As you know from last month’s creator spotlight, I’m hoping to shine a spotlight on indie creators who’re doing cool things within the horror genre at least once per month. This month, I had the pleasure of speaking with Mercuris FM and Melisssne of Virtua Worlds about their FREE horror PC game: My Daughter is a Cultist!
The free-to-play game (though I do encourage downloaders to take advantage of the “pay what you can”/”tip” option!) is a full, but short, horror gaming experience. It spans just over a week of in-game days and has four different endings — and you can obtain all four endings in about an hour (each play-through takes about 15 minutes).
You play as the bewildered father of a pre-teen girl. You just want to get a good night’s sleep, but your daughter keeps making weird sounds in the middle of the night. Why is your daughter acting so sketchy? What’s with all the thumping and chanting? Why all the tentacles?!
If you’ve been on the internet for more than a nanosecond, my description may have you concerned. But, let me assure you, despite the pre-teen Japanese girl and the abundance of writhing tentacles, this is not a hentai (anime porn) game. However, it does have some “mature” themes (animated gore, a visual reference to Aokigahara, etc.) that some may find disturbing.
Here’s the official trailer, to give you a better idea of what you’re in for:
This version of My Daughter is a Cultist is a “prototype.” The Virtua Worlds’ team who made it plans on producing an expanded version of the game in the near-ish future as part of a larger, more in-depth, horror anthology game.
Check out the free-to-play prototype and give the team your feedback!
In the meantime, here’s what the creators had to say about their nifty Japanese horror manga-inspired game…
Interview with Virtua Words’ Team
Lauren Spear: Hi, you two! Would you mind introducing yourselves to the HorrorFam.com readers?
Mercurius FM: I’m Mercurius FM. I make music, DJ, design games, and do a hundred other odd jobs. Thanks for having us.
Melisssne: I’m Melissa. A self-taught Unreal Engine programmer and the programmer for My Daughter is a Cultist.
Lauren: Oooh. Yes. My Daughter is a Cultist. I played the game! And I think it’s definitely something that will appeal to our audience. Before I bombard you with questions about it: would you mind briefly explaining the game…?
Mercurius FM: Sure. The game is a very early prototype of a J-Horror and Lovecraftian Horror game concept. It has the black and white print aesthetic of manga (Japanese comics). You play as a dad whose daughter may or may not be a cultist.
Lauren: Since this game is a “prototype,” does that mean that there will be a full, more in-depth version coming out down the road?
Mercurius FM: Yeah, we’re still planning it out. But that’s the idea now. Originally, it was made for a game jam, which is basically a game development challenge where you have to make a game in a very short amount of time. We decided to take part as a way of sharpening our skills and with Halloween around the corner. The timing was perfect. So that’s why it’s a prototype, and a little rough around the edges.
Lauren: It reminded me a lot of P.T. — the “playable teaser” for the Hideo Kojima and Guillermo del Toro-helmed Silent Hill(s) game that will never be. [wistful sigh].
In other words: it was pretty awesome! But it definitely had that “unfinished” feel to it. I’m excited that you’re planning to do more with this project.
Melisssne: We are currently working on an update to fix some minor bugs that will be released within a few weeks, and plan on adding a few other stories to complete the game later on.
Mercurius FM: Yeah, P.T. really inspired us when we played it. And the idea of a simple but intense game within a single setting was definitely part of our design. It scares Mel quite a bit actually.
Melisssne: That definitely was an inspiration, I don’t usually like horror in any form (I’m a pansy) and watching Mercurius FM play it or videos of it on YouTube really messed me up.
Lauren: That’s awesome. Going back to its origins for a minute… What was it like doing a game jam? I’ve heard of them, and I’ve seen one in action — via JonTron — and they seem super intense!
Mercuris FM: Yeah, they’re cool. We’ve done a few weekend-length ones in person with random strangers when we first started out, before we even made the Virtua Worlds name. This one was intense because it was just us mostly, but we had more time. So it allowed us to really push ourselves and have the time to figure things out.
