Interview: Agustin Cordes On Finding The Real Lovecraft

Nobody ever mentions the Mad Monk Abdul Alhazred's habit of doodling in the margins. So many boobies.

Scratches, Serena and Asylum creator Agustin Cordes has just launched a Kickstarter for the first officially licensed H.P. Lovecraft game, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward. Based on Lovecraft’s only full novel, it tells the tale of a young man in 1918 on a search for a wizard ancestor in Providence and Salem, with not a whiff of Cthulhu to be found. This project is intended to be faithful in a way that no other Lovecraftian game has been, but what exactly does that mean? And why do these old stories still have such a draw? I asked. He answered. Nice when things work out.

RPS: Just looking at the pitch, Charles Dexter Ward doesn’t seem like a regular Lovecraft story. What was it about it that made you decide “Yes. That’s the one we’re going to do!”

Cordes: I have to say, it wasn’t my first choice – it was my second. (silently, somehow makes a sound like fingers being confidently steepled in anticipation of future masterplans) I can’t reveal more about that for now! But for the longest time, this story made an impression on me and I’ve always thought it would be an amazing adventure. Just about every aspect of it is perfect. The investigation, the themes, the sneaking around and the horrors uncovered all make it an ideal story.

Let's see... That is not dead which can eternal lie. And with strange aeons even death may die. But if you want to be sure that most things stay placid. Just cut off their heads and melt them with acid.

RPS: It’s been semi-used in one before, hasn’t it – Necronomicon from a few years ago?

Cordes: Yes. To be honest, I only played a few moments of that one, and didn’t get the feeling it was too faithful. They didn’t have the rights, so they had to change a lot, like the names, and the marvellous sequences in Providence that are a huge part of the story.

RPS: Luckily nobody played it, so it doesn’t matter! I confess to not knowing the story of this one too well, but wasn’t it famous for being one that Lovecraft himself didn’t like, even if lots of other people later did? Is it out of his usual style, or was it more a question of form?

Cordes: The thing is, Lovecraft didn’t like any of his own stories. The Shadow Over Innsmouth, The Shadow Out Of Time… Lovecraft just wasn’t satisfied with the writing in those stories, to the point that he didn’t even want them to be published. Charles Dexter Ward is the most notorious case of that because it was published after he died, but I’d say it’s a very atypical entry in his bibliography. It’s a very autobiographical work, where you can really see… especially in the first half… how Lovecraft developed his feelings on Providence, his thoughts on the past, his passion for history, architecture, genealogy and of course, witchcraft, which is a very important theme that Lovecraft was fascinated by. But it’s an incredible story along with all that too, and perfect for this kind of game.

RPS: Structurally, it sounds a lot like Shadow of the Comet – go to a seemingly normal place that you know the later horror is going to contrast with, then the weirdness comes crashing in as everything spins out of control…

Cordes: You’re right, you can see some Charles Dexter Ward in Shadow of the Comet, which of course was inspired by Shadow Over Innsmouth. As for this game, I took the chance to design the full thing before the Kickstarter campaign, and I was amazed by how easily the whole story translated into the adventure format. All the trips Charles takes between Providence and Salem especially.

You won't hear the Call of Cthulhu here. Mostly because the librarian will shush and give a Stern Look to anyone who starts with that ftaghn bullshit on her watch.

RPS: Lovecraftian style is very misunderstood right now – Cthulhu, the Necronomicon and so on are pop-culture icons and often dragged out to hijack a little extra mood or meaning, often when a story is failing to do it on its own. Do you think that’s meant they’ve lost its edge?

Cordes: Oh, absolutely yes. The problem is that Lovecraftian games have only scratched the surface of what he had to offer. The monsters, the Necronomicon… the thing about his stories which I haven’t seen in any game yet is that of cosmic horror, the sense that we humans are insignificant creatures.

RPS: An opinion definitely shared by my two cats. A fundamental problem of Lovecraft is that it doesn’t usually turn out well for the ‘heroes’, but on PC, even games like I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream will usually give up and offer a ‘happy’ ending – or at least a happier one than the hero dribbling in an asylum. How can you take those huge themes but also make them suitable for something as objective-driven as a game?

Cordes: It’s an interesting thing for this story because the protagonist only really faces the horrors the once. Usually the fun part is pitting your strength against the monsters, but that’s usually when these games stop being Lovecraft. It kills the whole idea of the impossibility of even attempting to engage these things – just how unable we are to comprehend, never mind battle these things. Based on our past experiences, I’m not afraid of handling that. The inability to see monsters in Scratches for instance was part of the story, letting you form your own idea of the story and keeping a balance between the scientific and supernatural.

RPS: Something that jumped out for me with other Lovecraftian games is that usually the Great Old Ones are just villains and they always have a Plan – which always seems so banal. Like Shadow of the Comet, where the whole thing ends up being part of a big scheme to open a big wobbly doorway for… was it Yog Sothoth? Anyway, it feels like it could be any demon or alien doing basically the same thing. But the expectation is that it’ll be that overt, because in comparison to their hype, even a guy like Narackamous is such a small-time villain.

Cordes: It’s true that humans in his stories are always attempting to bring back the Great Old Ones and all that, but in truth if you read the stories, you see the consistent line of thought that the monsters don’t care at all about them and it’s all humans interpreting them and foolishly working towards their own destruction. This is very interesting if you study Lovecraft, because it’s a commentary on his own views on religion, and on understanding the impossible.

