When it officially launches on September 13th for PC, The Land of Pain, a Lovecraftian inspired survival horror debut title from solo developer Alessandro Guzzo will look to haunt players as the game’s protagonist searches for answers while looking to avoid the attentions of a terrifying entity after a scenic hike in the woods takes a turn for the worse. The culmination of 3 years worth of hard work of which the game’s creator also penned the script among many other elements, The Land of Pain is at last ready to be unleashed to a wider audience. Having played the short demo a while back, I was intrigued by what The Land of Pain potentially had to offer players and promptly arranged for an interview with its Italian developer to find out more about the game, Guzzo’s decision to use CryEngine and his feelings ahead of the game’s launch.
As the sole developer, it’s pretty safe to say that The Land of Pain is very much your baby. For readers who might not be aware of your upcoming game until now can you give us some insight into the backstory, the plot and where the game takes place?
Alessandro Guzzo: The Land of Pain is a Lovecraftian horror adventure. The protagonist decides to have a walk in the woods to relax from his stressful life, but something goes wrong. He finds himself in a terrifying world. His life is about to change forever when he unravels an ancient mystery and tries to understand why he is there. The player will have to survive from an unrelenting enemy, solve puzzles and find a way to escape from that place.
No words are spoken by the player character, instead, you opted to convey the story through text and a rather handy journal book. Why did you choose to go down this particular narrative route? was it a decision based on finances or one solely based on preference?
Alessandro Guzzo: Well, the decision was essentially dictated by the finances, but I think that in The Land of Pain a journal is very important to better understand the story and how it develops. In that way, the protagonist can read a summary of what happened and connect the clues, discovering the truth in the end.
Players will encounter an evil force they cannot fight back against in The Land of Pain. The idea of the main character being defenceless against an attacker isn’t exactly a new one, but it’s one that myself and many other fans of the genre enjoy for a variety of reasons. Why do you feel the concept works so well within the horror genre? why did you decide to adopt this approach?
Alessandro Guzzo: In my opinion, the feeling of being vulnerable is a key concept in the horror genre. The Land of Pain, indeed, focuses on the fear and helplessness in the face of the universe and the unknown. Furthermore, the fear will be caused by the events and the narration as well as the fight with the enemy.
Some of the most immersive horror titles of the past decade use similar methods, most notably Outlast its sequel, Amnesia: The Dark Descent and Slender. Are you a fan of Frictional Games and Red Barrels work? Would you count any of them as influences?
Alessandro Guzzo: Yes, I have played them and the main influence was Amnesia. However, The Land of Pain is different, it is a new experience that differs from all of them.
To avoid the game’s enemy players will need to run, evade and hide, with light and the environment playing a key role in survival. We never actually see the monster or entity during the demo but certainly feel its presence. How much of a threat is it to the player?
Alessandro Guzzo: The enemy is a real threat to the character, its nature allows it to be everywhere at any moment and the player will have to pay attention to every corner, it could be there waiting for him.
Many developers draw inspiration from the works of famed gothic author H.P Lovecraft, The Land of Pain is no different. In your opinion, what is it about the American horror writer that inspires so many games?
Alessandro Guzzo: Lovecraft’s short stories are a starting point for many horror games. They go beyond the traditional horror characterized by a fearless protagonist, who can defeat the enemy without any problem. Lovecraft’s literature, instead, emphasizes the protagonist’s insignificance and lack of power in front of the repugnant reality. The more he discovers, the more he goes into madness. According to Lovecraft, knowledge is what leads humanity to despair, as it is something unacceptable and terrifying.
The contrast of ambient and dark sounds is quite something. Walking through the woods in the early stages we get soft, subtle, soothing sounds with the chirping of birds accompanying the player. The game then quickly changes, as does the mood. Heavy rain sets in at night and the subtle sounds from earlier are replaced by a far darker more malevolent tone. In your opinion, how much of what makes a great horror game is dependent on using sound design to set the right tone?
Alessandro Guzzo: Sound design is one of the most relevant aspects of the horror genre as it contributes to creating the right atmosphere. The Land of Pain wants to recreate the most realistic atmosphere possible and to reach that I think that sounds are as important as the graphics.
