The perks of stepping into someone else’s shoes
“I’m most excited about working on the stuff I have wanted to see in an FPS”
In development for just three months at the time of writing, Brendon Chung’s new project, Skin Deep, is exploring some interesting FPS territory. The game sees you take on the role of an elite security guard, hired to travel in cryogenic suspension alongside valuable spaceship cargo. Your job is to protect that cargo, thawing out whenever there’s a threat.
Chung’s plan for your newly thawed state is that you will have a weapon but no shoes – basically the opposite of a nightclub dress code. The shoelessness ties into Chung’s interest in making your avatar’s body more of a meaningful presence than the default FPS setup where you’re essentially a floating camera wielding a gun.
From watching a stream of Chung working on SkinDeep you can already get a sense of how important consideration of your body is as a result. Walking on glass gets shards stuck in your feet. You can stand with your back against a wall and lean against it while you pluck them out, or leave them in, which blocks off a bit of your health bar and inflicts damage when you take a step.
You can guard against shards if you find a pair of shoes, but an interesting touch here is that the shoes need to be your size. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered consideration of clothing fit outside tiny indie projects.
“Body physicality is definitely a goal of SkinDeep,” says Chung. “I’m always delighted to see what an FPS decides to simulate and not simulate, and I hope I can give that same moment of delight to folks playing SkinDeep.”
That interest in bodily complications doesn’t stop at feet. Sneezing and spitting are also given a mention in the game’s FAQ. In my gaming experience, sneezing has generally been a negative – a way of disrupting stealth, for example. But Chung tells me he’s interested in contextsensitive sneeze outcomes:
“I always find it most compelling when a mechanic’s effect varies depending on the circumstances. Sneezing can attract baddies, but I can imagine some interesting outcomes when sneezing straight into a baddie’s face or onto sensitive electronics.”
SkinDeep sounds like a game Chung has been gradually heading towards making for around two decades. “I got interested in game development via the Doom (1993) map editor,” he explains. “I made maps for Doom, Quake, DukeNukem3D, and Half-Life for over a decade and have been hooked on FPS games since then.
“I got some of my FPS impulses out of me through ThirtyFlightsof Loving, QuadrilateralCowboy and GravityBone, but have always wanted to make something akin to the work I grew up making and playing. It felt like the right time to go for it, so I started SkinDeep.”
The game has only been in development since July 2018, so Chung is still feeling the project out. He’s still working out its scope, for example, and the fiction of the universe is still being hammered out – including why you would freeze a guard with a weapon but no shoes. But Chung says he’s “incredibly happy with how things are going”.
From our exchange, it feels clear that exploration of the ‘first-person’ bit of first-person games is key to Chung’s interest in the project. “I’m most excited about working on the stuff I have wanted to see in an FPS – sneezing, plucking glass out of your feet, trying to find shoes that fit,” he says. “There are so many possibilities in what a first-person game can be, and I’m so thrilled to be exploring that space.”
An inopportune time for sneezing.