Game mechanics of Dark Train

Česky | English

Dark Train Game Mechanics

Wagons, collectors, train unit control

One of the main Dark Train game mechanics is “shuffling system with wagons”. As a player, you take the role of main character Ann 2.35f who controls this system. We can call it combinatorics and even though it is quite mathematical, we would not be so far away from the truth. By changing positions of four wagons you can change what is inside of them. There are four wagons and every one carries a different part of the human-world model. Each part of a model hides unique environment and riddles to solve. Another thing is that the inside part of wagons is influenced not only by the order but also by the number of available resources the train can dispose of.

Dark Train Game Mechanics 2   Dark Train Game Mechanics 3  

The gameplay of main character Ann 2.35f is based on two interacting layers:

1. Physical based – Ann 2.35f naturally collide with useful object or whole environment

2. Click based – Ann 2.35f could interact with glowing items, buttons by a simple click – to call “glorious inventory arm”

Dark Train Game Mechanics 4  

To obtain resources you can use mechanical collectors attatched to the train. You just need to activate them in the right time. Again, for example if you want to collect water, you have to activate the (water collector when it is raining etc.).

Now, there is a second function these collectors have. They can also release resources out of the train. You can change wheater you want to collect or release the resource in the engine room which is located on the top of the train. Last example for today, if you have a lot of water collected, you can take out fires and save houses in the city you ride through.

Dark Train Game Mechanics 5     Dark Train Game Mechanics 6   Dark Train Game Mechanics 7  

These reverted collectors – emmitors – provides the player with a major way to influence the outside world. With that you can directly change how the city events will occur. You will get most out of these events when your train is carefully supplied with all the resources. Beware, Dark Train can also function with very little demands on resources, but that is not optimal, so try to keep them at maximum!

For Paperash, Dominik, Vojtěch a Zdeněk

Lore of Dark Train

Česky | English

Cathedral of Dark Train

… the religion of the city

In the shadow of decrepit depo station rests in silence the enormous machine from D. W. Targezbung’s factory which is abandoned for a long time. Probably it could be some train due to the fact there are wide rails that come out of this depo. We can only guess what was the machine’s original purpose and if it ever had been in motion or what force could possibly power it. The only person who knew the purpose of this marvelous machine was the famous inventor D. W. Targezbung and maybe also his granddaughter. Neither of them lived that long to see the machine turned on. Nobody to this day knows where the Tagrezbung’s brick can be found. Like every citizen of this city also D. W. Tagrezbung honored all local traditions. Shortly after inventor’s death his admirers started to search for the mysterious brick, nevertheless without any success. Wonder they didn’t take the whole factory apart.

Dark Train Lore  

The city with such a strange past has a lot in its memory. The west side of the city is surrounded by the stone obstacle that is supported by a massive wall. The wall acts as a borderline which separates the world of humans from neighboring Transparent land. In the course of history, the wall gained such importance that its own construction became a cult. Architecture, engineering, sciences were the most powerful tools of original wall builders. They remembered that in various places of the human world people worship different gods and cults. However, in this city the buildings alone became all the belief and gods. Smaller inventions and machines reached the same status a bit later. They managed to create the hourglass which controls day and night. After that, it was necessary to assemble the fabled “Phoenix” who is capable measuring night by his own life cycle. Even if the night would last a thousand years.

Dark Train Phoenix  

The cathedral, towering in the middle of town is not the temple of the God, but the temple with own purpose – listening to the very essence of incoming man. Therefore nobody ever doubted about fact that building or construction of machines is the ultimate idea and meaning of life. No wonder that the cathedral was considered as the “Sanctuary of Buildings” in eyes of people with the same importance as Border wall or Tagrezbung’s factory. Besides private prayers, sanctuary hosted also songs so pure, that they echoed to the other world through cathedral’s chimneys. There are rumors that time from time chimneys are still singing by themselves.

