Edgar Allan Poe is one of those timeless writers that continues to influence and shape much of our entertainment today. Scott Levy based an entire wrestling character around ‘The Raven’, quoting the famous writer when cutting promos. Kevin Bacon’s The Following is centred around a serial killer fascinated by Poe, inspired to murder then recollect his actions through the written word. Numerous books and films have connected their narrative to the enigmatic author and his works.
And later this year, a new game also hopes to draw inspiration from Poe. Designed by Rosebud Games – featuring developers from the Bioshock, F.E.A.R, The Witcher and Silent Hill franchises – Death in Candlewood is focused on Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ ‘The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar’ and ‘Ligeia’.
But what is it about Poe that continues to interest the modern day story-teller?
According to the game’s producer, Toni Sanchez, the answer is pretty obvious.
With Poe being the father of mystery and horror, I think he is a really good source for puzzles, investigation and exploration, but mostly for the psychology of any character.
We got to chat to Toni and talk about the game in some detail.
Death in Candlewood is an Open World FPS set in 1940s America and has just launched a massive Kickstarter campaign. The game is set on a single night in the life of Doctor Ray Dune and is focused on the relationship he has with psychiatrist, Lester Caravan. The Psychiatrist blames Dune for the death of his wife and goes mad trying to research a crossover between life and death, hoping to bring her back to him. Dune blames himself for Lester’s descent into madness, and tries to find a way to help. However, he is drawn into the maniacal schemes of Caravan in a way he could not have anticipated as his adopted son, Rizzo suddenly disappears without a trace. Dune immediately sets out to find him, which leads him to Candlewood Mountains and into abominations that he imagined were only in fairy tales and horror films.
With the atmosphere and story of Death in Candlewood benefitting from Poe’s stories, the game seems to be shaping up nicely. But modern horror isn’t always treated in much the same way as the days of Poe, with entertainment spending more time trying to make us jump rather than build suspense. We asked Toni whether using Poe’s material can help sculpt a more intimidating environment for the player and what types of mechanics and techniques are being put in place to help with that?
Old-school source material is a very powerful tool for us and will help us not only to set up an intimidating environment, but also to build a story in the player’s mind through the psychology of each character, especially Ray Dune, the main character.
We were also interested in why the 1940’s was chosen for the setting of the game and why designers often pick this time period for their games.
I have always been fascinated by the America 1940s – the cars, haircuts, makeup etc – so for me it was a natural choice. Also, the WWII period offered us the opportunity to find many references – expect weapons, cars and characters’ fashion from that time.
The game seems to be more of a FPA (First Person Adventure) than an FPS. The game world is vast and filled with around 1,000 navigable buildings and around 6km² of surrounding mountain ranges. The developers intend for the player to explore this environment in any way they choose; enabling them to drive cars and motorbikes appropriate to the time period, as well as letting them swim through deep waters.
But there will also be combat and players will need to use unlikely weapons they pick up on their travels in order to face down the abominations that stalk the landscape.
However, with the source material having such strong links to timeless narrative, we wondered whether Death in Candlewood might be too expansive and that would-be players might be put off by an overly lengthy game if they just want to indulge in its story. Toni does not share our concerns, however.
We all are players so we also like games that give as much fun as possible for the money paid. We discussed this at the beginning internally, and we think both experiences (linear and explorative) are possible in the same game. The Candlewood universe is so rich and full of potential stories.
In fact, Rosebud Games are considering developing the story further if/when Death in Candlewood ships.
We will definitely release something as post-release DLC if our resources allow it
And let’s face it, when you have such an experienced team who have all worked on incredibly successful, well-received titles in the industry, you know that whatever is being developed here is in safe hands.
To conclude our interview, we asked Toni whether these highly experienced individuals have already learned from one another while developing Death in Candlewood.
Working on Death in Candlewood has been a fantastic experience and I must say different from previous experiences for us. Being in a small team with inspirational and successful people, in an atmosphere where other people’s work and opinions are important to everybody, is probably the main difference.
We feel that game has been a joyful opportunity for us to show our skills.
We’ve seen a lot of Kickstarters come and go, but this one we truly hope gets funded. There’s real potential for something truly special, but if our words and the words of the game’s producer have not tempted you, perhaps this trailer might.
With high-profile pedigree engineering it and classic literacy dictating it, Death in Candlewood is certainly one to watch and the only horror show we’re eager to spend some time with.
Quote Expansive. Nevermore.
(To see the Kickstarter, go here)