KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA (KELO) — A small indie gaming company based in Malaysia has chosen a South Dakota city as the setting for its latest offering.
According to game director Kesh Ganesparan, Hidden Chest Studios’ ‘Midwest 90: Rapid City’ is a simple restaurant management game with a strong emphasis on storytelling. But there is a twist.
“It’s like running a restaurant inside the Netflix show Stranger Things,” says Ganesparan. “Set in the future when the USA is going through a New Great Depression, Rapid City is beset by attacks from monsters of mysterious origins. In an unexpected turn of events the hungry locals start hunting these monsters and eating them.”
Ganesparan says that players will open a restaurant serving dishes made from monster meat, and that throughout the storyline the player will need to maintain their business, survive attacks and interact with customers in service of uncovering the mystery surrounding the monsters.
KELOLAND News asked Ganesparan what drew him to Rapid City, a small city located over 14,000 miles from his home.
“The inspiration for Midwest 90: Rapid City sprouted in 2018 when I was having dinner in Betty’s Midwest Kitchen, eating a burger while imagining monsters lurking outside waiting to crash in through the entrance and windows.”Ganesparan on why Rapid City was chosen as the game setting
Betty’s Midwest Kitchen is an American restaurant in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia offering “the authentic and traditional cuisine of the Heartland of America.” Their menu includes such classics as The American Hotdog, Home-Style Macaroni and Cheese and Pork Chop with Country Gravy.
“This set me on a mission to find out as much as I could about the American midwest,” says Ganesparan. “As fascinating as all the midwest states are, there are several things about South Dakota that made it stand out for me.”
These outstanding features include Mount Rushmore. “Everyone around the world who knows even a little about the USA would recognize it,” he says. “Apart from that, any quick Google search would direct you to, just to name a few – South Dakota’s Native American heritage, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, the Dinosaur dig site near Belle Fourche and the otherworldly landscapes of the Badlands.”
Ganesparan also mentioned the geographic center of the nation, located near Belle Fourche, as well as the history of the Black Hills as a whole. “There’s so much more,” he says. “Seriously, I could go on and on.”
Ganesparan says that a big part of the choice was the relative unknown feel of the region. He points to his experience as a foreigner whose familiarity with America stems from media set in places like Los Angeles and New York. “As a person who likes to concoct stories, South Dakota was a literal gold mine for me to draw inspiration from,” he says.
“But the cherry on top of all of this, was the Sanford Underground Research Facility. South Dakota has a lot going for it but the Sanford Lab was what sold me. Unfortunately, I can’t say more, you got to play the game to find out.”Ganesparan
In terms of the game itself, Ganesparan says Rapid City, a small city, was the perfect size to be able to familiarize themselves with while building the game. “We will not be recreating Rapid visually in the game,” he says, but rather players will get a sense of place through conversations with characters from the city.
“There will be elements of Rapid City in the game, but it will be presented to the player through dialogue. Specific characters in the game will mention locations like the Black Hills, Canyon Lake, Rapid Creek and more that Rapid City locals will recognize.”Ganesparan
There will be one major exception to this, however. Ganesparan says players will be able to shop and purchase supplies from an open market which resembles Tuscany Square, a well known area along Omaha Street.
There is no release date set yet for the full game, but the studio does plan to release an early access version by the end of October 2021.
The game will be playable on PC, and once it is released, eager buyers will be able to purchase it online.
The developers say they have been pleased to have had help and input from residents of South Dakota as they build the game, and are always looking for more. They invite those looking to chime in to join their Discord channel.
Asked if the ‘Midwest 90’ title, a direct reference to Interstate 90, is one that leaves room for future expansion down the road, Ganesparan struck a hopeful tone. “If the game finds success then yes, we will have future installments set beyond Rapid City but always along the I-90. It would be a shame not to, because the I-90 connects so much of the northern USA and hence so much potential for story telling.”