DEV BLOG #4 - The Secrets of Sparrow Lock
My name is Vaughan Holloway, and I’m the Level Designer at Team Junkfish; I also worked on the initial monster designs and the underlying narrative for Monstrum 2. That’s what I want to talk about in this Developer Blog. As everyone has probably seen by now, Monstrum 2 is set to take place on an offshore Seafort, custom built to house a myriad of horrific experiments unseen and unknown to the outside world.
There are a few things I want to cover in this blog post: the history of the Sea Fort, the nature of Hongsha-Miller, the mysterious company that has been performing the atrocities, and why our playable victims are called ‘Prisoners’.
SPARROW LOCK: A SEA FORT IN RUINS
The night was pitch black, and oppressively quiet. The boat cut through the icy waters; every wave splashing against the hull sent another sharp gust of air across the brow. A soft rain, intermixed with snow fell on the water, creating intricate patterns of ripples steadily washed away by the foam of each wave.
The crew shivered as they worked. A heavy pall across the deck forced them into silence, except for an occasional order hissed in hushed tones. A soft crying came from several crates lashed together at the back. At the head of the ship, one figure stood deadly still, the frigid air barely registering on her papery skin. Her eyes stayed fixed on the harsh floodlights ahead, rising and dipping with the crest of each wave. Behind her, several other floodlights of following ships rose and fell, creating a soft glow that permeated the dark horizon.
The endless water was eventually punctuated with a single spire rising out of the water. As the ships approached, the single structure turned out to be several; huge concrete pillars huddled together against the brutal weather. The metal structures atop were completely silent and dark, almost invisible against the black clouded sky.
The ships sailed under the nearest structure. With an echoing howl, one final eddy of biting cold swept between the pillars and the rain suddenly stopped. In front of her, a huge metal door began to grind open, dislodged plant life falling from its hinges and disturbed water began to boil from the deep. The woman gave a small smile.
Codenamed ‘Sparrow Lock’, the Sea Fort was built by the hugely successful Honghsa-Miller pharmaceutical company in 1972. Formally registered as a research station to study marine life, it became a black site for the company to test their products and develop new ones using human trials.
Hongsha-Miller had seen soaring profits since the 1950s, but as the demand for their products began to dwindle they began to use more and more extreme methods to accrue more human test subjects, and more invasive and immoral experiments to create products.
However, while inhumane and horrific, Hongsha-Miller was still only driven by greed; it was the brutality, twisted ambition and madness of one person that transformed Sparrow Lock into a living nightmare and, in 1985, a mass grave. But, more on her in a bit!
Sparrow Lock is the runaway creation of a company with too much money and very few morals. The Sea Fort design began as a test site and grew into a living complex; tens of huge structures filled with Labs, Industrial Complexes, Storage, Vaults, and Housing for the hundreds of employees, as well as Holding Cells for the abducted test subjects.
Functioning as a small city state from its inception, the Sea Fort had resources on such a scale that Hongsha-Miller had office buildings, embassy suites for its executive guests, even bars and recreational areas. Most employees weren’t even aware of Sparrow Lock’s true purpose; in its height, the sprawling structure housed most of Hongsha-Miller’s clerical and admin staff, functioning as a hub for the company’s activities.
In 1978, several staff began to suspect that something was wrong on Sparrow Lock; what started as a simple request for some time away from the Sea Fort to visit family led to a steady unravelling of the horrific truth. Since 1972, the head of Research Development had been making incredible results for the company, until she had grown into the de facto leader of Sparrow Lock. The executives of Hongsha-Miller had no problem with that, as long as she continued to deliver.
As profits began to dwindle, however, Hongsha-Miller began to pull back, but Sparrow Lock continued to thrive. Instead of selling drugs and pharmaceuticals, she had been selling the unexpected side effects - the twisted remnants of humans that had been experimented on - to the highest bidder. And it was this that was discovered in the restricted labs by the unlucky employees.
The Fort descended into chaos; unmasked, the head of Research Development changed into the de facto despotic ruler of the Fort, cutting all communication with Hongsha-Miller and forcing the security team to turn the employees into hostages.. What followed was an all out mutiny that tore Sparrow Lock apart. All functions aboard the Fort began to fail, including, unfortunately, the holding cells of the prisoners and the twisted creations of the fort.
As the head of Research Development evacuated the Sea Fort with her data, screams and explosions ripped through Sparrow Lock. In a matter of days, the Sea Fort was a silent ruin, covered in the corpses of its inhabitants.
Four decades later, Hongsha-Miller has changed significantly. The old corporate partners are gone, the legitimate company dealings are long forgotten, and the extremely lucrative black market trade in monstrosities has boomed.