The sanctuary is always built around the altar, which is also the foundation stone. A position of this stone has always been definitive and it could not be changed in the future. Once builders finished a new construction, its ground plan and function was unchangeable. However the city is constantly built up again and again from better material and the newly discovered alloys, but nothing else changes. For many citizens, this construction cycle is a vital part of their life. Perhaps they are escaping from thoughts of Transparent land, who knows…

Border City  

Belief in the buildings and their architects developed into distinct religions in this city. Its blueprints and ground plans became the most blessed sacraments. They can’t be damaged, redrawn or even sold. For this reason, blueprints are stored inside of the central cathedral and sorted out according to the family names and the purpose of the building. At first glance, the blur-adjusted plans may remind gravestones, but citizens have a different and very unique approach to the burial of the dead. The city has developed a strong affection for the cremation of deceased people and use of their ashes. Deep down underground a mineral so hard that even the hardest steel tools could not break it was discovered. People hoped it will be the ideal construction material beyond their dreams. But only after researchers used Beryl’s universal fluid to construct a machine capable of grind the mineral. Prophets predicted an eternal life of buildings constructed from this material. However, they asked: “What about the soul of such a construction?” And thus ashes of the dead became part of faith. The essence of construction. Builders mixed the fine mineral dust with the ashes of the deceased and molded them in the high temperature of local factories into simple brick form.

During their life some people already knew that they want to be a part of a Border wall or a particular family house after their death. These bricks now represent the current layer of the Border wall and form of the city. Some families keep their bricks together. They believe that in each brick remains a fragment of the soul and memory of their ancestors who then became a component of a spirit of the city. Others believe that these walls can protect the city from dreaded Transparent land. The presence of ash in bricks or metal alloys became a promise to everyone who passed away. Bricks of important citizens have been used for the building of towers and chimneys so that their souls can watch over the city from a height. Because D. W. Targezbung proved many things with his inventions, citizens of the city wanted to place his brick appropriately. However, nobody was able to discover, whether this brick was ever made…

For Paperash, Dominik, Vojtěch a Zdeněk

Introduction to Dark Train

Česky | English

 Dark Train Title Screen


Why did we start making videogames?

Like most of indie game developers around the world, we are avid gamers. We also have a strong background in animation, music, visual art and a variety of physical art creation. We love fairy tales, games, and paper as a substance itself. There is something really magical in every piece of paper be it just a piece, a chunk or a slab. The past has refined paper as a medium to its bare bones and we use it profoundly. We believe that video games as a medium are full of expressive potential yet to be explored. Our decision to start making video games was based on two working concepts of Paperash Studio.


We wanted to create a 2D adventure in which the space of the game is directly bound to its content. As a result, the main theme of Dark Train comes from its physical paper model and exploration of the scaling possibilities of this model that is subsequently transformed into the digital world of the game medium. The result of this work process is that everything you can see in Dark Train has its parallel in a real-life paper model. We have been cutting out those models since 2014. This is also connected to the story of Dark Train: “Your task is to deliver the mysterious order – a model of the human world – to an unknown client.”

Making of Steamboat Prokop  

Here, our decision to make a “2D game project with body and soul” meets with the journey Dark Train has to go through. At its core, we can describe Dark Train (the actual train in the game) as a “tamagotchi” that coexist with other elements in the game world. What you play or rather how you control the game changes according to:

  • Energy resources vs. energy requirements vs. time – Dark Train can run out of power, it can be damaged, changed or enhanced…
  • The scale of the train vs. scale of the human model the train carries – by exploring “guts” of the train and your delivery package, you will visit spatially challenging environment.
  • Consequences of the movement of the train on the human model – in Dark Train you will change the order of wagons in which the train carries different environments of the human model. Changing the order will change the environment itself. But what will happen when the train starts to move? Will the model be the same as before?
  • There are more situations and elements already implemented in the game, that will influence the train. To be bluntly honest we have really hard time explaining without spoiling, but if you can influence insides of the Dark Train, you can surely influence the outside world? Right?


