I’ve come to expect pure madness from Devolver Digital. Publishers of games like Hotline Miami, Shadow Warrior, and Enter the Gungeon, the only overarching classification I can come up with is “high-quality indie alternative.” For Devolver, over the top is their baseline, and they just go up from there. Irreverently pushing the line of the sane and expected is their MO, if that wasn’t apparent from their “press conference.”
Now I could write a thesis paper on Devolvers counter-culture approach to marketing and alt-appeal, but this isn’t a boring article for nerds. This is an article about SCUM, an insane game made by Croatian madmen.
Getting the plot details out of the way, SCUM takes place in an increasingly less far-fetched alternate future where convicts fight to the death for our amusement. On the island of Bagne de Cayenne, various different murderers and miscreants are broadcast live as they scavenge, stalk, and survive… or don’t. You play as one of these contestants, who gets loaded into a body a la Altered Carbon. Death is permanent for the body, but your skills and persona live on. Build a following of fans from life to life and grow your murderous legend.
“Now Ted,” you ask yourself, looking over SCUM‘s innocuous screenshots, “what makes you say that SCUM is an insane game made by Croatian madmen? It looks to me to be a pretty standard open world PVP survival game to me!” Well put, internet strawman. Sitting down with the developers from Gamespires, they didn’t initially come off as madmen. On the surface, SCUM does look like your run-of-the-mill, “snipe someone from a mile away because you’re a dick” simulator. There are buildings to scavenge, scopes to find, and hilltops to camp. The perfect recipe for ample rage-quits. Then, the balder of the two madmen developers asked the spiky haired one to open the stats screen, and I saw this:
Oh, huh, that’s weird. I thought this was a video game, not an advanced nutritional science test. You’re probably overwhelmed by the sheer volume of numbers on the screen, so let me break down a few of the thing’s being kept track of here:
- Your nutritional intake, including specific categories for fat, protein, carbs, etc.
- Your daily vitamins and minerals
- Your current stomach capacity, along with a calories in/burned readout
- Your various skills, including how long you can hold your breath and required water consumption
- How good you are at walking/jogging/sprinting
- The amount of blood in your body
- The amount of teeth in your mouth
- And much much more!
This is just the tip of the iceberg for SCUM‘s unique brand of pure insanity. At this point in the presentation, the spiky haired developer killed a man for reasons known only to his madman brain. Naturally, this led to him approaching the body, taking out his knife, and harvesting it. Now in most games, harvesting a human will likely give you some scraps of clothing, and maybe a few pieces of meat and bone if you’re extra morbid. In SCUM, you get a whole human’s worth of meat and parts.
So what does one do with a whole person’s worth of assembled flesh, bone, and organs? Maybe eat it? Just be careful, people are naturally high in salt. Wouldn’t want that sodium level to get too high. And make sure that you aren’t a vegetarian, or else the meat will make you sick. Oh, and make sure you also have enough teeth to chew it. Low on teeth? No worries bro, you just got a whole face full of teeth with that last kill! Craft yourself some dentures and get your cannibalism on.
This goes for all of the game’s wildlife. Kill a deer, and get a whole deer worth of supplies. Manage to take down a bear, and you’ll have enough food to last six months. Problem is, how are you going to carry a whole dead bear around? No word yet on whether or not they’ll have bear sized corpse carts. You can make some storage chests to keep the meat/bones/teeth/fur/nads, but is it refrigerated? Because you better believe they have a realistic rotting system.
Chances are, if you can think of something insanely specific for SCUM to simulate, the madmen have already done it. Heavier clothes make more noise. Not wearing shoes will hurt you if you walk on rough terrain. Rain will get your clothes wet. Fire will get them dry. But wet clothes touching other wet clothes will then get them wet. So you better not have any bread in your pockets or it will get soggy. Unless you want soggy bread to harvest mold. I just made that last one up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s already in the game.
Now eating a wheelbarrow full of bear intestines and making a handbag out of its face is all well and good, but what about shooting stuff? In that department, SCUM is a bit more graspable. Guns shoot bullets, and your skill in various weapon classes will effect your accuracy and effectiveness. Nutrition effects the combat in subtle ways, such as weapon sway, recoil compensation, and reload speed. Simple enough, but it wouldn’t be SCUM if there wasn’t some crazy shit.
First of all, vaulting is key. Open a door, crawl up onto it, crawl onto the roof, close the door, and now you’ve got a perfect camping spot. In most games this would be an exploit, but in SCUM it’s just a feature. Figuring out how to best abuse the mechanics and environment is the name of the game.
SCUM also employs an interesting method of dealing with the whole “third-person shooter” problem. Players of PlayerUnknown’s Battleground know what I mean. Sit behind a wall, pan the camera around the corner, and ambush anyone with impunity. It’s not very realistic. So the madmen did some thinking, and came up with a rather ingenious solution. When panning the camera around a corner, enemies and details will only be revealed when you actually pop your head around. You’ll be able to see the building in the distance, but details will be fuzzy. Pop your head around, and everything becomes clear. Duck back into cover, and the details will slowly fade. I’m seriously way too excited about this minor detail. It’s creative design like this that makes me all giddy inside.
I should mention that you don’t have to master all of these insane details to get into SCUM. Hell, you probably don’t track your daily vitamin B intake, and you still get by just fine. These far reaching, intricate mechanics serve to give more dedicated players an edge. Which they should. Too often do these games boil down entirely to who found the sniper rifle first. For the first time in gaming history, my mastery of eating a balanced breakfast might be the difference between defeat and victory.
Of all the games I saw at E3 2018, SCUM is far and away the most confusing and exciting title I saw. When they opened the nutrition screen, I seriously thought it was a joke. Surely, they can’t actually simulate all of this stuff. That would be like, a lot of work. But no, these madmen are completely serious. They are totally dedicated to making the most intricate survival shooter of all time. This is the kind of game that an amateur developer throws up on Kickstarter, oblivious to the realities of game design and production. And Gamespires is actually doing it.
I will be watching SCUM with equal parts bewilderment, amazement, and childlike glee. I cannot wait to see just how it all comes together. And you should, too. Too often are veteran developers worn down by years of cutting features and meeting deadlines. But no. These madmen wake up, say to themselves, “boy, wouldn’t it be cool if your creatine intake effected your muscle growth,” and then they do it. That combination of experience, talent, and sure dedication is rarely seen.
Stay tuned for more info on SCUM as it develops, and click here for more E3 2018 coverage!