“What if Alien Isolation took place in an IKEA?” is a pretty accurate elevator pitch for The Store is Closed, an upcoming co-op survival horror game which takes place in “an infinite furniture store.” As if being trapped in a furniture store wasn’t scary enough (yeah, we hate shopping too), the place just so happens to be rife with truculent, mutated staff members who relentlessly stalk your player during the nighttime.
Armed with only your wits and well, anything and everything you can get your hands on in the boundless furniture store — including furniture which can be crafted into weapons and fortifications — players in The Store is Closed are tasked with one very simple yet onerous burden: escape at all costs.
After how thoroughly the premise and preliminary gameplay trailers of The Store is Closed furnished our interest, we were more than happy to speak with the game’s developer Ziggy to pick his brain about his inspirations, challenges faced during the developmental process as well as his personal gaming predilections.
Retbit: The premise for The Store is Closed game stems from an SCP Foundation entry, SCP-3008. What was it about the SCP-3008 entry specifically which inspired you to create The Store is Closed? Is there some personal aversion to merchandise retail stores thrown in there as well?
Ziggy: I think most people have gotten lost in an IKEA, so when I read the short story SCP-3008 in which a man gets lost in an infinite furniture store, I knew if I made a game from it, that people would instantly understand the setting and appeal.
Also since the story features monstrous staff, handmade weapons and fortresses constructed from flatpack furniture it almost seemed more like a game design document than just a short story. I’m hoping to capture what made the source material so interesting whilst also expanding on the world it created.
… But no it wasn’t born from any deep hatred or fear of shopping – heh.
Retbit: We weren’t afraid to admit our fear of shopping, but fair enough. Moving on, The Store is Closed‘s description on Steam brings up the game taking place in an “endless” and “infinite” furniture store? Could you elaborate on the “endless” aspect? Could you conceivably wander the game forever? Is the store interior randomly generated like Hades for instance?
Ziggy: The game features an infinitely generated store, meaning everything from the maze-like layout, to the various departments and their furniture will be different with each playthrough. Players can walk endlessly in any direction exploring the different departments as they travel but the further out they go, the more dangerous the staff will become. So instead they’ll have to explore underground SCP facilities and the mysterious floating sky departments where they’ll find weapons, tools, and maybe even work out why the store exists and how to get out. Much like Hades it’ll be a mix of hand crafted experiences such as the boss battles and story moments, and thanks to the procedural generation each player’s journey to these moments will be unique.
Retbit: Other gameplay elements include the ability to destroy in-game walls, tables and chairs and fashion weapons from them — which aside from sounding fun as hell — also sounds very exhaustive to code. What challenge did this design aspect present? What was the biggest challenge to you as a developer in the creation process of The Store is Closed?
Ziggy: Initially players just held down a button to deconstruct furniture to get crafting materials but since this was going to be a significant mechanic in the game I wanted to find a way for it to be fun. It turned out smashing furniture with a sledge hammer was a blast and I eventually realized that more than just the furniture, the whole world should be destructible. This meant that players wouldn’t feel safe no matter where they are in the store as at any point a manager could smash through a wall. This also allows the players to terraform the store to suit their base building needs.
Luckily Unreal Engine 4 provides all the tools needed to create a destructible world. The game currently utilizes UE4’s CPU Apex destruction system, but once Unreal Engine 5 is released I’ll swap over to their more performant GPU based Chaos destruction, along with the new Nanite and Lumen technologies. The biggest challenge as a developer has actually been the multiplayer. Multiplayer games are generally much more complicated to create compared to single player games as there are just so many more things that can go wrong. But since I’m a big fan of co-op games it’s been a feature from day one!
Retbit: Without spoiling too much about The Store is Closed game, what is an aspect that you’re most proud of? Or that you hope players will thoroughly enjoy?
Ziggy: I’m most excited to bring a fresh new setting to the survival game genre as there are perhaps too many survival games set in the outdoors where you chop trees and make log cabins. So in my game you’ll be building towers to the sky from flatpack furniture, hiding from staff among store displays and eating meatballs from the cafeterias.
I’m also excited to share the SCP universe with a more mainstream audience so it’s been a big goal of mine to show people what makes it so compelling without requiring any prior SCP knowledge.
Retbit: What were some of your favorite video games growing up?
Ziggy: I grew up on Flash games, mods for Half Life 2, and Warcraft 3 custom maps, especially anything multiplayer. I always loved how creative and different each of them was and they are definitely what inspired me to make games now. But I think it was Minecraft which made me want to create a survival game as I’d always loved how the randomly generated landscapes created unique experiences with every new world.
Retbit: What are some of your favorite video games now?
Ziggy: I’ve been playing a lot of Valheim, Hades and Dota 2. Though Valheim has probably been the biggest source of inspiration when it comes to The Store is Closed. I’ve enjoyed its more combat focused approach to a survival game as well as its leveling system and how it actually punishes players for dying whilst still encouraging exploration. These are all things I’d love to achieve with The Store is Closed.
Retbit: Where can we find out more about The Store Is Closed as well as your future endeavors?
Ziggy: The best way to find out about future updates would be to wishlist and follow the game on Steam as I’ll be posting development updates on the store community page.
The alpha version of The Store is Closed game, featuring online co-op via Steam is also available to play right now by donating to my Patreon.