Interview with Concrete Visions’ Developer Sam Marshall

Discover the Concrete Visions game through Lawod's exclusive interview with the developer Sam Marshall, unveiling the magic behind the scenes.


Concrete Visions is a retro horror indie game that will be released on April 2nd on Steam. The game combines the thrill of psychological horror with exciting beat ’em-up gameplay, all wrapped up in the nostalgic look and feel of PS1-era graphics. The developer of the game is DOSMan Games, a team of passionate indie and retro gaming enthusiasts, but it is also a solo-developed project by Sam Marshall.

Add Concrete Visions to your wishlist on Steam

Sam, who is a game scout and former games journalist, started the project as a solo endeavor with additional voices from Misael de Oliveira, but thanks to Voxpop Games’ profit-sharing model, Middleware Tool, Concrete Visions evolved into a larger project rather than remaining an Itch project with a dozen downloads.

The game’s developer, Sam Marshall, replied to Kağan Ur‘s (from Lawod) questions about Concrete Visions and shared in-depth insights into the inspirations, the challenges he faced, and the creative process he followed while developing the game. He also showcased the unique visual style, the spooky Stonebrook setting, and Malone and his followers, who bring the game to life. This interview takes us on a journey to the making of Concrete Visions and offers a sneak peek into the game’s behind-the-scenes development.

1. How can you describe “DOSMan Games”? Who are you guys, what passions do you have, what motivates you, and what are your future plans?

Sam Marshall: DOSMan Games, where to begin… Concrete Visions at least is a solo-developed project (with additional voices from Misael de Oliveira), though DOSMan Games is a team studio. Our titles fluctuate from all of us being on them, to solo efforts by me, Sam Marshall. Expect to see some of our team projects cropping up throughout the year!

I work in the game industry as a scout for a publisher, and also have a background in games journalism through Reload Magazine, Fearzine, and formerly E1M1 Magazine. I have a big appreciation for indie and retro titles, and the modern boom that blends them both keeps me very happy, and very busy.

I do the game design and level design for DOSMan Games (DMG). Also on the team (though not for Concrete Visions) is Artist Fred Richi, Coder Daniel Walthall, Composer/Sound Guy Ryan Scully, and all-around stuff-doer Misael de Oliveira.

2. How did you decide to create “Concrete Visions,” and what inspired you?

Sam Marshall: A big inspiration for me was that I didn’t have any confidence in my art creation skills, so I decided to opt for photo-sourced visuals for the game. I was hugely inspired by Condemned: Criminal Origins, as well as the environments from Max Payne, and the super obscure Condemned-like from Russia – The Hunt/Chernaja Metka.

3. What influenced your decision to design “Concrete Visions” with PS1 era graphics?

Concrete Visions Lawod GIF 1
Interview with Concrete Visions' Developer Sam Marshall 5

Sam Marshall: I see them a just old-school really. The engine I am using (Easy FPS Editor), works best with low-resolution sprites and textures. So I’d take videos of myself, or photos of the world around me, crush them down into 64×64, or 128×128, and then import them.

The photo-sourced graphics still looked a bit too crisp, so I found a shader to “crunchify” them, courtesy of PixelWolf Studios. From here we added an effect to the foreground to give it almost-VHS-esque scanlines, and there you have the style!

4. How did classic games like Condemned: Criminal Origins and Fahrenheit: Indigo Prophecy influence the design and storytelling of Concrete Visions?

Sam Marshall: Condemned is really the big one here. I really wanted to lean into hard-hitting melee combat and desperation. I initially wanted the game be entirely melee-based, as it just felt different to a lot of the games out there at the moment. The VoxPop team really helped me with the sense of desperation, and putting some firearms in actually made it a lot more tense. Guns are powerful in Concrete Visions, but ammunition is scarce, especially in the early game. You constantly feel a sense of threat, and between rushing around to find bullets and battling bad dudes, you’re thankful for any chance you can get to breathe.

5. What inspirations did you draw from when creating the story and the town of Stonebrook?

Sam Marshall: The story kind of happened naturally. Concrete Visions was the first game I made to see what game development was like. The version of Concrete Visions you see now is sort of a Redux, or a “Full Realization” now that my skills have come along a bit more. The story for the initial proof of concept was just, you wake up in a park, you’re being hunted, find Malone – and you were sent on your way, effing and blinding your way through 5 or so basic labyrinthine levels, culminating in a boss fight. When building the full version of the game, VoxPop really pushed me to lean into the story more, and I think it’s helped massively to make the game feel like so much more of an experience – it’s helped build upon the horror a bit more as well, and made it feel less “game-y” if that makes sense. 

6. The setting of Stonebrook is intriguing. What inspired this setting, and how does it enhance the game’s horror elements?

Concrete Visions Lawod ss 2
Interview with Concrete Visions' Developer Sam Marshall 6

Sam Marshall: Well, Stonebrook is based on my city, pretty much all of the textures are photos taken on walks with my dog. My city is not desolate and overrun by junkies though, I had to make it a bit meaner in order to give the player a reason they were attacked by every single citizen!

