I’ve stated this before but I’m kinda a masochist gamer. For some godforsaken reason, I love difficult video games and I cannot get enough of them. You know that scene from Hellraiser where all the chains and hooks dig into that guy? That’s me with games like Dark Souls, Sekiro, Cuphead, Celeste, etc. (One day I’ll be a really good video editor and make that clip).
Well, here’s another game that will definitely cause a broken controller or two: Hellpoint. It’s a Souls inspired game set in space with a horror atmosphere. And today, I get to share my conversation with the head developer: Marc-Andre Jutras. Before we get started though, as always:
This is me.
This is Marc-Andre.
This is a GIF of the new DLC coming to Super Mario Odyssey in 2020.
Thank you so much for your time today Marc-Andre. Let’s start with this: give me a single sentence summary of Hellpoint.
The bastard child of a threesome between Dark Souls, Dead Space, and Doom.
Haha, I love that. So how was the idea for Hellpoint originally formed?
How it came to be is horribly unoriginal honestly. The core concept was “We like Dark Souls, what’s missing on the market right now?” We were looking for a “market space” I would say. We looked around, and Dead Space is dead, Mass Effect isn’t flying very high. The newest Doom was still a year away. We went, could Dark Souls be cool in space? Could we make some cosmic horror that is currently missing on the market? Could we make a game we would want to play out of that? Can we make it feel like the good horror, like Event Horizon and Hellraiser?
We were given an importunity to pitch a game concept to some investors. We were not expecting it to be accepted honestly. So we pitched what we wanted as a game for ourselves. And… I guess that group of investors decided the idea was worth it.
Very cool. So let’s kinda dive into that whole horror aspect. I think the sci-fi speaks for itself in the world you guys have built. But how are you incorporating horror aspects into the game? Will there be jump scares?
We tend to stay away from jump scares. I think we have 1 in the whole game, and it’s placed in a very obvious manner. The horror is more from the atmosphere and the unknown. Things aren’t going well and we want the player to feel a bit helpless.
What about the soundtrack? I know you mentioned in your Pax East diary how you’re a fan of metal music. Is the soundtrack more like DOOM or Outlast?
The soundtrack is simply amazing. I’m not sure about Outlast, but it’s really not like Doom. The music isn’t there to make you run around like a demon slayer but to make you cautious of what’s in the shadows. I would say we more picked the underlying nature of Swedish dark metal as the mood for the game.
Another example, for the visual of the game, we went for the early eastern Brutalism. Concrete, metal, massive walls, and towers.
Speaking of visuals, a lot of the gameplay I’ve seen online seems to be from the pre-alpha build. And it looks graphically at the same level as the first Dark Souls. Have you guys updated that at all over the course of the dev cycle?
Damn, if you saw mostly pre-alpha build, then you saw nothing!
Man, that looks so fucking good. Idk what the hell I was looking at.
So obviously this is a Soulsborne inspired game. What have you added to the genre, what have you gotten rid of (like annoying shit), and what staple from that series are you keeping in Hellpoint?
To be honest, it’s always a funny question that we get often. If you look at a gameplay video, you’ll see some guy hitting weird beasts with a sword and go “Well, that’s Dark Souls!” But the comparison pretty much stops there. We looked at a lot of features in Dark Souls and tried to see how we could do things differently.
Firearms are a big part of the game. You can dual wield any of them too. Each one has 3 different fire modes. All melee weapons have unlockable abilities. The more you use a weapon, the more useful it can get. You upgrade a weapon by inserting an upgrade chip in it. In essence, it’s the chip you upgrade. You’re at the end of the game and find a better weapon? Transfer the chip to that new one. Then we have a proper jump and a lot of jumping puzzles. Energy (mana) and your healing gauge is regained by dealing damage to enemies in melee combat.
Another thing is we have no consumable. So no going around in your inventory trying to find that flask. Instead, you have a kind of a “companion cube” following you around. You find programs for it to execute. And there’s the underworld… I mean, the list is so long of things that are totally not Dark Souls. But what we did keep was the tight, unforgiving melee combat, wide world exploration, and huge bosses.
God…when does this game come out??? I want it NOW. Will there be a multiplayer element?
Yes! You can invite a friend to play over with a match code (no need to mess around trying to find your friend), or you can play in split-screen. And unlike Dark Souls, your coop friend isn’t kicked out after beating a boss. You can pretty much play the whole game with a friend.
Dude, you’re killing me. This is one of the best game concepts I’ve ever heard of. Like all of my favorite things are coming together.
So you guys are partnered with tinyBuild obviously. How did that come about and what’s it been like working with them?