Now more an underground trafficking network than a pharmaceutical company, the current ‘CEO’ begins to lose her holdings in the eastern countries as a continued crackdown on illicit activities begins to hamper her work. Desperately in need of an untouched black site to continue her twisted work, she remembers the Sea Fort she abandoned years ago.
THE PSYCHOPATH OF SPARROW LOCK: SOO MIN CHOI
Not a lot is known about Soo Min Choi’s early life; believed to be Manchurian in origin, she spent her childhood in the midst of the Second Sino-Japanese War. While nothing is definitely known, she is fluent in Manchu and Japanese, and may have spent her teenage years affiliated with Unit 731.
She arrived in Singapore in 1948, (registered as a Singapore National aged 23, although this information was falsified) and began working for the Hongsha Pharmaceutical Company as a junior research scientist. She was known to be extremely work-focused, and fiercely loyal - almost zealous - towards her new employers.
Due to this, she rose quickly through the ranks. When Honghsa merged with the Miller pharmaceutical distribution company in 1955, the ensuing restructure led to her becoming the Lead Research Scientist, due to her fluency in English, French and several other languages… as well as the sudden refusal of several colleagues to take the position, and the mysterious disappearance of her former supervisor.
As the Cold War enveloped the world, the company began securing huge lucrative contracts on both sides, allowing Soo Min to make increasingly more ambitious demands of her employers. With the growth of the company, Soo Min became more prominent and more pragmatic, eventually securing unilateral control of the entire Research division. While the Hongsha-Miller upper echelons counted their money and revelled in their fortune, Soo Min Choi began building plans for Sparrow Lock.
Sparrow Lock had everything Hongsha-Miller needed to research, test and distribute pharmaceuticals across the western world, but in secret lower levels and cordoned off structures, Soo Min Choi began her real work, the work she had been biding her time and waiting for: experimenting on humans, and creating monsters.
It’s not known why Soo Min Choi spent so much time and energy constructing her own torture chambers within Sparrow Lock. Evidence points to her theoretical time in Unit 731, but it is still unknown whether she was a victim or a willing helper. She may have wanted to continue the twisted experiments in a new setting, she may have been broken by her time there and wanted to inflict the damage she took onto other people. Or, she may never have set foot in Unit 731; she was simply a psychopath that took advantage of a bloated, inept company into providing her with all the tools she needed to express her own inner desires.
However, when she was discovered by the employees of Sparrow Lock, the mask of the loyal employee fell away completely, and she began defending her work in any way she could, even inciting a genocide that led to the mass mutiny that collapsed Sparrow Lock in days.
Selling her obscene creations kept her work alive, even as Hongsha-Miler collapsed into bankruptcy around her. Soo Min clawed back whatever she needed from the failing company and vanished with the data for several decades, presumably returning east to Hongsha’s old research centres she managed to appropriate.
No records of her work existed (although several black sites around the world report extreme damage done by horrific entities) until in 2018, Singapore began cracking down on ‘white collar’ crime. During this period, several holdings were uncovered belonging to an organisation called ‘Hongsha-Miller’, that retired executives swore they had no affiliations with. With her holdings in Singapore vanishing, Soo Min Choi took a crack team of loyal scientists and security personnel, and as much of her research as possible, and returned to Sparrow Lock.
(Literary device… now read the fiction excerpt at the top again!)
HOW MONSTRUM 2 BEGINS
Sparrow Lock is a crumbling, rotten ruin of its former self; even so, it is too massive for Soo Min Choi to run as effectively as 1972. Enough of the dilapidated remains of the Sea Fort’s history have been swept to one side so Choi’s skeleton crew can continue their work; abducting people across the world, transporting them to Sparrow Lock, mutating them into hellish monsters for Soo Min Choi’s perverted sense of science, and selling them to the highest bidder.
However, crumbling structures over fifty years old are hardly capable of containing the monsters that Soo Min has been building; Monstrum 2 officially begins as the last barriers stopping the monsters are destroyed. Where Choi and her team are? That is the least of your problems… you, and whoever else was imprisoned, awaiting your turns to be morphed into nightmares, now have to use your wits and cunning, as well as whatever is left in the dying Sea Fort, to get off the fort as fast as possible.
While Dead by Daylight and Left 4 Dead, among others, use the term ‘Survivor’ as a form of referencing the player characters, we wanted to call them ‘Prisoners’ as the chance of survival… it’s pretty slim. Locked in a Sea Fort awaiting death, they are inmates attempting to avoid their fates. Lost, confused and scared, they are definitely not in control.
Hopefully players of Monstrum 2 will feel like this playing as well! We definitely want to make people feel like they’ve been dropped directly out of the frying pan and into the fire, and learning about your surroundings as just as important as learning how to hide (and quickly).
Thanks for reading!