Gossamer Matrix

Gossamer Matrix: Catmilk Goes Public with Details on the Chaotic Trip Through Corporate Hell

We here at DreadXP know a thing or two about dread, I mean shoot, it’s in the name for a reason! And while the typical variety of dread one will find in our writings may come from horrific beings with disgusting diets, or scary sci-fi slaughterhouses, I come to you today to talk about a different kind of dread: the dread of being stuck in the gears of the mundane corporate workforce. Unfortunately, I am sure that many of my dear readers are familiar with the Monday-to-Friday grind, and the stressors that come with it. This dread is something that indie dev catmilk hopes to tap into with their upcoming arcade FPS Gossamer Matrix, a stylish but strange shooter that takes a more satirical look at the world of fortune 500 companies and aims to give new meaning to the term “hostile takeover.”

Initially, when I had first seen Gossamer Matrix, I was not drawn in by its anti-capitalist agenda or the barrage of neon gradients straight off of an early 90’s windbreaker. The thing that grabbed my attention was the unique UI that had players flailing an arm like a limp noodle to reload or enter codes when needed. With my curiosity peaked I was eager to learn more, and like a young urban professional who was trying to make a name in the world of C.E.O’s and stockholders, I reached out to catmilk to set up a business meeting. The business in question: getting the gossip on Gossamer Matrix, of course. 

Thankfully he was not currently embroiled in a violent liquidation of company assets and was able to fit me into his schedule for a short talk. So I put on my best suit, slicked my buzzed head back, and sat down with catmilk to talk about his upcoming game, the horrors of the corporate world, and the things he learned along the way. After exchanging introductions and some small talk, we got down to brass tacks and began the interview. 

One thing I noticed about catmilk as I prepared for this interview was that they had not released a lot of content online, and the leaps made between each project released were large. Going from snake clone, to simple collectathon, to a retro-styled 3D spaceship cockpit simulator, it seemed like catmilk was very quickly building their skill set as a game developer. It was hard to tell if he had been exponentially growing, or if he had perhaps been tinkering with game engines since he was a youth. With this in mind, I asked him how long he had been making games for?

catmilk: I wanted to delve into game dev since I was in high school. And so I kind of played around with it here and there. But I think COVID really set off my endeavors into it just because I had a lot of free time. So I just started making small things, tried to make stuff I was interested in. Like, I mean, I don’t think I put up anything that I made in Unity, I know 3D Space Rocks was a weird Unity project, but basically just little throwaway things. And yeah, I tried to enter a game jam here and there. I just tried to make a snake clone, just to get used to Game Dev stuff. But it was pretty, pretty recent, I’d say the last three years.

I asked catmilk how long he had been cooking up Gossamer Matrix during that time, was it the game he always wanted to make, or was it something that he came up with as he got more comfortable with game design?

catmilk: So it’s been in development for like, a year now, I want to say The idea kind of was, I don’t know, it feels tacked together, but I started with that whole reload system idea because I wanted to make an FPS. And I just had this idea, it was inspired by Receiver a lot. That game by Wolfire games where you have to manage every part of the gun. Everything is attached to a hotkey. So all the reloading and everything felt like it had a certain weight to it, and I wanted to sort of try to replicate that weight. But instead of using hotkeys, using the mouse. Originally it was supposed to be 3D, but the 2D one was kind of a prototype idea and I enjoyed it, and it seemed to catch on with people, so that’s what I ended up going with.

While we were discussing inspirations, I wanted to ask a blunt question, I told catmilk that I couldn’t have been the first person to see that he was a fan of Cruelty Squad and to see the parallels between it and Gossamer Matrix, and I asked, on a scale of one to ten, how much did Cruelty Squad inspire Gossamer Matrix?

catmilk: Zero to ten I would probably say, it’s definitely up there, you know, it’s like an eight or nine. I don’t know, seeing Cruelty Squad, and what it is, and realizing that it was made by like one guy. I think that kind of made me realize that I could delve more into projects and stuff. And like, Cruelty Squad is an amazing game or whatever, but it definitely has that sort of look of messiness to it, but it also is pretty, like beautiful in its own way. And I just sort of thought, like, I could just go after what felt right in the moment. With the art style, I literally just discovered this feature on Aseprite that dithers colors. And I thought it would be a good placeholder to have these color gradients on the walls. And that’s how the art style kind of came about, because it was this colorful, kind of low effort thing. But then I liked the look of it, and I just decided to kind of roll with that, sort of like, limiting myself to only a few colors. But yeah, it was just seeing all of this interesting work, and it was so unique. And it encouraged me to sort of do whatever felt right.

