Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals

Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
Image: Devolver Digital

As we all know by now, I love video games. But, there’s one video game in particular that I really love at the moment, and that’s Cult of the Lamb.

Cult of the Lamb is a dungeon crawler meets cult management simulator from Melbourne-based developers Massive Monster. The sickos at Devolver Digital are the publisher. I played the preview and went predictably bonkers over it. It rocks.

So, based on that, you can imagine my excitement at the thought of chatting with the folks that made it. Below is my interview with Massive Monster’s creative director Julian Wilton. In it, we discussed what Cult of the Lamb is, what it could’ve been, and what the online response has meant to the team.


Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
Image: Devolver Digital

Ruby

What initially inspired you and your team to make Cult of the Lamb?

Julian

Yeah, I mean, it’s funny, we just started off with this weird little prototype that was basically just like a colony sim mushed with a dungeon crawler. I guess that was like the basic idea, was just mushing those two things together. But then there was like this long iteration process of actually going like, “How am I going to sell this? How am I going to market it so that we could get a publisher to give us money?”.

So, yeah. We went through a lot of stuff. I’m a big fan of horror movies and we went down this occult direction where it was very much more spooky because like the last game we did, Adventure Pals, was very bright, colourful and random. So that’s why I was like, “I’m going to make it a bit more spooky,” but I just ended up drawing really cute characters still.

But yeah, I think we just started going down this cult idea. We had this Hell idea, but yeah, you were being quite mean to followers, which, we liked the idea, but then when we went to go do it, we’re just like, “Oh no, we couldn’t hurt them.” I wanted to look after them.

Ruby

You just felt a bit bad.

Julian

Yeah, I did. Yeah. So yeah, before that it was going to be like a Hell idea. But yeah, we’re like, cult’s great, because you can still be mean to them if you want, or you can be nice to them. Depends on what kind of cult leader you want to be.

Ruby

Exactly. Well, I took the route of being really nice because… I mean, except there was one guy. There was one guy who just out of nowhere was like, I hate the cult now. I’m like, “Well, okay, I have to kill you because it’s taking too long to re-educate.” I fell into a trap.

Julian

Oh no!

Ruby

So cults, they’re pretty heavy… Was that a cat?


Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
This is Macintosh, Julian’s bloody naughty boy. (Image: Julian Wilton)

At this point, Julian’s cat had started to meow off-screen. He then proceeded to pick the cat up and show the little sweetie off.

Julian

Oh yeah, my buddy, he’s being a bloody naughty boy today. He’s running up on me. He’s Macintosh.

Ruby

Hi! Oh my gosh. He’s cute.

Julian

He’s naked at the moment though. He’s a bit gross.

Ruby

He is, he’s not wearing any clothes. Put a shirt on him, god!

We laughed, Macintosh departed, and the conversation continued.


Ruby

So as I was saying, obviously, cults are a pretty heavy topic when you really look at them, you know? So how did you go about incorporating the cute animals, and the silly concepts in a nice balanced way?

Julian

Yeah, yeah. Definitely, I think we were a little concerned about how people were going to respond to it early on, because it is cult heavy, which is, that’s a bit of intense theme and then also, it’s quite occult, and a bit like touching on some religious stuff, but without saying too much.

So I think even when we announced it, there was someone, who did a YouTube video that went for like 30 minutes just identifying all the cryptic, satanic things in the game or something. And I was just like, “What the hell?” But it’s cool.

I guess for me, I mean the biggest thing I want to do is make sure we’re actually like ticking the box on, is this game about running a cult? And part of those things was like having this charismatic leader, so that did blend in well, but then yeah, there’s this idea of exploiting your followers.

So trying to do that in a way that wasn’t too, I don’t know, messed up, I guess. You can do it in a messed-up way if you want; you could sacrifice them or maybe murder them. If you sacrifice, you can level up and get more power through that. Otherwise, yeah, they just pray in a shrine at you so, it can keep quite PG if you want, I guess, in that aspect. But then, you can cheat by yeah, sacrificing them for some extra points. So yeah, it’s up to the player, I guess, we designed it that way.

Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
Image: Devolver Digital

Ruby

Yeah, absolutely. And you mentioned the charismatic leader, so what was it about the lamb as an animal that made it your choice of the cult leader?

Julian

I was exploring religious stuff, and I really liked this idea of this sacrificial lamb, and that was actually the working title for a while. And just the way the lamb is depicted in a lot of religious stuff, lamb of Christ. And originally, we had the evil character as this goat that was similar to you. So which yeah, we might bring back. I don’t know.

But yeah, so just our idea of like he’s pure, he’s good. And then, there’s this more evil side, but yeah, it’s playing on that; the lamb, he is a bit of a blank slate. He’s a good boy from the onset, and the game gets you to explore if it can turn you to make you question your own morality and if you are a good person still after all this stuff you’ve done to your cult members.

Ruby

You mentioned before Adventure Pals, which very much prides itself on being just a bit silly. And so, how do you think humour and silliness can add to the experience of a game as a whole?

