Five years on From its re­veal, Capy­bara Games Fi­nally has a re­lease window in sight For be­low. Join us as we dive into the depths of de­vel­op­ment hell with Creative lead Kris piotrowski and at­tempt to shine a light on why this am­bi­tious ad­ven­ture has spent

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Robbed of any con­text, the pas­sage of time can seem some­what in­con­se­quen­tial. Take Be­low, a game that has been in pro­duc­tion for close to seven years. As a state­ment, one de­void of any real con­text, it’s rel­a­tively hollow. And that, largely speak­ing, is be­cause it works to mask a painful truth.

To all of us, Be­low may well have been on the pe­riph­ery of con­ver­sa­tion since the dawn of this con­sole gen­er­a­tion, though the truth is that time wasted wait­ing for a videogame is hardly any time spent at all. Games get de­layed all of the time, our lives move on. There’s al­ways some­thing new on the near hori­zon to ar­rest the at­ten­tion; that’s the na­ture of the un­tame­able beast known as the videogame in­dus­try. For

Kris Piotrowski, that hori­zon has been shrouded in un­cer­tainty for some time. He can­not sim­ply ‘move on’ be­cause Be­low has be­come an in­sep­a­ra­ble part of who he has be­come.

The creative direc­tor of Capy­bara Games was 32 years old when he be­gan pro­to­typ­ing Be­low, the game that was to fol­low 2011’s sub­ver­sive master­piece Su­per­broth­ers: Sword & Sworcery EP – sched­uled to ar­rive as a launch ti­tle for the Xbox One. It was back then that he first be­gan to en­vi­sion it, a solemn ad­ven­ture that cast a frag­ile hero in con­tention with the hid­den forces of a daunt­ing penin­sula; con­cealed be­hind the mouth of a moun­tain was to be a cas­cade of cat­a­combs suf­fo­cated by a dark­ness so dense that we would barely be able to con­ceive what lay hid­den within them.

Piotrowski is 39 now. Be­low has been the fo­cus of his creative en­ergy for the bet­ter part of a decade. He’s con­flicted by the thought of it fi­nally reach­ing the hands of play­ers, torn be­tween ab­ject an­tic­i­pa­tion and a taunt­ing trep­i­da­tion. “On the one hand, I’m su­per re­lieved. I just can’t wait to get this out of my sys­tem so that I can think about some­thing else,” he tells us, re­leas­ing a hearty chuckle that seems to in­stinc­tively dis­si­pate into a deep, re­veal­ing ex­hale. “It does weigh heav­ily on you, when you work on some­thing for this long; it can be­gin to play tricks with your brain. In a lot of ways, Be­low was a tough game for us to make, but there’s this an­tic­i­pa­tion… this ex­pec­ta­tion that comes with this kind of de­vel­op­ment cy­cle; the play­ers are ex­pect­ing a great game. So, yeah,” he tells us, blankly, “It’s a lit­tle scary.”

Not that any of this is nec­es­sar­ily a new feel­ing for Piotrowski. He may have been do­ing this job for most of his adult life, but that doesn’t make the creative process any eas­ier to bear.

“It is scary to re­lease any game at any point in time. Sword & Sworcery only took us a year and a half to make, but when it was com­ing out I was shit­ting my fuck­ing pants. I didn’t know if any­body was go­ing to like it. I didn’t know what to ex­pect from it, and I re­mem­ber los­ing my mind,” he tells us, laugh­ing. “I re­mem­ber los­ing my mind when Su­per Time Force was com­ing out too. So for me, this is noth­ing new, there’s just a cou­ple of ex­tra years worth of bag­gage on my shoulders for this one.”

“But…” he pauses, pained, col­lect­ing his thoughts for a fleet­ing sec­ond be­fore that in­fec­tious smile of his re-emerges. “I don’t know, man. Be­low is the neat­est lit­tle videogame that I’ve ever made. So I’m kind of ex­cited too.”

Caught be­tween fear and ex­cite­ment. We’re cer­tain that this wasn’t a con­scious creative de­ci­sion on Piotrowski’s part, but that war in­side his head also hap­pens to best de­scribe the feel­ings that we ex­pe­ri­enced as we took our first steps into Be­low’s taunt­ing labyrinth.

“We just set out to make this beau­ti­ful lit­tle rogue­like; this soli­tary jour­ney through the haunted depths of a for­bid­den isle,” laughs Piotrowski as he re­flects on Capy’s orig­i­nal in­ten­tions for the pro­ject and of the de­vel­op­ment hell that was to fol­low. “You know, some­times games are com­pli­cated beasts for a hun­dred dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Be­low was one of those for us; it turns out that the game was very dif­fi­cult to make.”

