Over here in Lunchmeat Land, we’re always down to champion and applaud all types of homegrown and independent ventures, especially when they’re (blood)soaked with retro-horror sensibilities. Influenced by the distinctive atmosphere of late 70s and early 80s fright flicks and armed with an undaunted DIY attitude, PIGFARMER GAMES proprietor and programmer extraordinaire Ben Cocuzza is hacking away in his Brooklyn abode in order to bring all you video game nostalgia lovers a misadventure of the killing kind… a game where YOU grip the blade and deal the death: SANITARIUM MASSACRE! And, hey, anyone that takes inspiration from SOV auteur Todd Sheets surely knows how to roll when it comes to indie production. Read on, nostalgia freaks and revisit the times you spent in-between feeding your face with mass amounts of pizza and feeding your VCR mass amounts of magnetic magic!
Ben in PFG HQ taking some time away from the highly technical bleeps and blips with some prototype packaging for SANITARIUM MASSACRE making an appearance. It’s good to be king.
Can you give us a little info / background on your connection with programming games? I assume you played a lot of video games as a kid?
Absolutely. I grew up during the 90s so I played a lot of Sega Genesis when I was young. Discovering 3D games as I got a little older totally blew my mind and got my imagination going: Doom, Quake, Resident Evil, Silent Hill. I got a Playstation near the end of its life cycle, played the hell out of it, and started thinking up game ideas, mostly from movie plots.
One of the first things I did on the internet was look up Friday the 13th on the NES. I was always staring at the box sitting the video store and dying to play it but never had an NES. [ED NOTE: I did, and this game was SO HARD… damn near unbeatable as anyone who played very well knows!] I stumbled onto this site called Microstuff Studios and they were making a 3D Friday the 13th game. My mind was blown again and I immediately tracked down the software they were using, started making 3D models and launched my Halloween game on their forum.
It was really cool back then because there was a small community of people making horror fan games. I try to preserve some of the games on my site in the Horror Game Vault section: pigfarmergames.com/horror-game-vault/
Decapitation? It’s on the menu! DIG IT.
What’s the game all about? Could you give us some details about the storyline and the game play? What are some games with similar play?
Most of the game takes place in Washington State during the late 70s. You play a serial killer named Neokalus Burr who breaks into an isolated farmhouse to murder a family. You are caught and thrown into a mental asylum. After 8 years of staring at a wall in silence, you find an opportunity to slip out of your cell and the massacre begins on the hospital staff who had the misfortune of being on the graveyard shift that night.
The game is primarily a stealth game. It’s usually more beneficial to stick to the shadows (although there is the occasional chase scene). The characters, mostly nurses and security guards, are kind of doing their own thing: patrolling the halls, smoking cigarettes, abusing the patients, having phone sex, etc. and you stalk them. You have to be careful because they can hear your footsteps and breathing.
Each character has a limit. If you make too much noise or they sense your presence, they’ll get scared and call the hospital security who will come and hunt you down. The staff doesn’t regenerate: kill somebody and they stay dead. You can even go back and see their body later in the game.
I’d stay the game play is sort of similar to Manhunt, Splinter Cell, and Metal Gear Solid.
Sanitarium Massacre is the first game where you can play as a serial killer. Why do you think this hasn’t happened before… seems like a no-brainer, right?!
Totally! I’m dumbfounded why a big budget slasher game hasn’t happened yet. There was a Scream 4 mobile game, but who cares about Scream 4? [ED NOTE: I vote no one.]
Honestly, if this type of game would have been developed in the 12 years since I started, I probably would have thrown in the towel and just bought 5 copies of that game. There are been other attempts like Campfire and Chucky but they always fall through. I’m determined to finish.
YES! YES! YES! More Murder – More Guts – More Fun Indeed!
You said the game is heavily influenced by 80s slasher flicks, synth scores and VHS. What are some of your favorites from each universe?