Happened in the holidays of 2017-2018. Surprisingly, both sides worked through those holidays. We had been looking for a publisher for quite a while at that point. We had one single call with tinyBuild. At the end of it, we were sure it was a bust. We weren’t really asked any questions and the call was really short. But two days later we received a go. Was quite a shock. We heard later the call was only to see if we were “real”. For a small team like us, a publisher like tinyBuild is a godsend.
What have they brought to the table that you guys couldn’t have done on your own?
They handle things we can’t and have a reach we don’t. For example, Hellpoint is translated into 9 languages. We suddenly have access to markets we couldn’t dream of before. It’s a big thing for us that tinyBuild was ready to take the risk of a partnership with a totally new company.
Are they pretty hands-off from a creative perspective?
They are pretty hands-off on things that make sense to be hands-off. For example, how hard the game is, the features, the storyline, etc. However, they are also pushing when they think it will make a better game. A good example of that: we have rather unusual controls when it comes to switching weapon abilities and cube programs. They asked us to tutorialize that a bit more.
I gotcha. I feel like that’s a great balance to have: someone that lets you be as creative as you want but is also kinda a mentor. So when can I lose my life to this game?
Haha, the release date is going to be announced very, very soon. We showed the trailer at PAX South. It’s a special level of kickass.
Alright well, thanks again for your time! Let’s wrap it all up with the rapid-fire questions.
Favorite game of all time?
Oh so unfair. I could never pick only 1. Quake 3, Team Fortress 2, Cool boarder 2, Vigilante 8, World of Warcraft, Diablo 2, Overwatch, Colony War, Project Sylpheed….just so many.
I’ll go with the game that made me go into the video game industry; Star Trek: Elite Force. Maybe not the best, but the most impactful.
Very long story short, Elite Force is pretty much Quake 3 in space. With the same tool to modify it. And back then, RavenSoft had an amazing relationship with their community. Want to know how to create a new map for the game? Ask on their forum! The devs directly answered you.
That’s really fucking cool. Favorite game of 2019?
The Outer Worlds.
Yea TOW was one of my top games of 2019 as well. Most underrated game of all time?
What in the fuck is that.
On Xbox 360, a long long time ago, Square Enix decided to make a heart-pumping space shooter. And it was awesome. I only have 2 games at 1000 points on X360; Mass Effect 1 and Project Sylpheed.
Ooooooo I’ll have to check it out. How about overrated?
Damn, the list is long…Gears of War in my opinion. Now I know, I’m not getting any friends by saying that.
OH YEA YOU ARE, HIGH 5 BUDDY. Gears 5 sucks ass. Compared to Gears 3 especially.
I was talking about the whole license in general. I never managed to enjoy it. But yeah, the last Gears wasn’t…. just wasn’t.
Game you refuse to play for whatever reason?
Currently, I have 2. I had over 4k hours in WoW, but Blizzard fucked my account so I’m not touching it ever again.
And Fortnite; installed, spend 30 mins trying to find someone, died. Did it again 2-3 times. Nope. Not my thing. I mean, Battle Royal is fun to watch a streamer play, but it’s so damn boring to play for the vast majority of the time!
I agree 1000% percent and as a blogger/streamer it is one of the most frustrating things in the world to have to cover. Fortnite was fun for the first year, now I’m done and ready to move on.
Last question: in the news recently, there’s been a lot of talk about “crunch” in video game studios. Like where people end up working 80-90 hours a week for months to finish up a game. What are your thoughts on this? Is it actually avoidable? Is it wrong?
That’s one thing about Cradle Games, we have 35h/weeks. Half our staff are from bigger studios; I worked for 8 years at Ubisoft on some big AAA titles. And there’s no doubt, it’s clear as day, we are easily twice as productive as any team doing 40h+. What people will have to understand is video games are technological marvels where any mistake can cost months of work. Having someone tired after 80h weeks simply means more mistakes and WAY more time wasted down the line. A studio doing crunch is a studio led by idiots. It’s that simple. They delayed Cyberpunk, no? That’s a good call. Fans don’t mind delays if the game is better and not killing the people doing it at the same time.
Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying overtime never happens. It can totally happen in some rare cases of having a special build tomorrow! But if it becomes “normal”, then there’s something deeply wrong.
Great insight. Well Marc-Andre, thank you again so much for your time today! I’m sure this won’t be the last time we speak but until then I look forward to seeing and playing Hellpoint!
Alright guys I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did. Very cool team, very cool game and I am eagerly anticipating that release date announcement Marc-Andre hinted at above. Soooo, go give them a follow on Twitter!
And lastly, I just want to remind everyone that this will be the final edition of “Behind the Mask” for a bit. You can read my last post for more information, but I promise this column isn’t going away for long. I’ll be back with more interviews and insight from professionals in the industry soon. Until then, you can follow me on Twitter where I’ll be sharing my writing for another site!