It wasn’t sup­posed to be like this. The de­vel­op­ment, we mean. Be­low’s pro­tracted creative process may well have been more dif­fi­cult than Capy had ever an­tic­i­pated, but the game it­self – its core vi­sion and key pil­lars – re­main rel­a­tively un­moved by time. Broadly speak­ing, Be­low is to­day as it was back in

2013: a pro­ce­dural, per­sis­tent ter­rar­ium full of life, mys­tery and death. To ex­plore its depths is to dis­cover its se­crets and in dis­cov­er­ing its se­crets you may just sur­vive its dangers. It re­ally is, as Piotrowski told us, this beau­ti­ful lit­tle rogue­like.

The thing is, Be­low may not have changed much over the years, but the en­vi­ron­ment around it cer­tainly has. “At this point, it seems like ev­ery game is par­tially a rogue­like,” he ad­mits, only too aware of how the land­scape of the in­dus­try has shifted in the seven years.

The genre has trans­formed from a for­got­ten relic of the Eight­ies – spear­headed by in­flu­en­tial ti­tles such as Rogue, Ang­band and Nethack

– to some­thing of a sta­ple of the in­de­pen­dent games scene. “I think a lot of [de­vel­op­ers] were be­ing in­flu­enced at that time by the base­line me­chan­ics that were pre­sented in those rogue­like-type games,” he says, not­ing a par­tic­u­larly mem­o­rable turn­ing point. “Spelunky came along and re­vi­talised the whole thing, and peo­ple got to see all of these me­chan­ics find their way to dif­fer­ent kinds of games.”

The pro­lif­er­a­tion of the rogue­like’s star­ring me­chan­ics through­out so many corners of the in­dus­try hasn’t put Piotrowski off of Be­low, if any­thing it has only strength­ened his re­solve. He still be­lieves Capy can shape the mod­ern rogue­like – the stu­dio’s unique spin on the form born from a unique ap­proach to fea­tures that once helped de­fine the genre.

The ba­sic flavour of a rogue­like is made up of a hand­ful of key in­gre­di­ents. The spec­tre of per­ma­nent death, pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated en­vi­ron­ments, in­tu­ition-driven ex­plo­ration and the pro­cure­ment of mis­sion crit­i­cal items as you make slow pro­gres­sion towards an in­evitable con­clu­sion. Com­bined, it just works. The rogue­like is an ex­pe­ri­ence driven by ab­so­lute me­chan­i­cal im­ple­men­ta­tion, un­in­ter­ested in su­per­flu­ous el­e­ments of game de­sign that have built up along­side the rapid ad­vance­ments in tech­nol­ogy that have helped shape the mod­ern face of the in­dus­try. What­ever way you cut it, they are about as pure of a videogame ex­pe­ri­ence as you are likely to find. It’s as Piotrowski says, “There’s some­thing re­ally nice about the setup for a rogue­like. They have this beau­ti­ful re­playa­bil­ity; the ten­sion is a lit­tle bit higher than in reg­u­lar games, be­cause the stakes are usu­ally raised when you’re play­ing them.”

It’s the al­lure of per­madeath – some­thing he de­scribes as be­ing part of Be­low’s DNA from the very be­gin­ning – and pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion el­e­ments of the tra­di­tional rogue­like that re­ally piqued Piotrowski’s in­ter­est. But will it be enough to set Be­low apart from Spelunky, Nu­clear Throne, The Bind­ing Of Isaac, and the hun­dreds of other rogue­like-in­spired games now avail­able on the mar­ket? “The dif­fer­ence with our game is that the game world it­self is per­sis­tent. The main idea be­hind Be­low is that you are play­ing a lit­tle, frag­ile char­ac­ter – this lit­tle fleet­ing life – but the is­land it­self is sort of this big, omi­nous and mys­te­ri­ous space.”

“Any lit­tle progress that you do end up mak­ing, the next char­ac­ter will be able to take ad­van­tage of

it,” he says, go­ing on to de­tail the con­cept as we pique an eye­brow in­quis­i­tively. “If a player man­ages to run down a few lev­els and open a spe­cial door, for ex­am­ple, and they croak the mo­ment they walk through it, then at the very least the next char­ac­ter will be able to take ad­van­tage of it. It means their path ahead is gonna be just a lit­tle bit eas­ier.”

