Scorched: Bug House Games Promises Loneliness and Crab Fetuses in Debut Horror Shooter
Scorched is a work-in-progress, open-world, horror shooter by Bug House Games. For fans of nuclear post-apocalypse and survival horror, it looks like you’ll have plenty to look forward to with the merciless and miserable world of Scorched. “Humanity is no longer welcomed in this world, and neither are you.” Please enjoy this brief chat with the sole developer behind Scorched on their debut title.
Parsely: So who am I talking to today?
Bug House Games: You’re talking to the one and only developer at Bug House Games, a name that I’m currently using to publish game development updates I suppose on whatever project I’m doing. It’s not really a company at the moment I- I don’t want a personal Instagram where I say mean things to transphobes and be in the same place that I publish my game. So I found that Twitter doesn’t like that and I’ve learned that the hard way, so that’s the reason for the name really.
Parsely: So Bug House Games is new then, right?
Bug House Games: Oh fuckin’ very new, yeah.
Parsely: So tell me about what you’re working on right now.
Bug House Games: Currently we’re working on the post nuclear horror game called Scorched. Which is really heavily inspired by hardcore mods for [Fallout: New Vegas and Fallout 4 called DUST and FROST], if anyone’s ever heard of that? It basically takes all the fun and whimsy out of the game and it takes place ten years after the main story and everything is just miserable and awful. It’s also really inspired by games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R., obviously. My fascination with horror like Cry of Fear and Silent Hill where it’s less of an apocalypse and a very clear threat, and more just nameless horrors that shouldn’t exist. My fascination always less comes from monsters I could foreseeably see existing, and more just like, this looks like someone’s nightmare put into reality, and I like stuff like that. So the thought process kinda came like, oh what if it was like an apocalypse of those kinds of monsters?
Parsely: That’s so interesting! I seen a little bit, I seen a few of your monsters on your devlogs and stuff like that, and that was one of the things that got me the most excited about the game. Shooting and survival stuff that looks like it’s in there, that looks really cool.
Bug House Games: I don’t have crafting so I’m not hitting all the benchmarks. [laughs]
Parsely: So first, tell me about the monsters, then tell me about what you have planned for the mechanics of the game.
Bug House Games: So as far as the monsters go I want the progression of the game to go from seeing kind of fucked up looking people, like you could imagine this being a person at some point, to just like, a mess of limbs and pus and blood crawling towards you, you know? I don’t want the most fucked up things to be the first thing the player encounters. The game’s gonna have a system to kinda control what you’re gonna be encountering. It’s not exactly a mental health system, it’s more so anxiety. The worse your mental condition and fortitude gets the more apt you’re going to be to see these horrifying things.
Parsely: Actually, could we take a step back and tell me, what do you do in the game? Is it like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. where there’s a plot going on, or is it more like a roguelike where you just kind of drop in and you just try to stay alive or like what’s the deal with that?
Bug House Games: There is a story to Scorched and it’s currently a work in progress as I’m one person. I’ve been very focused on just getting mechanics like, oh when you shove the enemy it doesn’t like, glitch out and crash the game, y’know very important “mechanics” like that. But I have been writing it! This game is not going to be, “oh the goal of this game is to survive”, it’s definitely one of the goals now, but there is a plot. You’re gonna get a sort of vague direction that gives you an idea of where to go. As far as main story goes, I’ve been very inspired by how Fallout 1 and S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl handle the plot which is, more just giving you an idea of where you should be going. But you’re left to kind of go where you want.
Parsely: So you get a long term goal and then you’re set free in an open world, and you’re allowed to approach the problem how you see fit?
Bug House Games: Pretty much! If you want to go to a late game area where enemies will beat the shit out of you and kill you when you first go then you can do that, you’re allowed to, but you will be given a vague direction like, “oh, head to the west and you’ll find this town”.
Parsely: So what’s your long term goal? What is that? Because in Fallout 1 it was the water chip, right?
