Developer talks about inspirations and tackling in-game mental health
Playing video games creates a realm for millions of people to lose themselves in for hours at a time, almost breaking the fine line between reality and a dream-like fantasy world where we can achieve so much, with so little effort.
Action stealth game Past Cure, which launches on Steam PC and consoles this week, takes the original concept of 'dream versus reality' and increases it tenfold – creating a dark psychological thriller that blurs the lines even further.
After years of torture, a former elite soldier – Ian – finds himself living in a safe house with his brother, struggling to remember his past after enduring painful, unethical experiments which have twisted his mind. These experiments, however, have unlocked supernatural powers within Ian, including time manipulation and telekinesis.
To uncover the truth behind his captor’s motives, and to quench his thirst for revenge, Ian sets out on a thrilling hunt for the masterminds of this conspiracy – exploring a criminal underworld by using his mental powers to survive. But these powerful abilities have come at a price, as Ian’s mind becomes ever more detached from reality with every use.
Speaking to Fanatical, Phantom 8 Studio Managing Director Simon Gerdesmann talked about the game’s constant switch between realities that Ian must face, as well as the developer’s main inspirations.
“The main inspiration for the game was the movie Inception, we loved the idea of different worlds, that allowed us to play around with the game’s environment,” says Simon. “In other words, the dream worlds allowed us to bring in a complete different experience in the game. The world there is more abstract and also more horror inspired. It feels like a real nightmare.
“We could be more creative and could also bring in more stuff to show what skills lie in the team.”
With Ian’s battle with mental health and the nightmarish world that resides within his own mind, we asked Simon what are the challenges of creating a psychological thriller- type game.
“We had to find core mechanics that supported the story and the mental issues of the character,” says Simon. “We have the sanity meter, which is like a magna bar and allows the player to unleash mind-bending abilities. These come in the form of astral projection/telekinesis and time manipulation.
“The sanity meter is filled up with pills, that link into mental issues. Ian, the main character, experiences hallucinations. Also, from the story side, we had to find interesting plots and twists to play with the players mind. Past Cure will have secrets right up to the end.”
Past Cure is yet another indie game with visuals on par with some of the best AAA games on the market, and we asked Simon if he feels that the gap between AAA games and indies is closing - in terms of graphical detail and the ability to make games looked so defined.
“In the first place, I think that this is possible with a very skilled and dedicated team,” says Simon. “Also, by applying of state of the art technology – motion capture and 3D scanning have become more affordable and also more accessible, meaning that the technology has evolved so far that small teams can leverage it and integrate in the pipeline.
“I believe that more games of this type will come and more indie studies will take this route. The fact that Unreal Engine changed their business model and you have access to such a powerful engine, lets small teams focus on art – rather than spending a lot of time on programmers. Also, with UE4 the integration of art is more straight forward.
“Still, it is not easy to achieve a very high quality and as said in the beginning, this all depends on the team. So, we are very lucky having all these guys on board.”
It wasn’t just Inception that inspired the creation of Past Cure, as a few other movies, and games, also helped the team’s concept along the way.
“We looked at the Metal Gear Solid and Silent Hill franchises,” says Simon. “Major inspiration came from the movies Inception (different worlds), Fight Club (psychological illness of main character) and John Wick (fighting/combat system). From the movies we got inspired by their main concepts, no details from their stories was integrated.
“All the rest comes from our minds. There is another source of inspiration, but this one, I cannot tell.”
Past Cure is available to pre-order now.