Scorn certainly made a splash at Microsoft’s Xbox Series X showcase this month. Or rather, it made a wet glopping sound as biomechanical knob extended from a wall and oozed what looked a lot like semen during the game’s new trailer. Yet that was far from the first we’d seen of the game. The horror-shooter has been in development since at least 2015, with trailers from that time showing a lot more gameplay than the decidedly light showcase.
Not that Ljubomir Peklar, Game Director at Serbian studio Ebb Software, seems happy about that.
“I said it quite a few times, if I had the all the resources needed to develop [Scorn] without the public knowing about it I most certainly would,” Peklar told us over an email interview. “You would be probably hearing about the game for the first time now and thinking it’s a new game.”
Those “few times” include a post on the game’s Kickstarter that coincided with the showcase on May 7. Fans donated a total of €192,487 to the project in October 2017 — with what turned out to be an optimistic planned release date for the first half of Scorn, then titled “Dasein,” in 2018. And that newest Kickstarter update addresses things “like long development time and slow, infrequent updates” by the developers.
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Dasein, for the record, translates to “being there,” “presence,” or “existence” in English. It’s also a foundational concept to the birth of existentialism — popularized by philosopher Martin Heidegger, who was unfortunately also a Nazi. Though that reference seems to have been removed from the title. Scorn will now release as a single, complete game on Xbox Series X and various PC stores, rather than in two parts.
Peklar spoke quite broadly about the actual philosophy the team is attempting to adapt through Scorn itself. the themes apparently reflect the director’s “own philosophical world views that have been percolating inside [his] mind for years.”
Visually, Scorn has drawn far more comparisons to the works of other late European figures: H.R. Giger and Zdzisław Beksiński. Another horror game at the showcase, The Medium, seemed much more influenced by the latter artist — particularly in terms of color palette. Whereas Scorn works more in the gunmetal grays and obvious sexual imagery of Giger, who contributed to the Alien movie franchise. Alien (and more-so its sequel Aliens) heavily influenced decades of game design in turn. So you might think a first-person shooter pulling from that milieu would be taking the whole thing full circle.
But Peklar positions this more like a inevitable coincidence than an outright inspiration.
“I was drowning in their art for a very long time because their work closely represents thoughts that preoccupy me personally,” he said. He later added that when one starts “dabbling” with themes like “organism as structure that defined our existence up to this point fused with our own mechanical creations in a ridiculous dance of libido and death,” or “existential dread of an ever-dying world consumed by entropy,” comparisons to the “masters” are inevitable. So they “just embraced it.” Though there aren’t any direct references to Giger or Beksiński anywhere on the game’s Kickstarter pitch or its official website.
When I asked if Scorn would “forge more of its own visual identity as the game progresses,” Peklar seemed to lose patience with the comparisons, implying that I’m perhaps unable to see past the influence.
“I’m not sure I quite understand the question,” he replied. “This is the visual identity, and it’s not just Giger copy-pasted. It has its own identity, and since your brain can only connect it to Giger you see it as just that. I would suggest looking a bit closer.”
The game’s own, specific setting will also apparently be up to the players to determine.
“There is no dialogue, everything is implied through the environment,” Peklar added. “Think of it in a similar vein as an expressionist movie. It’s not on us to explain that journey beforehand, especially outside of the game, but for players to experience it and ask themselves about it.”
Even so, we know how players will primarily interact with these heady concepts in-game… guns. Scorn is still a shooter, as previously mentioned, despite the showcase trailer not reiterating that fact. And Peklar elaborated that “gunplay is based on ammo management.” The unnerving visuals are meant to add tension to the shooting, since “people lose their ability to perform mechanical tasks under constant stress.”
Players will be able to open fire on this ridiculous dance of libido and death when Scorn launches on Xbox Series X and PC. There is currently no scheduled release date (for the game or the console, for that matter.