Interview by Matthew P.
Can you introduce yourself, and tell our readers a little about 'Call of Cthulhu'?
Chris Gray, and I am producer on the project. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth is a survival horror game set in the disturbing world of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. It utilises the first person gameplay perspective for a completely immersed experience, and is a blend of both action and adventure with the player’s own gaming style influencing the balance between the two. The player assumes the role of Jack Walters, and ex-cop turned Private Investigator, whose life is dramatically altered after an encounter with the Mythos. He becomes a tortured soul, driven to uncover the dark secrets of Earth’s forgotten history as well as his own mysterious past. To this end, he takes a case involving the disappearance of a young grocery clerk called Brian Burnham in the shadowy town of Innsmouth, an ancient seaport in Massachusetts. A little research uncovers rumours of strange creatures and unholy rituals, of the town’s unexplained prosperity, and the recent disappearances of several people in the area.
The Call of Cthulhu license is from a hugely successful pen-and-paper role-playing game by a company called Chaosium. The content originates from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, a pioneering author of the early 20th Century, but many hundreds of other authors have expanded the Mythos into what has become a broad and hugely detailed entity.
Which gaming genre does ''Call of Cthulhu' belong to, and which games does it take something (and what) from?
I think it would be a disservice to the game to try and pigeon hole it into a specific genre, and it can also be misleading to draw too many comparisons with other games. However, I guess the best description for Dark Corners would be a First Person Action Adventure. In terms of influences from other games, I suppose the pacing and atmosphere is similar to that created in titles like Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but the first person view and combat can be likened more to games like Half Life and Deus Ex.
What timeline is the game set in?
Most of the game is set in the 1920’s.
What kind of opponents can you expect to encounter during the game? Deal with NPC and A.I. please.
The town of Innsmouth is famed for its taint, with most of the population exhibiting varying levels of ‘deformity’ – scaling discoloured skin, bulging eyes, and wide mouths. Most of the NPC’s you meet during the game are from the town, a few are human and usually friendly, but most have the Innsmouth look and need to be treat as dangerous. Some of the characters are essential to the plot and can be conversed with in detail, whereas others are just miscellaneous town folk. Obviously there are quite a few Deep Ones around (powerful reptile creatures) including the Great Mother Hydra and Father Dagon. There is a Shoggoth, a gelatinous shapeless mass, and Cthulhu might even put in a show. There are various other creatures hiding in the darkness, but I don’t want to give it all away. All of the NPC behaviour in the game is tweakable to precise detail through our AI system, which includes configuration files and an incredibly powerful scripting language
Who is 'Call of Cthulhu' aimed at?
Obviously the nature of the content in Dark Corners means it is not suitable for children. That aside, it is aimed at anyone who is looking for a richer gaming experience, with good doses of action, exploration, and adventuring. Familiarity with the pen-and-paper game or Lovecrafts stories is not necessary.
Why do you think 'Call of Cthulhu' should be succesfull?
Although it sounds a little cliché, I think gamers are desperate to play original games and are tiring of the same titles being released with only new graphics and pretty effects on offer. Also, although the latest Resident Evil on the Game Cube was fantastically well crafted, the survival horror genre, whilst being one of the most popular, is becoming tired and has not really offered anything new in terms of gameplay for quite some time. Some of the features in Cthulhu, like the first person view and the sanity system, should add something fresh and therefore desirable to gamers.
How far along in the development of the game are you? Have you got any deadline set yet?
The PC and Xbox version of “Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth” is currently on schedule for release in Q3/Q4 2003 – so this is obviously our big deadline. The development progress is healthy, the main engine technology is stable, the tool chain for content creation is now well established and being utilised by designers, and most of the art assets are created.
What gameplaying experiences have prepared you for making this game?
I’ve always been a big fan of horror games, from the console classics of Resident Evil and Silent Hill to PC games like System Shock. It’s vital to have a good knowledge of how other games create atmosphere and build horror, this unfortunately means you need to be analytical when playing them so you don’t get to immerse yourself in the experience quite as much.
How big is the world within the game?
Some of the areas are enormous, for instance the chase section through the streets of Innsmouth takes a good 20 minutes just to run through without any game-play to break it up. Although quite a lot of the game takes place in the streets of Innsmouth, we have created a wide array of interesting locations to discover and have put a lot of work into the construction of the interiors and exteriors of the key buildings – such as the Esoteric Order of Dagon and the Marsh Refinery. Also, as all our backgrounds are built using 3DS Max, rather than an engine specific level builder, they are more varied than most other games and feel less room-corridor-room.
Can you give us one or two 'special features' that you feel would make the game appeal to our readers?
Well obviously one of the big features is the sanity system, we really want to mess with the players head – blurred vision, hallucinations, muttering voices in your head, noise distortion, and a few other surprises. Treating your physical health is also more realistic in Cthulhu, you don’t just run over shiny health packs – you need to stitch up and bandage your wounds, and if you break something then you’ll need a splint, and a shot of morphine should help with the pain.
Closing, is there anything you would like to add?
Just to tell people to keep checking the official website for updates on development, latest screenshots, and lots of other stuff - we’ve recently added a cool mini shooting game (if you can find it)! And a Happy 2003 to everyone.