It would be very easy to look at Gamepires SCUM, a prison riot survival shooter, and brush it off as just another fledgling entry in the “games that are basically DayZ” subgenre. The once-king of PC shooters’ influences on the game are nakedly present. Using an extensive control scheme to move and shoot in any way imaginable, turning modest rocks and foliage into weaponry, outlasting threats both environmental and adversarial – all trappings of the modern survival actioneer.
SCUM has clearly read from the safe library of multiplayer shooters, too. It’s Events system is basically a rotating playlist of multiplayer events (like the 5v5 Capture the Point game that was demoed on the PAX East show floor) with the potential for single player missions to spawn a la open world games like Far Cry.
It’s so rife with contemporary, crowd sourced, “what’s popular right now?” game design concepts that it’s a bit exhausting to think about. It’s possible to focus group a game into an ironic state of instant malaise.
But then Community Manager Josip Barisic tapped a few keys and unrolled this massive HUD, full of physiological metrics like a BMI meter and caloric burn variables based on running and walking, and instead of recoiling from this aggressive assault of data, I found myself more intrigued than I’d ever been with the traditional video gamey segments I was shown so far.
He dropped me into the character creation suite, another video game signature that I normally can’t be bothered with, to show me how a standard SCUM experience starts. Where most shooters stop at customizing faces, tattoos, clothing, etc., SCUM’s create a character screen looks more like a Dungeons and Dragons character sheet. A base set of stats – which govern attack strength, carry capacity, running speed, skill progressions, etc. – are all further modified by character age, weight and body type, and addictions or other negative traits.
Skills grow with use, as to be expected, but these base physical stats can be altered through play means in a fascinating sort of realism-meets-gameplay conceit. You want to get stronger? You’ll have to work out in game, constantly doing feats of strength as well as maintaining a high protein diet to see gains. Your escaped prisoner can be the gym bro that you always wanted to be!
And when I say high protein diet, I mean that all of the available food in game, be it foraged plants and mushrooms or rabbit and deer, all have accurate nutritional values to their real life counterparts. The macro-nutrient ratios of real life games are apparently well represented here.
And that’s what makes SCUM so interesting. You do not have to play this way – if you want to engage with the bedrock, run-of-the-mill shooter, it’s here for you competent enough. But if you want a decidedly more complex, and ultimately weirder and more unique take on the genre, SCUM provides. This concept it what drives the development vision from now until the eventual launch. Gamepires wants to make a game with filo pastry layers, all customizable to the most minute of specifications to create a single player and multiplayer experience that is truly unique. I fear this has already become an under sung feature of the game, though, and that is to it’s detriment.