Imagine your life as you knew it as normal as can be and then the next something happened and the horrifying stories of the place you heard about, you woke up in. What would be your first instinct? Maybe it would be to scream, beg for help, or would your mind start to set in to prepare you for the worst? Being in an unusual and scary place from the stories we hear can start to play tricks on the mind to the point of no return. So when I heard that developer, United Games was making a game that mixes puzzle elements and survival horror into a heart-wrenching experience, I had to know more. So I reached out and the game director and co-founder, Gabriel Marques, was happy to talk about their latest game, Fractured Sanity, and Virtual Reality.
Interview with the game developer and co-founder of United Games, Gabriel Marques
Welcome to THE VR DIMENSION. Would you please introduce yourself and what you do at United Games?
“Hey, I’m Gabriel Marques, I’m the game director and co-founder at United Games.”
Growing up, what were some of your favorite gaming moments, and what was that one VR moment that made you want to do more with Virtual Reality?
“My first experience was playing SNES with my uncle when I was 5. After that, games were part of my routine. Other moments that come to mind when I think about unique experiences were:
- When I first played a horror game, it was Resident Evil 2 for PSOne. I was still young and couldn’t progress that much, but the fear and mystery that the game presented really meant something.
- When I played my first multiplayer game. It was a MMORPG Ragnarok Online and having the whole community and endless things to explore was also a big moment.
- And last but not least, the first VR experience I had. The first time I used VR was a Rift CV kit 2, but at that point, even though I thought it was cool, it wasn’t something super amazing, what with all those cables and hard setup. But then a few years passed by and I played Superhot VR. That game opened my mind to VR and its possibilities. It’s still one of my favorite VR games and the one that I show off when introducing some friends to VR.”
For those that may not be aware, what other projects have you been a part of?
“We have been working mainly by contract in the past years, making advergames and interactive training. Fractured Sanity is our very first commercial project. We had other mobile games along the way, but they were free and more experimental.”
Your newest game is a survival-horror puzzle game called Fractured Sanity. What can you tell us about the game and the main character?
“The game was heavily inspired by old-school survival-horror games such as Resident Evil and Silent Hill. Our goal was to create an atmosphere that makes the player afraid of the unknown, instead of relying on jump-scares. As for the main character, you wake up not knowing anything about him and as you progress documents and tapes help you to realize who you might be and what brought you to that place. It’s a short, but intense adventure that challenges you through puzzles and encounters.”
Without spoiling anything, what can you tell us about the Psychologist, Dr. Matthew Simmons?
“Dr. Matthew Simmons was a renowned doctor who studied Freud’s theory of the “tripartite psyche”, and how to break someone’s id, ego, and superego apart. The idea was promising, but the same can’t be said for its repercussions throughout the asylum – you’ll have to actually go there and explore to understand the depths of his creation!”
Being that this is survival horror, what have you done to make sure that any jump scares do what they are meant to do and scare the players without hesitation?
“We actually tried to go the other way. Many horror VR games are walking simulators with jump scares. We invested more into the environment and atmosphere, as well as puzzles and VR interactions.”
What can you tell us about the puzzles in the game and will there be any type of hint system for the more challenging ones?
“Puzzles are a core part of the game, and as such, giving hints or tooltips would end up breaking the concept we created. Instead, every interactable object has the possibility of being a tip. If you grab a note and instantly throw it away, assuming it’s just lore, you might actually be throwing away a hint. In short, we tried to apply hints in a more organic way, to not break immersion with some random UI or break the fun of players figuring things out by themselves and feeling rewarded.”
What can you tell us about the different weapons in the game and some of the enemies that the player will encounter?
“As a short adventure, there aren’t many enemies/weapons. You do have a handgun and small quantities of ammo (to bring a “pick your fights” vibe). Besides the enemies you find along the way, you may expect a boss fight at the end.”
Are there multiple endings to be found?
“Not at this moment. It’s something we are thinking of adding, but nothing concrete yet.”
When it comes to immersion, visuals are a big part of it. What have you done to make sure the game is visually at the best it can be?
“The game was first designed to run on Quest 2, so our main goal was to create an immersive experience without it being too performance-intensive. Now that we’ve achieved that, we are working on a few improvements for PCVR and other platforms.”
Sound also helps with immersion. When you add horror, that can add an extra level of immersion with sounds being played from different directions at different times. Did you find any challenges when it came to the sound that you were not expecting?
“Sound is indeed a challenge. We made almost every sound 3D so players can feel immersed during their actions. One of the challenges is that the player is “too free” in VR, so sometimes you prepare a scene with tension, but the player can randomly smash items or make weird things that can break that for a moment.”
Do you see Fractured Sanity being a one-time game or do you see future stories from this universe?
“The way the story ends lays the groundwork for Fractured Sanity 2. We also have more mechanics that we want to explore, so at least one more game might be in the pipeline. Of course, that’ll depend on feedback and sales.”
The game is out now for Quest 2 and Steam VR. Are there any plans to bring the game to other platforms such as PlayStation VR/2 or Viveport in the future?
“We were accepted as PlayStation Partners a few weeks ago (super happy about that), so we’ll definitely launch a PSVR2 port. It might take a while, though, as we plan to add new integrations that the headset has and also enhanced graphics. We are also working on a Pico 4 release. As for Viveport, it’s currently not planned.”
If you walked through the door into THE VR DIMENSION, but it had to be within Fractured Sanity and could pick anyone from any time to be Dr. Matthew Simmons, who would it be and why?
“If we’re talking about some sort of real-life counterpart to the character, I guess he would probably be an extremely morally questionable, Operation Paperclip type of guy – like a Nazi doctor co-opted by the US government after WWII or something.
If it’s about someone “playing” the character, though – hey, if Benedict Cumberbatch wants to do it in an American accent and ham it up a little, we’d be happy with that.”
With the library of content for Virtual Reality continuing to grow, what would you say to someone as to why they should experience Fractured Sanity?”
“Fractured Sanity is a game that tries to go in the opposite direction of most horror games in VR, so if you are a fan of puzzles and exploration with a dash of atmospheric horror, it’s definitely going to be a great experience!”
I really want to thank Gabriel for taking the time out of their day to for giving us a closer look into Fractured Sanity as well as talk about Virtual Reality.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy.