Mahelyk: Going the Distance and a New, Bigger SCP: Blackout
Mahelyk (Kyle Frost) makes some games that I deeply appreciated. Outsiders from the Dread X Collection was an absolute mind-bending treat. His next collection game, The Toy Shop, followed in a similarly brain-melting way. They make games that fake you out. It’s that sense of “I don’t know what’s happening” that gets me every time. I recently got to sit down (virtually) with Mahelyk to talk about their upcoming game Going the Distance, along with their plans for a bigger, more-everything version of SCP: Blackout.
[NOTE: Edited for length and clarity]
DXP: So, without spoiling it, what can you tell me about Going the Distance?
Mahelyk: So Going the Distance is best described as a narrative-driven horror launcher game. You play as a younger brother whose older brother died in the army as a pilot. The game goes through his grief and helps commemorate his brother’s memories by throwing paper airplanes at different locations you shared memories with him. Or at least, that’s what’s supposed to happen…
DXP: With both Outsiders and The Toy Shop you made a name in “not what it seems”-type games. Can we expect more mind-twisting reveals in Going the Distance?
Mahelyk: Absolutely. Playing mind games and twists are what make game development fun for me. Outsiders and Toy Shop were both projects I had a week to make. Going The Distance has been several months, so I had time to really work through it. It has layers on layers on layers. You can play through once and get a satisfying story. If you play again and take the time to get all the secrets, you’ll notice there is actually another story. Take a deeper look in solving more riddles, and you’ll find even more truths about what’s going on.
DXP: Will we ever see a more expanded version of Outsiders? It ended with just enough of a tease that I, and I’m sure others, would love to see more of it.
Mahelyk: I think so. Dread X had come to me wanting to make it into a full game, but I think things got sidetracked, or I’m just really bad at business documentation. Even if they don’t, it was a cool game and the teasers version was just the first 1/3 of the story. So one day I think I’ll finish it fully, I just have to find the free time. There is a lot I could do with it since I only originally had a week to make it.
DXP: You’ve of course done a lot of work on the Dread X Collections. Is there a theme they could present that you would just have to work on?
Mahelyk: Honestly, I’m not sure. Probably a bunch of themes. Every time they announce one it already gets my mind racing with ideas of how to work around the concepts. But maybe something related to secret labs or a multiplayer sort of theme would be cool.
DXP: How was the SCP community’s reaction to Blackout? Did they readily accept the new lore?
Mahelyk: Well it was a little mixed, but overall pretty positive. There do seem to be some people that pop along and ask or complain about there being no peanut [SCP-173], but it seems like they are usually the young kids who don’t know much about SCP aside from some surface level stuff. Overall most people seem pleased to see new SCPs and content. I had actually thought everyone was going to hate it since it was all original. But the community support is what pushed me to make it in to the game it is today.
DXP: When making SCP: Blackout, what drove you to create original SCPs as opposed to using the beloved and already established creations?
Mahelyk: Honestly it was a big mix of things. For one, it felt more fun to make my own. A lot of official SCPs are very well written, but not specifically designed for game play mechanics. So I also didn’t want to have to change and edit someone else’s work to fit it in to my, at the time, tiny little project. So if I made my own, I could customize it and write around what I needed game wise from the SCPs. Also, everyone and their sister use the big mainstream SCPs like 176. Those basically feel like cash grabs half the time to me, so I didn’t want to do quick and easy like everyone else.
After we finish GTD I’m going to focus entirely on Blackout to finish survival mode 100%. This next update entirely replaces the first half with more polished and cinematic story telling with my new skills. It adds like 5 new maps. Then I’ll be reworking the ending as adding multiple endings and secrets to find. I actually plan to split the game in to two games, so at that point Survival will be it’s own game on Steam. It was only ever planned to be a 15 minute little demo. Now that it takes people like 4-7 hours to beat, it is it’s own game. It’ll be even longer after we finish it. But once we do get to that point, anyone who has Blackout in their Steam library will get the Story mode for free.
And this move to split the game is better so things are manageable for me. The game is just too big at this point, it makes it overwhelming to work on. But by breaking it down, I have goals and polish I can work on. Once Survival is totally done and polished and it’s own thing on Steam, I can then extract VR and make it it’s own free DLC or something. That way I can make desktop optimized and polished for desktop, and VR optimized and polished for VR. The game being able to do both is a major headache and kind of makes both sides weaker. So I think it is a good move overall for user experience.
DXP: What’s your dream project?
Mahelyk: My all time favorite types of games are co-op survival crafting games. Things like Ark, 7 Days to Die, Conan Exiles. My wife and I play endless hours of those. We have a game we are slowly writing up where I can build one of our own. My wife has a long way to go learning modeling before we could really start making that sort of game, but the ideas so far seem to have some fresh ideas. And of course, it will look nice and cutesy but have some scary aspects, I just can’t help it.
DXP: What comes after Going the Distance? Any ideas kicking around?
Mahelyk: Oh totally. For Going the Distance, I finally tried to make a game studio so it wasn’t just me and some help from Jory Stultz. So we have have me, Jory, an assistant writer DaRainbowCat, a marketing manager Kaiser, a QA manager NeetGeek who helps bug test and control the balance of the game, and to a limited degree, my wife as a modeler. Overall it’s still mostly on me working in engine, but they all help take the weight off me in a ton of ways and help so we can make higher quality games.
All of that being said, we plan to hit SCP: Blackout in full force after we finish Going the Distance. GTD was a sort of trial run to see how the team works together, and it’s been awesome. So after we finish and polish Blackout Survival 100%, then we will move on to Blackout Story mode, which has all new maps, story, characters. A whole new game basically. You even play as a researcher, so the main character is different. There’s a lot of cool stuff we have planned.
DXP: Anything to say to the internet horror game community-at-large?
Mahelyk: I’m not sure, I guess not. If anyone is fans of my games so far, we just rebranded, so the logo you’re familiar with is a little different. I used to use the Blackout logo as my main branding, but since I now have so many games, we figured it was better to move to studio branding so we have fans of the studio, and not just fans of the games. It’ll probably hurt us for a bit, but help in the long term. Especially since we have so many games planned in the future. It just takes time to make them.