Alien and Star Trek fandoms have created the world of the new space game Scars Above

A single space pod crash prompts a scientist to use his skills to survive hordes of aliens.

The space horror genre received a new entry in February. February 28 with the release of Scars Above. 28 for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox X | S and Microsoft Windows.

The game features scientist Kate, who finds herself stranded on a strange, alien-infested planet with no weapons and minimal training. It goes beyond the first-person shooting genre as Keith can collect knowledge tokens in the game zones to level up his skills.

But as we learned during the first few hours of playthrough, the alien bosses scattered throughout the level are very powerful compared to Kate’s skills. Stealth and a steady hand are your friends, for salvation is a little painful; it involves moving to a single-level location marked by a pillar. And, of course, hordes of aliens stand in the way. spoke with Mad Head Games Game Director Ivan Zorkich about the sci-fi inspiration that has gone into the game (including the Star Trek and Alien movies). Publishers Prime Matter and Plaion GmbH also contributed to the production.

Related: Best space games of 2023: Outer Wilds, No Man’s Sky, Kerbal Space Program and more Tell me about the company behind this game – how big is it in terms of people, where are you located, do you tend to attract space fans or any specific fandom among your employees?

Ivan Zorkic: We’ve come a long way since the beginning, going from a casual game developer to an adventure game creator for consoles and PC. From a small indie studio to a studio with offices in Belgrade, Novi Sad and Sarajevo, today we have 170 people.

We tend to attract “space fans”. We are big fans of science, astronomy and technology and how they intertwine with modern pop culture. Several fandoms compete in our studio. We have fans of both sci-fi and epic fantasy, we have a dedicated cosplay and RIZD [live action role-playing] group, we have players with pen and paper or board games, and of course we are all gamers, moviegoers and avid readers of books and comics. While we all have different favorites, each Mad Head is part of a fandom of some kind, and we share our love for unexplored worlds created in the imagination.

“I was fascinated by the idea that space explorers arrive on a strange, dangerous planet and then find out about an ancient alien civilization that died for some mysterious reason.” (Image credit: Mad Head Games) (will open in a new tab) How does this game relate to other games the team has worked on?

Zorkic: We’ve been making story games for a long time, but a few years ago we switched to the action adventure genre. Our previous game was also made with Unreal Engine and it was also an action game. However, in many ways, Scars is a first for us. This type of gameplay and storytelling is something we’ve wanted to do for a long time – and we’ve been sci-fi fans for even longer. It’s the type of story we love and the type of gameplay we’re fans of – and it’s been great to finally get the chance to work on a project like this.

What was your inspiration for the game world in terms of sci-fi series, other space games and the like?

Zorkic: We are big fans of science fiction as a studio. We grew up with and were shaped by Star Wars and Star Trek. We can say that it was this love of the possibilities of the future and the exploration of the unknown that led us to games in the first place – and ultimately united us all. So, we knew from the beginning that we wanted to pay homage to classic science fiction, but with modern storytelling.

I remember watching one of the great sci-fi movies, Forbidden Planet, as a kid. It was sort of a forerunner of modern sci-fi cinema in the 50s. I’m not that old – even then it was a “classic”, but there was something timeless about this movie that stuck out to me and I’ve rewatched it many times over the years. I was fascinated by the idea that space explorers arrive on a strange, dangerous planet and then learn about an ancient alien civilization that died for some mysterious reason.

Another inspiration came from an unexpected source – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alice jumps into the hole and suddenly finds herself in this really strange world, which is fascinating, but at the same time a little unsettling, and at times even scary. I have always loved how we explore the world page by page, and how curiosity drives us readers forward with Alice, overcoming any fear of the unknown.

You’ll have to go through a lot of “Scars Above” to find out why his aliens have such a distinctive appearance. (Image credit: Mad Head Games) (will open in a new tab)

Speaking of fear, one of the main influences is, of course, Alien. If there is a sci-fi movie that I associate with fear, this is it. In this magnificent film, the crew of a commercial ship encounter a terrible monster. The main character, Ripley, was neither a soldier nor someone trained in combat, but she used her resourcefulness and willpower to survive. Now, when you take it all – an unknown and dangerous planet with an ancient alien civilization that is long gone, jumping into a hole and falling into a strange world with strange rules, encountering a terrible creature and having to use your knowledge and every resource that you can master – you understand what Scars are.

