Negative Atmosphere interview with SunScorched Studios LTD CEO Calvin Parsons

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With the upcoming title Negative Atmosphere still catching our attention, we [itched the idea of getting to sit down and discuss the upcoming title with Sunscorched Studios LTD’s CEO Calvin Parsons to learn more about the game. Here’s what we had the honor to learn about the game.

When it comes to horror games, there are a lot of titles that stand out among the rest. Titles like Soma, Outlast, and even the upcoming title Blair Witch from Bloober Team will be among the many you hear about in modern times. They’re the go-to titles, the ones that many think of when they hear a game referred to in the aspect of “survival horror”.

For some of us, some games supersede them, titles ranging from Fatal Frame to Silent Hill are among the many of titles left behind by time and video game publishers. As a fan of horror games, I couldn’t help but get the chance to sit down and discuss the studios’ upcoming title, Negative Atmosphere, a title that has been catching the attention of us members of the media’s attention as of late.

Negative Atmosphere aims to re-invigorate sci-fi horror by telling a story of human tragedy that turns into an intense, spine chilling struggle of survival for its victims. With love and inspiration from previous giants such as Dead Space, System Shock and others, Negative Atmosphere wishes to take to the stage and tell its terrifying, tantalizing story.

Over the past year, I’ve been watching over their game closely, seeing just how far SunScorched Studios could go in regards to their currently in-development title by the name of Negative Atmosphere. Over the past few months, they’ve been busy, churning out more detail about their title and openly sharing where progress has been made. ”.

Due to this ambitious title, my interest quickly became piqued after discussing our intent to cover the game with studio owner Calvin Parsons. While this certainly is my first-time interviewing him, Parsons has been making the rounds with the media as of late. The project from the team at SunScorched Studios has gained momentum, garnishing interest in publications like our own too much bigger ones such as PC Gamer.

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Parsons: Firstly before we start, I’d like to thank my writing team of Ki Mckenzie and Jeff for helping me write this interview and for providing additional insight into there development ideas!

Blast Away the Game Review: Since I first covered your Negative Atmosphere back in April, it seems a lot has gone on. You’ve gotten a lot of press coverage about the game, what’s that been like for you and the team? Has it helped motivate the team or is it just one of those, “oh hey, look, we got mentioned” type experiences?

Parsons: We are very proud to see all of the reactions and the feedback of the gaming community since our EGX demo of April. We had a lot of positive feedback but also considerable amounts of scathing “feedback” from many comments and articles.

However, we did not let this dampen our spirits or get to us, instead, we took the best approach we could and LISTENED to this feedback and critique, no matter how harsh, so that we can bring a product to the market that we are proud to present and not merely “happy” with. What’s a better way of doing so, than by listening to the feedback of your fans? They are the ones that are going to be playing this game after all.

Irrespective of the harshness of the feedback it only served to motivate us greatly to produce our game since it confirmed to us that there indeed a significant amount of people that want a new space survival-horror game. Ultimately though, we are building the game that we as players and developers enjoy and want to play, and we just hope we can bring as many people along for the ride.

Just seeing the fact that people we’re talking about our game in whatever light was inspiring and exciting enough, as a small indie team like us with our first game getting talked about on massive channels, it was a bit surreal, to be honest.”

Blast Away the Game Review: I recall in one interview, you attended EGX where you got to show off Negative Atmosphere. What was that like getting to go to a showroom floor and show off the game in the state it was in? Did you learn anything that helped with developmental breakthroughs?

Parsons: Exhibiting at EGX was a huge step for me personally, as I’ve never been to a game convention to look at the games before, never mind exhibit my own game. When we initially applied to exhibit at EGX we had bought one stand with one computer in the indie showcase room, but Epic Games then saw our application and got in touch with us offering to quadruple our stand space, pay for all the artwork and place us in the “Powered By Unreal Engine” showcase, with the big league AAA tiles. It was utterly mind-blowing that they thought our project was good enough in its current state to be worthy of this. AMD then contacted us and offered us a place in their AMD Indies showcase, in a different part of the convention.

I, our 3d artist Anita and our composer Harry Wills attended EGX with my father Rick as additional support.

When I arrived in London, and first went to the showroom to setup and install the game build, I was beyond awe-struck when I saw our stand, it was massive! I distinctly remember though on that first setup night, a bunch of veteran developers came over to me and started quizzing me on my “cost/benefit analysis, my publishing plans, my budget”, it’s safe to say I felt utterly intimidated, but I kept my composure and simply replied that I’d come to exhibit my game and see if people liked it to gain feedback, I didn’t come here to sell my game or to get a publisher, we weren’t even a proper founded company at that point aha! Meeting the other devs there such as the CEO of Rockfish Games, the creator of Everspace a favourite game of mine, was also incredibly surreal, especially to shake hands with him.