“Be­low is full of other lit­tle ideas like that,” Piotrowski con­tin­ues, ea­ger to ex­plain el­e­ments of the game’s de­sign that it has kept se­cret for years. “You’re not re­ally able to build up your ac­tual char­ac­ter, but the game world it­self is some­thing that you can make lit­tle bits of progress through and then even­tu­ally build upon.”

Be­low is un­equiv­o­cally a rogue­like. It can be bru­tal and un­for­giv­ing, a chal­lenge that seems to take pleasure in trip­ping you up when you least ex­pect or de­sire it. Your tiny wan­derer has but a lim­ited pool of at­tack and de­fen­sive ma­noeu­vres to draw from; you can poke at dart­ing en­e­mies with your sword, there’s a jump at­tack and you can even block with your shield, should you get the tim­ing down. But there’s also more to it than that alone. When Be­low is all said and done, the stu­dio wants to not only have de­liv­ered a pow­er­ful ex­pe­ri­ence, but one that can tear down some of the walls that have been erected around the genre – it wants to make the rogue­like less in­ac­ces­si­ble – and, in spite of the game’s in­her­ently pun­ish­ing na­ture, it’s cer­tainly on track to achieve that goal. “Be­low is a mix­ture of that kind of hard­core, per­madeath con­cept from [clas­sic] rogue­likes with some­thing that, to me, feels more like a clas­sic ad­ven­ture game,” nods Piotrowski, who in­vokes The Le­gend Of Zelda se­ries as a point of com­par­i­son. “You are un­lock­ing things, tak­ing down crea­tures, find­ing loot, and then mak­ing a sub­se­quent life feel a lit­tle bit eas­ier or a lit­tle bit more strate­gic.”

In Be­low, you fight tooth and nail for in­cre­men­tal pro­gres­sion. Death will come quickly, but it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily sig­nify the end of your jour­ney – it’s sim­ply the be­gin­ning of another. Once a lone wan­derer falls prey to the re­lent­less monsters that roam the dark­ened cav­erns, or to the nasty traps that lay hid­den in its shad­ows, another is soon sent in their place.

Why do ad­ven­tur­ers keep ven­tur­ing to this is­land – we pon­dered – when they are fully aware that they are head­ing to a place that no one has ever re­turned? On that note, Piotrowski is ea­ger to keep his mouth shut – not that he can; he’s too ex­cited to talk openly about Be­low af­ter years of self-im­posed ex­ile. “That’s the ques­tion of the game,” he smiles. “I mean, the web­site is called ‘What Lies Be­low’, right? I would have to re­veal… okay, so, the game doesn’t have a nar­ra­tive in the tra­di­tional sense. It’s not a game with cutscenes or dia­logue; you’re not gonna pick up lit­tle snip­pets of let­ters or au­dio logs or what­ever. But there is still a nar­ra­tive. There is some­thing that the wan­der­ers are there to do,” Piotrowski teases, adding,

“and there is a vil­lain in the game. It… waits be­low,” he says erupt­ing into laugh­ter. “Okay, it’s Love­craftian; I’ll say it.”

Ev­ery time you die you will respawn as a new ran­domly gen­er­ated lone wan­derer, ar­riv­ing above ground some time later, run ashore by the vi­o­lent ocean that pro­tects the is­land. You’ll be­come in­ti­mately fa­mil­iar with the sights and sounds of that ini­tial beach land­ing, the flick­er­ing light of a nearby bon­fire and of the slow climb up an im­pos­ing moun­tain façade to be­gin re­trac­ing your steps back be­low. This is the loop at the heart of Be­low, though it is de­signed to shift and ex­pand sub­tly over time. “That’s how the player is able to ini­tially en­ter into the game world. At first you do ar­rive on the beach ev­ery sin­gle time. But as you play the game you do find lit­tle

phys­i­cal short­cuts from there deeper into the world. In fact, you can find a lit­tle short­cut right from that first lit­tle area…”

The short­cut he is re­fer­ring to is one we stum­bled upon by com­plete ac­ci­dent. Hid­den, far from the open pas­sage­way that beck­ons ev­ery wan­derer be­low to the first level of depth, was a locked door that re­sem­bled a mono­lith carved into the moun­tain. That, as we would later dis­cover, could be prised open should you stum­ble upon a the cor­rect cav­ern with the nec­es­sary tool in hand – in this in­stance we found it by mov­ing through a hid­den crawlspace near a small stream we were us­ing to hunt for fish, though who knows where it might have been on a dif­fer­ent run. “As you get deeper and deeper into the world, you’re also con­stantly pok­ing holes back up to the sur­face. Even­tu­ally, as you get fur­ther into the game, the sur­face of the is­land be­comes this kind of multi-path hub… it means you’ll still be able to get your­self back, and fur­ther in, to the world as long as you’ve un­locked those short­cuts. There’s also another hid­den ac­tual travel me­chanic in the game,” he says, teas­ing, “but that’s go­ing into se­crets.” We’ve got some ideas about those, but that is to come later.

