Angel’s Gear: Scumhead Gives the Dirty Details on His Past and Future Games
When it comes to being an indie developer, dear readers will know that it can be a battle. Sometimes, an indie dev can spend a decade perfecting one idea to produce the single entity in their mind the way that they want it. That is not the case with indie dev and creepy art enthusiast Scumhead, who, since 2019 has released 12 titles on his Itch.io page, with 7 of those titles making it to Steam as well. He has no intention of stopping anytime soon, either, as he has been diligently working on his new title, a mortified and disease-ridden metroidvania built on the skeleton of survival horror titled Angel’s Gear.
I have been keen on Scumhead’s work for some time, having downloaded Shrine on my PC when I had first gotten it, and enjoying other titles from his catalog as they were released. The games all feature his signature art style and vibe, and while they may vary greatly in genres, you will find that Scumhead brings a distinctive style to each project he puts out. When I saw him showing details of his upcoming game Angel’s Gear, I was intrigued, and I wanted to know more about what is shaping up to be his most ambitious title yet.
I reached out to Scumhead over Twitter, where he posts regular updates on his work, and shares his love of gaming in general, and asked if he was available in the near future to meet and discuss his work. Thankfully his home had not been overrun with a galaxy-consuming disease, so he was able to make time to speak with me. After exchanging introductions and thanking him for taking time away from the development of Angel’s Gear, I started the interview.
I had known that Scumhead had been churning out stellar games for a few years now, but as is often the case with game developers, the first title widely released is rarely the first title they ever produced. With this in mind, I asked Scumhead how long they had been developing games for?
Scumhead: Um, well, I’ve been publishing games since I was 16. But I’ve been making them since I was around 12. I was making a lot of shitty Flash games. when I was 12. I got really into making Flash games on Newgrounds. And unfortunately, those are all gone now because Flash shut down, and also I forgot my Newgrounds account. But I was doing that when I was younger, I was just really inspired by Indie Game: the Movie, documentary. when I was young, and I was like, “Well, that’s what I want to do.” It’s like all I’ve ever wanted to do since I was a kid, so yeah, I’ve been doing it, Oh, my God, 10 years. It just hit me that I’ve been into this for that long. So yeah, a long time… I got very lucky to figure out what I wanted to do with my life very early.
With so many titles each displaying unique aspects either aesthetically or mechanically, I wanted to know how the gears inside Scumhead’s head turned, so I asked him what the process was like from conceptualization to creation for his titles?
Scumhead: I think I’m a bit abnormal with that. Because once I want to make something I instantly go on to concepting and just getting my idea out as fast as possible. From conception, it’s so strange, because each of my projects has sort of a different reason why they start to form into creation, like with Shrine, it was just like, “oh, you can make your own game and in the GZDoom engine and and publish it by itself and not have it just be stuck as a mod? That’s so cool.” And it was easy, the tool itself is easy to use. A lot of these engines and tools are limited, but easy to use. So I just sort of form a project around that. And I’m getting a bit off track here. Basically, from conception, usually I just have a cool idea, my projects are like visual art first, gameplay later. So I usually come up with like, all these would-be cool creatures and a main character, and I have a weird idea for the world. And so I just want to make that into a thing. And then I’ll usually have like recently played something and I can put my own spin on that and make it feel cool. And that’s just kind of how it gets put together. I guess this happens less recently. I’ve gotten a lot more serious just in the past three years or so I’m putting way more thought into like, the gameplay itself, and making sure I have a unique idea, stuff like that. So it’s chaotic, you can tell from how I’m describing it that I don’t really have like, a game plan when I’m going into making something. I just get a lightning bolt of inspiration and then it just becomes my body’s mission to make it happen.
Hearing this, I commented “I’ve heard a lot of developers take the opposite approach where it’s always like, ‘no, it started as a mechanical thing. So I thought of a mechanic and then worked backwards.’ So it’s very cool to hear someone say the opposite of like, I saw a piece of art in my mind and then made a game around it.”
Scumhead: Yeah. And both have their positives and negatives. Like, personally, I don’t think my games play particularly amazing. I will say for Angel’s Gear though, I think that’s going to be pretty good. But for most of my projects, it’s art first than the game play. But that has its positives and negatives where the game can suffer for the sake of creating an interesting experience. So yeah,I don’t think one is better than the other, I suppose. Just that’s my, that’s my brand, I guess.
