On the pulse of crowdfunded gaming

The Witchmarsh files: A chat with Inglenook Games

Posted by Olivia Cottrell on May 20, 2014 | Jump to 0 comments

1920s 8-bit RPG Witchmarsh launched on Kickstarter this week, and it’s a real treat for anyone who’s a fan of the supernatural.

Set in the 1920s in the fictional town of Witchmarsh, Mass., the player takes on the role of an investigator delving into the town’s dark secrets. The developer, UK-based Inglenook, is asking for £50,000 (or $84,209), of which they’ve currently raised about half — not bad for a game in its first week on Kickstarter.

As you may guess, Witchmarsh has already gained quite a bit of attention, thanks to its eye for detail and fun recreation of the period. So we dropped lead designer Lou Sgarbi an email and he obliged us with a few questions.

BitPulse: What’s it like to be so popular so quickly? 
Sgarbi: We’re loving all this attention, even though it’s sort of taken us by surprise. It’s still a shock to see that counter ticking up.

The best part is seeing people who appear to be as enthusiastic about the game as we are. For the past few months we’ve been building up a really nice cohort of followers on Tumblr who have cheered the project on as it grew from little more than a concept, they’re the ones we’re most grateful for. I can only hope we’ve met their expectations!

What is it about the supernatural/horror genre that you think appeals to people? 
Growing up I was a sucker for anything supernatural: X-Files, children’s books about Bigfoot, ghosts, cryptozoology. There’s something nostalgic about thinking back to when all that stuff was new, a little bit scary and untouched by scepticism. Kids learn pretty early that Santa isn’t real, but I remember being terrified of ghosts into my early teens!

This is your first project and it may end up being quite large — how have you prepared for this eventuality? 
We’ve been pretty sensible with the stretch goals. Matt (Wanderlust, Risk of Rain) had to sit me down and go through early drafts of the campaign to ensure I was being realistic.

If we’re fortunate enough to go over 120,000 mark, he’ll work even more with us to put in a new multiplayer mode: full of great challenges, arenas and boss fights. The higher we go, we’ll be able to hire another pixel artist to help out Joe, too, who’s currently doing all of the game’s graphics single handedly.

Choose an investigator to voyage into the unknown

Choose an investigator to voyage into the unknown

Can you give me a more detailed breakdown of where the £50,000 will go if you get funded? 
The lion’s share is going towards giving the core team a modest wage so we can focus on the project. Over the past few months we’ve been balancing Witchmarsh with other work commitments, and it’s hard to keep that up.

There’s also the amazing soundtrack by Francisco Cerda to take into account! The rest will go on reward fulfilment and the usual taxes and fees which are deducted from every project.

Our heroes find themselves in a sticky situation

Our heroes find themselves in a sticky situation

Witchmarsh clearly owes a debt to Lovecraft, do you have any other narrative touchstones for the project?

I was lucky to discover Lovecraft through an old Bethesda game, at least I think they had something to do with it. His work lead me to his predecessor, William Hope Hodgeson, whose stories are filled with detectives, ghosts and isolated landscapes.

I think a lot of this found its way into Witchmarsh, along with the silliness and gaiety of the era. You only have to read a bit of Wodehouse or Gatsby, or watch some Boardwalk empire to catch a glimpse of the mind-numbing excess of the decade. It’s been great working collaboratively with Emelie on the quest outlines and branching dialogue. She draws most of her inspiration from films, mostly modern classics. Her favourite novel is Lolita by Vladmir Nabokov.

Thank you, Lou! Witchmarsh’s campaign runs until June 15, and they will be published by Chucklefish, aka those dudes from Starbound.

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