Similar to the way that many players bounced off of Cruelty Squad due to its dissonant design and confusing mechanics, I felt that it was possible that some players may not jive with the hands-on approach to player control that Gossamer Matrix brings to the table. With this in mind I asked catmilk if they were at all concerned that the unconventional mechanics may deter more casual players?

catmilk: I think on, like, an anxious level, I’m definitely concerned about that. I found myself slipping and being like, “Oh, how do I make this, you know, more fun, or whatever.” But I think I want to embrace just going after something that I like. Because making the drag and drop kind of mechanics was really fun. Making eating animations for healing, that was just kind of, I don’t know, I just like doing those things, it was just spontaneous. A lot of people expressed that, like, going into those 2D inventories, and having to interact with the gun and everything would really interrupt the gameplay, and that kind of makes me nervous. Just because I want people to, you know, I want people to enjoy the experience and find some sort of entertainment out of it. But I think, through the play testing I’ve done and what I’ve shown my friends and stuff, it doesn’t seem to be that big of a concern. So I feel like I’m making up a lot of the worries about it.

I agreed with catmilk, and commented that frankly, it seemed like you would be fine as long as you took cover before reloading, similar to a real gunfight.

catmilk: Yeah, and I do want it to kind of push players to take a more methodical approach. Like, the way Hotline Miami kind of takes it was also an inspiration. Where you kind of learn the level through trial and error, and if you make a mistake, you’re kind of screwed. So having that more careful play style is something I try to play around with, and I think that that inventory mechanic helps that… There’s still a lot of design that needs to be done in this regard. But I kind of want to make each level like, not so much a puzzle, but sort of something that you have to learn.

Earlier catmilk had mentioned the eating animations he had been working on, and having seen them, I had a question about the mechanic, specifically, I asked if the player would be penalized for failing to bin their trash?

catmilk: That’s a good question. Part of something I want to add is like, a shake-up mechanic. So every time you open the inventory, all the stuff on the bottom of your screen gets shaken up and kind of goes everywhere and interrupts you. And, you know, putting the trash in the recycle bucket gives you money, but it also encourages you to clean up after yourself and be a decent person.

On the topic of the unconventional UI, I asked if there were any other interesting uses for the freeform limbs that catmilk had planned for the game?

catmilk: Yeah, I’m trying to do like, there’s a lever sometimes to open up different parts of the level, open up shortcuts. So that’ll open up another 2D UI when you interact with it, and then you can drag it down. I kind of want to do more interesting things like that, like maybe having to, I don’t know, unlock the shield on a button or input a code or something like that. There’s the vending machine UI, where you have to look up the item, the item code, and then type in the right code and hit enter to get the items. And like, yeah, the elevator, the level selection screens are like that, as well. I don’t know, trying to think of more things to add.

Speaking about the vending machine UI, It sounded like a unique brand of stress. I could only imagine the frustration of needing a chocolate bar and instead ordering bullets because you were careless with your flappy fists.

catmilk: Yeah, you’re getting a digit wrong and having to like flail around and struggle trying to type it in, that’s kinda what I want

Moving beyond the mechanics and onto the gameplay of the title, I wanted to discuss the role the NPCs in the office would play, from what I had seen, they seemed to act independently of the players actions, and had dialogue to offer when approached. With this in mind I asked catmilk if the game would offer any immersive sim-adjacent elements, or were these business bodies just there to add flavor to the world without serving a larger purpose?

catmilk: So one thing I definitely want to make clear with all of the relations to Cruelty Squad is that it’s definitely not that sort of immersive sim experience. Like, it’s not going to have an open world so much. And the NPCs are at the moment, I don’t think they don’t have complicated AI, they just get scared and then run back to their desks once the fighting is over. And their dialogue is basically just randomly grabbed. Like, I just write down some phrases, some strings, and it’ll randomly select one depending on the level. So it’s not too much in depth, I wanted to go for more of a simple, arcadey feel to it.

Immersive sims were hard games to make, and take a herculean effort for solo devs, so I most certainly could not blame them for wanting to avoid complicating the world with mechanics and logic that wouldn’t add to the core gunplay. 

catmilk: Unfortunately, that seems kind too complicated for my knowledge of game design right now… I’ve done that with many other little, well, what are now little projects because I abandoned them, so yeah.

