It was announced this week that Monsters have sadly had to delay the release of their upcoming puzzle-platformer Hybris until the first half of 2014. But it’s not all bad news: the team are fulfilling their desire to cram more detail into the dark, frightening world that they’re creating.
The developers describe their first project as thriller that will ‘haunt your dreams and thoughts with its dark setting’. Players will take on the role of Kevin, a lonely teenager is unable to connect with anyone and whose parents seem to be fighting all the time. He finds peace only at the top of his favourite hill where his troubles seem far away; but one terrifying night, Kevin will struggle to stay alive after witnessing an event that will change the face of his world forever.
Monsters was founded in May 2012 in Athens, Greece with a core team of six enthusiastic individuals. They feel that the video game is the ultimate form of entertainment and art mixed together and say that they ‘prefer rich characters and background stories and need their games to stand out from the crowd’ – and we certainly think they’ve achieved this with Hybris. A big thank you to CEO John Koumoundouros for answering our questions.
How did the Monsters team meet and what made you decide to make Hybris?
“Well, Greece doesn’t have many aspiring game development studios so the news of a team being formed spread easily. We actually hosted a series of private game jams to select the best people for the job. It was a fun process.
“The inspiration for Hybris came from a single concept art that really screamed the need to evolve into a game. It has matured a lot since then but it’s where everything started.”
Hybris was originally intended to be released as three games. What made you decide to merge these into two bigger releases?
“When Chapter 1 started coming together it became obvious that some parts were weak without Chapter 2, which would happen a full year later. Merging the games was an obvious way to fix this. We gave it a try and rewrote the story for two Chapters instead of three. The narrative proved to be so much stronger… it is still the same game, the same story but somehow everything comes together way better. So we are sticking with it!”
The story has a horror premise but references the loneliness that we all feel at some point during our teenage years. Where did the inspiration for this ‘tale-of-adolescence meets psychological-thriller’ plot come from?
“I am not really sure. This feeling of loneliness can get pretty dark and scary some times. It was a good place to draw inspiration from.
“Especially when we are talking about a teenager (or a teen at heart) the world still holds a sense of mystery, the idea that something can exist right around the corner of our eye, without knowing if it is good or malign.”
You’re keeping details about gameplay very close to your chest! The time freezing mechanic sounds very intriguing… how does this fit in with the storyline? Is there any information you can share with us at all?
“It’s hard to let go of our secrets, although it is bound to happen at some point. I will just give you this: consider an insect. Although we perceive time in a certain way, to the insect we must seem frozen in time and eternal, because it moves so much faster.
“Insects are not included in Hybris but time is and this mechanic ties in deeply with the story. It is user-triggered, you can do it everywhere you want (after a certain event) and it allows you to see and do things you shouldn’t be able to. It is a pivotal time in the game, where everything will start falling into place.”
The screenshots you’ve released so far look stunning, very dark but beautiful. Has it been difficult to create this kind of atmosphere and what part of the title visually are you most excited about?
“Thank you for the kind words! This is indeed one of the biggest challenges. We have gone through countless iterations, literally taking care of lighting screen by screen for every meter in the game. The same level of attention has been put to the camera as well, as you will see in our upcoming trailer.
“You know this feeling, when a movie is about to start and you see the studio logo and hear the music… there is a unique kind of magic at that very moment. This is what we want for Hybris, this is what excites us the most.”
How did you guys become involved with Austin Wintory? The soundtrack is bound to be amazing.
“Austin is simply amazing, both as a composer and as a person. Journey took my breath away and Austin’s music was a big part of the experience. I got in touch with him, showed him our game and he took an interest in it.
“We only use music in very specific parts of the game and having Austin with us makes me certain that these moments will work as intended.”
You’ve mentioned that you’re thinking of starting a Kickstarter project in order to finish Hybris – you definitely have a backer here! What challenges do you think you’ll have going down this route and how will you prepare for them?
“Well, my biggest fear was having no backers whatsoever, so that’s one less thing to worry about!
“Other than that, I feel weird about putting an unfinished game for judgment, asking people to trust us when they don’t really know us. This is the biggest challenge, gaining someone’s trust. Hopefully what we have done for Hybris so far will help us in this struggle.”
It appears that the next-generation of consoles are looking to embrace indie developers and their games, expanding their reach to a market of gamers who are seeking alternatives to the sometimes-uninspiring big-budget titles. You’re due to announce your additional platforms soon; are these new opportunities something you’re looking forward to?
“Yes, consoles (both current and next gen) are platforms we are looking into. And Linux, because Linux gamers deserve more attention.
“All this next-gen-indie-love campaign sounds very enticing and I am of course very happy for the new opportunities. But getting in and being successful are two distinct things.
“Steam has the worst way of getting in, the Greenlight process gives me nightmares. But they give indies the best chance because they put your banner right next to the AAAs. If McPixel on XBLA or PSN receives the same promotional space as Skyrim, then I will celebrate.”
Is there any advice you’d give someone who’s thinking of making an indie game?
“Two words: Think twice!! Starting a game is surprisingly easy, finishing it is an entirely different beast. It is a really tough and demanding job.
“At the same time it is one of the best jobs in the world. Just be prepared to give it everything you’ve got!”
Can you tell us which component of the game you’re currently working on? How are you feeling about its release next year?
“I am kinda bummed for the delay, I will not lie! I was really looking forward to the release of the game. Instead we have to rewrite a big part of the codebase to accommodate the merge. Not for the faint of heart!
“At the same time our 3D artists are working on new assets that are now needed while our 2D artists are focusing on another game (still unannounced).”
Once again, thank you to Jonathan and the Monsters team for taking the time to answer our questions. They’re claiming that ‘Hybris will stay in your mind long after you have finished it’ – we can’t wait to find out for ourselves next year.