How A Dead Space VR Mod Became Something New
Following the Half-Life: Alyx – Return to Rapture mods, Patient 8 Games now presents Memoreum. Starting as a Dead Space-themed mod before a direction shift, it arrives next year on Quest and SteamVR. Read on for our full interview.
A year after Return to Rapture concluded with its second chapter, Patient 8 is keeping itself busy. Shifting away from modding to create something new, Memoreum sees humanity looking to the stars as Earth slowly dies. Set aboard a colony spaceship, you awaken to find something’s gone terribly wrong and you’re tasked with discovering what happened.
It’s a classic horror premise and at Gamescom 2023, Patient 8 Games explained that the game originally began as a Dead Space mod for Half-Life Alyx. As someone who’s never handled VR horror well – once was enough – I didn’t get far with the Quest demo, but I was interested to learn more. Speaking with Creative Director Seamus Bryner and Project Director Wim Buytaert, we discussed Memoreum over a Q&A session.
Henry Stockdale, UploadVR: Could you begin by telling me about the game’s development?
Seamus Bryner: As a studio, we started out with a Half-Life: Alyx mod called Return to Rapture, the BioShock one. The next step of that was Wim talking to everybody on the team and telling everybody, “We’re gonna do a Dead Space version of that.” We started working on that but we kept adding things and it soon turned into its own thing.
From there, we’ve been developing the game for over a year and a half, we’re chugging away. We’re an international team, too, so [Gamescom] is the first time we’ve all met face-to-face. We have five people in America, people in Belgium, Switzerland, Russia, Switzerland, Canary Islands, we’re everywhere.
UploadVR: Why did you want to do horror specifically?
Bryner: The reason why we even approached it from the get-go is that with VR games, we weren’t seeing many things that felt meaty or are fully fledged experiences like Half-Life: Alyx. And we’re all huge horror fans, so it was a matter of putting our own spin on it and making a full single-player campaign. We’re just so passionate about the genre.
UploadVR: What’s the premise in-game?
Bryner: You play as a renowned scientist, Dr Otto Hudson. He wakes up and gets pulled out of his stasis pod on the Century Dawn, a ship that’s humanity’s last hope after several apocalyptic-level events on Earth like atmospheric changes. It’s almost uninhabitable. So, they leave on a colonizing spaceship where most people are in stasis.
Every now and then, they wake up and when Hudson wakes, something’s not right. If you’ve seen the trailer, you get a feel for that with a guy on the radio called James Parker. He’s a scientist that guides you through the whole thing. You guys try to figure out what is happening, how to fix it, and where to go. Essentially, it’s how to save humanity because we really wanted to raise the stakes.
UploadVR: Can you walk me through the gameplay, what are you doing along the way?
Bryner: It’s very heavily a survival horror leaning into action horror. We’re trying to create a delicate balance, add an appropriate amount of puzzles and engaging things for players to do. We never wanted to be a shooting gallery outright. It’s all about exploring, and finding things in the world that you want to immerse yourself in like the ship, the characters and uncover secrets.
Wim Buytaert: Every little room will have details that feels alive. Everything has a little story to tell. We’ve gone big on environmental storytelling.
UploadVR: Roughly how long would you say the adventure is?
Bryner: We’ve been running under the premise that there’s a wide variety of VR players. There are people who like to run through it and there are people who take their time and play, just like regular video games. What we’re going for is 10-15 hours for the single-player campaign. It’s a full experience and we’re trying to do things with New Game Plus and replayability, like secret weapons.
Buytaert: There’s a lot of crafting in the game with the guns.
Bryner: Yeah, weapons are also upgradable.
UploadVR: Is there a skill tree for weapons?
Bryner: We didn’t really discuss any skill tree stuff. A lot of it has been purely about the weaponry that you get and then upgrade how they work.
Buytaert: You start with like a small shotgun that gets bigger, more meaty, you get more cool stuff to add to it.
Bryner: The weapon system was designed by our lead dev. It’s an all-in-one gun that can turn into anything you want it to be, but it’s still one weapon.
Buytaert: If you decide in a particular level that you want to use a shotgun, you can go to a crafting machine, disassemble your machine gun and make a shotgun out of it.
Bryner: You have exotic weapons, too. These are weapons that you find like a cowboy magnum, a sawed-off shotgun, things like that.
UploadVR: Is Memoreum just on Quest at the moment?
Bryner: No. We’re aiming for Quest for the initial release, that’s our priority, but we’re hoping for a simultaneous launch with SteamVR as well.
Buytaert: We also intend to tackle PlayStation VR2. If we get the opportunity, we’ll go for it. That also applies for Pico.
UploadVR: Is it fair to say you want to bring them to more platforms but you’re not currently committing?
Bryner: We haven’t had much contact with Sony on that, so for now, just Quest and Steam.
UploadVR: Is there a release window at the moment?
Bryner: 2024 is what we’re aiming for. We’re trying to keep it general because we’re a small independent team, so you never know what’s gonna come up.
UploadVR: Will there be any enhancements on Quest 3?
Bryner: We’re trying to get in touch with more people in Meta to get a dev kit to plan for that, but that is the plan.
Buytaert: It will be fairly easy to do. We’ve got it running really well on the Quest 2, so enhancing for Quest 3 is gonna be fun.
UploadVR: Before we finish, is there anything you think I should know?
Bryner: We just really hope that people are excited for it. We’re trying to bridge the gap between what makes a traditional survival horror game like Resident Evil, Dead Space or Silent Hill, and bring that into VR in a way that we haven’t seen that done before. It’s always been a huge goal, our main objective is to scare the hell out of you and make you have fun.