‘Whatever You Understood Happened’ Is What Happened In Scorn

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Scorn is an abstract game that is difficult to decipher. Even after seeing credits, players are left in an uncomfortable but memorable state of mind that defies clear explanation. To try and develop some context, we spoke with the game’s director, Ebb Software’s Ljubomir Peklar, via e-mail to try and get some more insight into the bizarre experience. Unsurprisingly, much is meant to be left to the players’ imagination, but Peklar did offer some details, like how it managed to create something so abstract, some of the incidental imagery that occurred, and the best movie from the Aliens franchise.

Game Informer: What happened in Scorn?

Peklar: Whatever you understood happened.

Was the ending in the game always the planned ending?

All of the parts of the game went through several iterations in the process but we believe we stayed true to what was our original idea.

I assume (and please correct me if I am wrong) you may not want to shed additional light on the narrative of Scorn and let players formulate their own ideas. With that assumption in mind, do you have a specific story driving the game in your own mind? Are there answers that you will likely never be shared?

There is a specific story, but that does not mean that some of the parts cannot be interpreted differently. We do not believe that we should demystify it. It is much better for people to experience it and draw their own conclusions.

My personal experience with Scorn is it was something I was frequently grossed out by and made to feel uncomfortable … but I was engrossed and had to see what was going to happen next. Is this how you hoped players would play the game?

Exactly. The idea is that you are uncomfortable the whole time playing the game but still want to know and play more and judging by the feedback from a lot of players we seem to have hit that spot very nicely.

The protagonist is punished at nearly every point in the game, and the ending is particularly brutal. Was the goal to offer the player no respite? Was there ever a chance of hope?

Of course, it is part of the game’s storytelling.

I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream (1995)

The giant creature late in the game that you must violently enter reminded me of the visualization of the creature in the I Have No Mouth, And I Must Scream video game adaptation. Would you consider that story an inspiration?

No, the visual similarity is an accident.

Everything in Scorn is so abstract and strange. How do you explain a scenario or how you want a section of the game to look and play to a designer and/or artist during the development process?

We had a lot of issues with this in the early stages of Scorn’s production, it was very challenging for people to understand something so out of the mainstream. However, over time we have managed to align our team to the general ideas and it was much easier to translate them in to the game.

Scorn’s animation is impressive. Was that an early point of development focus? To make sure the animation was especially good?

Since there is no dialogue in the game every aspect of the visuals, the sounds, and even the animations must tell the story, so yes, it was very important to get the feel of the game right.

Do you embrace the feedback from players who do not like the game? It seems like a game that was never going to appeal to everyone.

When we started this project we knew that it would be a very divisive product. In the end, people will either hate it or love it, there is very little space for middle ground. And we do understand where the negative feedback is coming from, but it was never meant to be a game everybody will enjoy.

Have any player theories been particularly interesting to see? Are there any you would consider correct?

Some of the theories have been wild and came up with things we never thought of. But on the other hand there is no correct answer, some players are closer to our original idea than others.

What do you think of comparisons to Myst and Silent Hill?

While we are very fond of both of these franchises, we don’t believe Scorn can be directly compared to any of them. There are of course some similar ideas in all of these games.

The combat can be difficult. Arguably too difficult at times. Was this intentional?

Scorn was never envisioned as a shooter although some people got that impression. Limited ammo and the design of enemies should make you think several times before every engagement.

In my playthrough, I fully missed one of the weapons and beat the game without it. Did you expect players to have that kind of playthrough?

It was always one of the possibilities, we wanted players to be rewarded the more they explore the world.

What do you hope will be the legacy of Scorn?

It is difficult to talk about legacy at this point but we do believe we have set out to create something different in the video game industry and have achieved it.

Do you think you will continue to work within this horrifying palette on future projects? Or would you like to explore something joyful for your next project?

Currently we are still in the process of gathering all the feedback on the game both externally and internally and it will take some more time before we actually decide what the next project will be and start working on it. For now, we are not limiting ourselves to any specific genre or theme.

What is your history with H.R. Giger?

Apart from being huge fans of his work and ideas there is no other history.

Can you rank your top three favorite Alien movies?

There is only one good Alien movie. The original.