The 1st day of EGX was as exciting as it was tiring. Interviews left right and centre, from small independent journalists to the big official on camera, mic-ed up interviews with Epic Games themselves. I took all opportunities to do these, to try and push our game as much as possible, although most of my time was spent talking to the players and answering questions. The rest of it, bug fixing. We were constantly monitoring and fixing bugs throughout the day at EGX, as I had brought my dev machine (A razer blade laptop) with me.

A player finds a bug, I fix it and push a new build before the next lot sit down. By the end of EGX we had an incredibly stable build, thanks playtesters EGX attendees,
The 2nd day was more of the same but somehow even busier, on both days our stand was constantly full and had queues to play the game. It was humbling to see so many people wanting to play, getting scared by and congratulating us on our game. So many people said they “loved it”, many got too scared to play anymore and we even had someone start crying haha! Which was a damn good sign as we were making a horror game after all! The other exhibitors were also incredible sports and I’d like to especially thank the exhibitors of GRIP at the stand opposite us who were incredibly supportive and great to be around during EGX.

Throughout EGX there was one key thing, it was full-on from 6 am (to get the tube to the showroom) to 6 pm. It was tiring as all hell, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

You can expect to see us there next April 2020.

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Blast Away the Game Review: Now, our team has been following your game closely, and by closely, I mean like hawks hunting prey. You’ve done a lot of work in regards to upgrading features, enhancing physics, and even recently, you shared a new movement trailer for Samuel Edwards. What’s it been like going from an early teaser build of the game to almost – what seems like – a full-fledged triple-A title?

Parsons: To be honest it’s been incredibly rewarding and challenging to go from our EGX to build to where we are today. “We’ve had our struggles and issues common within creative industries and finding our path so to speak”, but we’ve powered through them each time coming back stronger and stronger. Our main concern at the time of EGX (was to build essentially from scratch a playable demo that would be able to demonstrate the type of game we wanted to make, but also to make ourselves known to professionals and the gaming community, since at the time we were relatively unknown and had a very small community (<1000 members).

Since EGX, the community grew exponentially and so did we, primarily due to Roanoke Gaming supporting us on Youtube by featuring our EGX reveal on his channel. Due to the massive response and consistent critique of the graphics, animations and gameplay; we decided to upgrade all of our features, designs and graphical assets to much higher standards with long term capabilities in mind (The EGX demo was completed in only 5 months) so that we could show what the final quality of the game would look like at launch. This allowed us to make much more detailed and much more complex designs, from monsters to characters to weapons to environments and so on, and to commission/bring on the people to make that happen.

Blast Away the Game Review: Now, I know you get this one a lot. What’s it like knowing you could very well have the spiritual successor to Dead Space being developed at your studio by a very small and independent team? Do you still find that to be mind-blowing in the terms of just how highly anticipated fans could very-well be for Negative Atmosphere?

Parsons: Truthfully, it is an honour to have such comparisons be made first and foremost. If people can compare our project to something that took millions of dollars to develop with a AAA studio of professionals, then it shows we are at least on the right lines.

Our team is a mixture of different skill levels and backgrounds, we don’t even work in a studio, we almost all work from home with members from across the globe but the things that do unite us is that we get on like family. Despite the fact we may have never met each other IRL, we trust one another to get stuff done when it needs to be done and to understand and care for each other. It truly is a dynamic that I don’t think is possible in a AAA studio environment with hard deadlines and crushing work hours. Nearly all of us on this project work on it part-time with good deadlines to get stuff done- and when needed we’ve proven we can turn the dials and work sleepless nights through pure motivation as some of our team members have done.”, although with the right financial support we’d love to make this a full-time gig.

We enjoy making this game, as much as we enjoy playing games.

The fact that we’ve been so well received I think has put further motivation and pressure on us to create something we’re proud of- countless eyes were watching us make our next step and it’s invigorating as well as daunting to know that.

It’s also somewhat intimidating and something that has caused us to make a very ardent stand in that we are not Dead Space 4 nor do we wish to be a substitute for it; we are making our own game with a storyline leagues apart from Dead Space or Event Horizon. The theme of Dead Space was that of an alien artefact essentially driving living things insane and utilizing the dead of the targeted species as its weapon against the species itself. In a way, it was a total war being waged by an alien race through a doomsday weapon that all living sentients were pre-programmed to fall victim to.