Julian

I just really like it, creating these big, really interesting worlds of unique characters. I think in Cult of the Lamb, it actually creates a really nice, refreshing moment after going in the dungeon, that’s quite intense, everything’s a bit darker and stuff, and then you’ll come across this wacky character, and we can be a bit silly, but it’s more contained. I think it just reminds players to not take it too seriously and just hopefully enjoy the small, little moments in there.

Ruby

And what have been some of the challenges that you guys have faced in making the game, so far?

Julian

Yeah, I think a lot of it was that early iteration and even just like, how do we even turn this game into a game about running a cult? Because we started off with that little prototype, but then it’s like, as I said, I was looking into all these boxes we needed to tick to make it hit that player fantasy of running a cult.

Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
Image: Devolver Digital

It was really challenging getting in and converting those into mechanics and systems that could, not just work on like the base side, but had to work on the base and the dungeon and feed into that loop. So yeah, it was pretty challenging just in terms of the game design, and then we’re trying to do this all just over Zoom calls or whatever, just trying to be like, “Oh I think this will work. I think this will work.”

So yeah, not being in person to actually just talk about it, where sometimes it’s just so much quicker to have a call, just be like, “Oh yeah, this is what I’m talking about,” because if you’re just sending texts, you lose things a bit. So just getting everyone on the same page about what the game even is, was probably the most challenging thing.

Ruby

Yeah, for sure. And now Cult of Lamb has kind of blown up. It’s incredible, and it’s not even out yet, so how are you feeling about all the love for your game so far?

Julian

Yeah, it’s been amazing. We definitely have not had anything like it on our other games, so yeah, and I’m still a bit shocked whenever I look at the Steam most wish-listed I’m like, “What the hell?” But yeah, I think it’s a mix of quite stressed because we want to be making sure that people are going to enjoy it, and we’re hopefully hitting what they expect the game to be.

Balancing that, and balancing all these bits that we still have left to do, even though the game’s launching very soon. So yeah, lots of bugs to fix and all this other stuff. But yeah, hopefully, people like it, hopefully we can deliver on that and it’s not too like hyped and people have all these ideas of what it is when it isn’t that.

Ruby

Yeah, that’s a very good point, absolutely. Now there is a fishing mini-game in Cult of the Lamb. Would you agree that games with fishing mini-games are ultimately better than others?

Julian

Well, I mean, it’s pretty obvious, I think. I think we all know the answer to that. Yeah.

Cult Of The Lamb Was Almost Set In Hell, Its Creative Director Reveals
Image: Devolver Digital

Ruby

Exactly. Now I have to ask because it was the very first thing that I did in both the demo and the preview, but when I got a hedgehog follower, it was very easy for me to make him look exactly like Sonic the Hedgehog. Was that intentional?

Julian

I don’t know. I actually didn’t draw the hedgehog, but yeah, I actually did that as well, I called him ‘Sanic’ or something. Yes, just for fun. But, yeah, we just stumbled into it. I think when you start making all these animal followers, you kind of look for connections with them, and the hedgehog is definitely very easy to go to.

Ruby

You can collect followers obviously, but the decision to be able to customize them when you collect them, where did that come from?

Julian

I think it’s just what players want, they want to make it their own and make it unique. And if they can design their cult, they want to design it, then it’s better. But yeah, it is just more ways for the players to make the cult their own. Because at the moment, there’s definitely a few choices you can make, but it’s like, we could definitely go further into that as well with post-release updates or something.

Ruby

Totally. And last, but certainly not least, what are your professional tips for those wanting to run a successful cult in Cult of the Lamb?

Julian

I mean, for me, I like to look after my boys, you’ve got to have the farm going. You’ve got to use those rituals as well. So, basic example; everyone’s starving, you’ve got to go use a little ritual to stop everyone eating for a few days, so you can catch up on the supply and the demand.

But yeah, I think just like, follow your heart. If you enjoy spending most of your time fishing, then that’s fine. If you enjoy the base a bit more than the dungeon, I think that’s fine too. And hopefully, the game can support you in any way you want to play it.


Talking to Julian was an absolute treat, and if anything just got me more excited for the game’s full release. If you haven’t had the chance to play the demo of Cult of the Lamb, I highly suggest giving it a go. If you’d prefer to wait for the full release, you won’t have long to wait.

Cult of the Lamb launches on August 12th for PC, Mac, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.

Comments

  • I just finished reading Survivor, by Chuck Palahniuk, so the idea of starting my own cul- *AHEM!…* ermmm, I mean “Spiritual Enhancement, Free Love and Communal Living Retreat” is making me a very joy filled brother! I legit cannot wait to give my inner Jim Jones a bit of a workout, lol! But not the nasty powertrippin stuff, heck no! Just to purely and wholesomely enlighten myself and my fellow commune dwellers so we can be fitter, happier and more productive little souls. Nothing more. Just dutiful little carriers of Sweet, Juicy, Life-prolonging…SSsssoulssss. Mmmmm…
    Sorry, what was i saying? Ahh yes, I’m even more stoked knowing i can customise each lil critter in the game! The gameplay is looking great too! Just the thing to play between the intense study sessions and endless farming! I can even game while I perform my “spiritually calming” ritual chanting!
    Anyone want some refreshing Kool-Aid?

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