2020 in video games: Ice-Pick Lodge’s Nikolay Dybowski on survival, time and Tamagotchi

Just days before Christmas, we caught up with Nikolay Dybowski, head of Ice-Pick Lodge, the studio behind the Pathologic series.

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Nikolay Dybowski, head of Ice-Pick Lodge

Nikolay, how did 2020 treat Ice-Pick Lodge?

If you mean the pandemic and the economic crisis, I think that we did not feel much of a difference from previous years. Everything was about the same as after any long-term project. A difficult recovery time, overcoming fatigue, dwindling cash flows. Attempts to rebuild the workflow, take errors into account and understand how to develop further. It always takes effort and work. Compared to having to save the studio, the pandemic seems to be of secondary importance.

What new trends in your niche would you say deserve attention? 

An excessive abundance of good games, movies, and events and not nearly enough time for all of them. Time becomes one of the most expensive resources. The art of packing a concentrated and saturated experience into the shortest period of time, half an hour or an hour, while still allowing players to fully enjoy this experience, can be the key to the survival of an indie developer in the near future. Twelve Minutes [developed by Luis Antonio, published by Annapurna Interactive] is a pretty close example, waiting for the release.

Any general trends across the video games industry that stand out to you?

That’s the kind of language I simply do not operate in. Understanding market trends is a separate profession. Unfortunately, I do not get it, and I do not want to act as Mr. Smarty Pants.

As a studio, what are you going to strategically focus on in 2021??

We will focus on experiments with a small form. But in general, our studio has been concentrating on the same thing since 2001. Survival. It’s not as bad as it sounds. Just keeping the studio running, continuing to work despite the difficulties is already a huge achievement.

What third-party game releases got your attention this year?

I will be unoriginal. Among Us, of course. ControlOne Hour One Life. Interested in Sea of Thieves. During the lockdown I spent an unforgettable week in Animal Crossing. I also had to actively study everything that somehow concerns the genre of Tamagotchi and communication with a virtual interlocutor, such as Simulacra.

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In July, Ice-Pick Lodge posted a quick update on the projects currently in development. You might also want to check out this piece on the studio’s critically acclaimed survival thiller Pathologic 2.

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