For now, we want to linger a lit­tle longer here on the beach, on this key as­pect to Be­low that will, we’re sure, ul­ti­mately en­sure that it feels fresh and unique when it does fi­nally land later this year. Capy has found a com­fort­able, com­bat­ive neu­tral ground be­tween per­sis­tent and pro­ce­dural de­sign. While the ar­chi­tec­ture of the sur­face area of the is­land will al­ways re­main the same, the sub­ter­ranean lev­els are for­ever shift­ing.

As you ven­ture deeper and deeper through Be­low’s twist­ing tun­nels and cav­erns you’ll have the op­por­tu­nity to gather re­sources and open up short­cuts back up to the sur­face, though death will ul­ti­mately change the shape of the en­vi­ron­ment for your in­evitable re­turn – as if time it­self has eroded away the spa­ces, warp­ing them beyond im­me­di­ate recog­ni­tion. Walls and pools of wa­ter will shift and the shape of rock for­ma­tions will have re­shaped, but some­where down there, in­side and be­low, will be the rot­ting corpse of your pre­de­ces­sor, all of their items right there for the tak­ing.

“There’s a pretty big world down there.

It is a com­bi­na­tion of ran­domly gen­er­ated dun­geons, caves and other kinds of en­vi­ron­ments, mixed with an ac­tual non­pro­ce­du­ral ele­ment too,” he con­tin­ues. “Be­low has a much more re­alised ad­ven­ture gamestyle world that’s per­me­ated with ran­domly gen­er­ated pas­sages.” This is, in part at least, the rea­son for the lengthy de­vel­op­ment process. Capy’s pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion sys­tem has had at least four full it­er­a­tions over the seven years, with the stu­dio’s pro­gram­mers con­stantly scrap­ping and reengi­neer­ing how the sys­tem builds out the sin­gle-screen ar­eas that make up the sub­ter­ranean depths. It’s been a labour of love, to say the least. “The core has never re­ally changed; those core ideas that we landed on right at the be­gin­ning have been part of the pro­ject since day one, but we’ve been it­er­at­ing on ev­ery sin­gle as­pect of it. The game world, its struc­ture – like the ac­tual en­vi­ron­ments you pass through – is some­thing that I’ve been refin­ing and work­ing on for a while,” Piotrowski tells us, though he doesn’t quite re­veal the true ex­tent of the strug­gle.

The de­signer was ea­ger to en­sure that some el­e­ments of Be­low’s ge­og­ra­phy never changed, no mat­ter how many times you died. The core me­chan­ics and sys­tems that Capy iden­ti­fied so many years ago – the de­sire for it to be a min­i­mal­is­tic ex­pe­ri­ence with lit­tle in the way of a UI, tu­to­ri­als or ex­pla­na­tion, for ex­am­ple – is all still present and ac­counted for. One thing that has changed, how­ever, was the reliance on pro­ce­dural gen­er­a­tion to build out the en­tire world.

Capy wanted Be­low’s ar­eas to re­sem­ble nat­u­ral spa­ces, but the re­sults of the sys­tem were too grid like and too pre­dictable for Capy’s lik­ing. And so it set about bring­ing a personal touch to ev­ery one of the lev­els, ex­ca­vat­ing the shape of the game by hand as it went. “For the most part, it hasn’t been about rip­ping some­thing out and try­ing some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent,” Piotrowski ad­mits. “A lot of it has just been try­ing to take ev­ery lit­tle piece of it and ar­rive at the most ‘Be­low-y’ ver­sion of it, right? It just hasn’t been, like, flip the ta­bles and start over. It’s been highly it­er­a­tive; al­low­ing us to fo­cus on tak­ing each in­di­vid­ual thing and try­ing to drill into it as much as we can.”