With this unique approach to game design, starting from an internal image and working outwards, I wondered if Scumhead felt that any individual game stuck out among the rest. So I asked, out of all of his titles, is there one that years later you still look back on and think fondly of?
Scumhead: It’s so tough because I just am so like, hungry to move forward that I have a hard time looking back on things and being proud of it. The one I feel really good about is really recent, it was my most recent project, which was Loplight, I’m really proud of. That was the first time I’ve ever composed music on my own. That was the first time I ever really had what I feel like is a very original idea for the gameplay itself. I’m pretty proud of that one. It’s got issues for sure, but I mean, I think I’m more proud of the fact that I’m able to create so many things then looking back on the quality of the project itself, because you tunnel vision so hard as you’re working on something, you kind of don’t know if it’s even good anymore. So it’s just like, alright, this is made, and now it’s out in the ether. So it’s up to other people to decide whether it’s good or not, you know… I don’t know, there’s just a lot of different head spaces you can go into when you’re making artwork, and I’m just not a perfectionist type person. I want to get as many of my ideas out into the world as I can before I become, you know, I’m buried underground, or turned into ash, either one, or plugged into a giant computer to be a battery, whatever happens to us.
Inspiration can come in many shapes and forms, and while I could make guesses that games like Demon’s Gamble was inspired by I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream or that from an aesthetic perspective he may have been inspired by the works of H.R. Giger, but all I can do is make guesses, so in the interest of hearing it straight from the man himself, I asked Scumehad if he would be able to tell us about some of the things that inspired his worlds?
Scumhead: I will say that Demons Gamble, I made that for a game jam and you are absolutely correct. It’s literally I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream so you got it. [regarding the other titles] I don’t know, there’s a certain point when you’ve made so many things, the well of inspiration runs dry and you sort of have to start mining your like, inner consciousness for strange things Shrine was just, here’s like ideas for monsters I’ve had my entire life and I finally have a place to put them. There’s a music artist called Filmmaker and when Shrine was just a mod I just used Filmmaker’s music. And his album art and also the tone of the music really fed back into that project’s feel and setting. That’s not the case now, because on Steam it’s just using royalty free stuff because I don’t want to just steal some guy’s music and put it on Steam. but a lot of is a lot of music for some of these projects. Like Vomitorium was a lot of Nine Inch Nails, just listening to that going into making a world, and just going to get the flow of the art moving to the beat of the music, or just stuff like that. I mean, my own art and how it’s evolved over time. I can sort of, I don’t know, I have a lot of creatures and projects that aren’t like, I can’t really pin to where it’s been inspired from one specific thing. It’s just the culmination of my entire taste, manifesting into its own design, I guess… Sounds really cocky. So I apologize.
I told Scumhead that when you were putting out titles as cool as he was, as often as he was, you had earned the right to be a little cocky. Moving on from his past titles to the future of his series Shrine, I had seen talk on twitter for a while that Shrine 3 was in development, but when I went and searched his twitter page and website, I could not find any information on the game. Wanting to learn more I asked Scumhead if he was working on the third entry in the series, and if not, what was his role in the project?
Scumhead: No, that is not the case, that is Mengo. Mengo is an insanely good game designer. And he basically did all the hard carrying when it came to Shrine 2‘s game design, which is why out of all my projects, I think Shrine 2 plays the best. And he is working on Shrine 3, and they show me stuff every once in a while. But that’s mainly like, I gave the reins over because I’m not super into making a lot of sequels and stuff. I kind of just want to keep making new things. So, I got nothing to do with Shrine 3, other than just like, approving ideas and etc.
On that note I added that it must be cool to have created something so memorable that people wanted to take it off his hands and continue the series when he no longer felt the urge to.
Scumhead: It is cool, but, well, there’s no but it just is cool. It’s just, you know, I’m exhausted, If I wanted to work on Shrine 3 me and Mengo would be doing that. That’s just more like, I’m happy that it’s continuing. it’s just personally not a project I’m extremely interested in, I guess.
