Hollowbody: Silent Hill meets Cyberpunk in this British indie survival horror game
It’s a rare sight to see a survival horror title set in the United Kingdom, and rarer still to see one actually being made by a British game developer. Hailing from that not-so-green and pleasant land myself, my curiosity was instantly piqued when I happened to stumble upon Hollowbody, a cyberpunk horror game for PC currently being funded on Kickstarter. Feeling it my patriotic duty to do so, I reached out to Hollowbody creator and Headware Games founder Nathan Hamley to get some more info on this tech noir terror.
Dread XP: What’s the basic premise of Hollowbody?
Nathan Hamley: At its core, Hollowbody is a narrative-driven survival horror game where you play as Mica, a black-market delivery driver who has found themselves stranded in the exclusion zone – a sprawling city now left abandoned after a mass evacuation took place 70 years prior. Alone, stranded, and with limited resources at your disposal, you’ll have to push your way through the zone, solve environmental puzzles, manage resources and fight for your life as you try to find a way to escape beyond the wall.
DXP: Can you talk a bit about Headware Games/ your background in game development?
NH: I’ve been interested in game development for about 20 years now. I started out by playing around with making Half Life maps, spent a little time with Dark Basic (an early IDE based game engine), and soon moved on to working in Adventure Game Studio. This was around the early-to-mid 2000’s. Back then there weren’t many developers making commercial games. We’d all make short freeware experiments and share them online; it was all very community based and supportive, no one was making any money.
Cut to 2012, Indie Game: The Movie releases, a bunch of smaller-scope indie titles start cropping up on the Xbox Live Marketplace and I decide to try and make something people would pay money for. Seven years later I released my first commercial game, Guard Duty, using the same AGS engine I’d been toying around with 10 years prior. After that release, I decided to learn Unity, started work on Chasing Static and launched that game in 2021. I’m now putting everything I’ve learned from those games into Hollowbody, which should be really cool!!
DXP: How did the idea for Hollowbody come about?
NH: A few years back I moved to Bristol. It’s an amazing city with what is probably the biggest art scene in the UK. The streets are covered head to toe in stunning graffiti and there are lots of opportunities to meet like-minded creatives. With that said, it’s a pretty stark contrast to where I had spent my life before that. I moved from a small town in the West Country surrounded by quaint villages, farms and huge sprawling fields. The sudden change of scenery inspired me; when out walking at night in the city I’d imagine what could be lurking between the brutalist structures and rows of terrace houses. It felt claustrophobic to be surrounded by so much brick and mortar and I wanted to draw from that with Hollowbody.
DXP: Hollowbody is set in a dystopian high-tech future, but it also takes inspiration from the Silent Hill series. Would you describe the game as more science fiction horror or psychological horror?
NH: The game definitely leans more on the psychological horror side of things. The world Mica is from is one of high-rises, hover cars and neon, but the environments you explore are more grounded in what we are used to seeing here in the UK. There’s a clear divide there. The city where Mica finds herself stranded hasn’t been touched by technological advancements for 70 years. It’s like a time capsule of a life long forgotten. By throwing Mica into such an unfamiliar environment it helps to marry the player’s experience with the narrative, as the environments and experiences are new to you both.
DXP: It’s pretty unusual to see horror games set in the UK, especially ones that aren’t in a Victorian setting. Why did you want to put Hollowbody in a futuristic England? What do you think a British setting can add to horror?
NH: For me, it’s partially down to familiarity. I find horror more impactful when there’s something relatable there. I went into the project knowing I wanted Hollowbody to be set in a sort of dystopian future: there are core narrative reasons for this, but I also felt that the setting should call back to something more grounded. As for Britain, well, I’ve played my fair share of games set in suburban American towns and whilst I love that setting, I find there is a lot of potential for new stories to emerge from different cultures. I love games like Kuon and the Fatal Frame/ Project Zero series for this reason, as they draw from some really interesting parts of Japanese folklore. When it comes to here in Britain, I feel we have a clear class divide with a lot of hypocrisy surrounding our monarchy and governmental structure, yet the general population shares a common ‘grin and bear it’ attitude towards our troubles, getting on with life in a stoical manner. This has been parodied in a lot of our media over the past decades with films like Children of Men or V for Vendetta, black comedies like The Young Ones, Shameless and Mitchell and Webb, or more recently with Black Mirror. These are all things that have reflected my experiences in Britain and influence how it’s portrayed in Hollowbody.
DXP: Lastly, any exclusive sneak peaks you can share with us here at Dread?
NH: Most of the fun stuff for Hollowbody has already been shown in the trailer/ Kickstarter, but I’m happy to say that the long-awaited console ports for Chasing Static are very near completion now, so I’ll be sharing some news regarding those on Twitter soon.
Thanks Nathan! Those wanting to delve deeper into the world of Hollowbody can hop on over to Headware Games’ website, or check out the Kickstarter here. If you’re thinking of chipping in, then you better hurry, as the campaign closes on 30 September!