Bug House Games: Right! So in Scorched the main setup is that you’re a survivor that you will be naming in the beginning. You are a gender neutral/fluid survivor – I’m not gonna have he/him or she/her pronouns in the game – and you were just kinda with this nameless group. You were moving through this hellhole and you and your group decide to settle down into this storm shelter that you guys found, and you wake up to find your entire group slaughtered. You have a vague dream of seeing men in black cloaks standing above you, and all you remember is that they took a polaroid from you. You don’t know what’s on the picture, you don’t know what the picture is of, it’s just kinda, hey you kinda want to get this back and maybe you find out who the fuck these people were! And that’s the most details I want to give about the story right now, that’s your setup.
Parsely: Woah, it sounds so mysterious!
Bug House Games: You’re gonna meet characters in this game and they’re going to range from ominously harmless to deliberately leading you to your death. I don’t wanna use inappropriate terms like “insane,” but these characters are very clearly shell-shocked and unstable. You’re not going to meet someone who’s going to let you breathe, at least not frequently. You’re gonna meet people who are worse off than you. I always like that idea of that scene in the hero’s journey where they go to the tavern or metaphorical bar and they meet people that have adventured and they’re better than them. I wanna do the opposite of that. I wanna meet people that are broken.
Bug House Games: They’ve seen some shit, and you don’t know what it is, but you’re about to find out if you keep playing the game. I don’t want aimless hopelessness as the theme of this game, I think that’s unproductive. I do want the world to be miserable, the world of Scorched. I want it to be this shithole that makes you question why even bother fighting or trying, and I want the answer to be- I’m not gonna spoil anything about how I’m gonna take care of that. I want to avoid aimless nihilism. I’m more in favor of: the world you’re experiencing is not fit for human beings, but you’re going to fight for the sake of fighting. I would like to make sure that that’s very aware (sic), and that I’m not going to be distastefully using themes of suicide and pain. I want to show characters with scars, but then show that that doesn’t necessarily have to define them. I also plan on, if you wanna do a genocide run you can kill every character.
Parsely: Oh shit.
Bug House Games: That is something I’m very much planning on doing. It’s not gonna be cool, it’s gonna be more like, you shoot a guy and he’s gonna be bleeding out for a bit while you’re loading another bullet. It’s not gonna be glorious. There’s one character who I’m animating who’s a mysterious old man in a wheelchair, and you can kill him! He won’t fight back or anything, you can just kill him if you want.
Parsely: Yeah, if you’re an asshole!
Bug House Games: If you’re a dick.
Parsely: Yeah I want more games that make you feel like an asshole-
Bug House Games: That lets you be a psychopath. I want Scorched to be a game where if you want to act like a psychopath you’re allowed to.
Parsely: Will people treat you like a psychopath if you start acting that way?
Bug House Games: It probably won’t have a great consequence on the world. People don’t have social media, they can’t exactly badmouth your main character, so there’s not really gonna be karma, other than that mangled corpse of a person that you just blasted with a shotgun is gonna be there to remind you of that, every day. It’s also probably gonna have very significant negations to your mental fortitude if you just kill people blatantly. You’re gonna descend very quickly into madness, one could say.
Parsely: Oh, so there will be psychological effects on you if you kill innocent people?
Bug House Games: Oh yeah! Very bad. Just humans in general, if you kill them, that’s gonna be an immediate very, very bad.
Parsely: Even if it’s in self-defense?
Bug House Games: I haven’t worked out the actual math yet. I still have notebooks of just, okay this stat is going to affect this stat. It’s kinda looking more like that one scene from [Always Sunny in Philadelphia] where Charlie is talking about Pepe Silvia, that’s my current notes. I really want to avoid the stats being just a number. I want it to affect gameplay. Killing is going to degrade on you over time, even in the smallest of senses it will degrade on you. It will tear you down, slowly.
Bug House Games: You can find items like tranquilizers, antidepressants, even alcohol to quench it even for a temporary amount of time, but it will haunt you. Gameplay-wise it will haunt you, to kill people.
Parsely: Can you get lonely?