7. Can you share more about Malone and his followers? What was the process of creating these characters like?

Sam Marshall: Malone kind of appeared out of thin air. It’s like he manifested himself and his cult out of nowhere. As VoxPop and I were building out the story, we needed a reason why Malone had all these crazy dudes doing his bidding, and who doesn’t love a cult?!

8. How did you approach the music and sound design of the game, and how does it enhance the atmosphere?

Sam Marshall: Initially, the music was pretty rough. I played random notes on an unplugged bass recorded with a horrible quality microphone. VoxPop worked with me to find the voice of the game’s audio, and together we managed to craft a really great sounding experience. It feels a lot more professional now, and a lot scarier.

9. What inspired the unique blend of genres in Concrete Visions, particularly the combination of psychological thriller elements with beat ’em up gameplay?

Sam Marshall: This is a simple answer. Condemned.

10. What features did you focus on to ensure the game’s replayability?

Sam Marshall: Secrets! All of DOSMan Games’ games feature a recurring Dopefish-esque character, named DOSMan. He’s hidden in every single level of Concrete Visions, sometimes behind inconspicuous walls, sometimes through jumping on what doesn’t look jump-on-able. Finding him is something I hope some players will have a lot of fun with.

11. How did you balance encouraging players to explore the environment and engage with enemies?

Concrete Visions Lawod GIF 3
Interview with Concrete Visions' Developer Sam Marshall 7

Sam Marshall: This leans into resource scarcity really. The player needs to explore the levels to stock up on ammo or find health – and search for DOSMan of course! The enemies hit pretty hard, so the player is going to want to find as much ammunition as possible in order to keep their distance.

12. How is the element of “horror” incorporated into the game’s design, and what kind of experience do you aim to provide to the players?

Sam Marshall: Concrete Visions is not a jump-scare fest, it’s not a Mascot Horror or P.T.-like or really like much we’ve seen in the horror scene as of late. It’s a grounded game, there aren’t demons or ghosts, or supernatural occurrences. It’s a very possible scenario, potentially even drawing more from action films than horror films, but the foggy environment, sense of loneliness, dread and threat really give it an unsettling edge.

13. The game features various unhinged enemies. How did you go about designing these enemies, and what role do they play in the game’s narrative?

Concrete Visions Lawod GIF 2
Interview with Concrete Visions' Developer Sam Marshall 8

Sam Marshall: In order to create enemies for the game, I performed what I like to call “Crackhead Mocap”. I’d sit my phone down on the floor, hit record video, and then perform the actions the characters would in the game – walking, attacking, dying…  I’d then chop them up into still images, remove the backgrounds, and crunch them down into low resolution.

They don’t really play too much into the narrative, but they all make the player have to approach them in different ways. There are fast enemies with weak attacks and health, or big tall enemies who can tank a couple of gunshots. Some enemies are armed as well, so you’ll really need to learn the roster and analyze threat levels mid-combat to succeed.

14. Considering the importance of controls in FPS and beat ’em up games, how did you refine the control scheme to suit both fast-paced combat and exploration?

Sam Marshall: You’re not going to be pulling off mega-combos like King from Tekken in Concrete Visions. Controls are simple, straight-forward. One of the harder things to balance was movement speed. I wanted the player to take in the sights and the horror vibe to stay intact, but didn’t want the player moving like a snail as that would make combat encounters really suck. I think we struck a good balance in the end.

15. What were the biggest challenges you faced during the development of “Concrete Visions”?

Sam Marshall: I am still learning game development, so really everything new is a new challenge – though an exciting one. In Concrete Visions development, I learned how to handle alt-firing for weapons, how to implement cutscenes at the beginning (and sometimes at the end) of a level. These may sound super basic, but they were fun to learn and exciting to get to grips with. Anything I got stuck with I could turn to the wonderful developers at the Old School FPS Creation Discord server for help on. There are many talented developers there, mostly working on games for the Easy FPS Editor engine, and all at different skill levels. I’d like to especially shout out Prince of Mars, Mr Axebane, KeshaFilm, and PixelWolf for helping me with various troubleshooting on Concrete Visions.

16. How did VoxPop’s profit-sharing model impact the development of the game?

Sam Marshall: Working with VoxPop has been awesome. When they took the game on, I thought I was pretty much finished with development, but they got me excited about it all over again, working with me on fine-tuning, balancing and new ideas. Without them, Concrete Visions would have probably been an Itch project with a dozen downloads, with them, there’s no telling the success we can expect. I’ve loved working with them every step of the way.

17. The game’s cover art by Joe Roman is striking. How does the art style reflect the game’s themes and mood?

Sam Marshall: Perfectly. You should have seen the original cover I had planned if I had self-published the game… I’m amazed at how much Joe nailed the vibe of the game. It really captures that desperation I was on about. Props to Joe, to the VoxPop team for finding the perfect artist for the job!

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button