Pillars of Love for Horror: Pneumata Interview
During Summer Games Fest this year, there was supposed to be an event called The Mixer, in which some devs were set up to show off bits of their games to the press and public. Unfortunately, the event got canceled last minute. Thankfully I was able to get in contact with Antonio, the lead for the upcoming Pneumata.
Justin: Where did the idea for Pneumata come from?
Antonio: When I started working on this specific game, I had just finished playing Soma. I was just trying to remake Soma. And I started doing all these physics interactions, and I was like, Oh, this is really cool. Unreal Engine. 5.0 was completely broken with physics. And so it completely halted my development because I couldn’t fix these issues. Then I decided, you know, I gotta step back from all the physics stuff, no more Soma, let’s make something else. Let’s make something existential crisis cosmic horror. But I can’t do the physics thing, so let me just try and pull from something else. And I love the Resident Evil series, Outlast, and Condemned Criminal Origins. These are the three pillars of this game, basically.
Whenever I played Outlast, I just felt too helpless. Because sometimes it was just these dudes walking around. And then with Resident Evil, you’re blasting people at certain times, particularly late game, and it felt too focused on the action. So that was kind of like my main inspiration, and coupling that with Condemned, I wanted to make a game where you can fight back when it makes sense to fight back, you know, and there’s going to be different enemy types, there’s an enemy that you can just fight against. There may be other enemies that you need a different weapon to fight against. And I really love melee combat also, so I wanted to have some brutal, gritty combat. So that’s how the idea for this game came about. It’s just taking inspiration from all these games and pivoting where I needed to shift away from the physics-based stuff. I think I will probably implement some of the physics stuff now that Unreal Engine 5.1 is working.
Justin: So, how long would you say the game has been in development?
Antonio: When I sat down, I was playing so much and coming up with a name for a game. I don’t know why. But before I started this game, I thought,” Let’s come up with a name.” So I was Googling, and I found Pneumata. That was around May of last year.
I saw development had gone pretty quickly because I felt like I could just put together a game plan. Okay, it’s gonna be like this and then just strict deadlines on myself because, you know, I started off just working nights and weekends. I worked on it every single day. But I started about in May. But in reality, I’ve been working on a horror game for the last few years, probably two to three years. And what I mean by that is I’ve been trying to make my dream horror game. And every time I’ve been trying, I started a few games, and something I didn’t like would happen, or motivation was lost. Okay scrapped. And so I’ve been building up this horror game for a while. And I’ve been able to take bits and pieces that I’ve been working on for just the past few years. And so all that experience and everything, all the little bits of code I’ve made over the years, I’ve used that to accelerate development on this game. So that’s been pretty cool.
Justin: Can you tell us a little about the story?
Antonio: So what it’s about really is, you are a detective, and you’ve stumbled upon this cold case. There have been some disappearances and some murders at this complex called Clover Hill. So it’s an apartment building. And it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere in Missouri. It’s out in the sticks. So it’s kind of just in the middle of nowhere. They planned to build out this little community there, but things never took off. But some shady stuff has been going on there. And so you’re there and wake up from a brain injury. You’re kind of in your car. It seems that you’ve been in a car accident and are trying to gather yourself and see what’s going on. The roads have been flooded off, the rainstorms are coming in. And so you’re really just trying to not only explore this town, but you’re trying into, find a way to communicate with someone else outside of this area and try to call for help. But this eventually just takes you on this journey where you’re really getting into some pretty crazy mysterious stuff happening inside this building.
Justin: I am a sucker for a detective story, so that sounds awesome. We get a brief glimpse at the monsters, especially in the latest trailer. How did you develop these monsters?
Antonio: So my inspiration for what the monsters would look like comes a little bit from Dead Space. It’s a really cosmic horror game, you know, it’s a really Lovecraftian-inspired type of game. And this story is inspired by The Rats in the Walls. And in that story, some of the monsters are referred to as human cattle, And so they’re grotesque and kind of deformed. And that’s my inspiration; these monsters have some semblance of humanity.
Justin: So you talked about the buildings and the encampment area. It gives us that isolation vibe, like, we’re just isolated from everything else in the world. Is that going to play a part in the story? Are we really going to feel that?
Antonio: Yeah, definitely. I want to play with the themes of isolation and almost this sense of claustrophobia, like the world coming down on you. So that gets a little exemplified by starting in this big open area. Resident Evil Seven, and walking through the big creepy house. Yeah, I just love that feeling, and I know many people don’t like the field of view. But I love that so much just feeling like, and that’s even getting popular with the whole body cam horror games.
Justin: So we see our character walking around with a shotgun and a pistol. So is there going to be a push toward combat? Or are there going to be some enemies that we have to hide from that we can’t defeat, or is it going to be whatever the player thinks they can take on?
Antonio: I wanted it to be dynamic in that sense where if you’re finding all these weapons and ammunition, that’s like a reward for you exploring to really just soak in the environment. And that reward allows you to fight back. I wanted to make it so that you could, it could play out similar to Outlast, you know, you could just really stealth your way and run and hide, and I have those hide mechanics, which is kind of going to be crucial to the game as well, where you can hide in lockers, you can hide under the beds, you can hide in different cupboards and things like that. And that really plays into those enemies you can’t fight against. So, there’s going to be a variety of different enemies that you can go up against.
Justin: So many people are playing on the Steam deck. Have you developed Pneumata with the steam deck in mind?
Antonio: We haven’t taken too much consideration into it just yet. But in the coming months, I’m making progress on the PC version, as well we’re making progress on the console versions. A lot of that’s going to come with making really great strides towards, like, the optimization, focusing on performance, and really just tidying up on blocking a lot of those loose ends that you can maybe get away with on PC, and just kind of really just making sure everything’s really efficient. And many of those efforts will tie in nicely and get this compatible with the same deck. But I’m really looking forward to getting into that after focusing a little more on the console and the VR.
Justin: So, is the plan to get those, like the console and PC versions, out simultaneously?
Antonio: A simultaneous launch is kind of like the current plan. That’s ideal for me. It’d be cool to have that big day where everyone on both platforms can get their hands on it, and you can start playing. So that’s ideal, and that’s what we’re working towards.
Justin: You brought up VR; how do you plan for the number of headsets out there?
Antonio: That’s something we’re gonna have to look at. Our main priority is making sure this is compatible with some of the more modern headsets. But hopefully, we can get as much testing done for as many different types of devices as possible. So, we can better understand how that will look in a couple of months.
Justin: So internally, do you have a goal that you want to reach to have this game released? I only ask this because October is coming up, and Halloween is the perfect time for horror.
Antonio: My ultimate goal is 2023-ish. We’ll have a finished version and get that launched and released. If that’s Halloween, then that’s pretty awesome. Because there’s a 99% chance that Pneumata will be participating in the next fest. Okay, It’ll be there, and there’ll be a demo. I would like to have that demo come out and get a lot of feedback and reactions from the community.
I want to thank Antonio for taking the time out of his busy schedule to sit down and talk to me about Pneumata. Hopefully, we can get our hands on it during the Steam Next Fest because it does look incredible. In the meantime, follow Pneumata’s Twitter for up-to-date developments and check out its Steam page!