I have several interviews coming! It’s been a productive couple of weeks while I make my way back from illness, so it built up quite the backlog of content. Today’s interview is with Ivan Devyatko, screenwriter at Magnum Scriptum, and co-developer of Quasimorph. It launched earlier in October in Early Access, and you can buy the game right now on Steam and GOG. In the meantime, enjoy the interview!
Let’s start off with an introduction! Please tell me who you are, and what do you do?
My name is Ivan Devyatko. I am a philosopher and tabletop RPG enthusiast. And we are independent developers of video games. Now I work on my Ph.D grade thesis and my blog about RPG and especially old school revival movement. And we work on Quasimorph, the extraction-roguelike game.
What game/studio are you currently involved with?
We are Magnum Scriptum, little but strong team, with some assistance by with HypeTrain Digital as publisher. Now we are working on our main project – Quasimorph. This game surprises everyone, even us. Our game designer is surprised by it’s game design; Our coder is surprised by its code; I am surprised by its narrative and lore. Maybe only our sound designer and composer isn’t surprised by the game’s soundtrack. The soundtrack unbelievable amazing. No, I’m serious, you guys.
What advice would you give those who wish to enter the industry?
You should be prepared to work for free without weekends, and armed only with hope that your game is everything that players dreamt about.
If you still have time to play video games, what are some of your favorite ones to play?
You should understand that I am a narrative designer and script when you going to read this list. Um, okay, my favorite video games are: Kerbal Space Program, Factorio, RimWorld, Stellaris, Surviving Mars, BattleTech, Oxygen not Included, ******* Hell, Sword of the Stars: The Pit, DoomRL, Axiom Verge… Well, now I’m thinking that I love not an emergent gameplay, just games about space…
How did you get into your chosen field in the industry?
I have a blog about RPG with some hardcore sophisticated metaphysical view on this hobby. I place some of my settings ideas there too. And at one day I receive messages from one cool guy, Sergey. He told me that he has a friend with related development experience, Alexey. And then they both told me that they have an idea about space rogue-like game where is should be demons, corporations and questionable ethics and cool soulless (literally) mercenaries. But they have no any ideas about some ‘fluff’ around this idea, and they need my literary craftsman skills.
To be honest with ya all, I made a poker face and woodenly said, “Thank you, I’m going to think about your offer”. Well, when we parted, I’ve started to jump for joy. Sergey, Alexey, now you know… So, I think that our sound designer, Evgeny, has a story similar to my own.
What is the hardest part of your job?
This may shock but hardest part of my job is to continue enjoy my hobby and passion when it turned into the job. You should know about this trap too if you want to enter the industry.
What lessons have you learned during your time in the industry?
My main lesson was: I am not a genius writer. Moreover genius writers, designers, coders, and composers are a bad thing for this job. The genius is good maybe for solo masterpieces, like a Witness, Distraint, or Don’t Escape. When you work with the team, you should be ready for constant compromises and be able to negotiate. If you ready for this, then you will be awarded with something better than genius mind. You will be awarded with genius team. I think that Magnum Scriptum got close to this status.
What are your future project(s)?
We have one future project: bring to perfection Quasimorph. We should deliver on the promises that we make for our players, and we should heed feedback of them all. We are quite able to do this. And maybe then, when Quasimorph will be completed…
If you couldn’t be a game developer, what ideal job would you like to do?
My ideal job is teacher of analytic philosophy. Now I divided between Magnum Scriptum and the University.
What were your greatest challenges during the development of Quasimorph?
My own greatest challenge was and remains a conversion boiled bright and chaotic ideas in Sergey’s head to acceptable narrative ready-to-use material. I can really tell you, that It is difficult job. Imagine, you receive in the middle of the night urgent message: “I have an Idea! What if we drag the player in love with a demon princess? Give me your vision of this in the morning”. Large amount of technical issues with localization, text’s length, lore summarizing, fusing various references and so on seems as a rest after that urgent task.
