The Gorkhon Archives

Development History

This article will be updated periodically as new information is made available.

Pathologic (2005)

Ice-Pick Lodge was founded in 2002 by Nikolay Dybowski, Ayrat Zakirov, and Peter Potapov. The original idea for Pathologic came from the long-form Dungeons & Dragons campaign that Nikolay used to run called "Rebellion". The core theme of it was "utopia", a theme that was transfered over to the story of Pathologic. The story of Rebellion ended up expanding so far outside of its original scope that he began pursuing the idea of turning it into a video game. [1]

After being rejected by several different programmers, Nikolay was able to get in touch with Ayrat Zakirov, a programmer who had previously only done commission work and made some small games of his own. [2] Ayrat was made the CTO of Ice-Pick Lodge and brought on Peter Potapov (3D Modeler/Design), Ekaterina Romashkina (Animation), and Alexey Bakhvalov (Lead Programmer). [1]

Ayrat and Peter were asked to create a simple, cheap game engine for the project, since Nikolay wasn't very concerned with graphics and was perfectly content with Pathologic being a text adventure game. Instead, Ayrat and Peter (with the help of Alexey) created a 3D game engine from scratch that they ended up making a demo with. During this time, Nikolay wrote the game's design document. He also wrote a studio manifesto that was shown to all potential employees, which was readily available on Ice-Pick Lodge's old website. [1]

Details of the Ice-peak Engine as shown on The Void's official website. [3]

When it came time to show the demo and design document to a publisher, the project was received rather poorly because of how short the document was and how buggy the demo was. Eventually, their project was taken on by Buka Entertainment and given $250,000 ($86,000 initially) and 2 years to complete development. After missing its original deadline, the game was finally released on June 9th, 2005 as Pathologic (RU: Мор: Утопия). [1]

The English-language localization was released on August 18th, 2006 by G2 Games. A German translation was published by Frogster Interactive on April 20th, 2006 based on the English translation. [4, 5] The English translation is notoriously bad amongst those who played the original game. Some lines were completely cut from the game to save on expenses. [6] The developers have also said that it left out a lot of the nuance of the original Russian script. According to lead animator Igor Pokrovsky (hwynac), the poor translation came from a low budget. It was partially translated in-house and partially outsourced to Russian commission agencies to get the rest of the job done. [7]

Pathologic sold around 50,000 copies in Russia and was universally loved by critics, winning awards such as "Best Game of the Year" on Playground.ru and "Best Russian Game of the Year" on GamesLife.ru. [8]

Post-release events

In 2008, three years after the release of Pathologic, Ice-Pick Lodge released The Void (also known as Tension). Vasily Kashnikov joined Ice-Pick Lodge as a composer for the game and became an important fixture in the sound department of future projects. Nikolay expressed his dissatisfaction with the final product due to it straying too far from his original vision, mainly in regard to the game being dialogue-heavy. [1]

Later, they released Cargo! The Quest for Gravity in 2011. The beginnings of this project were seen during development of The Void, where Ayrat had developed an interesting physics model. He and Peter led the project going forward and aimed to make a simple children's game that would bring the studio a lot of money. [1]

Following the success of Cargo!, Ice-Pick Lodge was introduced to Bob Waltz of Gameforge, a German video game publisher, who encouraged the team to develop an MMO based on Cargo! They were offered around 6 million dollars to begin production and would've had to sign a contract, but in the end the publishing agreement never went through. [1]

A Kickstarter for their game Knock-Knock was launched July 26th, 2012 and reached its goal by September 11th. Around the same time, Ice-Pick Lodge launched their own in-house crowdfunding platform, Strings. [9] Through Strings, they received another $3,271 to help fund the game. Knock-Knock came out in 2013. [10]

Pathologic 2

The initial announcement of a Pathologic remake came through a November 2013 announcement on VK where Ice-Pick Lodge were seeking out participants for a Kickstarter promo. [11] The Kickstarter for the game was officially launched on September 4th, 2014 under the name title Pathologic (RU: Мор). According to the project page, the fundraiser is mainly to make the game more detailed and fleshed-out, as the dev team already had funding from external sources. In addition, they planned to create a Pathologic tabletop game with help from CapsLock Games. Many of the campaign's stretch goals were meant to add to the world-building and add new content. [12]

A graphic from the Pathologic Kickstarter page that shows their stretch goals. [12]

They reached half of their original $250,000 goal by the next day, and by the time the Kickstarter ended on October 7th, they surpassed their goal and received $333,027 in total. They also were able to meet their stretch goal for "The Town Extended", generally adding a lot more content to the Town itself. The team would hit their next few stretch goals, "The Steppe Extended," on July 2nd 2015, and later "Lucid Dreaming" on April 12th, 2016. [13] The Strings platform opened once again to help fund the game and received $5,737 in the end. [9]

Much of Pathologic's early development was spent in pre-production. As a result, this led to a lot of crunching when it came time to actually work on building the game. According to employees, it was all self-directed -- never forced by higher-ups -- and only came about as necessary as opposed to being a continuous thing. [14]

