the atmosphere, see how that works.”
Did you set out to intentionally make a horror game?
Ondrej Svadlena: “The horror part, that’s kind of hard. When you look at my films, they’re kind of freaky, they’re surreal too but they’re not very… happy. That atmosphere went directly in the game, not automatically but to create something very atmospheric like I’ve enjoyed in some of the games I’ve been playing – let’s say Stalker, for example, which I think is very atmospheric. But it wasn’t intended as a horror game and I guess it has to do with the fact that in games there’s no thriller genre. So, basically many journalists thought ‘oh I guess it’s a horror game.’ It was kind of interesting because of course, I want to do something that doesn’t exist, something very fresh but I wasn’t expecting this to happen and I didn’t really know at that time that the horror genre is kind of stagnating, there’s no fresh ideas, so I think that was a reaction to that when people saw it has something new, something interesting. I’m taking the word horror more like in the film sense with gore and monsters but that wasn’t my intention.”
Do you plan to add more narrative?
Ondrej Svadlena: “What I’m planning is that the story unveils through exploration and interactions with NPCs and also discovering little hints inside the world. But that’s going to take place during the whole game and in the demo it’s very basic for now. There’s just one little end; at the same time I think it’s kind of interesting too because I’ve been watching some of the gameplay videos and people do discover the little hints but it’s not obvious, you know. It’s your choice to either go directly to the goal or take some detours and explore and find some more information.”
Will you be able to get out of the car?
Ondrej Svadlena: “I would like to leave it in the car the whole time. But I have plans for passengers that you can pick up so they could do the work when you need to get out of the car. I think keeping it restrictive and how it is could be interesting. The more possibilities you have to escape the less thrilling I think it is.”
Tell us a little about the art style in the game.
Ondrej Svadlena: “What I see very often is that as soon as you have something that strives for photorealism and looks real then people like it, it gathers much more attention. It has changed a bit now because people get tired of the race to have everything very realistic so we have works that have nice stylised visual art that also have a chance of being noticed. But that’s not really my goal, of course, I want it to look real or feel real – it’s actually more feeling real than being perfectly photorealistic. What the demo doesn’t really showcase, as it’s just the beginning of the game, is that the world universe is going to get more and more surreal or crazy because basically, you’ll be driving from this rural holiday place towards the big city so you’ll have all the transitions. I think it’s going to be more visible if you look at my films as they’ve gone down that surreal way with very strong imagery. If you can imagine when you have a dream, which feels very real but then you look at something and it changes suddenly or subtly moves. The whole thing becomes like a nightmare, so that’s the visual sensory experience I’m aiming for.”
What do you think it is about Beware that has captured people’s imagination?
Ondrej Svadlena: “I’m not sure. I mean there are the people that enjoy driving games obviously, who like the driving physics, and it’s something that doesn’t happen often because you almost always have arcade physics for these types of games. Or you’ll have simulation physics for racing games that are on a track. I think what probably caught people’s attention a lot was the atmosphere itself, maybe even the music.
It seems like we’ll be seeing a lot more from Beware over the next year or so. There’s certainly more to the game then meets the eye, that’s for sure. If you’re interested in trying out the demo yourself then head on over to Beware’s IndieDB page where you can download it for free.
Once the Editor of The Indie Game Website, Jon now wonders the Earth as a hermit in search of worthy opponents to challenge at Tetris.