What are your plans for Quasimorph during 2023 and beyond?
We have a roadmap on our Steam page. In Q4 of 2023 we should make plot missions, new range of weapon (be ready for chemical warfare) and deep balance rework. Also, we have a plan for more smooth immerse in the game and its plot: tutorial, necessary explanations, tips, examples of game mechanics usage, etc. During 2024 we plan to gradually work on all planned features: spacecraft upgrades, all habited planets and other space bodies, more plot missions that will connect into grand campaign and so on, and so on.
What games were your greatest inspirations in designing Quasimorph?
In the first edition of Dungeons & Dragons, there was an “Appendix N”. It was list of inspirational materials not only for designate author’s inspiration but for inspire players too. Our Appendix N here:
(movies) Event Horizon (1997), Hellraiser (1987), Pandorum (2009), Alien (1979) and Alien Resurrection (1997), The Thing (1981), Sunshine (2007), Apollo 8 (2011), Creature (1985), ****** 3 (1980), Star Crystal (1986), even Shocking Dark (1989) and Jason X (2001);
(books) “The Stars my Destination” (A. Bester), “Schismatrix” (B. Sterling), “Blindsight” and “Echopraxia” (P. Watts), Stand on Zanzibar (J. Brunner), Tomorrow and Tomorrow (T. Sweterlitsch), all books of W. Gibson, great series of James S.A. Corey of course, and some novels of Arkady and Boris Strugatsky;
(philosophical treatises) “Rose of World” (D. Andreev), “The Concept of Mind” (G. Ryle), “Reasons and Persons” (D. Parfit), “Mind, Brain, and Free Will” (R. Swinburne), “For a New Liberty”, “Anatomy of the State”, and “Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays” (M. Rothbard), “Das Kapital” (K. Marx), “Anti-Dühring” (F. Engels);
(video games) “Rogue” (1980), “DRL” (2002) and other rogue-likes, and maybe heavy-influence of “Escape from Tarkov” (2017) or “Hunt: Showdown” (2019);
(RPG) “Eclipse Phase” (2009), “Fragged Empire” (2014), Stars without Number (2010);
(Animated Series) Planetes (1999-2004), Cowboy Bebop (1998), and suddenly Chainsaw Man (2022).
We have vocabulary and some ideas that emerge from “Rose of the World” by Daniil Andreev. This is Russian “Silver Age” mystic and poet. Quasimorph also have strong Lovecraft’s influence, and mystical movements of the past and present are influencing it too.
What is your ideal video game if money and time was no object?
My ideal video game is extraction shooter-like mixed with rogue-like with sandbox gameplay and extensive plot lines. Oh my gosh, I’ve just realize that I already work on my ideal game.
More about You
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Tabletop RPG is my passion and life. I run it at any spare time that I have.
Coffee or Tea? Or (exult deep breath) what other drink do you prefer, if you like neither?
My favorite drink is milk and hot chocolate with marshmallows. You know? Coffee is poison for me, tea is boring. But you should know that all other in Magnum Scriptum drinks coffee all the time. Large amount of coffee. This is half of the answer on “How you work so fast?” The other part is… well… black magic.
You can travel to anywhere in the universe. Where would you go, and why?
I want to see attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion and C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. I hope after death Celestial Powers will allow us to do this.
Pick any three fiction characters. These are now your roadtrip crew. Where do you go and what do you do?
Mark Corrigan (Peep Show) because I’m like him. Snake Plissken (Escape from New York) because he is being fantastical. Siri Keeton (Blindsight, P. Watts novel) because he is universal interpreter. We will go to the Arcosanti experimental town near Phoenix, Arizona because this is a symbol of optimistic dream of the human future. And we all will rest until Last Judgement. When it comes, we will defend the arcology against demons of Hell. You probably think that doom guy is a better choice, but he’ll be busy somewhere near Mars.