Once Ice-Pick Lodge entered the active development stage, they chose to create the game using Unity engine. This was mainly due to their previous experience with it in making Knock-Knock, large community support, and Unity not requiring a cut of sales revenue with its license. [14]

Ice-Pick Lodge kept in touch with supporters during Pathologic 2's development through social media, Kickstarter updates, and the Backer Portal. The Pathologic Backer Portal launched on April 17th, 2015 and replaced the previous Strings platform. Here, backers through both Strings and Kickstarter would be able to manage their pledges and customize their future rewards. [15] In addition, backers were able to purchase Pathologic merchandise (e.g. posters) and pre-order the game through the portal. Ice-Pick Lodge officially stopped their crowdfunding campaign on August 29th, 2017. The Backer Portal is currently only available to previous backers. [13]

A remaster of the original Pathologic was announced on October 7th, 2015. This time around, the game would be featuring an updated translation, visuals, and support for modern screen resolutions. [16] It was published by Good Shepherd Entertainment (f.k.a. Gambitious Entertainment) and featured visual upgrades courtesy of General Arcade. It was released October 29th as Pathologic Classic HD and is now considered the definitive way to experience the original Pathologic. [17]

On August 23rd, 2016, it was announced that Pathologic 2's release would be delayed until Autumn 2017. The reason given for this delay was that the game had gone from "a humble rejuvenation" to "a full-fledged reimagining" and would thus require more time to polish. [13]

In September, the Pathologic Tabletop was officially completed and ready for shipping. [13]

On December 1st, Ice-Pick Lodge released the pre-alpha build of Pathologic: The Marble Nest, which was available to any backers eligible for alpha access. It exists as a self-contained story taking place in the Stone Yard quarter of the Town and uses assets already created for the full game. They say the game mainly serves as an alpha to show investors/press, to attempt building the town for the first time, and to get early feedback from backers. In February 2017, the beta version of The Marble Nest was released and made available to backers with beta access, and finally released for free to everyone on March 14th. [13]

On August 31st, it was announced that tinyBuild was going to be the publisher for Pathologic 2. Between then and September 7th, a few more details about the recent news were revealed. Partnering with tinyBuild gave Ice-Pick Lodge a greater budget to put into the game's development, as well as giving them a greater marketing team. TinyBuild also provided valuable feedback to the team on any issues with the game and at least partially influenced the addition of a Difficulty Slider. [14] The game's title was also changed to Pathologic 2 to differentiate it from the original. In addition, a playable demo of Pathologic 2 (not the Marble Nest) was going to be shown at PAX West 2017. [13]

In April 2018, Ice-Pick Lodge released updated gifs and screenshots of the game and explained some of the new mechanics and additions. At this point in development, most of the game mechanics were officially implemented and mainly needed tweaking (mainly AI behavior). In June, they released another progress report exploring the trade/barter, infection, and save/load systems, among other aspects of the game. It was also mentioned that most of the work was now being put into scripting the story, as most of the assets were finally completed. [13]

The official alpha build of Pathologic 2 was announced on August 8th. It was officially released through Steam on August 23rd to alpha-access backers and a week later to beta-access backers. The dev team was very open to feedback and provided a link to send bug reports, sent a survey to backers, and created a Backer Steam forum as well as a Discord server. The Public Alpha build was released on September 11th and made available to anyone who signed up for it. [13] While it is no longer available through the official sign-up link, the demo installer is up for download on this page.

By the end of the year, Nikolay Dybowski announced that the game would be delayed once more until the second quarter of 2019. A deal with one of the studio's investors fell through back in April 2015 due to development taking place during the middle of the financial crisis in Russia. [14] In addition, the team wanted to spend more time taking feedback from the alpha release into account and further polish the game to make it more accessible. It was also revealed that the game's three routes (Bachelor, Haruspex, and Changeling) would be released in parts, with the Haruspex's route being the first release. [13]

The official release date was announced for May 29th, 2019 through a trailer that was uploaded on their Youtube channel.

Download keys for Pathologic 2 were given to backers on May 20th, 2019 and the game was officially released three days early on May 26th, 2019. [13]

Haruspex route reception

Pathologic 2 received positive to mixed reviews by most gaming publications, receiving an average score of 69/100 on Metacritic. Positive reviews praised the game's atmosphere, with Slant Magazine writing "Few games are as transportive as this..." [18] Most critics brought up the difficulty of the game and described many of the game's systems as frustrating, which was either seen as a negative or a positive. Games Mail.ru in particular writes, "With Pathologic, it is very difficult to understand where bad game design ends and the author's idea begins." [19] In contrast, user reviews on Metacritic are overwhelmingly positive, with an average score of 8.8/10. [18] Independent critics such as MandaloreGaming and RagnarRox have extensively praised the game and its improvements to the original game. Both gave a recommendation to play the game if their videos managed to pique the viewer's interest.[20, 21]

On August 23rd, 2019, an interview with members of Ice-Pick Lodge was released on DTF.ru. In the interview, it was revealed that the game sold very poorly and that the studio would have to shrink from over 20 to only 4-5 employees. Going forward, the developers intended to work on mobile games and other projects to recuperate their losses and deliver on Kickstarter rewards. [14] In the comments section of the article, Dybowski cleared up fans' worries and insisted that they "will work to the bitter end," although he also mentioned there was fatigue surrounding work on Pathologic. He also teased extra content that would be unveiled at PAX that year. [22]

