There were a handful of exciting games featured during Monday's Day of the Devs Summer Game Fest Developer Showcase stream, some showing off entirely unique concepts and styles. Among the most eye-opening was Mundaun, from the one-person development team at Hidden Fields. This is more than a horror experience, it's one that's entirely crafted with a pencil-drawn art style.
To get a deeper look at Mundaun, Shacknews reached out to solo developer Michael Ziegler to ask about the game's distinct visual style, its mythical inspirations, and more.
Shacknews: What can you tell me about Mundaun and its story?
Michael Ziegler, Hidden Fields studio founder: Mundaun is a mountain in a secluded valley of the alps. It is inspired by a real place that I have visited since I was born. That is why I had the idea to use it as the unique and rich setting for a fictional tale. The protagonist Curdin receives a letter from the village priest that notifies him of his grandfathers death. Something doesn’t feel right, so Curdin makes the journey up to Mundaun to find out what really happened. It doesn't take long for him to discover that the place does harbour old secrets.
Shacknews: The art style looks really interesting. When did you first decide to take the hand-penciled style and run with it?
Ziegler: I love physical things and to draw and paint on actual paper. It's the most natural way for me to work. I initially experimented with pen and ink as well, but the softness and versatility of the pencil felt like a much better fit for creating textures that would end up on 3D models. Much more forgiving than hard pen lines, too.
Shacknews: How does the hand-pencil art style help feed into the horror aesthetic?
Ziegler: For me a pencil drawing has an archaic quality to it. And Mundaun as a place feels very old and out of time. There’s a lot of wood and stone. Materials that gain an almost abstract quality when rendered with pencil, which I think works well for a horror game. And of course the fact that it is black and white gives it that really old and oppressive feel.
Shacknews: What can you tell me about the mythology and the folklore that inspired the story?
Ziegler: There's so many little folk tales and stories that are quite dark but usually very much grounded in the place they originate from. They are about hard-working folk, farmers and their hopes, fears and superstitions. I used to love them a lot as a child, as they opened almost like a parallel universe to dive into. And that feeling is exactly what I am trying to achieve with Mundaun. It's a very serene, quiet, place where time moves slowly, but there also is darkness behind that.
Shacknews: What were the difficulties in working on this as a solo developer?
Ziegler: Just the amount of time everything takes. The feeling that nothing gets done, if I am not working. That made it hard to make a clean break between work on the game and free time. There was always an absolutely massive list of things to do, which if I wasn’t careful was haunting me in my designated time off. I have a pretty strict schedule now, but sometimes it's still hard to let go. Especially after a day where progress was slow, the temptation to work into the night to make up for it is pretty big.
Shacknews: Mundaun's story involves taking on a mysterious, malevolent entity. What tools will players have to help aid them in their journey?
Ziegler: As they learn more about the logic of the world and who they are dealing with, they also gain an understanding on what can be done to take on this adversary. They will also have help from some of the inhabitants of Mundaun (but not others), find items that have a strange power against the dark forces and make some choices of consequence.
Shacknews: What's something about Mundaun's setting that you hope players will learn after playing this game?
Ziegler: That there's nothing mundane about it. Everything is possible. This place has its own internal logic.
Mundaun is coming to PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in early 2021.