Montas, Horror and Oculus Rift - A chat with Garth Robertson
Montas, Horror and Oculus Rift - A chat with Garth Robertson
We know a little about Montas (if you havenít already, go and check it out now, but ever since first seeing the trailer, then watching the concept trailer, I have been dying to learn more. Regular readers will no doubt be aware of Joaby and my love for horror games and Montas looks outstanding. With that in mind, I got in touch with Garth Robertson, the developer creating the game.
GameArena: How did you get into making Montas? As in, what led to the conceptualisation and development?
Garth Robertson The emergence of Steam Greenlight and Kickstarter, as well as industry changing products such as the Oculus Rift has had the most influence over the timing and direction for Montas. When I looked at what kind of niche market I wanted to tap into it was very obvious that horror games are in a unique position at the moment. A new breed of indie horror games such as Amnesia swept through this market and pushed out a lot of old concepts put into place by AAA competitors. But something was still missing, and I felt I could breach the gap for this struggling genre.
GA: What other media would you say are your biggest inspirations?
GR I find a good source for inspiration as an indie game developer can be found in any other indie medium. Even though it's not game development chances are they have worked with similar limitations as you. It's also good to look at the problems faced during the birth of other media industries. For instance most of the inspiration for the lighting in Montas comes from early film noir movies. The use of subtractive lighting where you start from black and highlight the details you need is perfect for an indie horror game, as it allows you to hide the areas of non-interest rather than needlessly detailing everything, as seen in a lot of AAA games these days. Minimalism in painting is a great source of inspiration for any indie developer, as it shows how you can make a canvas interesting and aesthetically pleasing with limited detail. If you compare the video game industry to traditional art, indie games would be a piece by Warhol and AAA games would be a convoluted and over rated landscape painting. Media is great for inspiration but I find the best inspiration of all comes from the real world. History has proven that the real world can be more horrific than anything we could ever imagine.
GA: Why horror?
GR Why Horror? Horror in video games is by far one of the least explored genres of the medium. Which is strange because it's perfect for the way the user engages with the story. The biggest problem with horror films is the viewer can question the decisions of the protagonist. If you turn the viewer into the protagonist then the situation bears a lot more weight and meaning for the person engaged. I also feel that horror games naturally appeal more to artists and allow them to have a lot more creative freedom, as the mechanics for scaring people are very abstract.
GA: Companies like Visceral Games and Capcom have demonstrated a move away from horror and towards action - why do you think this is?
GR The main reason I believe AAA studios are moving away from real psychological horror and more into mind numbing action is because AAA game studios LOVE formulas. If you are a game designer working at a publicly trading AAA studio, then you have a boss. Your boss has a boss, and maybe even your bosses bosses boss has a boss.
All of your bosses want to be able to understand the entirety of your game in a few words. This does NOT work very well for creating horror games. It works for COD, it works for MMO's but you can't design a great horror game using a formula, unless its very short and free like Slender.
I believe you will be seeing a lot of developers attempting to turn the Slenderman formula into an eight hour experience, only to later realise that Slender doesn't need to be any longer, nor does it need to be remade. At which point they will resort back to polluting their horror games with action.
GA: Montas is built on the Unreal Engine and from the footage in the trailers, it looks outstanding. From what you've said in your indiegames piece about the exploratory nature of the game too, it sounds like it will be quite involved - how big a team is Organic Humans? How does development separate in the team?
GR Organic Humans is still in it's infancy, and I am the only full time developer working on Montas. Although I get a lot of support, ideas and feedback from my friends, family and girlfriend. I am the artist, designer, writer, coder and audio engineer. I also do all the PR and marketing for the game and company.
I know the Unreal Engine inside and out so most of my time is spent creating polished playable content. It may seem like too much work for one man, but I find if you understand every component of what you are doing and don't rely on others to get things done then you produce content at a faster rate, at a higher quality. The end of my iterative process involves recording the music to assure the right emotion is evoked during playtesting. This allows me to relax and reboot before moving onto the next portion of the game.
I've also been working closely with indie groups such as Propellor Recordings and indie artists such as Acid on Andy to add that extra bit of polish to the game which I can't do by myself.
GA: How do you make a game frightening, but not too frightening? How do you find the balance between not frightening at all and so terrifying they put the game down and stop playing it? Would you consider a player quitting a game from fright to be a success?
GR Can you make a game too scary? I don't know if you can. And if you can, it certainly hasn't been done before. (Garth has clearly never met our man Joaby) If your aim is to make a horror game, then you should be aiming to make something people want to finish but can't because they are too afraid. It remains a mystery, an object of guilty desire.
That being said you can't always have your horror game set to 11, for something to be truly scary it needs to take you completely by surprise, while also alluding to the fact that it was going to happen the whole time. You just can't achieve that by making every second corpse on the ground jump up and attack the player all the way throughout your game. You are more likely to piss them off.
I want to make Montas the scariest game ever released, and I want it to be the benchmark for next generation horror games. If that means I have to make it R18+ and include a warning for people with weak hearts and mental illnesses then I will do that.
GA: The Oculus Rift affects the perception of the player and in a genre like horror perception is incredibly significant. With regards to the balance between keeping the player terrified and making sure they are not too scared to play, are there any specific design elements you plan on implementing because of the Oculus Rift?
GR The entire game is being developed with the Oculus Rift in mind, and I believe this will only make the experience more immersive and enjoyable for people without it.
GA: Talking horror games, would you say Montas will be more Silent Hill, Dead Space or Amnesia?
GR Amnesia and Silent Hill 2 would be the closest comparison, although Montas handles story in horror games in a completely new way, avoiding easy options such as monsters and the supernatural. There are so many things in every day life that when taken out of context, in the wrong place at the wrong time can scare the living daylights out of us. I hope to scare people using things they would be ashamed to admit they are afraid of.
GA: Joseph Walker seems to be suffering from schizophrenia - how that will manifest in the game? (If it's something you don't mind sharing at this point.)
GR You will have to wait until you can get your hands on Walker before finding out any more about him.
GA: The impression I've gotten from everything I've read reminds me of Pathologic. With the bleak and ominous environment and the idea of not being able to trust anyone - but particularly not yourself. Especially with the Welcome to the Opera motif concept - the idea of 'All the world's a stage' and the meta elements of story structure. Is Welcome to the Opera something particular to Montas and will it tie into Montas, or is it more an Organic Humans motif?
GR What's the meaning behind Welcome to the Opera? The line says more about the game and the world of Montas than anything the readers know yet, and will become more apparent as you play the game.
Montas will be released in 2013 for both Windows and Mac, with Garth expecting it to cost no more than $10. A Kickstarter for the game will begin later this year and you can currently vote for the game on Greenlight too. Naturally, we at GameArena will keep you abreast of updates - and you can find other information about the game via the official site.
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Thu 06 Sep 12, 2:46pmJoaby
Posted: Thu 06 Sep 12, 2:46pm
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