Whenever virtual reality’s (VR) potential impact on the videogame industry is discussed it isn’t long until the horror genre is brought up. VR fans just need look at the Oculus VR Share software portal to find an almost overwhelmingly long list of scary experiences that utilise the Oculus Rift head-mounted display. Few of these titles hold as much promise as Team Junkfish’s upcoming PC title, Monstrum.
Monstrum boasts an intriguing premise in which players must escape from a ship as they are hunted by terrifying monsters. The uses procedural generation to change the layout with each attempt and the type of monster will drastically effect play styles. VRFocus recently caught up with the developer’s Jaime Cross to talk about these different beasts, the title’s progress and the VR support.
VRFocus: What is Monstrum?
Jaime Cross: Monstrum is a procedurally generated horror game set on board an abandoned cargo ship in the 1970’s. Basically all of your escape routes of the ship have been destroyed or damage somehow, so you have to go round about this ship, find all the bits and pieces to patch them up and get off without getting caught by the thing that’s chasing you round about it.
VFocus: The last time we saw Monstrum was Rezzed. What’s happened since then? The title has been delayed.
Jaime Cross: Yeah, we were planning to launch it in sort of October time but we decided a few times to push it back. We thought we want to give ourselves more time to polish up a bit more and get it ready and I think that’s been a good decision. And also the time period, October, November, December is really jam packed and we didn’t want to try and go up against things that are going out like Dragon Age or Alien: Isolation being the big obvious one there as well. So we put it back to January next year and we’re on track for that so it’s looking good so far.
VRFocus: What progress have you made recently?
Jaime Cross: Well since Rezzed we’ve basically got most of the ship in. We’re only missing one area which is nearly done too. We’ve added in a second monster that chases you round about the ship. We’ve added in a second escape route as well. So in terms of content we’re about 70%, 80% there. After that it’s about polishing and bug fixing. So we’re making good head way, quite a lot has been done since then.
VRFocus: How is VR integration coming along?
Jaime Cross: Yeah it’s been pretty good. A lot of people have been really appreciative of it, especially with little things where they look down and they see their body’s there or their foot’s there, people just sort of go ‘Ah! Nobody else has done that.’ It’s really cool and its one of those things that makes sense but people don’t seem to do it apparently. So yeah, a lot of people have been into it, a lot of good feedback on it.
VRFocus: You mentioned two escape routes. When a player starts a level, how free will they be to go their own way?
Jaime Cross: It’s pretty much you start the game and you do whatever you want really in terms of escaping. All of the escape routes will be open to you, you just have to solve them and get off. There may be points where a monster might destroy one if you’ve tried to use it and you’ve failed. So obviously that rules that one out and you’d have to one of the others. But in terms of options it’s really up to you. You might find one is generally easier than the other, you might find you want to challenge yourself in the opposite direction to try and do it a harder way. So yeah it’s pretty open-ended.
VRFocus: When you start a level, how long would you say it would take a player to reach the end?
Jaime Cross: We’re aiming for each sort of successful run to be round about an hour or so. So obviously with the big focus on replayablity we’d like people to come back and try it again and again and with it being a difficult game we’re expecting them to die a lot anyway. We don’t want to make it too boring for them, we want to mix it up quite a lot.
VRFocus: So if a player dies, do you start over again?
Jaime Cross: Yeah, one life every time. If you start a new game, completely new level layout, you’ll have one of the three monsters that you’ll go up against and you might have to change the tactics. You might have a ship that’s really similar in almost all aspects except for the monster which can drastically change how you play that sort of game.
VRFocus: So if someone is successful, what incentive is there to keep going?
Jaime Cross: We’re kind of looking at certain story elements and unlockables that we put into the game. So there’s different things like that. The more you progress through it the more you’ll see, the more you’ll sort of understand what happened to the ship, why you’re there, what these things are. Again, the challenge aspect is another thing we’re looking at being replayble. We want people to play again and again so if they want to do speed runs on certain things then stuff like that, we look to make it possible. A lot of people like speed runs but they do sort of pure ones. It’s stuff like that, see how quickly people can get out of the ship.
VRFocus: So there’s also more than one type of monster?
Jaime Cross: Yeah, at Rezzed we had what we were calling the Brute. He’s a big, physical guy, just charges through stuff. In the current build we’ve got we have the Hunter. He’s a bit more sneaky. He sort of climbs through vents, he’ll set up traps, he’ll basically sort of stalk you and just wait for you to make a wrong decision then pounce. He’s sneakier, you won’t really see him as often but at the same time you’ve got to sort of work out: ‘Right, if this stuff doesn’t work for him, what do I need to do? How do I distract him? How do I work my way? How’s that different from the Brute? How is that different from any other monster that I might come up against?
VRFocus: How many monsters are you looking for the full title?
Jaime Cross: For the final launch we’re looking at three monsters and three escape routes. We’re hoping that it does well enough that we can go back to it and add a few more in, but obviously that depends on how well people take to it, if it sells and if it’s worthwhile. We’re hoping it will be.
VRFocus: Past DLC, are you thinking about ports?
Jaime Cross: We’ve thought about it, it’s just we want to get our PC build sorted as soon as possible because it’s good to have on that’s working instead of three that aren’t. We don’t want to push it back any further. Hopefully, again, it will be viable after that PC build that we can just port over to PS4, Xbox One, wherever that may be. The main ones I suppose if you want to call them ports would be the Mac and Linux versions that we’re doing after the Windows launch, which shouldn’t be too difficult to sort out and get them out pretty soon afterwards. But, yeah, hopefully.
VRFocus: Are there any Early Access plans?
Jaime Cross: We’re definitely doing a full launch, just because it’s a horror game. We don’t want to give too much of the game away. Even seeing people’s reactions from press builds and stuff like that, the turnout’s been really positive and we thinking this has been the right decision. We don’t want people going off it or getting fed up with something that may not be properly implemented in the first place. So yeah, the full release is soon to be the best choice for this game anyway.