We’ll say it if he won’t, it sounds like it has been a hell of a lot of work. But it hasn’t been in vein, be­cause it has en­sured that ev­ery space fea­tures vis­ual touch­stones to aid in nav­i­ga­tion and ex­plo­ration, a vi­tal com­po­nent to a game oth­er­wise shrouded in death and mys­tery. Ev­ery level of depth that you en­ter into will be com­prised of a pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated pas­sage­way – a safe(ish) space where you can lament on your jour­ney, craft pre­cious items to aid in sur­vival, and pre­pare for the next trial ahead – and then a larger main area that will blur the line be­tween hand-crafted con­tent and pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated spa­ces. So while some el­e­ments may stay the same – the place­ment of a river, some recog­nis­able chasms, that sort of stuff – the lo­ca­tion of traps, the vol­ume and fe­roc­ity of en­e­mies, or any other num­ber of dangers out there lurk­ing in the shad­ows could (and prob­a­bly will) change. You need to be on guard at all times.

How many lay­ers deep does this gar­gan­tuan ef­fort run? Piotrowski is keen to hold onto that in­for­ma­tion, but he would con­firm that Be­low is “by far the big­gest game that we’ve ever made.” He will later es­ti­mate that the game could run for 20-plus hours, com­par­ing

it to Di­ablo in his stride. Though, ul­ti­mately, the length of the game will largely de­pend on how ea­ger you are to ex­plore, how ex­pertly you make use of the var­i­ous short­cuts, and how quickly you be­come ac­quainted with the fast travel sys­tems put into place to aid pro­gres­sion and ex­plo­ration. That is an ele­ment of the game that we are yet to cover.

Early on in your ad­ven­ture you’ll en­counter some­thing that doesn’t quite fit with the nat­u­ral­is­tic set­ting en­coun­tered above ground. Stum­bled upon among the howl­ing winds, the thun­der­ing rain and the light­ning slic­ing through the night sky, a strange obelisk with a ques­tion mark hang­ing above it will re­veal it­self; as you ap­proach it a blue glow will be­gin to em­anate from the ground, cir­cling it, taunt­ing you closer. There’s a lantern of some kind and, af­ter ten­ta­tively pick­ing it up, with it you are able to mo­men­tar­ily pro­ject a bright beam of light in front of you, con­trolled with twin-stick shooter de­grees of pre­ci­sion.

But the lantern isn’t just used to pro­ject light on Be­low’s dark­est corners, it is in fact the tool in which the en­tire ad­ven­ture is pinned around.

“I knew you’d ask about that,” laughs Piotrowski. “Okay, so the lantern is sort of our Oca­rina of Time. The game is very much built around this mag­i­cal ob­ject and there’s only one in the whole game. So, if a char­ac­ter takes it down into the world and dies, it’s like they dropped the lit­tle ba­ton for the next char­ac­ter to come and pick up,” he con­tin­ues, be­fore giv­ing the small­est hint towards the wider story – some­thing he swore he wouldn’t do ear­lier in our con­ver­sa­tion. “You’re try­ing to get this lantern deeper and deeper into the game world.”

It’s funny. De­spite be­ing in de­vel­op­ment for seven years, there is just so much of Be­low that was never re­vealed to the pub­lic. The stu­dio is ea­ger to keep much of it a se­cret, in par­tic­u­lar the larger crea­tures and more star­tling set pieces play­ers can ex­pect to en­counter the fur­ther they push through the game. But there are some el­e­ments that we were able to get a taste of, largely by virtue of the fact that we have sharp eyes and in­quis­i­tive minds… okay, it’s be­cause we died so many times that we were able to pour over the finer de­tail of the first few lev­els, are you happy now?

“There is a cur­rency sys­tem, yes,” Piotrowski says, paus­ing, as we be­gin to ques­tion the lit­tle shin­ing white crys­tals drop­ping from en­e­mies as we hack, slash and des­per­ately at­tempt to dodge through as many of the lev­els as we could in the span of an hour. “If you find

enough of the lit­tle gems, the lit­tle crys­tals, they power your lit­tle lantern in the game.”

The light of this lantern can be used to open the doors that pro­vide short­cuts back to the sur­face – one in­stance of which we de­tailed ear­lier – though it also has other more prac­ti­cal uses. It pro­vides light in the dark­est of ar­eas, for one, giv­ing you fore­warn­ing of any pit­falls or death-in­duc­ing traps, though (and per­haps more im­por­tantly) it also pow­ers one of the two fast travel sys­tems in the game.

