How Indonesian Culture And Mythlore Shaped The Horrors Of DreadOut



    Indonesian game studio Digital Happiness made its debut in 2014 with its third-person horror game DreadOut. However, only the first Act of the game crawled out from the development basement, and Act 2 will soon be emerging from the darkness as well as a free update to owners of the game.


    But, before that happens, Siliconera was able to catch up with Rachmad Imron, producer at Digital Happiness, to talk about why the game was split into two in the first place, and what horrors from Indonesia mythlore we should expect to confront in its second part.


    Imron also discusses some of the controversy that DreadOut has been met with among some players of the game since it was released, he shares some of the studio’s favorite fan art, and tells us why DreadOut’s similarities to Fatal Frame aren’t intentional by part of an organic design process.


    First off, congratulations on releasing the first act of DreadOut. How has it been received by press and players – any surprises or disappointments?


    Rachmad Imron, producer: Thank you :) How players and press have appreciated our game is just as we predicted before, because the first Act of DreadOut is actually only 1/3 part of our initial design and that’s why DreadOut came with mixed reviews on its initial release.

    We’re so head-over-heels when people like and love our game. Also, it kind of feels like a stab in the heart when somebody gets angered by or hates our game as we’re so attached to DreadOut during development. But, on the other side, it is really surprising to us how the community is helping us out – bug finding, shaping out our game, doing localization, etc.


    Surprises and disappointments?…Mmhh yes, there have been certain points when we’ve been deeply saddened after finding out people misinterpreted and got offended by some of our designs. Such as the gender issue on our cross-dressing boss “Scissors Phantom”. We’re not transphobic, we just wanted to add some diversity to our ghosts. There’s a female, and male ghosts, so why not add a cross-dressing ghost as well? The fact that Indonesia is one of the countries in South East Asia with a culture that accepts transvestites equally among others encouraged us toward making this design decision, and to acknowledge this culture through our range of ghosts.


    And, also there’s a message found in a particular entry in Limbo that some people are angry with (we actually put it in there as a tongue-in-cheek message for not taking the game too seriously, even when it’s definitely a horror game). Overall, it was a really humbling experience and we are really happy that everyone’s being so supportive, including our community, and our reviewers. We really don’t know how to express our thanks to all of you.


    Have you received much DreadOut fan art, or any other fan creations. Any that you can share and any favorites?


    Yes, there are many of them. Most of them are on DeviantArt and on our Community Hub Here are some of our favorites:





    Many of them are shared on our Facebook page too:


    Now, the second act will be coming out soon. But why did you decide to split DreadOut into two separate acts in the first place—perhaps for financial reasons?


    It was a really heart breaking decision for all of us when we figured we would have to split our game into two parts. From the beginning of our development process we have believed that DreadOut is a whole complete experience, hence we do not want to label DreadOut with 2, 3, and so on.
    The financial thing is also one of our main issues, and there’s one particular problem with tax, legal, and those sort of things that takes up a lot of our time and energy.


    Also, there are have been some points when we became stuck on a technical issue due to our engine’s limitations, which has forced us to recreate DreadOut again from scratch so that we can integrate our next act later. That decision came to us six months before our first Act was released.


    At that time we had two hard decisions to make. Either we could keep our ideal vision of releasing DreadOut released as one whole experience, but would most likely we’d run out of money in the middle of the development, and would have to cancel the game. Or we could split into two Acts and secure our development costs, but this opens up the possibilities of bad game reviews and losing future revenue. In the end, we are glad and thankful that most of our players accepted our decision to add free updates with the second act. It’s a win-win solution for both of us.


    On that note, it’s not often we hear about Indonesian video games as with DreadOut. Is there much support from Indonesian communities, schools, or the government for video games? Is there much of a game development scene?


    Game development scene in Indonesia is still in the early stages. There are no AAA developers around, mostly studios create only mobile games, advert games, or are gaming contractors and such. Some of it has a certain degree of success. And no, there’s no government funding for game developers. Some college/universities are just starting to add more game development-related majors in their curriculum, though. We have lots of potential talent in our country, but many of these people have gone abroad since there’s no real game development scene here.


    Getting back to DreadOut, you treated us to a number of ghosts and monsters from Indonesian mythlore in the first act. Can we expect to meet more of them in Act 2? Could you describe one or two of them?


    Yes absolutely :) Sure, here’s an extract from our ghostpedia entry on Palasik : “Believed to be a manifestation of a powerful black magic witch. This ghost eats infants while they are still inside their mother’s wombs and sometimes they are often seen digging on a dead babies grave. The curse is considered to be hereditary. A palasik will breed palasiks for seven generations. They can appear as ordinary human beings and blend in with the community. Until such times as they are discovered. To maintain their secrecy, their community will hold unholy rituals to mate and wed their children to other palasiks and live in secluded villages far from others.”


    A recent update to DreadOut was released to prepare for the second act. What improvements have you made to the game with this update and how does this affect how it looks and plays?


    For performance issues, our new build will have shorter loading times, right now our latest build/updates is optimized for the 32bit platform. And hi-res textures will be included in our next updates. Our language selection is now temporarily turned off, but later we will add that as well. There’s also an experience setting for turning on/off Limbo messages, Limbo journey, Linda’s ghost vignettes, etc.


    Our previous demo /Act 0: Prologue is now included in the main game, but it can also be played directly from the menu.


    DreadOut draws comparisons to the Fatal Frame series due to its focus on fighting ghosts with a camera. Was it your intention to create a more modern take on that series with smartphone technology?


    That’s a really great question, and yes, we’re so in love with the Fatal Frame series, but actually our decision to use a smartphone as Linda’s weapon of choice is actually without that particular intention.


    In our country common people are stricly prohibited to own a gun, so it would have been weird to have our protagonist wielding a gun as a weapon to fight the ghosts. Supernatural ghosts, and most of our local ghosts, can be defeated only with an arsenal of religious items, but that is one thing we didn’t want to put in our game. And, suddenly, we came up with the idea of using a camera as a weapon after reading the Native American Indian quotation “Photographs can steal your soul.” That belief is similar to those held across several religions in our country.


    I remembered being back in the college when I was with my “sixth sense friend” watching a live paranormal reality TV show, and she was able to precisely describe a ghost that appeared on the TV show even before their supernatural TV host described the ghost themselves. It should have been impossible as that was a live broadcast, and it still really creeps me out today. So, anyway, we put all of these concepts into our game design, resulting in a game in which you can only see the ghost through a medium that we’re all familiar with.


    Will the second act be the last we see of DreadOut or have you made plans for a third act? Or perhaps the studio wants to make something different next?


    At the moment it all depends on the second Act. Yes, we really love horror, and if there’s enough horror left in us we will gladly to do more horror games in the future, and even create more games in Dread series to build up a lore around DreadOut. We are also eager to see what our next journey might be with different genre, so at the moment we’re holding out to se see which one comes first after DreadOut Act 2.


    Do you have any plans to bring DreadOut to other platforms outside of PC? If yes ,which ones do you have in mind?

    Yes, right now we are still looking for publisher deals and negotiating to bring DreadOut to the PS4 or Xbox One because Indonesia is still excluded from their region listing for being granted their SDK and stuff. And so, to do that accordingly, we will need a publisher.

    Chris Priestman

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