Bug House Games: The whole game is fucking lonely. The whole game is just a miserable isolation exercise. The town, I guess the area, Eggers County, it’s based somewhere in New Hampshire [or] Maine. I feel like every apocalypse media takes place in a rural city, I want more of a Stephen King novel [vibe], y’know small towns with churches and convenience stores. I want more of that as the setup. You’re not going to find a big city, there’s not gonna be a Megaton where you’re gonna meet a bunch of traders- No, there’s no factions or traders. This world sucks! At this point in the timeline, human beings are on their way out. There’s no “we’re going to rebuild” ending to Scorched. That’s not what’s gonna happen. You’re in a world where human beings are no longer the apex predator, or even a key aspect of life. It’s wiped out. It’s gone. Save for you and maybe a few other assholes that you’re gonna meet.
Parsely: So it’s more about trying to find meaning for yourself with the time you have left, because there’s no hope of passing anything on, right?
Bug House Games: Essentially. The land isn’t farmable. Based on some of the monsters you could see, including the “crab fetus” enemy, as I’ve dubbed it, is the result of human beings attempting to reproduce in this world. It’s not- It doesn’t work. It’s almost as if everyone is infected with something, but it’s not a disease, it’s not. There’s something more… Malignant about it.
Bug House Games: I don’t want to talk too much about [it] because I don’t want to give everything away.
Parsely: Oh so it’s all redacted.
Bug House Games: It’s almost as if there’s another force here controlling things. I don’t want to name drop or even get into it, but what’s important is that humans by either their own will or the will of something greater- We’re not going to be bouncing back in this universe, or any time soon.
Bug House Games: And as a survivor I would recommend giving up any hope of finding a safe zone that’s walled off and has traders and an economy. You’re not gonna be collecting bottle caps, don’t fucking bother. [laughs] There is soda in the game but I wouldn’t hang on to empty cans. It’s not worth it.
Parsely: So you’re just a scavenger?
Bug House Games: You’re basically just a lowlife rat, that’s your lifestyle in this game. You’re scouring through corpses, wreckage of cars and vehicles that were probably destroyed when the Event happens that I’m not getting into… Like the world is just littered with dead bodies, trash, debris. The majority of your time playing this game is gonna be rummaging through garbage to find something to keep your character going. That’s really it. The minute that you say the word “hope” you’re fucked. You’ve already been too idealistic. The minute someone mentions the word “hope” the entire group is dead. That’s my entire philosophy when writing shit.
Parsely: Incredible. Okay, so now, I feel like I have a good idea of where we are, what we’re doing, and what’s possible. So tell me more about the monsters now because I jumped the gun on it a little bit because I was really fucking excited, because what little you told me was really interesting.
Bug House Games: I’ll talk about them. I’m very inspired by horror games like Cry of Fear and their design philosophy of, let’s just make the most fucked up looking thing and have it just sprint screaming at the player, and I was like you know maybe it doesn’t sound so bad. I like that idea. And I feel like games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. had the potential to go that far but it’s clear that their focus was a bit less on the horror and more like the people fighting people. I want that to take a backseat to the horrifying shit. One of them, I’ve dubbed it the “grabber”, although it doesn’t do a grab, it’s more of it punches you, but it’s basically a walking corpse whose upper torso is either blown in half or it’s split open to reveal a bunch of arms growing out from the base. So it’s basically just like, a pair of legs and then four limbs sprouting out of a gory torso.
Bug House Games: If I look at the finished drawing and the notes and I don’t get a little bit sick thinking about it then I don’t want to put it in the game. I want every monster and encounter to be like a, “what the fuck am I looking at”, kind of question. You’re not gonna see an infected, a zombie. There’s gonna be one or two enemies in the beginning that are gonna be just drones, but for the most part everything is gonna be pretty horrifying looking. Either I base them off of things I’ve seen in nightmares or horror media that I like. Like the, dare I say Eldritch? Except less of the seafood variety and more of just a Frankenstein-looking thing.
Parsely: That sounds really, really fucking cool.
