Brendon Chung knows what people expect out of a first-person shooter. Guns? Check. Strafing? Yep. Ammo drops in strategic yet predictable locations? You betcha.
A sneezing system? Uh, sure. Noxious green clouds that follow you when you're smelly, giving away your location? Um. Actually, yes.
Skin Deep is the latest project out of Chung's studio, Blendo Games, and it's his first-ever FPS title. He's known for developing clever first-person action and puzzle games including Gravity Bone, Thirty Flights of Loving and Quadrilateral Cowboy, and visually, Skin Deep fits perfectly into his repertoire. The only difference is the gun.
"I'd never done one where you just have a gun and you straight-up shoot people," Chung said. "I thought, you know what? This is something that I love. This is a game genre that has been so important to me for a long time... This is kind of my attempt at making a bunch of little things that I like in first-person shooter games, and putting them into a game that I think will be funny."
Chung started coding back in elementary school, when he would spend hours between classes customizing levels in FPS classics Doom and Quake, and he continued modding as titles like Half-Life, Quake 2 and Doom 3 hit the scene. He got a job at a mainstream studio in Los Angeles, but continued working on his own projects and eventually went fully independent, picking up a handful of accolades in the process.
Despite a deep personal connection to the FPS genre, Chung hasn't released a shooter of his own — but that's going to change when Skin Deep hits Steam. The actual release date is still up in the air, a fact that may be concerning for anyone who remembers waiting for Quadrilateral Cowboy, a game that was "six months away" for well over three years. (On the Skin Deep FAQ page, one of the Qs reads, "Is Skin Deep going to take 4+ years of development time like your previous game Quadrilateral Cowboy?" and the accompanying answer is, "I hope not.")
Regardless of a release date, today publisher Annapurna Interactive showed off a new trailer for Skin Deep. A new, extra-smelly trailer.
Skin Deep is a non-linear espionage shooter set on a spaceship and played from the perspective of an armed, cryogenically frozen insurance agent whose job is to protect the vessel from invading space pirates. The game looks lighthearted yet sophisticated, in classic Blendo fashion; it involves shooting, sneaking and solving puzzles, and all of it is animated in Chung's signature cubist style. This ties back to FPS history, too — Skin Deep and most of Blendo Games' titles are built on a modified port of the Doom 3 engine, idTech4.
"I've played like a bazillion FPS games because I just really enjoy them, but I feel like there's so much that can be explored and that I wish these games would explore," Chung said.
One of the many odd mechanics in Skin Deep is a sneezing function that appears in particularly dusty or peppery environments.
"If you're crawling through a dusty vent your little sneezy air level will increase, then you'll do a big sneeze noise," Chung said. "And there's a bag of pepper that we have. If you shoot it, a big cloud of pepper flies out. You can pick up a pepper bag and throw it at someone and they'll start sneezing."
And then there's the odor system, which leaves literal clouds of stink behind the player, alerting the space pirates and generally causing problems. There's logic to this system: The player becomes smelly only once they're expelled from the space ship's trash chute, fish bones and all, and then they climb back aboard. The smell clouds disappear once the player figures out how to wash up. All of this falls under a mission titled, Protocol 832: Being Smelly And What To Do About It.
"I love it when games just do things that you don't expect," Chung said. "Like for me, one of the big games that was important for me back in the day was Far Cry 2, back in 2008. That game did so much cool stuff for the first-person genre that was not technologically advanced, but they just made design choices that were just interesting and funny. Like you had this map that you had to pull out but it didn't pause, and you had to look at a map while getting shot at with guns. And so I thought, there's so much space to do stuff like that. Why not make people smelly?"
All of Chung's games are part of the same cinematic universe, so to speak, and Skin Deep is closely tied to Flotilla, a space-based battleship game he published in 2010.
"They all kind of talk to each other, they all kind of share characters," Chung said. "We're still figuring out details, but right now the character that we're playing as in this game is the character from a game I made before called Flotilla. It's fun to make these little connections between the different games and have them all kind of share things between them."
There's no word on which of Chung's future projects will receive the smell clouds from Skin Deep.