Now that we had discussed so much of the mechanics, inspirations, and expectations for the title, I wanted to know more about the story of Gossamer Matrix. I asked catmilk if he would be able to tell us about the world and conflicts that the player may face in Gossamer Matrix?

catmilk: So the lore, I haven’t done too much of the lore. It’s mostly just rambling that I’ve done in a journal. But it definitely takes a lot of inspiration from the cyberpunk stuff, hypercapitalism… I mean, I graduated college in the timespan of making this game. And that idea of joining the corporate world, and having to sort of sell yourself to be like, just another person on the desk. Like that kind of stuff inspired a lot of the setting and the design of the characters in the game and everything. Yeah, I haven’t done too much of the lore, it’s mostly just that sort of hypercapitalism. It seems like it has a facade of individualism to it almost, but really you end up just getting treated like everybody else, that kind of stuff.

I absolutely understood where he was coming from, and recalled a story from when I was working for a bank, and had my boss very plainly tell me that the “valued team member” part of every email was a lie and that we were all just numbers to the higher-ups.

catmilk: Yeah, and I kind of wanted to capture some of those like, antagonisms, I guess, between worker and boss. Because you play this sort of security guard, or whatever. The plot of the game is that you’re tasked to assassinate the CEO of this subsidiary company. And so  I wanted to play on that. Like, you know, you’re this arm of your boss being told to go to this other business and mess with them and stuff. I definitely wanted to capture that feeling of being a worker… Having to do this horrible thing that you know you don’t really want to do but you’re so numb to it at this point that you just do it, you know, it’s your day job.

While the majority of the gameplay shown so far has focused on the gunplay, I know that there is much to do in an office setting besides assassinating a rival C.E.O. So I asked if there were any other obstacles or challenges that the player would have to overcome aside from shooting their way up the gore-porate ladder?

catmilk: it’s pretty much just a level based shooter. In the process of trying to design some levels I’ve come up with ideas of maybe throwing in some sort of like Simon Says thing. Because you can whip out your fists in the game, and the melee is really impractical. I thought it’d be fun to maybe have a side quest where you go through this optional part of a level where you have to go punching buttons in a timed way to unlock something. But it’s definitely a focus on arcade shooter kind of stuff.

Getting towards the end of the interview, I wanted to check in on the development itself, as making games is time consuming and a lot can happen to slow progress or derail development. Taken into consideration how much work had been done, and how much work remained, I asked catmilk if they felt like they were making good time on Gossamer Matrix?

catmilk: Before four months ago, yeah. But four months ago, I had to move everything and figure out a new job and stuff, so it’s been slow. But yeah, I think I’ve made a lot of progress over the past year, pretty much from January to August. I kind of surprised myself, but I guess I had a lot of free time. So I just, you know, spent whole days downing cups of coffee and programming random stuff.

It sounded like catmilk had really adopted the modern office worker mindset of coffee and computer work. As a follow-up, I asked if there was a tentative time frame for when they would like to release the project, or possibly a demo for Gossamer Matrix?

catmilk: I want to say, definitely, by the end of 2023, definitely this year I want to release it. But I can’t say anything else, because originally it was going to come out in December. And that, of course, didn’t happen, it’s nowhere close to that, just because of life stuff. So I don’t know, I don’t know what will happen in the next few months. But definitely, it’s getting to the point where I’ve kind of exhausted a lot of my inspirations for this, and I know what I want. And so hopefully I can sit down and get that done.

I was glad to hear that he was past the point of brainstorming and planning, and was more into execution of ideas at this point.

catmilk: On the large scale. Like I said, there’s a lot of small things I want to put in. But on the large scale, I think I’m at the point where I want to, I want to see more realization… It’s definitely exciting.

That did wrap up the questions I had regarding Gossamer Matrix. but as I often do, I wanted to give catmilk a chance to bring up anything we did not talk about during the interview, or possibly give a shout out or something for the readers to check out.

catmilk: Yeah, I mean, I don’t want to leave anybody out, because a lot of people I’ve met through Twitter have been a huge help and everything. But I’ll shout out my friend Aaron, who’s doing the soundtrack for the game. Because I don’t know how to write music at all, so he’s doing a fantastic job. He still has to finish up a lot of stuff so we haven’t released any of the music. But we released a little bit of the unfinished music. But yeah, I’ll shout him out. I don’t think he has any social media, though. That’s coming, I’ve been trying to push on that.

And with that we wrapped up the interview, I once again thanked catmilk for taking the time to speak with me about his business ventures, and after we grabbed our briefcases and shook hands firmly while maintaining eye contact, they went back to diligently working to get Gossamer Matrix out sometime this year.

If you want to stay on the inside loop of Gossamer Matrix’s development, be sure to visit catmilk on Twitter to see live updates of the game, and be sure to wishlist the title on Steam so you are made aware as soon as it releases for PC. And as always, if you are absolutely fiending for the latest and greatest in ghoulish, gruesome gaming, then head back to DreadXP and read more of our frightful features!