Publisher Devolver Digital has announced that SCUM, its insanely detailed multiplayer survival game, will be available in Steam early access from August 29th.
Developed by Gamempires and Croteam, SCUM is a ridiculously ambitious, although still somewhat evasive, mix of open-world survival simulation and more traditional game-like multiplayer murder-shenanigans.
Broadly though, the idea is that 64 players are dropped onto the prison island of Bagne de Cayenne, with an immediate goal of survival (by staying sufficiently nourished and suitably alive), and a secondary objective of eventual escape.
So far, so familiar. However, SCUM is described as having "unprecedented levels of character customization, control and progression, where knowledge and skills are the ultimate weapons for long-term survival". That translates to an experience that simulates and tracks a huge amount of detail concerning each player, including digestion speed, calorie and vitamin intake, body mass, temperature, number of teeth, and more - all affecting each connected element.
Previously, for instance, the developer has said that an overweight character might have reduced stamina, but their increased body fat means they won't have to eat so often - at least until it starts to ebb away, replaced by muscle. An undernourished player might find that their hands start to shake (not ideal when holding a gun), while a toothless player will struggle to eat solid foods. Even a character's selected age has an impact: younger participants are more agile, with better dexterity, while older characters have intelligence bonuses.
And a lot of the other stuff has been talked about prior to release too - all sounding very exciting, even if it's kind of hard to picture it as a unified whole.
There's a proper story, with its own objectives, which frames the entire endeavour as a kind of murderous game show. There are complex simulation systems outside of the body, such as fabric wetness that affect your ability to move, and an absurdly detailed skill tree with players apparently even able to pass on their learned knowledge to others, encouraging team work.
Also, there are zombies.
Unfortunately for survivors, alliances are unlikely to last too long: the game show's producers are determined to create a lively viewing experience for those at home, so the core open-world survival portion of SCUM is interspersed with more structured PvP multiplayer challenges, tasking teams to perform specific game-like tasks in exchange for prizes.
That's a lot of ambitious stuff already, although it's not entirely clear exactly how much of it will be included in SCUM's initial early access release. According to the developer, players will be able to "explore the island, build up their characters, engage other players, NPCs or wildlife and make simple alliances with their buddies". At launch, however, early access won't include "high level gameplay", such as the aforementioned story-driven mission objectives.
It also sounds like the "skill based crafting", "fully developed combat system", "detailed character customization, mission objectives, character leveling system, vehicle support and many other features" will come later. And as for how much later that might be, Devolver and co. currently anticipate that SCUM will remain in early access for "at least one full year", with development time potentially changing depending on player feedback.
So while I'm still not entirely sure that I've clear idea of how an actual game of SCUM will play out, I'm genuinely fascinated to see if its ambitious elements can be corralled into something both cohesive and entertaining. Fingers crossed!