PCPP In­ter­view: Scorn

Set in a baf­fling world of Giger-es­que body hor­ror, Scorn is the stuff of night­mares. We talk to Ebb Soft­ware founder LJUBOMIR PEKLAR about how his new sur­vival hor­ror game will force play­ers to live in the mo­ment...

PCPOWERPLAY - - Contents - Scorn-Game.com.

Bethey in­die pixel plat­form­ers, mass­mar­ket shoot­ers, or Fis­cher Price matchthree wal­let-gob­blers, most games re­leased these days tend to look the same. But Scorn looks dif­fer­ent – very dif­fer­ent. Made by Ser­bian start-up stu­dio Ebb Soft­ware, it is wrought out of de­lib­er­ately dis­turb­ing im­agery. The late great H. R. Giger is an ob­vi­ous in­flu­ence, but there’s some­thing more to it than that. Con­cep­tu­ally (and lit­er­ally) Scorn has more in­sid­i­ous en­ti­ties lurk­ing just be­neath the sur­face.

For Ebb Soft­ware founder Ljubomir Peklar, this is the cul­mi­na­tion of years of plan­ning. “I’ve had the idea for Scorn for a very long time and at one stage in my life an op­por­tu­nity pre­sented it­self to take it fur­ther. It was a very small team at first but it grew or­gan­i­cally as the project was start­ing to take shape.”

Peklar’s choice of words is hints at the world he’s cre­ated – a deeply un­set­tling land­scape of bio-me­chan­i­cal abom­i­na­tions. Dark, dank, wind-swept spires of ex­posed mus­cle and bone stand si­lent, and teem­ing within them are crea­tures that blur all pre­con­cep­tions of bi­ol­ogy and logic. It’s a bit of a mind­fuck, and Peklar isn’t about to spoil the mys­tery of where or when this all takes place, let alone why.

“You may have al­ready no­ticed that we don’t want to give an ex­pla­na­tion about the game as we are leav­ing that to the play­ers. It’s not a shooter but a sur­vival hor­ror, sim­i­lar to old Res­i­dent Evil or Si­lent Hill games. Da­sein is a small hint about the game, Google is your friend re­gard­ing that.”

Early 20th Cen­tury philoso­phers dif­fer in the ex­act def­i­ni­tion and im­pli­ca­tions of Da­sein, but it can be in­ter­preted as the sense of ‘be­ing there’ – of be­ing ab­so­lutely con­scious of one’s pres­ence, to live in the mo­ment. It’s closely re­lated to the con­cept of ‘Ex­is­tenz’, which film buffs will recog­nise as the name of a 1999 David Cro­nen­berg movie about a sin­is­ter vir­tual re­al­ity sim­u­la­tion where the pro­tag­o­nist fires a gun made of flesh that uses teeth for bul­lets. Cro­nen­berg’s eX­is­tenZ is an ob­vi­ous in­flu­ence – in Scorn you fire a gun made of flesh that uses teeth for bul­lets. Only this weapon is even creepier than Cro­nen­berg’s– its breech is a liv­ing mouth into which you shove grotesque bar­rel at­tach­ments. Talk about stand­ing on the shoul­ders of giants. But what other sources did Peklar draw on? “The old in­flu­ences ques­tion, I try to give a dif­fer­ent list (com­pared to other in­ter­views) ev­ery time, just for fun. Your list: Luis Buñuel, Ing­mar Bergman, Mario Bava, An­drei Tarkovsky, Philip K Dick, Friedrich Ni­et­zsche, Sig­mund Freud, Jean-Paul Sartre, Francis Ba­con, Wayne Bar­low etc.”

Scorn is set in a liv­ing world – lit­er­ally. A me­nagerie of blobby abom­i­na­tions will slurm through the flesh fun­nels and sphinct-doors of a vast and ghastly maze, and play­ers will learn soon enough which are friend, and which are face-hug­ging foe.

“Crea­tures can be cu­ri­ous, afraid, hos­tile, neu­tral, and any­thing in be­tween, both to­wards the play­ers and each other. They will re­act and adapt to the player’s ac­tions and to change that play­ers bring to the en­vi­ron­ment. Since all the sto­ry­telling hap­pens in-game, with no cut-scenes, hav­ing a re­ac­tive and liv­ing ecosys­tem was a must for this kind of game. Crea­tures might not be ag­gres­sive at all, in some in­stances they might even be benev­o­lent.”

