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Meet The Dev – Remedy Entertainment Designer Sergey Mohov

I’m very excited to introduce our 1st Meet The Dev interview with Sergey Mohov of Remedy Entertainment. He is an IGF-nominated game designer and is currently working at @remedygames on CONTROL. Sergey was the writer and designer on Event[0]. Read on to find out about his inspirations and his favourite gaming moments. He also gives an insightful view on the future of gaming.

Enjoy, Agent Charisma.

What is your preferred gaming platform?

PlayStation 4. Growing up, it was PC because my parents couldn’t justify buying a thing meant only for playing video games, but all of my friends had PS Ones and later PS2s. So when the time came to acquire a console for myself, my choice was easily made.

Who or what inspired you to become a games developer?

I started playing video games at the age of 6. The first one was Command & Conquer. Then came DOOM. Looking back at it, I also went to a weird school where all the cool kids played firstly, baseball cards, then pogs, and eventually Magic: The Gathering. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time CDs (there were 5 of them in one box!) exchanged hands more often than Linkin Park albums, and everybody skipped class playing Warcraft 3 and Counter-Strike 1.6 competitively.

So, on my 10th birthday, when asked what I wanted to do in life, it was very natural to say “I want to make games.” All of the adults laughed!  But what pushed me to do it was playing World of Goo by 2D Boy back in 2008. It blew my mind that the credits of that game contained a total of 4 names, including QA and production assistance. All of a sudden, I felt like I, too, could do it.

What are you most proud of in your gaming/development career so far?

Definitely helping create Event[0]. With that game, I went through all of the imaginable steps: first concept, design brainstorms, paper prototyping, then playtesting with the first digital prototype, releasing a proof of concept, and later getting funded, founding a studio, hiring people, finishing a commercial product, and promoting it. I even got the authentic experience of being nominated in three IGF categories and not winning in any of them.

An experience like that gives you a lot of perspective and respect for other people making games in all possible roles and sizes of studios. Puts the fear of God into you, too. I’m continually impressed by the incredible experiences people manage to build against all the odds. Making games is hard.

What is your goal in terms of games development?

Currently? Finishing Control. It’s by far the most interesting project I’ve ever had a chance to work on. Seeing people’s reactions to it is scary, but very exciting. The Internet loves to make fun of developers constantly repeating that they are excited to do this and excited to show that, but excitement is the genuine emotion people working on the game actually feel. Coming back from E3, it was palpable.

In general, my goal is to touch people personally through games the way games like The Neverhood and, yes, Max Payne 2, affected me. If a system, an enemy type, or a level I build makes someone learn something about themselves or even forget about their problems for a few hours, it makes it all worth it for me.

What is your gamer handle and the reason for choosing it?

My gamer handle is krides.

Five hundred million years ago, when the Earth was flat, and DotA was still just a WC3 map, I was a nerdy teenager who was really into Lord of the Rings. My “elf name” was “kriadeston.” Abridged, it became “kri.” When I was creating my Twitter account back in 2007, “kri” was already taken, so I added the Japanese “desu” to it (means roughly “it is”). So it became kri + desu = “it is kri”. Now, the “u” in “desu” is silent, so I got rid of it. It has been with me ever since.

What is your favourite genre/s of game and why?

I will always have a soft spot in my heart for strategy games in all shapes and forms: C&C: Red Alert, Heroes of Might & Magic 3, SimCity 2000, The Sims, Civ – in many ways, they are games for game designers. The freedom of choice, the scale, and the complexity there are breathtaking. These are games that allow for a crazy amount of creativity, and take game mechanics to their natural conclusions. Strategy games also force my brain into an extreme problem-solving mode – the same addictive kind as game design.

What is your favourite game of all time?

World of Warcraft Vanilla. I don’t know how much it still holds up after all these years, but that game taught me almost everything I know about level design, progression systems, world-building, and creating a sense of wonder through gameplay and exploration. It’s hard to describe the feeling of awe I got from walking into Molten Core for the first time.

What is your most memorable gaming moment?

The ending of The Beginner’s Guide. I don’t think I’ve ever played another game that felt like it was so much about me, my life and my work personally. The Beginner’s Guide, along with Dragon Age: Origins are the only games I’ve ever played that made me cry.

What is your Gamerscore/trophy count and how long has it taken you to get it?

Sadly, I have had a number of different PSN accounts over the years because I moved around a lot. My most recent trophy count is 380 with a level 7 account, which is probably not very impressive.

Which achievement/trophy has given you the most pleasure? Why and how long did it take you?

Generally, I don’t hunt trophies on purpose, so the only golden ones I got were from completing campaigns or solving things that I found while playing games normally. If I had to pick one, I would go with DOOM 2016’s “Knee-Deep in the Dead” simply because of how much fun I had ripping those imps in half. Really looking forward to DOOM Eternal.

What is your gaming guilty pleasure?

I really enjoy abusing the save/load feature in classic RPGs. Neverwinter Nights and, more recently, Divinity: Original Sin comes to mind. I know that this is not how you’re supposed to play, but I really like the feeling of safety I get from saving the game before I have to make an important decision. It has this time-travel quality to it and lets me explore different options that the game presents. I can safely test what will happen if I go left or pull a lever or kill one of the important quest NPCs.

It’s not about taking the game apart and seeing what it is made of. Instead, it lets me make more (what I feel are) meaningful choices about character and story progression than I wouldn’t otherwise. Without spoiling it, I can say that I really liked how Undertale played with my expectations of what save/load does. I wish more games explored this “alternative” gameplay space.

If you could pick a video game character, who would you be and why?

Klaymen from The Neverhood. The awkward yet enthusiastic way he walks, “talks,” and interacts with the world reminds me of myself: most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m always curious and ready to learn new things.

If you could pick a location, from any game, to visit, where would it be and why?

I would pay a lot of very real money to stand in the abandoned throne room of the Capital City of Lordaeron and listen to the hushed conversation between Arthas and his father. Just thinking about it gives me chills.

Finally, where do you see gaming heading in the next decade?

I think there has been (and will continue to be) an industry-wide trend toward reassessment and repurposing of old game mechanics in new, prettier and more believable contexts. We are still learning how to tell cohesive stories in these virtual worlds we have been building while keeping the gameplay part of it all engaging and challenging.

For example, I’m really excited about the fact that more and more old RPG mechanics are making it into mainstream AAA experiences. To me, playing games is all about role-playing: almost literally becoming this virtual character, and experiencing the world the way they would experience it.

A huge thank you to Sergey for taking the time to answer our questions.  Especially when he is so busy with the development of CONTROL.  Keep an eye on the website and Twitter for information on how you can feature in the next Tic Spotlight or Meet the Gamer.

You can read our first impressions of CONTROL here.

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