We wanted to make a game that we are capable of creating exactly in our own fashion and with a unique theme. Preferably with the help of one of the game engines like Unity that offers us a lot of accessible and easy to use features.

Steambot Prokop in Unity Engine  

A mixture of game genres and what to expect:

Dark Train is an explorative real-time adventure with a disobedient heroine – Ann 2.35f 💙 that is tied to an unpredictable machine (Dark Train, the tamagotchi). In contrast with the classic point-and-click adventures, we are focusing on dynamic and physical controls.

What to expect – Key Features:

  • Story – strong narrative with dynamic action gameplay
  • Exploration – non-casual exploratory game feel
  • Atmosphere – dark oppressive setting
  • Narration – nontextual, situational
  • Audiovisuals – paper-art style, paper-made music, and sounds
Dark Train in the Border City


Explanation of our storytelling:

We believe that the best storytelling element in video games is the environment and the particular situations that players can explore or solve within the game world itself (Dark Souls, for example). Therefore, we primarily focus on building a strong atmosphere of the world and in-game situations within our game. Our visual style provides us with wide options to relay the causes and consequences of individual events without using any text. This approach means that Dark Train is open to interpretation and that is something we definitely want. Dark Train is just a small part of our lore and there is a lot of stories that are more or less related to the game but not directly a part of it. We want to tell these stories through other media or in future games.


 Panzer Ritter stops Dark Train


Why we decided to create a nontextual game made with paper:

We have already used the visual style seen in Dark Train in a few short animated films. Along with the intention to reach a strong “meta atmosphere” in the game, this technique is very time-efficient for us – not to mention the professional skills we already possess in the field. The paper modeling itself is basically our hobby and that provides us with a comfortable balance between digital post-production and relaxation. Furthermore, the music of Dark Train is partially made with paper (we will cover this in a future article called “Making of Dark Train Music”). We have big plans for the paper models we used in Dark Train so we are really happy that we have them physically available and not just in the form of data.

In the next article, you can look forward to a Dark Train universe timeline along with some historical contexts of the game. Stay tuned!

For Paperash, Dominik, Vojtěch and Zdeněk

Main character Ann 2.35f

Česky | English

The main control element of the game is Ann 2.35f (mechanical squid), to which was given a considerable amount of personification in our case. Her personality is not only a logical part of game mechanics, but it is also bound to the story and background of the world, where the game Dark Train is happening. Ann itself and her possibilities or size depends on the environment and the situation in which she is located. She even has a mind of its own and therefore, there can be cases when she is afraid, hiding or tactfully waits. As you can see in the video below, Ann in our case is more character than a mere “formality” in the game controls. Ann is not the hero in the classic sense of the word, because she only helps a player’s “divine hand” to control the whole train and all its features. For this purpose she has some very special and irreplaceable abilities.

Ann 2.35f and her features:

    • As the main game character is Ann associated with inventory (could enter the inventory).
    • Ann controls the ability that allows her camouflage (camouflage in a variety of very rugged environments).
    • Ann controls mimicry – learn to emulate various shapes and objects to which it may subsequently transform (a variety of these shapes are taught sequentially).
    • multicolored eyes glow of Ann are used as indicators. For example warning signal or informs about changes in the status of the train.
    • Ann could get hurt (get frozen…)
    • Ann can be also afraid or decide for herself (and player) how to maintain in a given situation …
    • Ann is not alone in the train as indicate her serial number (Ann 2.35f). Her “sisters” if they survive can follow their own interests, or watch/spy Ann.
  • Ann has her own engine room where from time to time she can repair – recover herself. She may change or tune up parts of her body there. Terminated tentacles can be removed and changed for special tentacles of different weights.
Making of Ann 2.35f
Making of Ann 2.35f
Making of Ann 2.35f
Making of Ann 2.35f


