Matthew Carmack has been working tirelessly on Kara’s Darkness for years. However, he’s only just released the first chapter on Steam. That being said, the game comes across as polished and well-made. After all, it wouldn’t have won the University of California Riverside’s Best Game 2018 otherwise.
Based in the Los Angeles area, Mr. Carmack has music background. He graduated with a degree in it. However, his passion has always been video games, or more specifically, video game soundtracks. This passion led him to want to create video games, which is how Kara’s Darkness was born.
Despite having no prior video game experience, Mr. Carmack started on the game several years ago. And, as far as initial releases are concerned, the game is incredibly competent. At least, it’s well above par compared to other recent Steam entries. We sat down with Mr. Carmack to talk about his foray into video game development, and future plans for the game. Below is how our conversation played out, lightly edited for the sake of clarity. You can find Kara’s Darkness on Steam.
Kara’s Darkness went through a Beta a few months ago. What kind of feedback did you get, and how did it help with the game’s development?
Much of the feedback I got was related to confusion about your objectives and motivations. When presenting the story, I didn’t want to belittle the intelligence of players or “hold their hand” through the whole game. I wanted to give players a chance to figure stuff out for themselves, without the game explicitly telling you what to do. But of course, that is a precarious balancing act.. You don’t want your players too frustrated. Trying to remove some of that confusion about what to do next was the main outcome of the Beta I’d say.
Chapter One has just been released on Steam. Are there many other chapters planned? Will they be close sequels, or will they be focused on different chapters of Kara’s life?
Kara’s Darkness was a long story about this specific time in Kara’s life. Chapter One only covers about 10% of the story. Each chapter will be an immediate sequel from where the last chapter left off. The reason for the chapter-by-chapter release was to cut down on development cost and to gauge fan interest.
Do you have a particular timeframe as to when more chapters to the game will be released?
At this point, development has not yet begun on the next chapters. The size and budget of the next chapter will really depend on the success of Chapter One. It is hard to gauge the scope of the project without knowing what resources I have available to work with yet. Though, I will make sure to update fans with information as it comes along.
Kara’s Darkness is the work of a one-person team. How difficult was it for you to create the game, especially given that your background is in music instead of video game development?
I started this project with absolutely no game development or programming experience. Luckily for me, Unreal Engine has been a very helpful resources for beginners. Also, there is a YouTube video out there for just about anything you want to know. The difficulty wasn’t in the work itself as much as in figuring out what I need to learn in order to do this.
Given that you’re a one-man team, were there many particularly challenging aspects of development? Anything that was harder to overcome than the rest?
3D modelling definitely. Being a one-man team, you have to know how to do everything. 3D modelling is very complicated and I had no idea how to begin. I had to stop working on gameplay so I could learn how to model. It was a detour that ate up a lot of time and effort. I wish I could have dedicated someone to focus on that, but there was only me so I had to overcome it myself.
Kara’s Darkness obviously deals with some dark subject matter – such as an abusive father, etc. Needless to say, it doesn’t really shy away too much from them. Was there a point where you thought that you might have to shy away from certain aspects? Or was it more of a means to tell the story realistically?
I saw a lot of articles a while back about Detroit: Become Human. In a preview of the game there were scenes of domestic abuse. Many thought it was in poor taste, that this company was making money of real suffering that real people experience. It really made me reconsider how appropriate my game was. Despite this, I feel art needs to tackle those hard subjects. Things don’t get better by ignoring them, but by confronting them head-on.
The game has already won an award – the Best Game in the University of California Riverside MCS Development Build 2018. During the game’s development, were you expecting this king of positive reaction?
This is my first ever video game. Everyone says you’re guaranteed to fail spectacularly the first time you try anything like this. In the very beginning, I wanted to get this game over with as soon as possible so I could get that first failure out of the way. But, people thought it was cool and really liked what I was doing. I changed my outlook and started to view Kara’s Darkness as something with great potential.
Given that the game has a pretty realistic storyline, how much did you draw from your own life? Or was it a matter of it being a plausible story you needed to tell?
I am a bit weary of getting into too much detail. Let’s just say Kara’s story is loosely based on my own life. Kara’s Darkness is about self-blame and self-hatred. It’s about how to accept yourself when you feel worthless. While that is a struggle I drew from my own life, I feel it’s a struggle many others deal with as well.
So far, the game is only on Steam. Are there plans to release it on the likes of GoG.com and other PC distributors?
There are no plans for a release outside of Steam right now. This may change if people seem interested, but as of now, not really.