On the topic of his future titles, with Angel’s Gear being so far along in development, I wanted to know if he would continue to branch out into new genres as he made more games, and if so, was there any specific genre he was itching to try his hand at?
Scumhead: Absolutely, RPGs, like traditional CRPG type games I have. My dream project is something adjacent to a Morrowind type of game. And I would like to get there eventually. But at the current time, I still need to learn 3D modeling and an engine that can, you know, make that idea happen. But most genres I like, and I would like to do something in them, eventually, it’s just what I want to do for like, right now, is make very strange playing games that don’t exactly fit into the mold of a particular genre or particular inspiration of a game. Like with Angel’s Gear, for example, it has a Metroidvania-esque layout, and a horror flavored setting. But the gameplay is very different from a traditional Metroidvania. And I just want to keep getting stranger and stranger in terms of the mechanical design of the project. And the art direction of Angel’s Gear is very standard, for me. It’s very much my type of thing, but I’ll give a little crumb here that my post Angel’s Gear projects I am doing is going to be one of the I think it’s going to be very interesting how original that idea is… I can’t even describe it because it’s very weird… I’m so excited for that project. That is going to be like, six months of world building, and it’s going to be awesome. I’m very excited. I don’t want to hype it up or like, you know, swing my big peepee around and try and look all cool. But I think, if you don’t click with it, you’re going to absolutely despise it and think it’s the worst game ever. But for people who do click with it, it’s probably going to be one of the most unique experiences from a game. So I’ll just leave it at that. Very excited to work in that but Angel’s Gear has got to get finished first.
I told Scumhead that I certainly hoped it would click with me when it released
Scumhead: I hope so too. I hope it clicks with people, but I am trying to be less conscious and trying to be less of a people pleaser, and more just make what I want to make and make it you know, niche. Make it something that is completely me, you know?
I am a firm believer in the sentiment that you should make something for yourself first, and hope that other people like it, so I was glad to hear that he had that mentality when it came to his future projects. As the conversation made it’s way to discussing Angel’s Gear, I asked Scumhead if he felt as though it was shaping up to be his biggest project yet?
Scumhead: In terms of raw quality and ambition, absolutely. In terms of length, hard to say, I think Shrine 2 will still end up being the longest game I’ve made, just because that was just a lot of content. But in terms of like, quality and polish, absolutely I would say this is the biggest project so far.
I had seen that on Twitter that Scumhead was going to be trying to reveal less about the game, as he felt he was about to spoil too much of his own project, so with that in mind I asked if he could tell us, without spoiling anything major, about the story and world of Angel’s Gear?
Scumhead: Oh, yes, I will tell you as much as I can. Keep in mind, I am going through a bit of an editing process because there are some elements I set up that I’m not super into. But I’ll say this, I’ll try and make this easy. Okay, so as it is right now, alternate universe, some mad scientist dude is working under a like, Nazi Germany adjacent regime. And he’s been contracted to make this horrible weapon of mass destruction called the gear. Basically, shit goes awry, and he decides, “fuck it. I’m just releasing it. I don’t care about anything anymore. This was a terrible idea, anyway. And this is all I care about now is this project I’ve become obsessed with” so he releases it. And this disease just eats everything. It eats humans, buildings, countries, the entire world. And it’s now just this giant mechanical disease machine just feeding itself to keep to continue to replicate itself, its only purpose is to replicate itself by consuming matter. And so it stretches out all over the world, up to the moon, expands to the solar system, and it’s just become this giant universe sized, horrible machine, and it needs to keep eating. It’s so intelligent, and you know, desires so much to continue eating that it can tear rips into alternate worlds and universes. And that’s what’s happening in the world of Angel’s Gear, which is called the Godhead. It comes there, and in order to really plant the seed of the gear, it needs to have a sort of trigger type event. So the big mad scientist guy creates a dragon in the moon so the dragon can come down and start spreading the gear. It doesn’t make a lot of sense, but it’s cool as hell, that’s what I think. The starting the event is the dragon coming out of the moon, and then spreading the disease of the gear on this alternate world. And you are just a simple soldier who has been caught in the worst possible time for that to happen. And now you have to fix it. So that’s the starting event.