While the amount of gems it costs to power the lantern is cur­rently in flux (it costs

25 in the build we played, though Piotrowski notes that it may be re­duced to 10 ahead of launch), es­sen­tially you use gems to im­bue the lantern with a mag­i­cal en­ergy that can then be thrown into an open fire, turn­ing it blue and cre­at­ing an op­por­tu­nity for fast travel in your most des­per­ate hour of need. “If you’ve cre­ated a blue fire then, from any other fire [in the game], you can tele­port back to that one. So as you go through the game world you’re kind of set­ting these new check­points for your­self. How­ever, they’re not per­ma­nent. You can only use them once – it’s es­sen­tially your one shot to get back to your corpse.”

It’s lit­tle el­e­ments like this that demon­strate Capy’s com­mit­ment to mak­ing the rogue­like more ac­ces­si­ble. Piotrowski tells us that the ideal run for Be­low would see you mov­ing down a level, set­ting the bon­fire blue in an open pas­sage­way be­fore then at­tempt­ing to push on, clear­ing the room of its threats and des­per­ately search­ing for 25 more crys­tals to re­set the cy­cle. If you die in pur­suit of them, you are given a sin­gle do-over – leap­ing back to your po­si­tion from that bon­fire on the beach. Fail that time too and, well, you’ll have a lot of run­ning to do to get back to the all-im­por­tant lantern. “Your corpse drops with the lantern and all of its in­ven­tory, whether you found gear, or weapons, or cre­ated tools or stuff like that. Then you could, right from the beach, tele­port back there and you have one shot to get back to that corpse. If you fail at that point, then you go back to the beach as a new char­ac­ter, and the bon­fires are just re­set.”

In truth, Be­low isn’t the game we had ex­pected it to be. It’s so much more. Capy has cre­ated a haunt­ing and un­set­tling en­vi­ron­ment for us to tra­verse, im­bu­ing it with some truly won­der­ful me­chan­ics to en­cour­age play­ers to spend more time within its claus­tro­pho­bic cav­erns. It’s a taunt­ing night­mare, a chal­lenge that won’t eas­ily be con­quered, but it doesn’t feel unfair – quite the op­po­site, it feels per­fectly mea­sured. We can hardly be­lieve it, but af­ter seven years the wait for Be­low is al­most over, and we couldn’t be more ex­cited to spend more time un­cov­er­ing its mys­ter­ies.

Kris Piotrowski can hardly be­lieve that this jour­ney has al­most come to an end ei­ther. De­spite con­sum­ing seven years of his life, he’s

happy with the way the com­mu­nity has stuck with Capy­bara and Be­low. It is, in fact, a part of what has kept them go­ing strong through its dark­est of hours. “I’ve had my head down so much work­ing on the game, be­cause I’m gen­er­ally overly-stressed about how peo­ple are per­ceiv­ing Be­low, how long it’s tak­ing and all that stuff,” he tells us as we ques­tion whether it’s dif­fi­cult to re­main mo­ti­vated on pro­duc­tion. “I’m sort of al­ways feel­ing the flames un­der­neath me. But I will say that, yeah, from our per­spec­tive, the com­mu­nity that we have around Capy has been very sup­port­ive and very pos­i­tive. All of a sud­den any time I get a chance to talk to press about it, I’m sur­prised to see it has main­tained this in­trigue and mys­tery.”

“It’s got this lit­tle thing to it…” he says, getting lost in his own head. ‘Like an aura?’ we sug­gest. “Yeah, ex­actly, and it’s kind of just been there from the be­gin­ning; it hasn’t gone away for one rea­son or another. I’m sort of pleas­antly sur­prised about that… it’s had this kind of longevity. We’ve al­ways talked about Be­low as some­thing that was im­por­tant to the stu­dio – some­thing that we want to get right – and I think peo­ple just have put a lit­tle bit of faith in our work and given us the time to let it be­come what it is. That makes me very happy.

So what’s next for Kris Piotrowski? He won’t com­mit to set­ting a re­lease date in stone – that one has burnt him one too many times over the years. But the end is cer­tainly in sight, Be­low will be with us by the end of 2018, though there is still work to be com­pleted. “I will say that I’m not done yet. But this year has felt like we’re mov­ing towards it, towards re­lease. I’m work­ing on the fi­nal cut scenes; it’s all in front of me now.”

“It’s a lit­tle ter­ri­fy­ing but, yeah, hope­fully it will be cathar­tic… I’m def­i­nitely look­ing for­ward to think­ing about some­thing dif­fer­ent,” he tells us, adding with a smile: “Like Be­low 2…” erupt­ing into laugh­ter as he says it, wav­ing his hands out in front of him: “no, no! I’m jok­ing,

I’m good.”

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