It’s 7pm on Christmas Eve, or thereabouts. You’re pretty much there gift wise, but that book you ordered your Mum hasn’t turned up yet. She’d be fine about it but you’re in your mid twenties, and a Toblerone from the high street just isn’t going to cut it these days.
There’s only one thing for it; you’ll have to leave the comfort of your home and brave the shops on Christmas Eve. The queues! The screaming children! The depression dripping off of every member of staff! The screaming adults! One late delivery has meant your life is about to turn into some kind of Jingle All The Way’ian NIGHTMARE.
Sounds pretty horrifying, right? Well according to Plymouth based micro studio Total Monkery’s new game, Late Night Shop, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
Gamestyle: Explain Late Night Shop.
Fred Fitzpatrick (Artist): Late Night Shop is a first person horror experience set in a department store at night. It’s a First Person VR game, and is all about making your way through the environment avoiding mannequins that only move when you can’t see them. We’ve taken the Boo’s from Mario and updated them for the 21st Century, basically.
GS: How far into development are you?
Luke Coombes (Programmer): 2 months in, in terms of full term work at Total Monkery, but much longer outside of that. Fred came up with the idea last year and asked me to code it, so I worked on it for about 3-4 months; writing the AI and the detection system, making the bad guys movements etc. We built a demo and approached Total Monkery with it after finishing our last game, Elementales (available on the Windows Store now).
GS: Where did the idea come from? And why manequinns?
Fred: I was in a department store, it was actually Primark in Exeter-
GS: I can understand the terror, then.
Fred: Exactly. I was waiting for my girlfriend and could see over the tops of all the aisles and all around the store. I just had this image of all these mannequins pursuing someone through the shop.
GS: Where does the horror come from?
Fred: From the sight mechanic; the mannequins are incredibly fast, and the fact that they’re always going to get you when you can’t see them is going to lead to some great jump scares. They basically sprint at you the entire time you’re not looking at them, covering space in seconds. And they really pounce on you, so you’re on a knife edge the whole time.
Luke: Yeah, the horror comes from the suspense mainly. We’re very clear on it not being a Dead Space style gore fest.
Fred: Nothing’s going to come out and chain saw you in half, basically.
Luke: It’s all about finding the best path through, we want to have it so that if you know what you’re doing you can speed run through the perfect route.
Fred: That’s why we’re designing the levels rather than going procedural, it allows us to create the spaces with an aim of the player mastering them.
Luke: I like to think of it in terms of the scene near the beginning of the Matrix, where Morpheus is telling Neo exactly where to go to escape the office. We want the player to go from that to being Neo. The idea is that you can play the same levels in a few different ways, you can be stealthy or you can bomb it through past all the manequinns, and be just fast enough to avoid their gaze.
GS: How much do you think VR plays a part in the suspense, and when did that become a big aspect of the game?
Luke: We got VR involved pretty much as soon as we started working on LNS here at Total Monkery. I applied it to the playable demo we’d made to pitch the game and everybody that playtested it really loved it. They all seemed really psyched and at that point we realised how important it was.
Fred: Because it’s not a game about shooting guns it suits the format really well.
Luke: Some games can be too over the top for the format but because this isn’t set in a warzone-
GS: Depending on your thoughts on Primark in Exeter…
Luke: Well, yeah. Because we’re set in a department store there’s a bit less going on so it works much better than if you were to do a VR Call of Duty, say.
GS: Is there multiplayer planned?
Luke: Yeah, we’re developing it concurrently with the single player, it’s a-synchronous so we have one player controlling the shopper and another playing the whole team of mannequins. So when the shopper freezes one in their line of sight, player two can swap between enemies and try and outsmart them that way
Fred: It’s cat and mouse gameplay, basically.
GS: When can we expect to see Late Night Shop?
Luke: Release is dependant on funding but you can download a pre alpha build for PC, Mac and Linux at http://totalmonkery.com/forums/topic/pre-alpha-build-1-feedback/. There’s a non VR build and also a VR version built for Occulus dk2.