I read that The Land of Pain includes a few jumpscares but that you prefer to use the game’s atmosphere to drive the tension rather than a cheap scare. Do you believe that the “jumpscare” has become too over saturated in the current market? if so, do you believe it’s beginning to lose its appeal to the wider audience?
Alessandro Guzzo: Yes, in my opinion, jumpscares have become saturated. The more they are, the more players get used to them and they are not effective anymore. On the other hand, psychological horror with a good narrative component is taking hold in the current market, probably because it leaves a mark.
You describe The Land of Pain as having a “huge map”. How much of the game relies on the player exploring the surrounding environment?
Alessandro Guzzo: The player has to examine the main areas he crosses to find what he needs in order to go on. Being it a Lovecraftian game, he will encounter terrible and disgusting things, left with a feeling of anxiety.
The Land of Pain certainly has an open-world feel to it. In the demo, players can experience the woodlands both at day and night, which gives you a nice feel for the game and its core mechanics. What other types of environments can players expect to visit? Can we expect a mixture of open and closed off spaces?
Alessandro Guzzo: Yes, there are open and closed off spaces. Players will manage to explore many buildings, underground areas and much more. The environments include different areas, with buildings and wilder areas, both on the surface and in the underground.
You wrote the script for The Land of Pain but you’re also responsible for developing the game, its audio and many other parts of the overall process. This must have been a very time-consuming process for you personally with so many different elements to focus on. On an average day, how many hours would you say you’ve spent working on the game?
Alessandro Guzzo: That’s a good question. It’s difficult to say the exact number of hours I spent on it, but I can say that there have been periods in which I worked tirelessly, day and night. When you work on your own, you don’t count hours, you just try to do your best to achieve the results you want.
Kickstarter is a great platform to not only raise awareness of what you’re trying to achieve, gain traction with players or interested parties and of course raise vital funding. I noticed you receive funding via donations but did you ever consider a crowdfunding campaign at any point? If we may ask, how have you found financing The Land of Pain?
Alessandro Guzzo: No, in the past I didn’t consider Kickstarter, as I managed to fund the development on my own. During that period I worked occasionally here and there, and this allowed me to complete this project.
You opted to use CryEngine for the development of The Land of Pain citing its ability to display large maps with a lush vegetation. Was there ever any thought on your part in the early development process to use UE4 or Unity, or did you always have CryEngine in mind?
Alessandro Guzzo: At the beginning, I considered also other engines, like UnrealEngine and Unity, but then I opted for CryEngine as it seemed to be the best option for the project I had in mind. I’m happy to say that I was not wrong.
How happy have you been with the results using CryEngine?
Alessandro Guzzo: Developing a game is not easy, I encountered a few problems that luckily I managed to solve. However, CryEngine was a good choice for many reasons. Firstly, I managed to learn it on my own, with no experience. Secondly, it allowed me to use the latest technologies like photogrammetry, that allows to take pictures of real objects and to import them into the game, obtaining amazing environments.
Do you have any advice for budding developers who might be interested in creating their own game but don’t know where to start or have little experience of the working process that goes into making a video game?
Alessandro Guzzo: As I said before, it is not an easy task, and you have to be prepared to invest time and patience. One of the first things to do is finding out what is the best game engine that suits your project and research it. Then you need to have a precise goal and do your best to reach it. Keep in mind that you will have to learn new things every day and you need to stay motivated, so never give up!
With a release date now confirmed. How excited are you for players and those who have been following the game’s development closely over the past couple of years to finally experience the end product?
Alessandro Guzzo: I’ve been working on this project for so much time and I put so much effort into it that I can’t describe how I feel about it. I am very happy that shortly people will manage to play The Land of Pain and I can’t wait for them to experience this adventure!
The Land of Pain releases exclusively on PC via Steam. Do you expect to bring the game to consoles at some point further down the line?
Alessandro Guzzo: Yes, I hope to bring it to other platforms in the next future.
Lastly, do you have a special message for players looking to experience The Land of Pain this coming September?
Alessandro Guzzo: A dark and ancient mystery is ready to be unveiled… Be prepared to survive and face the dangers in this land of pain.
Thank you for your time, Alessandro!
Alessandro Guzzo’s debut title The Land of Pain officially launches September 13th for PC.