The following week, the official teaser for The Marble Nest was shown at PAX West 2019. It was to be released as a free DLC add-on for anyone who already owned the PC version of the game. [13] According to a later interview, it was revealed that Zakirov had proposed the DLC's release and had initially received some pushback by the studio head. [23] The Marble Nest DLC was officially released on October 28th. [13]

The Xbox One edition of Pathologic 2 was released on December 17th and was made available for free on Xbox Game Pass. The PS4 version was released on March 6th, 2020 and download keys were given to backers two weeks later. [13]

On the 23rd of the same month, Ice-Pick Lodge did another interview with DTF and expanded on future projects. The studio had received enough revenue as a result of the Xbox Game Pass release to put more resources into delivering on backer rewards. They also teased two new projects: Know By Heart (led by Ayrat) and Franz (led by Nikolay). [23]

A big update was posted to IPL's Teletype blog on July 6th on the studio's current projects. More detail was given on Know By Heart and Franz. A new game, Neuro Skazka, was announced to be in development with Nemo Soda. They also confirmed that the Bachelor route of Pathologic 2 was currently in progress. [24]

More detail on the Bachelor route was released in a podcast posted to Ice-Pick Lodge's VK page on February 28th, 2021. [25] Little was revealed about new gameplay, but they did reveal that the mind map for each character would be different and emphasized the passage of time in the Bachelor route. They also confirmed that backer rewards were still in production. [26]


Sources

[1] In the Society of Dead Poets - https://thegorkhonarchives.neocities.org/files/dead_poets.pdf

[2] Ayrat Zakirov from Ice-Pick Lodge — on Bugulma, memory and his new game. - https://docs.google.com/document/d/10uHKpQlRJ77Vv6JxZMpG_Ws6dBls7pFRapzz5nuoKtk/edit

[3] The Void official website - https://tension-game.com/about_en.php

[4] Pathologic (2005) Release Info - Moby Games - https://www.mobygames.com/game/pathologic/release-info

[5] Developer comments from Ice-Pick Lodge Discord server (1) - https://discord.com/channels/380143907855663108/395624606976966656/827963683216293918

[6] Developer comment (2) - https://discord.com/channels/380143907855663108/380143908526620713/774142222080802816

[7] Developer comment (3) - https://discord.com/channels/380143907855663108/381229124523655168/671265426147246081

[8] Pathologic (2005) website archive - https://web.archive.org/web/20080706154112/http://www.pathologic-game.com/eng_index.htm

[9] Facebook post about Strings - https://www.facebook.com/icepicklodge/posts/493146100704965

[10] Strings - https://strings.ice-pick.com/

[11] Ice-Pick Lodge Forum post - https://forum.ice-pick.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=13377

[12] Pathologic (Мор.Утопия) Kickstarter - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1535515364/pathologic/description

[13] Kickstarter updates - https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1535515364/pathologic/posts

[14] “Sometimes it’s more beneficial to lose a war than to win it...”: big interview with IPL about Pathologic - https://docs.google.com/document/d/1rspRgTeAZDtSrfS2cO1uaYqgO_VssAvPyoOHNNqvJVY/edit

[15] Facebook post about Backer Portal - https://www.facebook.com/icepicklodge/posts/938684719539074

[16] Classic HD announcement post - https://ice-pick.com/en/classic-ice-picks-not-really/#more-278

[17] Pathologic Classic HD - Moby Games - https://www.mobygames.com/game/windows/pathologic-classic-hd

[18] Pathologic 2 Critic Reviews - Metacritic - https://www.metacritic.com/game/pc/pathologic-2/critic-reviews

[19] GamesMail.ru Pathologic 2 Review (translated through Yandex) - https://games.mail.ru/pc/articles/review/mor/

[20] MandaloreGaming - Pathologic 2 Review (Youtube) - https://youtu.be/E7uKUgire7Y

[21] RagnarRox - Pathologic 2 is an Underrated Masterpiece (Youtube) - https://youtu.be/q00T0xxj2o0

[22] DTF.ru interview comments - https://dtf.ru/gamedev/65410-inogda-vygodnee-proigrat-voynu-chem-vyigrat-ee-bolshoe-intervyu-s-ice-pick-lodge-o-more?comment=2723636

[23] “Ice-Pick Lodge is alive and not going to die”: a talk with Pathologic creators — on motivation and future projects. - https://docs.google.com/document/d/16w2O2BKO7nb5QQORrOMxJ5xqx-grsnApTKNCDJ1Cn6E/edit

[24] "What we do at Ice-Pick Lodge": new games, plans and more - IPL Teletype Blog - https://teletype.in/@icepicklodge/6Y5GpS2c4

[25] IPL Podcast (2/28/2021) - https://vk.com/wall-33165854_39850

[26] Translation of IPL's Podcast (2/28/2021) - https://thegorkhonarchives.neocities.org/files/Translation_of_IPLs_last_podcast.docx