Not for the light-hearted

Last week, just before its unveiling at PAX East, Renegade Kid revealed its upcoming 3DS eShop FPS title that had been confirmed earlier in the year. The accompanying logo and screens revealed relatively little, but did make it clear that the aptly-titled Cult County had a rather mysterious, spooky survival-horror vibe — the character shown is clutching a wrench, after all, rather than a powerful gun. Its aged horror-movie styled filter was also in evidence, suggesting a stylised approach that promises, as a download-only FPS, to be a unique prospect on 3DS.

Of course, Renegade Kid has a strong legacy in first-person titles on Nintendo handhelds, with Dementium: The Ward, Dementium II and Moon all earning some praise on DS.

With relatively little known about Cult County since its debut at PAX East, we decided to catch up with studio co-founder Jools Watsham to learn more.

Nintendo Life: First of all, as you've shown this game at PAX East this past weekend, can you tell us how players have reacted to it so far?

Jools Watsham: At PAX East we had Mutant Mudds Deluxe and ATV Wild Ride 3D on display for everyone to see and play. However, we deliberately kept the 3DS unit with the Cult County atmosphere demo concealed from sight at our booth. We had a tall vertical banner on display, as we did for our other titles, but the game demo was not openly displayed. The reason for this was so those who sought out our new FPS would be the ones to experience the game. We were approached by many interested players who had heard about the game and wanted to play it. This way, only true fans of the genre or our previous FPS titles would get some hands-on time with Cult County.

This approach ensured that the feedback we received was based on their prior knowledge and experience with our previous titles or other FPS games. The response we got from players was fantastic. Many people immediately commented on the windy dust particle effect that swept through the scene, which really added a tremendous atmosphere to the environment. Other aspects of the demo that were called out included the 3D effect, real-time lighting, shadows, and the attention-to-detail of the surrounding area that featured windmills, oil-pumps, and trees blowing in the wind. Our goal was to set an interesting and eerie atmosphere, and based on the players reactions we achieved our goal.

NL: Can you give us a brief overview of the setting and storyline for Cult County?

JW: Cult County is set in a small west Texas town. It is a town experiencing severe dust storms, as well as some other disturbances. You visit the town in search of a family member. Things start to get weird and then the real fun begins. We'll have details on the story later this year.

I feel as though we have had a good distance away from our earlier FPS titles, which gives us a good perspective on what we want to do with Cult County.

NL: With the studio's beginnings of producing three well-received first-person titles on DS, has this project felt like a return to your origins?

JW: Yes, it feels really good to return to the first-person survival horror genre. I feel as though we have had a good distance away from our earlier FPS titles, which gives us a good perspective on what we want to do with Cult County.

NL: The screenshots you've released show a rather mysterious, intimidating churchyard with a filter effect. What led to this style choice?

JW: We spent a lot of time discussing different locations and themes. It was important to us that our new FPS presented something unique. Something that helped define it and allowed it to be easily identified within the FPS genre. It was also important to create a naturally eerie setting. One that could be pushed to present a truly scary atmosphere. One of our main goals with the development of Cult County was to present a very tense experience. More of a slow burn, than an explosive one.

NL: We see a wrench in the screenshots as a melee weapon, is survival with such crude weapons likely to be a prominent feature?

JW: Yes, absolutely. There will also be firearm weapons, with ammo being naturally scarce.

NL: Does the 3DS hardware, such as the 3D screen, change your approach to FPS design compared to your DS titles?

JW: The awesome 3D depth feature that the 3DS offers works perfectly with a first-person perspective game. I feel as though it enhances the experience, and it is something we are constantly mindful of when implementing each aspect of the game.

NL: You've previously stated that you prefer touch screen aiming, is that still the case or are you warming to the Circle Pad Pro?

JW: The Circle Pad Pro is certainly more comfortable than using stylus control, but I personally still prefer the immediate control that the stylus provides. Everybody's preference will vary, and as such we're supporting a number of different control options.

NL: Why have you decided to release this as an eShop title, rather than as a retail release?

JW: We're very excited about the episodic approach, which is a great fit for the eShop. Also, an eShop release allows us to publish the game ourselves, whereas with a retail release we would need to rely on a publishing partner to get it to market.

"Our goal was to set an interesting and eerie atmosphere"

NL: So, as this is planned as the first of a series of games, do you have storylines and scenarios already planned out?

JW: Yes, the first Cult County title that we release will be episode one of an ongoing story. We have detailed out the first six episodes, with an opportunity to continue past that. Each episode will end on a cliff-hanger that is resolved at the beginning of the next episode. Players who enjoy Cult County will be able to stay with its unique setting, interesting characters, mysterious locations, and continue to enjoy the experience the series offers with each episode.

NL: Do you have a rough release window?

JW: Early 2014.

NL: And a big one for those of us outside of North America, are you aiming for simultaneous NA and European releases?

JW: We are aiming for a simultaneous release.

NL: If you could summarise why 3DS owners should be excited for Cult County in just one sentence, what would you say?

JW: If you're looking for a scary first-person experience on the 3DS, Cult County has you covered.

We'd like to thank Jools Watsham for his time. So, what do you think about this upcoming release at the moment, and are you looking forward to its episodic approach? Let us know in the comments below.