Melisssne: I’ve worked on two other game jams that lasted three days long of which I was a programmer on one. This game jam was much more relaxed because we had a month to work on it. We still had to cut a lot of ideas out because of time, but I think we ended up with a fleshed-out game for a game jam.
Lauren: I agree! I mean… it’s a FULL game. It even has FOUR different endings. You two really knocked yourselves out! When you told me it was for a game jam, my expectations were really low. And then I got in there and was like “Oh wow… they used some really cool shaders! This actually looks pretty nice! Oh wow… the story is going on for several in-game days! Oh wow… there are multiple ways for me to meet my inevitable demise!” [laughs].
Mercurius FM: We’re both perfectionists in different ways. But for me, strong presentation and polish are important for game jams.
Melisssne: Thanks, hearing that people are playing games we’ve made and enjoying them gives me this weird proud feeling.
Lauren: As for the presentation… Clearly, you have Junji Ito as an influence. The marketing mentions HP Lovecraft as well, but I didn’t really get that from my playthroughs. Maybe the Lovecraft influences will come through more in the full version? But, as it stands, I’d say this is the closest horror manga fans are gonna get to a Junji Ito video game!
What are your favorite Ito stories…?
Melisssne: The story with the my-sized hole kinda sticks in my head. Compelling yourself to do something that you have no idea what the outcome will be. The Lovecraft aspect comes from the slow crawl of insanity and ancient unknown beasts.
Lauren: The Enigma of Amigara Fault. Yeah. That one’s a classic.
What about you, Mercurius FM?
Mercurius FM: Yeah, the tentacles, the water, the insanity. Those are the Lovecraft elements. Ito’s work draws on a lot of similar concepts of fear of the unknown. I don’t have a specific favorite, but I love how visually striking his work is. I like how it is usually existential horror.
Lauren: Hope I didn’t ruffle your feathers with my comment earlier. I didn’t mean to offend either of you, and I wasn’t complaining in any way. I did see little glimpses of what could be considered Lovecraftian horror… But “true” Lovecraftian horror is usually more “cosmic,” in my mind — which didn’t come through. Though the “fear of the unknown” was present, I’ll give you that!
The game is really short right now — players can get obtain all four endings in an hour or so — and that makes it really difficult to get every aspect and influence to come through at full volume.
Speaking of volume… the soundtrack for the game is killer. I usually play video games with the sound off (weird, I know); however, when I saw that one of the game’s creators is a DJ, I plugged in my headphones. Good sound design is a HUGE part of what makes horror media “horrifying” to audiences…
Did you have any horror influences for the soundtrack going into it, or did you just wing it and do your own thing?
Mercurius FM: It’s all good. We had cultists, ancient gods, and the unknown. Perhaps with more time we will integrate more.
Regarding the music and sound, my influence on this included Silent Hill and P.T. Also, other Akira Yamaoka works, such as the music for Let It Die. As well as just horror films in general.
The concept for the music was also similar to the design of the game… a single track which has different layers like an onion. The deeper you get into the story, the more music you get.
Lauren: It was very well-done. When you two do the full version of the game, I’d definitely offer a download of the soundtrack as a bonus or something. Maybe for the My Daughter is a Cultist: Special Edition or something!
By the way! While I was playing, I was thinking about a potential spin-off for the game. I was picturing a video game version of the Don’t Wake Daddy! board game essentially… Where you play as the cultist daughter from My Daughter is a Cultist and try to get away with as many occult shenanigans as you can before your dad wakes up and catches you. [laughs].
I’m guessing you probably won’t use my idea… But do you have any other projects in the works? And are any of them horror-related?
Mercurius FM: Thanks, yeah, when we expand the game, we will offer a soundtrack. Your idea is pretty funny. Might be cute to do an 8-bit version of that sometime.
Melisssne: That does sound pretty funny. I really love Mercurius FMs soundtrack as well, made the game that much spookier.