Negative Atmosphere, on the other hand, approaches the idea of a pandemic occurring during the midst of a violent and bitter cold war between two gigantic human factions aiming to achieve supremacy over each other. Dead Space was more eldritch in a way and broached the subject of the “Fermi-Paradox” in that “what if we are truly alone in the universe”. Our focus is not that of extra-terrestrial interference with humankind but rather on how a cold war in an interstellar setting reacts to a debilitating, mysterious and horrifying pandemic. The setting is one of suspicion and paranoia that is only exemplified by a disaster, much like the Chernobyl incident which occurred within corrupt confines of the Soviet Union.

Besides, the story of Dead Space was that of a rescue operation gone horrifically wrong, Negative Atmosphere is the opposite of that. There is no rescue operation, there is no escape, you are onboard the Rusanov as it happens…

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Blast Away the Game Review: I want to go back to the interview you did with Flickeringmyth. In it, you chose a cold war typesetting, even giving the protagonist, Samuel Edwards a military background versus a civilian-esque one like Isaac Clark. What made the team decide on that?

Parsons: The Cold war typesetting allowed us to make a much more interesting sci-fi universe, from where we can draw lots of possible outcomes from the tension two supernations would have, allowing us to create all sorts of black secret projects, mysterious events, strange technologies and so on.

With this we can effectively put the story and the characters within a very unique setting, for example, Samuel Edwards is a war veteran with a mysterious and very traumatic past now being an Emergency Physician, allowing us to use this background to make what we hope is a very unique character that will have to use his knowledge and abilities to ensure his survival, the same way Isaac Clarke did. But, such a universe directly controls and inspires everything you see in our game: from the industrial and utilitarian look of the environments to the intricate design of the suits and weapons. Because a very key and important feature, one of our lead writers (Jeff) was the idea that everything has a purpose, a background and an intended design.

There is no “it just works” or “it looks cools” or “It’s sci-fi, just invent some random thing”. The goal is not to make the most realistic universe (although there are many realistic aspects), but to make it believable and practical.”

Blast Away the Game Review: Do you think it will set Edwards apart from other protagonists we’ve seen in the survival-horror genre? Will this feed into the main story or is it just a notion to give him a bit of background instead of the “would-be hero” aspect?

Parsons: I’m going to let my Lead writer and Samuels Voice Actor answer this question:
Ki McKenzie’s written response:  “Edwards is a man who has seen and likely committed a great deal of sin in his lifetime. He’s a former UESN Canadian Royal Space Pioneers regimental combat medic, one who served in campaigns that have left his conscience stained with his actions and the atrocities he has witnessed. Especially on a particular planet called Eden-213 where the UESN committed genocidal total war against an entrenched and unwavering foe, a war that utilized monstrous technology that in turn made monsters of the men and women who fought in it. Survivors were not free of sin, blackening their hearts with the war’s agony.

Human controlled space is rife with conflict between the giants that are the United Earth Space Nations and Freedom Pact; the solar nations and entities who oppose Earth’s hegemony and as a result Edwards’ is a product of this bitter and ongoing cold war. Something that he has tried his best in his recent years to distance himself from.

“All the boys left behind on Eden, as the monstrous [REDACTED] stalked the battlefield
Tearing apart civilians and soldiers alike
Sometimes not even recognizing their own
A war of monsters, that created monsters
The survivors stained with sin”

He carries scars with him- ones that he’s tempered with time and self-discipline, but even the most resolute of us all have our demons that haunt our nightmares. Age is a factor in Edwards’ storytelling and character, both from a storytelling point of view and of practicality- he’s a grizzled survivor of previous issues but he’s not as spry as he used to be. For our players he is somewhat of a lense of experience many of them will have that they can carry from other titles, and couple it with the character development Edwards has throughout the game Edwards may perhaps be an anchor for the player in the madness. But that will have to be uncovered within the game itself.”

Blast Away the Game Review: Story. We gotta ask since, in that same interview I mentioned earlier, that it could be 2021 or even 2022 before we see Negative Atmosphere get a release: What can you tell us about the story?

Parsons: This is accurate. We do not see our game releasing until 2021 or 2022. This is a rough estimate that is subjected to change since the project is still very young and we have still a very long road ahead of us before making the game what we want it to be.

One thing for certain is that we will only release Negative Atmosphere to the masses when it is fully completed and feature-complete, we will not be using Early Access nor will we release an incomplete half baked product and patch it up to a complete thing over a year (like ANTHEM). When you pick up a copy of Negative Atmosphere on launch day you will be buying a fully realised and fully-fledged singleplayer horror experience.

Blast Away the Game Review: One thing I have to ask is about the horror-survival side of things. Where did the team at Sunschorched Studios get the inspiration from as far as the story goes? Was it purely Dead Space or were there other inspirations that helped bring it to life? I keep getting a heavy Event Horizon vibe here.