But back to the tooth gun – just how will it work in terms of game bal­ance? “Weapons are mod­u­lar in a way that the weapon sys­tem has a com­mon base with dif­fer­ent at­tach­ments avail­able. Only one at­tach­ment (weapon) can be mounted at a time. Dif­fer­ent mod­ules (pis­tol, shot­gun, etc) both look and be­have very dif­fer­ently and each of them is suited for cer­tain sit­u­a­tions. Ammo is lim­ited and since each bul­let is ‘ex­pen­sive’ you’ll have to think twice when to shoot – ev­ery bul­let counts. Ammo isn’t evenly dis­trib­uted through the game, so if you have a lot of ammo now, it doesn’t mean you won’t be scrap­ing by in just five min­utes. Again, it de­pends on your ap­proach.”

And the mu­sic? “The sound­track is com­posed by Bos­nian pro­ducer Adis Kutkut (Aethek, Bil­lain), it would best fit into dark am­bi­ent genre if we re­ally need to de­fine it.

fire a gun made of flesh that uses teeth for bul­lets - its breech a liv­ing mouth into which you shove grotesque at­tach­ments

Adis also does ad­di­tional sound de­sign. Mu­sic and sound are there to com­ple­ment the at­mos­phere and cre­ate ap­pro­pri­ate feel­ing.” Its stark ac­com­pa­ni­ment to the trail­ers re­leased so far cer­tainly ac­com­plishes this.

While Scorn is built with the same mid­dle-ware used by count­less other stu­dios, it cer­tainly doesn’t look it – in no small part due to the emu­la­tion of the hellish land­scapes of Pol­ish painter Zdzisław Bek­siński. The spe­cific choice of en­gine re­sulted from pure prag­ma­tism.

“As an in­die de­vel­oper you have two choices: Un­real or Unity. We did start off in Unity but at the time Unity was a 32-bit ap­pli­ca­tion and couldn’t han­dle every­thing we wanted so we switched to Un­real.”

In Fe­bru­ary 2017 Hum­ble Bun­dle sur­prised the world by an­nounc­ing that it was get­ting into games pub­lish­ing; the ser­vice renowned for its pay-what-you-want lim­it­ed­time deals on re­cently-re­leased in­die games had grown to the point where it could pub­lish games in its own right. Amidst the start­ing line-up of for­get­table in­die fare, Scorn stood out with its hor­ri­fy­ing blobs of vis­cera. Peklar is grate­ful for the role Hum­ble Bun­dle has played. “Hum­ble Bun­dle helped us out fi­nan­cially when we needed it the most. If it wasn’t for them it would be very hard to keep go­ing.”

As for the unique pros and cons of run­ning a game de­vel­op­ment stu­dio in Ser­bia, he didn’t have a lot to say, save that it’s a tad cheaper than run­ning one out of San Fran­cisco. “There are very few ad­van­tages, maybe the fact that the bud­get would be as­tro­nom­i­cal if we were in some de­vel­oped western coun­try. The big­gest prob­lem is that there are not that many peo­ple that work in game de­vel­op­ment.”

He also didn’t par­tic­u­larly care to com­ment on the re­cent ex­plo­sion of in­die con­tent, or the over-sat­u­rated mar­ket in which Scorn must com­pete. “The cream will rise to the top, ev­ery­one else will be left dis­il­lu­sioned. We’ll see where Ebb Soft­ware ends up.”

Peklar has launched a Kick­starter to fund the fur­ther pol­ish­ing of the game ahead of its 2018 launch. While he hopes that this will give play­ers “a new, unique, and in­ter­est­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” this re­lease will only be Part 1 – and at this stage he isn’t even go­ing to hint at what will be in the se­quel. “Why are you con­cerned with how Part 2 dif­fers from Part 1 when you haven’t even seen, played or know what Part 1 is like?”

To wrap things up, we in­quired about what real-world trends con­cern Peklar, and asked him about what kind of night­mare fu­ture we might cre­ate for our­selves with our tech­nol­ogy. He re­marked that we al­ready live in a fusion of 1984 and Brave New World, where the pop­u­lace is so in­tox­i­cated by junk cul­ture that no­body cares that they live in a de facto sur­veil­lance state.

“We are cur­rently in some form of Or­wellian-Huxleian hy­brid time­line. On one hand peo­ple are will­ing to give away their pri­vacy and free­dom, all be­cause they don’t want to be both­ered and every­thing has to be so con­ve­nient, and the other hand they are con­stantly bom­barded with ba­nal bull­shit that makes them com­pla­cent. It all boils down to giv­ing away all your pri­vacy to Google or Ap­ple and go­ing out to watch the next shitty Dis­ney movie pro­duc­tion or Nicki Minaj con­cert. What kind of fu­ture that will bring us I re­ally don’t know.”

As of this writ­ing, Scorn is within a stone’s throw of meet­ing its Kick­starter goal, and Part 1 is due to be re­leased in 2018. For more de­tails, visit

WHO LJUBOMIR PEKLAR WHERE EBB SOFT­WARE WHY SCORN PART 1 OF 2: DA­SEIN

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