I’ve gotta thank Josh Hadley and his podcasts for reigniting my love affair with VHS. Him and Scott from Lost in the Static were nice enough to do some cut-scene voiceovers which came out awesome. Can’t wait for everyone to see them.
I really got into horror as a kid from checking out the box art in the video store and the USA network. Brings back great memories. Some of my favorites, outside of the big franchises, are Sleepaway Camp, The Burning, Martin, Sisters, and Prince of Darkness. I don’t have many tapes anymore but I still hold on to my Todd Sheets (Zombie Bloodbath; Prehistoric Bimbos in Armageddon City) movies. He’s one of my favorite directors and made me realize that you can make a good flick (or game) on a micro budget.
With soundtracks, I’m a big Giallo fan so I love the work of Goblin and Ennio Morricone… Of course John Carpenter. I’m really into the idea of minimalist score for a horror flick. Also love The Terminator score. Anything 80s sounding with a thick synth arpeggio gets me going.
Oh, Martin? That’s one of out favorites, too, man! What? Nah… the Romero flick. But, yeah, that show was real good, too. Watched it all the time.
There’s a VHS mode for the game, right? How does that work?
VHS mode is something I threw in recently. Doesn’t change the gameplay but makes it feel a hell of a lot grittier with scanlines and video noise. Of course not everyone is down with that so there is a clean looking DVD mode, as well.
An outside look at the asylum. Pret-ty menacing from here. Can’t wait to get inside and CHOP SOME SHIT UP!
Is this a PC game, or will it come out for a particular console?
Yes, it’s for Windows PCs only. There may be a Mac version released at some point but I can’t make any promises.
Will you be releasing this one in a VHS box?!
HA! That would be awesome! I’ll definitely consider a big box release if I can figure out how to make a cd-rom holder inside. Maybe I’ll try talking to some of the indie distributors about how they make their tapes.
You started this game as a Halloween game, right? Could you explain a little about the decision to change and the experience trying to get it licensed if you got that far?
An officially licensed Halloween game is something I’d love to do but working on original IP means I get to steer the ship with total creative control. With all the major horror franchises being updated, remade and modernized and I’d be afraid this would carry over to the games. My love for horror is firmly planned in the 70s and 80s and I want to make games that stay true to that.
The second reason is that while I’m happy to make fan games, I can never sell them or actually build a gaming company with them. The sad fact is that everything eventually comes down to business and no revenue means I can’t make more games.
Not only can you slice and dice as you please, but you can snatch up different masks to confuse the shit outta’ the victims. Collect ’em all!
You’re making your own synth score for the game and going the software route. Can you tell us a little about the program you’re using, and if it’s available for other folks out there to try?
For the game soundtrack, I’m using Abelton Live which is awesome for electronic music. There are lots of great free synth VSTs out there that work with Abelton and emulate the equipment used in a lot of 80s horror scores. Some of the VSTs I’ve been using are: SQ8light, Prophanity Prophet 5, Wraith by Anomaly, Gargoyle 2, Cygnus, and an ARP Odyssey VST
They should be easy to find with Google.
Anything else you’d like to say about the game?
I’ve got some really cool ideas and things I’ve been working on for the future and would love to hear from any artists, filmmakers, musicians, or programmers in the NYC area that might want to get involved with making games.
My dream is to start building a games community for the fucked up stuff. There are lots of filmmakers out there making really cool movies – I’d love to see more game designers tackle the kind of material the mainstream won’t touch and the current indie designers don’t care for.
And please for the love of god: everybody stop making zombie games for at least 5 years. It’s been run into the ground, stomped, and pissed on. Let zombies rest!
The totally killer conceptual artwork for SM paying homage to WB Home Video! Gotta love that love! Clickity-click the cover to experience the trailer for SANITARIUM MASSACRE! DIG IT!
Huge hi-fives and bitchin’ ups to Ben and his PFG brand for endeavoring to create such an awesome piece of horror nostalgia. You can give him a shout on his website and support his IndieAGoGo for the game HERE. DIY OR DIE! GAME ON!