Parsons: In term of inspiration for the lore universe itself: Aliens, James Cameron Avatar, Star Trek, Ace Combat, the cold war itself, XCOM, Xenonauts, etc… There are so many diverse things we used for reference or inspiration for ideas so it’s hard to tell them all, in addition to our own real-life experiences and memories.

For the gameplay: Dead Space, Resident Evil, Alien Isolation, SOMA, System Shock, Bioshock, Fallout, The Last Of and many more, but hard to say them all a once.

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Blast Away the Game Review: Now, I want to ask you a bit about the gameplay itself. In one of the interviews I read, you said this is going to be very unforgiving. So-much-so that you won’t be holding a player’s hand, they’ll need to navigate the world about them through exploration: Should they expect enemies to respawn as they explore or will it be a one-and-done kind of experience on the Rusanov? If so, should they expect a system like what Resident Evil had where the enemies will mutate and come back stronger? 

Parsons: We will focus on hardcore, but fair aspect for our game. What this means is that the enemies are deadly, ammo, health and other items are scarce and the player will be required to make their conclusions from their experiences and findings. But fair in a way that the enemies aren’t strong and deadly because they are bullet sponges or one-shot you with non-blockable unavoidable attacks and strong because you do not know their weaknesses and their behaviour until you either find logs or fight them, from which you will learn how to deal with them. The hard way.

Monsters can spawn randomly. You cannot expect to go in a zone and say “Oh yeah, there is 3 monsters of such and such type here, I know how to deal with this.” Some may spawn back, others will not. Sometimes you may be in a favourable position, sometimes you will be trapped. Who knows? Even we will not know for sure.” Monsters are also persistent and if not dispatched will follow you and stalk you throughout the ship. They are also intelligent. For example, the Stilt Walker can and will lock and unlock doors around you to trap you in areas or pull wires out of power systems to use darkness to its advantage.

The enemies are dangerous and intelligent, in many ways they are “alive”, and not “just generic space zombies”.

Blast Away the Game Review: Much like games of this kind, namely Resident Evil 2 Remastered, Dead Space, and Binary Domain: What made the team decide on destructible body parts of your enemies or is it just similar to them?

Parsons: This destructible body parts system has a few uses; namely being able to contribute to a horror aesthetic with body parts and blood flying off, but it can also be vital to deal with the monsters and can even influence the outcome or the rewards if you can kill one of them. Say, that’s a nice ammo box stuck on that enemy over there, I could shoot it for extra damage or try to salvage it intact from him when I kill him in other ways.

Blast Away the Game Review: Now, here’s the tough one I have to ask: What sets your game apart from the rest? Will there be microtransactions or an Early Access build of the game?

Parsons: That is indeed a very hard question. It’s hard to tell even from our perspective because we make efforts to make our game genuinely unique and interesting while being cautious to not have aspects too similar to another work. Because the ones that will have the final say on this will be the players. So we do hope we make a very good, hopefully, unique game.

As stated prior, we will not be doing Early Acces nor will we release an incomplete half baked product and patch it up to a complete thing for a year. When you pick up Negative Atmosphere on launch day you will be buying a fully realised and fully-fledged singleplayer horror experience.

We will not over-rely on Jumpscares (they will be utilised but sparingly), instead, we will focus on sustained fear via building tension with audio, environmental storytelling and gameplay events.

There will be no co-op or multiplayer features of any kind, no loot boxes or microtransactions of any kind, no PAID cosmetic DLC (Excluding patreon cosmetic rewards which will be given before release).

 

Blast Away the Game Review: Last question. We’ve got a lot in. When or where can our readers go to get their hands-on Negative Atmosphere ahead of its launch in the upcoming weeks, months, or even years?

Parsons: Hopefully it’ll be all over the internet, but I’m sure Blast Away The Game Review will be a great source!

Our links to our Social Media to follow us all here:
Our Subreddit: https://ww.reddit.com/r/NegativeAtmosphere
Our Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/negativeatmosphere
Our Twitter: https://twitter.com/NeAtDev
Our Discord: https://discord.gg/2s8eq7F

Finally, I’d like to thank Blast Away The Game Review for this opportunity and I do hope you the reader enjoyed reading this interview.

And remember,

Your survival is… unlikely.
– Sunscorched Studios Ltd

As you can see in our interview, we’ve learned a lot about their upcoming title, one we do hope to see come out and just break take our breaths away, scaring us unexpectedly and even delivering an experience, unlike anything we’ve had before. Luckily for us, it seems that we might just get that.

We want to give a special shoutout to Calvin Parsons, Ki McKenzie and Jeff for providing us with our answers for our interview. Stay tuned as we will keep you up to date as more information regarding Negative Atmosphere is released.


About the Writer(s):

dustin_batgr_prof

Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.

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