Alien Scumbags isn’t a new game by any stretch of the imagination. Initially releasing on Itch.io in 2018, Monster Finger Games have been constantly adding to the game. It finally released on Steam in July 2020 and is currently available to buy on the platform for £6.19.
Recently, I had a chance to talk to James, the lead developer at Monster Finger and creator of Alien Scumbags. You can read the full interview transcript below.
Pixel Hideout) Firstly please explain what Alien Scumbags is for those who don’t know.
James) “Alien Scumbags is a 2D run and gun horror inspired by Doom, Duke Nukem and Aliens. It is packed full of gore and pop culture references.”
PH) “Where did the idea for Alien Scumbags first come from? And how did that initial idea evolve into the game we can play today?”
James) “It started as a 48 hour gamejam, initially I made it to be more of an Alien fan game, but after the gamejam I kept developing it and that’s when I changed the enemies to move away from the Alien IP. Things have changed a lot from the beginning, initially the camera was very zoomed in and the resolution was tiny, the lighting system was [simply] a spot around you and the rest was just darkness, a lot has changed over the years including Master Chef [getting] a voice.”
PH) There are a lot of not-so-subtle references in the game. These include the main character being called “Master chef” and looking a lot like another well-known space marine. Have any of those design choices led to legal issues with larger companies and has there been anything that you’ve had to cut for this reason?
James) “No issues so far, early on when I was looking for people to publish Alien Scumbags they didn’t like the use of Xenomorphs, that was partly the reason the big aliens were changed, the face-hugger looking creatures stayed in the game and [I] left them as a reference to what the game used to be. There is certainly a lot of references, but I don’t think any of them go too far so [I] imagine things will be ok.
PH) You mentioned to me before this interview that content had been cut for another reason, could you explain more about that story?
James) “There have been several changes, [a lot] of which were based on player feedback, for example, to begin with, to change weapons you had to pause the game, however, this was found to be annoying to most people so it was changed, shooting on ladders wasn’t a thing, same with upward shooting. One major thing that was changed was to remove a character that looked like a certain president as despite it being a joke it didn’t feel right to leave it in after certain events unfolded in the country.
PH) How did you decide the price point for the game? What sort of research goes into making that decision?
James) “Choosing the price for the game was a tough one and you have to strike a balance between being good value, but not looking cheap as that can stop people thinking you have created a quality product. I decided to go on a sliding scale so as content grows I add a small amount to the price. The finished price will be $9.99.”
PH) The game is now a couple of years old, with the Steam version releasing in 2020. That being said you’ve been releasing fairly frequent updates, the last at the time of writing being February 2021. How much longer do you plan to support Alien Scumbags and what future content do you plan to bring to the game?
James) “I love Alien Scumbags and if sales of the game exploded I would happily add another year of content to it, however at present I have a final boss to create and one level after that too.”
PH) Are there plans to bring the game to any other platforms or will Alien Scumbags remain a PC exclusive?
James) “I would love to push Alien Scumbags to other systems, however at present, we are not in a position to do that.”
PH) Following on from that, have you already begun to think about your future projects?
James) “Yes we have penned out an idea for the next game called Funkin Delicious, it’s very early days at the moment as [we’re] concentrating on finishing Alien Scumbags.”
PH) What more can you tell us about Funkin Delicious? What type of game is it? Are there any details you can share?
James) “I can’t give too much away just yet, but it will be inspired partly by Super Meat Boy. [Its] early days so a lot of things can change.”
PH) How has the Coronavirus pandemic affected the game?
James) “Covid took its toll mentally, regarding our team dynamic, it has been more difficult as we are used to catching up face to face once per week, but I have powered through and Stu has still [been] sending music across so the project has been able to keep going.
Sales wise I am not sure as we released in the pandemic itself so don’t have any reference to how it may have done pre Covid.”
PH) If you had an unlimited budget, in what ways would you use it to change the game? What features would you include that simply didn’t fit in your current budget?
James) “I think if I had unlimited budget I would have paid my artist friend Zombi workshop to create some comic style [cut scenes] in the game, other than that I am very happy with what we have achieved.
I think my main thing would be [to] spend budget on advertising to get my eyes on what we believe is a hidden gem in the indie scene.”
PH) If you could go back in time and tell yourself one thing before you started work on Alien Scumbags, what would it be?
James) “I would say it’s too dark and it needs to be lighter. I didn’t listen for a while on that one.
Also, I would make sure to release in Early Access as I released it [in] full by accident, seriously rookie error on my part. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to revert back to early access so I feel I missed out on building a Steam community around Alien Scumbags.”
PH) What was the initial early access plan?
James) “[It’s] fair to say I could have done the release much better. As the game was already out on Gamejolt I wanted to release as quickly as possible into Early Access, I now know I should have had a Steam page set up long before release to build wishlists.”
PH) What exactly happened for the game to release in full instead?
James) “I found Steam really difficult to navigate, I was used to working with Gamejolt, Desura, Ouya and [Itch io], but Steam was super complex in comparison, it just didn’t feel very user friendly to me.
I went through the review process several times as the game page kept failing for various reasons, finally, the game passed and that’s when I noticed there was a button to release to Early Access, I clicked it and it came up saying I would have to do the review process all over again, in hindsight I know that I should have just pushed the release back gone back into review, but I didn’t and that’s why the game came out as a full release.”
PH) Did Steam not try to help rectify the situation?
James) “I presumed that there would be no way to go back to Early Access, I asked a few months in and was told there was no way to revert back. I didn’t want to game the system and have another big release, I simply just wanted to have the status changed to Early Access. You live and learn though so now I know for next time.”
PH) What more could have been done to avoid this?
James) “I feel it would be better if Steam was more user friendly, it’s tough to get around in my opinion and I certainly didn’t expect to have to complete 3 checklists of info before being able to release. Once you have missed your chance it’s hard to recover from that I have found.”
PH) How has this impacted development and the game overall?
James) “I don’t feel it’s impacted the development of the game as I am just as passionate about the project as before. If Alien Scumbags had boomed in popularity I maybe would have been happy to keep adding content for longer.”
PH) Thank you for your time.
James) “I would just like to say thank you for the opportunity to talk about my game, it’s been a pleasure.”
Have you picked up Alien Scumbags yet? Are you excited for Funkin Delicious? As always, let us know in the comments section below or tweet your replies to @PixelHideout on Twitter.
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