Joining us today for a quick recap of 2021 are Ice-Pick Lodge’s narrative designer Anna Pimonova, game / narrative designer Dana Kirilenko, and studio head Nikolay Dybowsky.

Anna Pimonova, Dana Kirilenko, Nikolay Dybowsky

How did 2021 treat Ice-Pick Lodge?

Anna: For me, it has been a very intense year at the studio. I started as a writer for the Franz project. Then, later in 2021, I managed to grow into the game’s narrative designer and producer.

As a writer, I specialize in psychological horror. I worked on films Reflection (Russian: Отражение) 2018, Workshop (Russian: Цех) 2021, and game Flower Shop 2022. So I’m particularly interested in working on Franz because it’s not just a game — it’s an experiment exploring the nature of abuse.

Dana: 2021 has been a thrilling year, even if a bit hectic. I am working on Pathologic 2: Bachelor, and a lot has happened this year: sometimes the team was incredibly productive, sometimes we got bogged down in one task for a week because of the challenges we faced in the development process. But we’ve overcome all the difficulties, that’s what’s important. Moreover, I’ve practiced multitasking being a game designer, a narrative designer and a manager at the same time.

Nikolay: Sometimes technologies outpace people who use them (for example, this was the case with the massive rollout of the Internet in the mid-90s) — sometimes, the opposite happens: the upgrade of our brain puts us far ahead of what the technology can offer. You have already learned to fly, but when you click on the Uber icon, it offers you to choose from various horse-drawn carts. This is happening with games now. We are trying our damndest to turn a cart into a teleportation booth.

What development or trend stood out to you in 2021?

Nikolay: We see human beings change as a biological species. It is the most important trend. Even the covid pandemic seems to help us realize the scale of that change and see how extremely vulnerable we are. And it’s not just our health, the way we protect it with vaccines and herd immunity. It’s also true about information, the way we overcome its vulnerabilities and limitations through decision automation. Walking biorobots become extinct, those that are smart and decisive survive.

What are you going to strategically focus on in 2022?

Anna: We are planning to release Franz on Android and IOS in 2022.

Dana: We’re planning to work hard on Pathologic 2: Bachelor. There are a lot of things to do.

Nikolay: I’m going to read a few hundred books that have been piling up at my place since 2015, when I started to just never have enough time. I’m also going to think about what our games are turning into.

Which third-party titles were you personally excited about as a gamer?

Anna: This year, I kind of fixated on games that convey the character’s unstable mental state. Undoubtedly, my favorite is Disco Elysium. I’ve enjoyed Masochisia, as well — the game creates an illusion that you can withstand your disease. Mobile game PRY is a terrific experiment that makes you feel like you’re in a post-traumatic situation

Dana: Of course, I cannot fail to mention Disco Elysium with its narrative. Oh, and Inscryption: it surprised me with the card game mechanics, spooky atmosphere and /spoilers/.

Nikolay: Chess and Go. To my utmost regret, I also became intimately familiar with the manipulative mind games as defined by Eric Bern. I learned quite a bit about them.

Got a story you'd like to share? Reach us at [email protected]