As a horror buff, I’m a big fan of games that let you unleash hell on unsuspecting human players. Unfortunately, there’ve been very few simulators that let you build nightmare traps for fun and profit. Ghost Sim was one that bounced around for a few years on PC, and Polterguy (a game about a rad poltergeist going full Beetlejuice on a crime family) was a Sega Genesis cult title. But recent years have seen very few people dabble in this genre. Until now.
A studio out of Paris, France has a Kickstarter up for its second game. It’s called MachiaVillain and it looks like what I’ve been waiting for. MachiaVillain is a horror mansion management game for PC, Mac, and Linux, inspired by Dungeon Keeper, Prison Architect, and every horror movie cliche ever. Build your own manor, raise monsters, set traps, and slaughter your victims — while maintaining your monsters and their personal needs. It’s devious and built in an impossibly cute art style. Before throwing my money at it, I wanted to have a quick chat with the man behind the game, so I interviewed Alexandre Lautié from Wild Factor Games, about why he wants to hurt people so badly.
Tell me about where you get the idea for a haunted house simulator.
We saw the movie Cabin in the Woods just before entering Ludum Dare, a famous game jam. We thought that it would be cool to imagine how the horror movie rules would look in a video game.
I feel like I’m a bit of a Ghost Sim fanatic, and over the years there have been so few entries in what seems like a brilliant genre. What games in other genre did you borrow from or take spiritual notes from?
Polterguy was great and some people compared MachiaVillain to Ghost Master. We share an attraction to the dark side, but the gameplay is much different. Our main inspirations come from games like Sim City, Dungeon Keeper, or Prison Architect — where players get to build functional setting as they see fit.
What are your horror influences and your comedy influences in this game? Are your monsters more Lovecraft or more Anne Rice?
Our core influence for the spirit of the game are the self-aware horror movies (like Scream), and the over-the-top violence from gore-comedies such as Evil Dead and Braindead But our monsters can come from every corner of the horror galaxy. No creature is safe from us! That’s part of the fun, choosing a monster and discussing their strength, weaknesses, attacks, needs, and quirks — translating them into a playable and well defined character.
What makes the game fun? What’s the element of fun that this game provides that people won’t be able to find elsewhere?
You rarely get to be the bad guy, and that’s always fun. MachiaVillain is a mix of serious gameplay challenges, completely absurd humor, and a tribute to horror movies. Where else do you get to order zombies to clean their room after a proper slaughter?
You’ve been blogging about the procedurally generated world, on down to how the art works. What are the most fascinating parts of this for you?
The most fascinating thing is to make the world and its inhabitants look alive. I want the player to care about their monsters and not want to lose one. It’s challenging, since we don’t usually consider monsters as creatures to care for.
Have either of you had experiences with the supernatural or the unexplained?
Last week [game artist] Zimra’s camera jumped from the shelf where it had been put for the past month. We’re not sure if it was a poltergeist or a suicidal camera, either way it was spooky. I never experience supernatural things myself, but I tried to move a pen with my mind for hours. I probably should not tell you that.
Tell me about Freaking Meatbags: Where did the idea come from and what was the development of that game like?
It actually came from a serious reflection on our relationship with work. Somehow it took a turn and became an RTS about a lazy robot ordering around stupid humans, alien DNA manipulation, angry wild robots, and a giant octopus.
How was that game received?
It got good reviews and we learned that we should have worked more closely with the community. People perceive your game differently than you do, as a creator. And that’s very important to know, as we are making the game for them to enjoy! That’s why we are going to gather input from players earlier in the development process and work with them closely.
Both of your games are very “Cute” in such a charming way. How did you settle on that aesthetic?
I don’t think we could have imagined them any other way. We have very human-unfriendly heroes (Robot Master and Killer Monsters) so far, but the games are very funny. And the style we chose reflects that — it keeps everything more comic than gore — so we can get away with murder.
Tell me about Wild Factor Games: Where did you come from and how did you get started?
I was in the game industry for over a decade. But AAA companies tend to work on games that will appeal to a majority of people, and I wanted to develop my own games for smaller groups of players but with more freedom. I did a first game in my spare time while working at a big company. It was a small mobile game, but it was a good way of learning how to deal with every aspect of developing a game before taking the next big step. Then I funded Wild Factor, and started working on Freaking Meatbags with a very small team from around the world.
What are the next steps for Wild Factor Games and for MachiaVillain?
We are focusing on MachiaVillain. The next step right now is to get funded on Kickstarter, and develop the best horror movie mansion simulation we can!