Lost In Vivo is a first-person game that deals with having crippling claustrophobia. During a rainy day, your service dog gets lost into the sewer system beneath the ground, and you have no option but to follow your partner into such a dark, humid, and terrifying environment. The game portrays its fear to the player in a place between reality and psychological horror, and as you might expect, things start to get obscure really fast for the character.
Wrapped in a PSX-like art style, Lost In Vivo takes heavy influence from the Silent Hill series, and it quickly shows up more complex systems: different weapons, an inventory system, puzzles, and backtracking are only a few.
But there’s something way more different happening if you boot up the game at midnight. As Dillon Rogers, developer of Gloomwood pointed out on Twitter, there’s a literal “Midnight” mode that turns the experience into a completely different game, showcasing unique weapons, a dungeon and unique goals. It’s in the same vein of what you’d expect from a Bloodborne chalice dungeon. But how did this come to be? And under what purpose?
The project made its first big public presence in 2016’s Kickstarter campaign, which got funded right on time before the deadline arrived. Right until not so long ago, when the game released on itch.io and then arrived onto Steam recently, Akuma Kira spent most of his time developing the game almost by himself and apologizing to his backers for the lack of updates during long periods of time.
“It was difficult at times working mostly by myself. There was certainly slow uninspired periods where I mostly did programming work, but also there were times when I felt overjoyed to be able to work on something this big. During the first half of Lost in Vivo’s development I was still taking online classes, and progress was certainly slower during that period,” Kira said. He’s a 26 years old developer who obtained a bachelor’s degree in Game Design in 2017.
Diving into horror wasn’t something new since his past smaller projects such as Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion and S.I.N. had a huge focus of mixing eerie designs with otherwise cute elements. For Lost In Vivo, though, Kira had a clear set of influences to draw creativity from the game design of Silent Hill 4, the art style of Silent Hill 1, and the creature design of recent games like Bloodborne.
Additionally, there’s a clear resemblance to the PlayStation X era in pretty much everywhere, from promo arts such as the 3D case model on Lost In Vivo’s itch.io page to a warning message about violent content right when the game starts. “Some of my favorite PSX games would be Silent Hill, Castlevania Symphony of the Night, Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil 2, and that terrible Vampire Hunter D game.”
Kira expressed that living in Murphy, North Carolina, certainly affects his work as well. “I mostly just find my town a bit depressing, but there are some interesting decrepit buildings and abandoned collapsed farmhouses that give me more inspiration for things like the area in Lost Tape #3,” he added, referencing additional levels that can only be accessed through tapes, reminiscent of Resident Evil 7 and Paratopic.
But in creating the “Midnight” mode, which portrays a different game altogether for just one hour based on your local time, there were two clear influences from the start: Dante’s Inferno and Bloodborne. Keep in mind that there are small spoilers to follow.
Kira included the midnight mode concept in a very early draft of Lost In Vivo, with the addition of one if the gamma was turned all the way down and one if it was all the way up. While it was always thought as a secret, there’s a small hint in the final version: a poster with a clock set to midnight with the caption “See you there”, and that’s the only clue players get.
“Midnight mode and the base game are somewhat related. This is a bit of a theory/story spoiler but they are both different attempts at a journey through Dante’s Inferno. In the base game you only travel through the seventh circle, and in Midnight mode you pay your way out with 30 silver coins,” Kira said. “I was really inspired by the chalice dungeons in Bloodborne and wanted to make a game that was just like it but with more focus on a randomized dungeon.
Without getting into programming specifics, the way it works is with a command that takes public variables in Windows computers, such as the time and date. By using “System.DateTime.Now.Hour”, the game is able to check if it’s midnight or not. “There’s also a note in the game that says it was written on the current date using the same command, and some fake credits that add your name as ‘Motion Capture by: (Whatever the player’s computer is named).’”!
As for current and future projects, Kira said he’s working on a DLC for Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion called The Doll House, and another one in Unity that is yet to be named. Lost In Vivo was his first attempt to work in a project of this scale using 3D models, and aside from fixing bugs and adding more secrets, he said he would be interested in doing a DLC for it in the future. “I also want to do more commision work and design for games that I’m not leading because I think it’s a lot less stressful,” he said.
“There is a lot of horror media and games that seem like they have secrets, [but] they use vague symbolism or references to tease like something is hidden within them. I wanted to do this as I usually do with my projects, but actually, have something substantial to find in the end.”
Lost in Vivo is available now on Steam.