It certainly sounded like a kickass way to start the story. Aside from the world and story of the title, I had seen Scumhead describe the game as “the first tacti-cool metroidvania” which while getting a chuckle out of me, was also very intriguing, wanting to know more, I asked Scumhead if he could elaborate on what the gameplay loop for the title would be like?
Scumhead: If I could describe the gameplay of Angel’s Gear it’s like if Resident Evil 4 was a side scroller, and you had like, animation commitment like from something like Monster Hunter or Dark Souls, I guess.
To clarify, I asked if he would compare it to Prince of Persia, another classic 2D game that showcased frequent animation commitment?
Scumhead: Yes! I would describe it as a cinematic platformer, but you can shoot things. Have you ever heard of Blackthorne? It’s kind of like that but just slightly more fluid and there is no like, you know, hiding-in-the-shadows-to-dodge-bullets type thing.
I was pleased to see that he had listed Resident Evil 4 as an inspiration for the title, because one thing I had noticed that both games have in common is the variety of unique ways the player can meet their demise. Having seen the ‘brain bite’ he had posted on Twitter, I asked if players should expect to see many different ways for the player to bite the dust?
Scumhead: Yes… I get a lot of criticism, that the games are really easy. So I said, “alright, I’ll make the game hard then we’ll see how he does like it.” But to make that fun, every boss has its own unique way to kill the player like, a lot of eating. For some reason, a lot of the bosses eat the player, and it’s funny. One will grab you and cut your head off, one nukes himself and you get vaporized, and you’re not even there anymore. Just tons of cool ways to die. There’s a whole platforming area where it’s full of buzzsaws. And your player gets caught on the hooks and stuff. And it’ll be awesome. But yes, I want to make dying fun, and have cool deaths for everything.
I was getting more excited to play the game as I learned more. Going back to what he had said about not wanting to share too many spoilers, I asked if we could take that to mean that he was making good progress on the title so far?
Scumhead: it’s going way faster than I thought it would, I thought my pace was gonna be a lot slower because I was working on a little Halloween themed game in October. And I thought, “we’re gonna stop Angel’s Gear development during October”, I did not do that at all, I was still working on it. The pace is going mental, and I think the actual content of the game is probably going to be finished, like, by sometime late January-ish. But I want to spend a lot of time really polishing it, because that’s something I have a bad habit of not doing when I finish the projects. I really want this to be the shining sheen project. Like, here, if you want to play my shit, this is what it’s like, here’s my work at its best possible polish as a sort of an introduction, I suppose. So the pacing is going amazing. I’m going to finish it quickly, but the polish phase is going to be a long time.
I commented that it sounded like players shouldn’t expect to get their hands on it for a while, even if it was nearly “finished”
Scumhead: I mean, I worked so quickly that quite a while for me is just like a few months. So you will probably be able to play this before July 30. That’s my estimate. We’ll see… I’ve released two games on July 30 now, so that’s like my date where I’ve released games before, so that’s my marker.
I had been greatly enjoying the conversation with Scumhead so far, but I had exhausted all of the questions I had prepared in advance. But before I ended the interview I wanted to open the floor to Scumhead and see if there was anything he wanted to let the readers know, or anyone he would like to shout out?
Scumhead: Hmm, um, let’s see. I would like to shout out just like one or a couple people. I’d like to shout out In The Keep, the people at In The Keep who have been wonderful to me. I would like to shout out Mengo. And also, I can’t think of one. I kind of keep to myself mostly. It’s tough. Who else would I do? I can’t think of anyone, dang it. Then I’ll say for my work, I don’t know. Please play Loplight, I’m very proud of that game. And if you’re going into Angel’s Gear, try to go into it with an open mind because the controls are a bit strange. Just give it a whirl, I think it’s very satisfying when you get the hang of it.
With that final shoutout to his friends, I thanked Scumhead again for his time and the great conversation, and let him return to his work creating nightmarish yet intriguing games for us to enjoy.
If you want to stay up to date on Scumhead’s work, or see his previous efforts, be sure to visit his website Goresoft.com, his Itch.io or Steam page, or even just swing by his Twitter page to see what he’s been making or playing as of late.
And as always, if you are absolutely fiending for more ghoulish gossip on the latest and greatest in gruesome gory gaming, then head back to DreadXP.com and read more of our frightful features!