Agustín Cordes, the soul of Senscape and driving force behind horror adventures Scratches, Asylum and the freeware Serena, has agreed to answer the questions of IndieGames.com regarding the incredibly exciting H.P. Lovecraft: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward Kickstarter campaign. It is a 3rd person point-and-click cosmic horror adventure, it is, and one wisely set in Lovecraft’s Providence and already looking rather fantastic.
With just a bit over two days left for the campaign to reach its crowdfunding deadline you’d better hurry and read up though…
So, the Case of Charles Dexter Ward, Lovecraft’s longest story ever, is finally about to become a game. Why did you decide to tackle this particular piece of fiction?
I have to say that it wasn’t my first option, but it was my second solid choice. The story is perfect for an adventure game: it has a thrilling first act that blends fiction with historical facts, having Charles traveling around Providence and Salem while investigating his evil ancestor Joseph Curwen. But then the second act is decidedly more gruesome and horrifying, with a memorable sequence in some unmentionable catacombs. All in all, the story translated almost naturally into an adventure game, with bits of the novel becoming very entertaining puzzles.
Would you say a point-and-click adventure game is the genre that best fits Lovecraft’s subtle pace and cosmic horrors?
A resounding yes! Any genre that depends too much on physical action won’t succeed in communicating that particular notion of supernatural horror and Lovecraft’s remarkable type of dread. The idea is that supernatural and cosmic horror works for the most part inside your head — you don’t know exactly what you’re afraid of, you simply are. Fortunately, the adventure game genre is typically more concerned on narrative rather than game mechanics, making it the ideal vehicle for moody horror stories where there’s no clear definition of “enemy”.
I was very impressed to see famed scholar and Lovecraft S. T. Joshi helping Senscape for the project. How did you get the man aboard and what will his role be?
It took a bit of convincing especially because Mr. Joshi isn’t that much familiar with games, but we reached an agreement when I explained the sort of assistance that we required, namely help in our research, ensuring that we get all historical facts right and the correct interpretation of portions of the novel, as well as the chance to consult him in various ways: from questions about Lovecraft’s tone of voice to the alleged contents of the Necronomicon. It’s been amazing so far discussing with him the intricate details of the story, conversations that I’m sure fans will be delighted to hear eventually.
How are you going to tackle all the problems of a pure Lovecraftian tale? Will an essentially powerless character be fun to play when ancient horrors can simply do as they wish? Will Charles Dexter Ward simply go mad?
We’re remaining very faithful to the original novel and, without spoiling much, I can tell you that players will take the role of both Charles Dexter Ward and Dr. Marinus Willett, the family doctor who at the request of Ward’s father starts investigating his erratic son. So yes, in both cases you are essentially powerless and at the mercy of cosmic influences beyond your understanding. Charles Dexter Ward and Asylum are the result of my experiences with Scratches, an adventure that, while flawed in many regards, was pure supernatural horror in a sense that no clear terror is ever witnessed and still the game was undeniably scary.
Loved the choice of having the game’s character resemble HPL himself. Is that due to the autobiographical elements of the original story?
Thank you, and yes, it is! It’s commonly accepted that Lovecraft based the character of Charles Dexter Ward on himself. The description is clearly that of his own, with the curious exception of the blonde hair. I’ve always pictured Charles as a younger, blonde version of Lovecraft, so I’m quite happy with our take on the character. In general, the novel features many aspects of Lovecraft’s own life in Providence, such as his love for the colonial lifestyle, architecture, his excursions to John Hay Library and Prospect Terrace, his troubled childhood, etc. It’s definitely his most autobiographical work.
So, in a nutshell and besides already looking lovely and everything, how would you describe H.P. Lovecraft’s: The Case of Charles Dexter Ward game?
It’s a traditional point-and-click adventure reminiscent of LucasArts games and Broken Sword, with a bit of that historical thriller subgenre present in Gabriel Knight. It’s also very faithful to Lovecraft’s writings and the mood he perfected — certainly the most well-researched game on the author, and one that we hope will become an instant classic in the adventure game genre.
Care to clean-up the “official” bit please? Many people have been wondering…
Yes, we have an agreement with the Lovecraft Estate, the same entity that has collected and maintains Lovecraft’s original manuscripts and letters in the John Hay Library. The work of the Estate dates back to the 50’s and is presided by a distant relative of Lovecraft. There’s documentation that supports their claim to the copyright of Charles Dexter Ward, so we did the right thing by securing a deal with them. In addition to having the license to adapt the story into a video game, we have access to the resources of the Lovecraft Estate, including the historical documents kept in John Hay.
And, finally, as the Kickstarter campaign is also about a documentary, could you tell the IndieGames.com readership a bit more about it?
Of course, in our quest to make the most genuine Lovecraft experience in video games we are planning to travel to Providence — Lovecraft’s hometown and the main setting of the story — along with S. T. Joshi to scout the remaining locations mentioned in the novel for research purposes. The idea is to combine this trip with the making of a documentary about Lovecraft’s life in addition to a “behind the scenes” featurette on the development of the game. Much to my dismay, there aren’t any full length film documentaries focusing on Lovecraft’s fascinating persona, even though we already have the definitive biography by Joshi. We hope that our documentary will remedy this.