Of course, we’ve taken inspiration from other games as well – great ones like Mass Effect, Dead Space, Resident Evil, Death Stranding, Horizon Zero Dawn, etc. As a game designer, you play and enjoy a lot of games, and they influence you in many ways.

Scars Above drew inspiration from numerous RPGs and space-themed games to create its own alien universe. (Image credit: Mad Head Games) (will open in a new tab) How did you design the aliens? In other words, what inspired you for them? Are they based on any physical reality or something you learned from science fiction?

Zorkic: Spoiler aside, there’s a reason why alien creatures look that way. We wanted to present life forms that have adapted to survive in different environments. What if their natural evolution somehow sped up? Will this make them hostile and territorial, and how will they look and behave? What will be their natural abilities and strengths? It is these questions that have been behind the design of much of the alien fauna and flora that you will encounter in the game. Of course, we wanted to make them cool and scary, but at the same time scary and familiar. Tell us a little about Kate: why did you choose not a soldier as the main character, but a scientist who deals with this problem? Could you talk a little about how Kate changes or matures as the story progresses?

Zorkic: We wanted to counter fear and terror with knowledge and science. It seemed to us more interesting (and scarier!) to oppose an astronaut and a scientist to terrible enemies than a space commando or a person with superpowers. Sure, it’s an action and shooter game – so you’ll have the means to fight back, but we didn’t want anyone to have an arsenal of powerful weapons that they’re trained to use in combat scenarios.

Kate must use her engineering skills and her scientific mind to overcome the terrifying dangers in front of her, as well as uncover what happened and solve the mystery of the planet. She designs various gadgets and devices using both human and alien technology, as well as using the natural resources of the alien biosphere around her.

Kate’s confidence and skills grow throughout the story, but not only does her ability to survive improve, but so does her perspective on science itself: the incredible benefits it brings, but also the danger it can pose if misused.

“We grew up with and were shaped by Star Wars and Star Trek. We can say that it was this love of the possibilities of the future and the exploration of the unknown that led us to games in the first place,” Ivan Zorkich, Game Director of Scars Above, told (Image credit: Mad Head Games) (will open in a new tab) What is useful for a new player to know at the beginning of a story?

Zorkic: We designed the story in such a way that everything – even game mechanics – had a narrative explanation. We also combined game mechanics with storytelling techniques. Things will clear up in time, but you won’t get far if you try to hurry. Take the time to explore your surroundings: Kate has an advanced scanner that, combined with her quick mind, makes for a powerful combination, so use it often. Explore everything you find, from defeated creatures and strange plants to the items you carry and the alien technology you encounter. This will not only solve the mystery, but also provide new means of survival.

How did the community react to the trailers and early infomercials, and did you make any changes after their feedback?

Zorkic: The response has been very positive, both from the trailers and from people who got to play the various demos and pre-builds throughout development. These types of games and these kinds of stories have a strong audience and it was great to see how people react to both.

We changed a few things based on this and one of those changes was the difficulty adjustment. When you play a game over and over again during its development, you become so familiar with it that you strive to balance it with your level of skill. We always wanted to make the game challenging, but we also wanted people of all skill levels to enjoy the story, so we decided to have multiple difficulty options and kept tweaking and tweaking as more people got the chance to try the game.

Of course, we still expect players to die while playing and learn from their encounters, but we don’t want them to be disappointed by this experience. Kate dies and comes back to try again – that’s even part of the story! What’s next for this game? DLC? Happier? Continuation?

Zorkic: We’re already hard at work to bring you some cool new stuff. We have new projects in development and this is a continuation of everything we’ve learned from making Scars Above. We can’t wait to share some of the things we’re working on, but we’ll have to wait a little longer for that. For now, we’re really excited for players to get to know Kate and get to know the world we’ve created.

Elizabeth Howell is co-author of Why Am I Taller? (will open in a new tab)? (ECW Press, 2022; with Canadian astronaut Dave Williams), space medicine book. Follow her on Twitter @howellspace. (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or facebook (will open in a new tab).

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