Recently announced first-person survival horror game Agony is the vision of Tomasz (Tomek) Dutkiewicz, President and Founder of newly formed Polish-based development company Madmind Studio, our recent installment for Part 2 of July’s Developer Focus. Dutkiewicz’s vision of a new approach to horror game design led him to Agony, a game that starts players off in the depths of Hell as a tormented soul and is set to arrive sometime in 2017 on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Our conversation begins with Madmind Studio’s very creation…
“It was very natural process. Thanks to the positive feedback and support from horror fans, many friends with whom I worked over the years, contacted me. We used to work together before and decided to create Madmind Studio, and start developing Agony from the beginning. I found an investor who not only believes in our game, but also gives me a free hand in the production of the game, by not interfering in my vision. It’s very rare in this industry.” This is Tomek Dutkiewicz, founder of Madmind Studio and mastermind behind their debut title Agony.
The studio boasts a team composed of members that have worked on several prominent AAA titles, so we wanted to know how one might get in on that and what one might expect from working there. “Madmind Studio is a small team full of friends who worked together before in the production of many popular games.” Tomek offers “Our strength lies in experience in a variety of genres and game types. To us making games is not only a job but also a hobby, which we love. We are working with the best possible technologies, which helps us grow constantly and use our full potential and talent. If making games means as much to you as it means to us, join Madmind studio!”
Madmind Studio is composed of just around a dozen people. Tomek tells us that he prefers it this way because of the lack of overhead and efficiency of communication. In his words “We don’t have to walk from one floor to another just to talk with someone. In our studio, communication is efficient and fast.” Most people on the team work during standard work hours, but some prefer to make their own schedule. Tomek asserts that flexibility is something that the company strives to offer to its employees.
With Madmind employing developers whose previous work includes the likes of The Witcher 3, Tom Clancy’s The Division and Sniper: Ghost Warrior 2 we were curious as to how Tomek assembled the team. Apparently, they were all friends and worked together at one time or another, but with time they went their own separate ways. “Agony brought us all back together,” Tomek says, and despite the choice of phrasing, we understand what he means.
Agony is their upcoming debut title and we wanted to find out more about it and the state of its development. With the game’s setting being Hell, Tomek informs us that they’re still working on designing game mechanics to encourage players to explore the levels and experience the game world. He promises that promotional materials and gameplay footage will be available as soon as possible.
“Not everything is done in-house.” Tomek answers when we ask about outsourcing “We are cooperating with artists responsible for character models, musicians, voice actors and (which as a fan I am very happy about) the band „Android Lust”, who already created a few amazing tracks for Agony!”
Prior to seeking independent funding, Tomek took to Kickstarter in order to seek funds for his project (then titled Sacred Agony. He recorded a prototype that showed off his vision of Hell and it was met with positive feedback, but the Kickstarter campaign ultimately failed, and Tomek is of the opinion that in hindsight, he might have asked for too much money. Nevertheless, he persevered. “If not for the positive feedback from horror fans, Agony would have ended in the dark abyss of the internet. Their interest and support motivated me to continue working on this game. When Kickstarter failed, and Agony failed to reach to big media, positive feedback from fans was all that remained. Their voice that helped me find an investor and create Madmind Studio.”
As a bit of fun trivia, the project was only initially titled Sacred Agony because a game called Agony already existed. Upon more investigation, the team found that the trademark had expired some time ago, so they reverted to the name they originally intended.
Tomek decided to set his game in Hell because he feels that the horror genre has lost its way in recent years. He feels it takes too much from the action genre and revisits the same tired old locations, for the most part. With Agony he wants to uproot some of what we’ve gotten used to with horror games “Agony allows players to visit the darkest recesses of Hell, full of terrifying demons and mad people, where every step, every sound entices untamed beasts. To survive in these extreme conditions, the player will be forced to develop his soul enough to gain abilities to control not only encountered martyrs, but also simple-minded demons.”
During off hours, team members enjoy playing such games as Doom and some are still into Tom Clancy’s The Division, which is to be expected, seeing how some of them worked on it. They’re waiting for Outlast 2 and anticipating Horizon: Zero Dawn. However, working full time on Agony means they have little time to engage in any sort of group activities during work hours. However, they are planning to attend Gamescom and show off some promotional materials for Agony. As to the VR gold rush, Tomek says that while it would be a perfect fit for Agony, their focus right now is the standard version of the game before investigating VR and trying to integrate it.
As always, we like to end these by asking budding studios if they draw their inspiration from somewhere. Tomek offered id Software and Doom as an example, largely for their dedication to a return to form which was overwhelmingly met with acclaim. For now, we wish Madmind Studio the best of luck with their project and we’re looking forward to what they’ll do next. We already have a hint from Tomek: “most likely another dark and atmospheric game with a unique design.”
Madmind Studio’s, Agony is currently in development for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.