Making of Dark Train

Česky | English

In this article we would like to familiarize you with the creation process and visual philosophy of game Dark Train. Everything what you can see in the game is firstly papercut. Subsequently, comes pen drawings and then the digitization and post-production of papercut materials. In parallel with the digital world of game itself it’s also growing it physical model in the real world, together with archive of our handmade drawings. This is among other reflecting on the theme of the game itself and creation process of the work. Since the beginning of the game we want to keep visual style within the frame of a.k.a. cut-out animation.

making of dark-train

For our purpose, this technique is sufficiently rich and in the Czech Republic has a long tradition to which we behave esteem. In previous years we have created in this way, for example, the short animated films Strap and Box. We are trying, as far as we can go by combining different techniques and structures of paper. We discovered, for example, the papers that looks like glass or ice. We are also working with the layout, where the white paper represents a day and on the other side black paper represents night. After we produce all the paper models and hand paintings, we process them through ordinary digital scanner. In next step we polish shapes and compositions in Photoshop. Then comes creating atlases for Unity and lastly we can craft final composition of a scene.
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Story of Dark Train

Česky | English

After many years of intense work D. W. Tagrezbung successfully completed the contract how shows the preserved correspondence …
dark train symbol

Dear D. W. Tagrezbung …

Furthermore, I would like to address you as Dietrich. First of all, because you already worked for me and I greatly appreciate your invention. Not a day goes by when I would not use it with gratitude. So after years I turn to you with another request, which I hope will not remain in the shadow of your interests and talent. I believe that in these days has come the time to take into account the reward that I offered you in the past. The reward is still valid, the wording isn’t necessary to repeat. If you reject this reward, as was the case with previous orders, I will not object to and we will settle up in the traditional manner. However, Dietrich, consider it just because of your own qualities.

dark train blueprint  

Now, with your permission, I will turn to the subject matter. Your invention allowed me so much, but gratify my curiosity only partially. Please Dietrich create for me a model of the human world. Include everything that you see as important. Show me the nature of your culture and civilization. Explain to me, what is owed to the environment in which you live and where it originated. I would like to see all the changes. I imagine the beauty in completely different conditions. It really exist something so fabulous as the seasons?  Will I see a distorted landscape by architecture, or vice versa? How to process the model and exactly where individual topics focus is entirely up to you. Personally, I prefer to set your model in contemporary time. Surely you can show me how your origin, progress, and also faith looks.

Last time you had reproached me that the contract is full of contradictions. In that regard, I won’t let you down, even this time, it will be no different. I do not want you in the model made with a human face. You know the reasons. Please avoid even the people themselves. Just in case it will be really necessary, you can use the cloaked figure. I firmly believe that the world we live in, is not centered around people. I must stress that I do not mind the consequences of human actions, on the contrary. Surely you think that I am missing the point, the human world after all consists primarily of people and everything else is rather secondary. I can assure you Dietrich, that I cannot believe it even if I wanted to. I know, in an old letter you mentioned that you feel as if the only human motive was death. You have explained to me back then graves and statues. The places where the people are giving their trust to not forget. Even I haven’t forgotten, Dietrich, and therefore you now please put everything human, but without the people into the model.

dark train depo  

I have not the slightest doubt that you can do it. However, I must express my worries about the path that model must take to complete the mission. Across worlds there is no worse enemy than Transparent country. To this day, I wonder, that we managed lay tracks through this mysterious territory. Am I wrong, If I thought that for construction are responsible machinery designed by you? For what purpose is this connection between our countries here? Of course, the solution of the transport model is entirely up to you, but I think that the safest option would be to use the train. We can hardly know how long journey will be, or what danger is Transparent country hiding. I believe that a well-designed train that could handle all difficulties.

If you are not too surprised by contract and you agree with it, please get to work. As you well know, it does not matter when the model is finished. But not you, you are not like that. I hope that besides reward, that is prepared for you, my immense curiosity will also motivates you. If I could only write how much I am looking forward.

I wish you much strength Dietrich. Sincerely …