Q&A: Call of Cthulhu

We talk to Headfirst's Andrew Brazier about the developer's upcoming horror game, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth.

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GameSpot recently had the chance to talk to Andrew Brazier of Headfirst Productions, the UK-based development studio best known for its Simon the Sorcerer game series. The company is currently working on several games, including Simon the Sorcerer 3D, a just-announced Battle of the Planets game, and Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. We asked Brazier quite a few questions about the Cthulhu game, and he shared information on its gameplay style, how the Cthulhu mythos will be included in the game, and a number of other topics.

GameSpot: First, how did Headfirst start making a Cthulhu game? How long has the game been in development?

Andrew Brazier: The license was offered to us by our American agent, and we bit his hand off, as we knew we could make a great game out of it. We've been developing it full-time since about December last year.

GS: What made you decide on the title for the game, "Dark Corners of the Earth"?

AB: It was taken from a line in one of the original Lovecraft stories. However, unfortunately I can't remember which one it was...

GS: Will the game follow any particular H.P. Lovecraft story? Will Headfirst make any new storylines?

AB: We are not basing the game on any specific story but rather using elements and locations that Lovecraft fans will recognize. The original stories don't translate into a game that well--because the main protagonists would tend, when confronted by a monster, to go totally insane, die of fright, or turn and run as fast as possible in the opposite direction. Whilst this is true to the mythos, it wouldn't make for a very interesting game.

GS: Which, if any, of the characters from the Lovecraft stories will appear in the game?

AB: We aren't using any of the original human characters, preferring to create our own which fit better into our plans for the plotline.

GS: The Lovecraft stories take place in a wide variety of locations. Can you tell us anything about the different environments that will be featured in the game?

AB: There is a wide variety of places to visit, including Innsmouth (the cursed fishing village), the Deep Ones' undersea city of Y'ha-nthlei, the interior of a ocean liner, and a load more interesting and equally unpronounceable places.

GS: Are you wary at all of including references to witchcraft and other occult practices? How much will players learn about the Cthulhu mythos and the Necronomicon?

AB: It would be a pretty dull horror game if there were no references to the occult--it's something we've thought about, but this is a game aimed at mature audiences, so we aren't going to skimp on the subject matter. In fact, the Cthulhu mythos actually takes a pretty responsible attitude to the occult and witchcraft--in the stories it is something that normal people don't understand and are therefore fearful of. And should they start to learn too much, the knowledge usually sends them insane. That's warning enough for me!

GS: Will any of the Cthulhu gods or monsters make an appearance in the game?

AB: Yes, some of the more recognizable creatures will be in the game--but we won't say which ones, as it'll kind of spoil the surprise a bit!

GS: What kind of weapons will be available for the characters?

AB: Well, bearing in mind the game is set in the 1920s, you will have the sort of weapons you would expect from that period. As well as revolvers, shotguns, tommy guns, and explosives, magic can also be used as an offensive tactic. Plus you can also pick up objects from the environment and use them as a weapon too (it's surprising what damage you can do with half a brick!).

GS: Will weapons be useful at all against the Old Ones and other gods or monsters, or will encounters be more puzzle-oriented?

AB: Traditionally, human weapons are of little use when fighting some of the mythos' more powerful creatures. Magic and rituals come into play here instead, requiring the player to perform the required ritual and maybe also collect items required as part of the "recipe." Generally speaking, encounters with the larger mythos creatures are rare.

GS: Part of the horror associated with the Lovecraft stories is the fear of the unknown. How will Headfirst use this element in the game?

AB: We are working on the theory that often it is what you don't see which is scarier that what you do see, so we will be concentrating on building up atmosphere and tension rather than having great big monsters walking around everywhere. The player's imagination is always going to create nastier creatures than polygons can.

GS: What kind of character will the player play as? Are there any role-playing elements included from the Call of Cthulhu pen-and-paper game?

AB: The player takes on the role of an ex-cop private investigator who, whilst investigating a fairly mundane case, begins to discover more and more about a terrible plan being hatched by a group of insane Cthulhu-worshipping cultists. The rest of the game is involved with discovering this information and then trying to prevent the worst from happening.

There are RPG elements in the game such as using magic and the ability for the character to develop skills (like being able to understand Latin) which can be a help or hindrance in certain situations.

GS: What kind of engine will the game use? Will it feature a first-person or third-person perspective? Will it be 3D?

AB: We are using NDL's NetImmerse 3D engine and the Havok physics engine. The advantage for us of using third-party systems is that we can concentrate on making the game rather than keeping our engine up to date, as it is done for us. The game will be wholly first-person perspective and totally real time.

GS: One of the dangers facing characters in the tabletop role-playing game is going insane from all the horrors they experience. Will you be incorporating this element into the game in any way?

AB: Yes--sanity (and the loss of it) is an important part of the game. The player's character will have a randomly chosen susceptibility to certain psychological conditions such as vertigo or claustrophobia. These conditions can then have adverse effects on the characters when they are in situations that aggravate them--for example, a character who is claustrophobic will begin to panic when trapped in a small space for too long.

GS: When characters lose their sanity--for instance, when that claustrophobic character panics--will the player lose control of the game temporarily? Or will the game experience change in some way to let the players know they are losing their sanity?

AB: We never want the players to feel that they have lost control of the game. Instead, the sanity effects will be confined to audio and visual distortions, plus subtle changes to the control system making the game "feel" different than it used to. There are also other effects like hallucinations and obsessive behavior (for instance, your character constantly checking his gun or rubbing his hands together).

GS: Will the loss of sanity be permanent, or will characters be able to recover it through institutionalization or other means?

AB: Whilst spending a few months in Arkham Asylum certainly would do the trick, it's not that much fun gamewise. Therefore, you can recover sanity slowly by recuperating in the game's "safe" areas and by avoiding sanity-reducing encounters. Sanity can also be recovered when you see something good or encouraging, such as the defeat of a particularly nasty monster or the realization that you're not a Deep One in disguise after all.

GS: How far along is the game, and what company will publish it?

AB: We are about 25-percent though the development--there is still a long way to go yet. The game is going to be published worldwide by Fishtank Interactive.

GS: Thanks, Andrew.

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