Interview: How Renegade Kid Embraces PlayStation Survival Horror Classics in Cult County
Posted by Nicola Hayden
It's a storm out there
While Kickstarter may be rife with new blood trying to get their first foot through the game development door, there are also veteran studios using the crowd sourcing format to create the titles of their dreams, with big name outfits such as Obsidian Entertainment and Double Fine successfully funding releases through the site. As a result, Renegade Kid – the team behind the PlayStation Network title Mutant Mudds – is seeking to return to its humble survival horror origins with Cult County.
Due to licensing issues that can't be disclosed, the company was unable to continue production of its popular series Dementium, which saw two releases on the Nintendo DS, and a high-definition PC port. Not wanting to turn in the towel, however, the firm's now hoping to create a classic first-person excursion that will scare your socks off. We talked to the head of the game's design Jools Watsham about what makes the release special in an increasingly crowded genre. Also, make sure to check out the gameplay video included at the bottom of this article to see some footage so new that it wasn't available at the time of our interview.
Push Square: We're witnessing a resurgence of the survival horror genre on PlayStation consoles with titles such as Outlast. What makes Cult County stand out from the crowd?
Jools Watsham: This may come as a surprise to many, but we're not specifically trying to add any 'Unique Selling Points' to get survival horror fans' juices flowing. We're focusing on making a straight-up traditional first-person survival horror game that focuses on tension, story, exploration, and under-powered combat. We feel that this worked well – for the most-part – with the original Dementium, but lost a little of its potency with Dementium II due to our efforts being swayed towards variety instead of scaring the crap out of the player. We're learning from our past developments in the genre and pouring it into Cult County.
Our reference to both of those games is due to our focus on story, interesting character interactions, and exploration. For me, the thing that Silent Hill 2 accomplished was a genuine sense of creepy. It wasn't afraid to set up a credible threat, and then let you writhe in moments of tension-filled exploration where you didn't know if or what may be around the next corner.
There is no in-game footage shown on the Kickstarter page. Can you explain to our readers how the gameplay will work? [A gameplay video was actually released shortly after this interview was conducted, which you can watch below - Ed]
Yes, that was a big oversight on my part. We are working hard now to polish up our playable version of the game to share via video. The core controls will more or less adopt a traditional first-person setup. Interacting with characters will be similar to Half-Life in terms of triggering an encounter, but still being able to move around and walk away if you like. We feel that this is important to maintain flow and not create a massive divide between gameplay and story.
The entire plot for the series has already been planned out. Is the narrative going to be the primary focus of Cult County?
The narrative is definitely a driving force behind the player's journey, but exploration, combat, and being scared are of equal importance to us.
Cult County is going to be released in an episodic format. Why did you decide to adopt this approach?
When we play a game that we love, we find that we want more. Embracing the episodic format allows us to continue support for the game as long as the players want it. Another key element of episodic gaming is the ability to set up exciting story arcs and resolves. Looking forward to that next episode, as you may do with a TV show like The Walking Dead or Lost, is something that we find exciting, and something that we think will be exciting for players who enjoy Cult County.
With the confirmed, eventual utilisation of the new Project Morpheus virtual reality headset, will the PlayStation 4 version be the definitive edition?
I think that it will be the definitive version for Morpheus owners! But, our goal is to make every platform sing as best as we can, so everyone feels that their version is the best that it could be. The Morpheus will definitely add a tremendous extra layer for players to enjoy, but I expect many players may prefer a straight-up traditional experience on their TV and consider that to be the "definitive experience".
PlayStation users may not be familiar with your previous work on the Dementium series. Could you tell them a bit about the games and what has made them gain such an immense cult following?
Our debut game was Dementium: The Ward for the Nintendo DS. I think that game connected with players because it was a legitimate survival horror experience, despite the platform that it was on. We improved on the game in many ways with Dementium II, in terms of presenting a more complete world and a variety of environments and enemies. Both games ran at 60 frames-per-second. We didn't let what some might consider limited hardware hold it back from being a scary experience.
Backers will be able to have personal input on the game. Will this work similarly to Mighty No. 9's community vote, where backers can choose from multiple designs?
Yes, exactly. Mighty No. 9 was a big inspiration on how we wanted to approach our Kickstarter campaign. Player input is one of the amazing things that Kickstarter can add to a project, so we wanted to embrace that wholeheartedly.
Can you summarise why our readers should back Cult County on Kickstarter?
If you're a fan of the early Silent Hill and Resident Evil titles, you'll like the types of games that we do. We consider these games genre-defining, and aim to make Cult County in the same spirit as those classics. With your help, we can make Cult County the wretched reality that it's destined to be!
Have you pledged any cash to Cult County’s crowd funding drive yet? Are you satisfied with the sheer number of survival horror titles heading to PlayStation platforms right now? Scare yourself silly in the comments section below.