Lauren: [laughs]. You’re free to use my idea. If you do, I’ll share the heck out of it, for sure.
Mercurius FM: We’ll let you know!
Lauren: Do you have any other horror-related projects in the works? Also: what are your favorite horror movies?
Melisssne: I love The Shining, there are a few scenes that really spooked me, but the atmosphere, direction, and performances make an amazing movie.
Mercurius FM: Currently, we are fleshing out a game that uses the concept for ‘My Daughter is a Cultist!’ It will be a horror anthology with several short stories. My favorite horror films include Texas Chainsaw Massacre (original), Friday the 13th (2009), Hellraiser, Evil Dead franchise, Don’t Breathe, Alien, The Terminator, Phantasm, The Grudge, Saw, The Ring, Dark Water, The Shining, Halloween, and too many to mention. Oh yeah stuff like Vampire Hunter D, too.
Lauren: Oh man! A horror anthology video game?! Color me hyped. I’m officially excited. [laughs].
Speaking of video games… What are your favorite games? Horror or otherwise.
Melisssne: I’m basically addicted to No Man’s Sky right now. A horror game I like is a DS game called 999. Other games I love include the Ace Attorney series, Animal Crossing, and Hotel Dusk. My game library expanded when I met Mercurius FM leading me to fall in love with games like The Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past and Chrono Trigger.
Lauren: I loved 999. And your other DS picks are in my collection as well! [laughs]. Very nice.
You, Mercurius FM…?
Mercurius FM: Well, I really love video games. It’s my favorite medium. If I had to choose a few spooky-themed games that I love it would be Doom (’93 and 2016), Quake, Darkstalkers, Decap Attack, P.T., Silent Hill, House of the Dead II, and then some less spooky games… Shadow of the Colossus, Strider arcade, Gradius III, Sonic Mania, and… yeah. No Man’s Sky. This could go on forever. [laughs].
Lauren: Last two questions! What would be your dream project down the road for Virtua Worlds? And, do either of you have any advice for other game developers out there who are just getting started?
Mercurius FM: Dream project, damn, that’s hard. I’d love to make a game like the original Quake one day. But I like so many games and types of games. Who knows what we’ll make in the long run.
As for advice, we’re so new at this, but as a lifelong creator…
I’ll tell you this. If you want to do something, do it. Don’t make excuses. There’s so much info out there, it’s easier than ever to pick up a skill. My other advice is that your most valuable resource is time, invest the most time into the things you want to invest in. Game dev is all about this. Time is your most scarce resource.
Melisssne: I would like to make an Ace Attorney knock-off one day… I enjoy the humor and gameplay of those games.
My advice would be that anyone can do this. I have no programming experience. Unreal Engine is free and the “blueprint” programming system makes anything possible for an amateur. There is a ton of tutorials, resources, and an active community out there for inexperienced game developers.
Lauren: Awesome! Thank you both for sharing your thoughts — and My Daughter is a Cultist — with all of us here at HorrorFam.com! I’m going to include the link to the prototype game below, but I hope you’ll both come back and share the full version once it’s done.
Links to MORE Virtua Worlds
- My Daughter is a Cultist (FREE to play PC game): https://virtuaworlds.itch.io/my-daughter-is-a-cultist
- Website: http://virtuaworlds.io
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virtuaworlds/
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/virtuaworlds/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/virtuaworlds
- Itch.io: https://virtuaworlds.itch.io/
- Mercurius FM: http://mercuriusfm.com
- Melisssne: https://www.instagram.com/melisssne/
Lauren Spear (née Tharp) is the owner of LittleZotz Writing, a super-respectable multiple award-winning website for freelance writers. She’s also the HorrorFam.com founder! Lauren grew up in the horror industry (her parents did practical special FX work for many of the horror movies you love from the ’80s and ’90s) and basically created this site so she could freely gas on about creepy stuff and stop having to pretend to be normal.