Bug House Games: So I mentioned there’s lore behind why human beings probably can’t reproduce. There are people that tried and what ended up happening is that the babies- I actually have lore notes. I’ve written fake doctor’s notes and emails. Just like, “hey can you please get to the fucking hospital, we have 20 different cases of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome)”. Things like that. So biologically what happens is that when the baby is born it already has trouble breathing and then it suffers a brain hemorrhage and then dies. Sudden infant death syndrome, that’s what it’s written down as, but upon x-rays it’s clear that there was some kind of biological growth within the brainstem, and the legs that you see coming out from the skull, that’s the growth. The crab fetus is essentially something taking control of the dead child and maneuvering it in a spider-like fashion.
Bug House Games: With the grabber I just liked the kinda, Trevor Henderson’s horse skeleton design, where it just creates new joints at a whim by breaking its [bones]- So that monster as I just kind of, in Photoshop I just picked the joints as I wanted, I didn’t pay attention to consistency. I was just like, eh fuck it, if it wants a new joint in the forearm it’ll just bend its arm that way. I have another one. It’s simply called the hair spider. It’s just a severed head whose hair is being used as the legs.
Parsely: So last thing I guess is, where can we get the game?
Bug House Games: The game’s gonna be available on the main itch.io page and when the game’s finished I’ll probably try to push it out to Indie DB and Mod DB. Really any platform that will take it, I’m gonna look into trying to get it on there. One thing that I would sort of love to do is get a sort of retro-ish physical copy of the game, like in a PC case. I would love that. I think that would be- No promises but like…
Parsely: Oh that would be so fucking sick, what the hell.
Bug House Games: I would love that, so much.
Parsely: I want my PC box of Scorched to get all beat up and the cardboard is ripping off a bit on the corners.
Bug House Games: I should do that, fuck I should do that.
Parsely: That’d be so sick. Like here’s your used copy of Scorched. [laughs]
Bug House Games: It’s funny, I had a build of this game going on [in] the Unreal Engine. I’ll find some really old ass screenshots of that. But my problem with it was that it looked too good. So I was just like fuck it, whats an engine that can do this fake 3D shit.
Bug House Games: The Unreal Engine it’s great, it’s easy to make amazing looking lighting, bake it, and I love it. But I was like, this doesn’t look shitty enough.
Bug House Games: So I went back to my copy of GameMaker Studio that I had, and I kind of just started fucking around with it, and I was like, this is the exact look I had in mind for the game.
Bug House Games: I had fun fucking around with it and making cool looking levels, but the game didnt look how i wanted it to? So I kinda decided, if i’m gonna do a fake 3D, why don’t I just literally do fake 3D. So I went to GameMaker Studio and I started learning how to make- Y’know, Doom clone tutorials. And I just used that as a base that I worked off of, and now you’re kind of starting to see the end result of that.
Parsely: That’s so fucking tight. So, very last thing, is there anything you wanna give a shoutout, or…?
Bug House Games: I’m sorry Alex. She got the inventory system functioning, and also is helping me work on a 3D sound system. It’s still buggy right now, but she’s helped so much getting half of that functional. So big, big shoutout to Alex, and please go pay attention to Oceanborn. That game is also very cool. Thank you Alex for coding my inventory system, I almost had a panic attack because I was like, I can’t get this to work! This is like, half the game right here! Within like, the next night she was like, “huh give me like, a minute”.
Bug House Games: And it works great, it works fucking great, I still use all the scripts that she made. Big shoutout to her.
Parsely: Anything else?
Bug House Games: Thank you for giving this interview and letting me talk about my game for a bit. It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to go on a very neurodivergent rant on what I’m hyped about, so thank you for giving me that opportunity. It’s much appreciated.
Parsely: Absolutely. I’m always here to enable people being neurodivergent. Abso-fucking-lutely.
Bug House Games: You know in reality, if I were to sum up Scorched, it’s really just a manifestation of my autistic fixation with gas masks and how cool they look. I just wanna see a cool looking character with a rugged backpack and a gas mask on.
Thanks to Bug House Games for joining us to talk about their debut title. Watch the itch page Scorched and get it when it’s released. For detailed updates on the development of Scorched, please follow their dev blog on Tumblr.
Make sure you check out DreadXP for more interviews, editorials, and reviews on horror games.