Lovecraft-inspired settings and stories are something we see a lot of across all media, but Rock Pocket Games’ first person narrative-driven title Moons of Madness throws an interesting twist on that premise, blending cosmic horror with hard science fiction. Having launched for PS4, Xbox One, and PC in October, the game’s been in the hands of players for a few months now- but before it launched, we sent across a few of our questions to its developers. You can read our conversation with Rock Pocket Games CEO Ivan Moen below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
“One of the things that makes Lovecraft stories so memorable is how detailed and descriptive they are. His writing is laden with atmosphere which makes it very easy to step into the shoes of his characters and relate to their situations. We hoped to capture some of that in Moons, both through the story and environment details that we’ve created.”
How happy have you been with the reception to your game in the immediate aftermath of the launch?
Like any game, there are people who will love the game, and others who don’t. Luckily, we’re happy with the response so far, and we’re truly enjoying watching all the reviews and play-throughs to be found on YouTube.
What is it about cosmic horror and Lovecraftian stories that makes for such compelling horror stories and experiences?
One of the things that makes Lovecraft stories so memorable is how detailed and descriptive they are. His writing is laden with atmosphere which makes it very easy to step into the shoes of his characters and relate to their situations. We hoped to capture some of that in Moons, both through the story and environment details that we’ve created.
With its blend of the aforementioned Lovecraftian horror and a premise that’s very interesting even from a pure science fiction perspective, Moons of Madness’ setting was certainly ripe for some excellent storytelling. Was this something you saw as an opportunity early on and wanted to capitalize on?
The game’s setting of Mars was something we were very excited about from the start. It’s something that’s very relevant today and humans visiting Mars is a romanticized concept to some degree, because of the mystery surrounding it.
It also felt like a natural fit for a modern Lovecraft-style story with a pronounced “cosmic” aspect, as well as the loneliness that comes with being one of the first people on a new (dead) planet.
Did you look at any stories from any medium or any horror games in particular that served as inspirations for Moons of Madness?
Aside from taking inspiration from a lot of Lovecraft tales, Moons of Madness also borrows from The Martian, The Thing, the Resident Evil and Silent Hill series, Alien, and Stranger Things.
“It was an intense learning experience for us creating a story driven first person game, even though our next game will be pretty much the opposite; we’re definitely open to revisiting the genre should the right idea show itself.”
Do you have any updates planned for the future, big or small- whether that’s fixes to the game in response to feedback or even expansions?
We’ve got ideas for additional content, but time will tell if they ever materialize.
If Moons of Madness proves to be a success, is this something you see yourself working on again in the future, perhaps in the form of a sequel?
It was an intense learning experience for us creating a story driven first person game, even though our next game will be pretty much the opposite; we’re definitely open to revisiting the genre should the right idea show itself.
I imagine atmosphere and psychological terror are much more important than the more in-your-face scares in a game such as Moons of Madness. How important was it to you that you struck the right sort of balance for the game in that area?
We were striving to achieve a sense of unnerve and atmosphere rather than scares. It’s a delicate balance, and something that’s hard to benchmark or find the right recipe for. Every person is different, and so how they perceptive these things will be as well. It’s a tricky one for sure, and there’s no real way of knowing if you hit the right balance, or not.
Do you have any plans to launch on the Switch?
Not at the moment, but it would indeed be fun to be able to play the game on the Switch.
There’s been a lot of talk of SSDs, which the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are both confirmed to feature. What’s the biggest impact it’s going to have on development, according to you?
Loading loads of data, and streaming inn levels like we do in Moons is challenging. Faster disks will help a lot and I think we will see less games with loading screens when SSD becomes the new standard.
“I think haptics add a lot to an experience. But, I also think it’s subjective to different players, and it also depends on how the game utilizes it. But overall, I think the potential for adding to an experience is very high.”
Speaking of next-gen hardware, something else that the PS5 and the Xbox Series X are both going to have is a Zen 2 CPU – how big of a leap is it over current gen hardware in your view, and how is it going to help development?
This is probably a question for the Unreal engine developers, but for us it means that we can do more before the game gets CPU bound. Porting to console would of course also be much smoother, as the current gen hardware is pretty slow, and getting closer to the PC hardware helps a lot. But this is of course time-limited as the gap between PC and console will grow fast.
What’s your take on the PS5’s haptic-enabled controller? Do you think it’s something that can significantly add to an experience, or is it just going to be a novelty?
I think haptics add a lot to an experience. But, I also think it’s subjective to different players, and it also depends on how the game utilizes it. But overall, I think the potential for adding to an experience is very high.