RPS: I’m really thinking about people’s expectations with these stories – that there will be a monstrous bad guy, and Cthulhu will shake a tentacle and go “I’ll get you next time!” and all that kind of thing, when even in concept that seems far too close. It usually feels like it should be closer to a story about, say, astrology, where whatever effect the stars have on the narrative, you’re never going to go hang with them or do anything that they could notice.

Cordes: Exactly. And Charles Dexter Ward is a nice example of that, because you get conspiracies of wizards in Salem trying to bring back the dead and searching for immortality, but there’s always going to be the hints of horror in everything.

RPS: So, what about the gap between what people think they know and what they actually get – for instance, like how people still think of Watson as an idiot based on the Nigel Bruce years, or in Lovecraft, that they know of Cthulhu but are hazy on what he is?

Cordes: I think some will be disappointed, because as you say, they have expectations – players have been spoiled in a way by the weak translations. For instance, something that people take for granted is that it’s always dark, broody, and there are horrible creatures and tentacles… and it’s actually not that often that Lovecraft went that direction. There are no tentacles in our game! Instead, and what we’re trying to shed light on, is that they could often be… charming? Yes. In some aspects. There’s a love for architecture and detail, of sunrises, and what’s going to be shocking for many is that Charles Dexter Ward largely takes place during the day and actually feels more, like, say, Broken Sword, Indiana Jones…

RPS: Day of the Tentacle…?

Cordes: Ha. Not that one! I know that some will be disappointed because of expectations. A Lovecraft game in bright daylight? Yes, but we’re very serious about it. We’re addressing fans of adventure games first, of course, and I think think they’re going to be happy with what we have to offer, but also more passionate Lovecraft fans. I know that when they see it and realise just how much passion we’ve put into every aspect of the game… every detail, right down to symbols in the Kickstarter video that aren’t well known to the more casual fans of Lovecraftian stories.

'If we hit our first stretch goal, we'll even finish colouring in that ship in the background!'

RPS: Of the Lovecraft games so far, which do you think has been most successful at capturing the spirit of his stories?

Cordes: Of the official and semi-official games, definitely Shadow of the Comet. I think the first half was a brilliant translation of the mood that you get in many of his stories. You can really see the attention to atmosphere and feel. Unfortunately it loses it in the second half and everything falls apart. My other pick would be Anchorhead-

RPS: The text adventure?

Cordes: The text adventure, exactly. It’s not a straight adaptation and there are no direct references to Lovecraftian lore, but the mood is right. It really gets that feel of the weird and the alien… something else I found that was missing in Shadow of the Comet, really. It’s a good horror game, but not… weird.

RPS: I always had issues with Shadow, with the first half being really slow – taking too long to establish its baseline, and then the second half just being silly with its monster temples and wobbly magic from space… Presumably in this one, there’ll be a bit more adventure in the first half – Charles having a more focused task than Parker’s photography.

Cordes: That’s funny. I loved the start of Shadow of the Comet.

RPS: I think for me the problem was that you know what’s coming, and have probably seen the monsters in a screenshot or on the box or something already, so there’s a long period of time where you’re waiting for the shoe to drop rather than being unaware that it exists. While an inferior game, Prisoner of Ice was better at that at least – you hit the limit of what you ‘know’ in the first scene, and then have no real idea of where it’s going. (At least unless you looked at the American box, with more spoilers than a Pimp My Car convention…)

Cordes: Yes, and that’s when the magic can happen – the tension, hinting at some things, and giving the players something to entertain themselves while the big story develops. In Dexter Ward, you’ll quickly be doing things like travelling to Salem and finding out about his mysterious ancestor and all these other triggers will start early… there’s so much material and historical background and things that we can tell players without unleashing actual horror. The story is fascinating.

RPS: It sounds very Gabriel Knight – a slow-burner game, where the horror is more implied than overt for most of the game.

Cordes: Yes, it has a lot in common with that. Time will tell if we got it right, but I’m trying hard to strike a good balance between being faithful and… even I’ll admit that the actual novel is very slow and takes a lot of time to get to the crux of things. As an adventure game though, the interaction will really help – there’s a lot that the player will be able to do.

Is a pretty Lovecraftian background a Hastur la Vista?

RPS: Is it a completely faithful conversion, or will there be surprises for readers?

Cordes: It’s as faithful as possible, certainly more than the movie (The Resurrected), though we’ve had to change a few things, and we’re bringing a little more horror into the later sequences. We’re working with S. T. Joshi, the world authority on Lovecraft, who’s ensuring we get our historical facts right and that our interpretation of the story is accurate.

RPS: On the development side, how different is it doing this to your long-running Asylum project, which is a lot more pop-scary and overtly horrific?

Cordes: We’re grateful to have this project! The thing with Asylum is that it’s very dark and-

RPS: BOO!

Cordes: What was that?!

RPS: Revenge for the end of the Asylum demo. (Glares) Please, continue…

Cordes: Ah…. Sorry about that! But yes. It’s a very dark game, staring at those loathsome environments all day, and it requires a very strong state of mind. This is definitely an ‘easier’ project like that. The two games are very linked together though, by Lovecraft and our past experiences with Scratches and Serena. I like to see them as two sides of the same coin. Asylum is dark, disturbing, gory. Charles Dexter Ward is more… I keep going back to ‘charming’, but I think more… dreamy. But it’s a dream where the horror soon starts slipping in of course, and that’s when the fun begins.

I know you're scary, but I can't help feeling that if I turned a flamethrower on you, you'd become deliciously crispy.

RPS: Obviously, Lovecraft is pretty famous for opening up his sandbox for everyone to play with. How do you think he’d feel about the plushie Cthulhus and so on?

Cordes: Lovecraft actually had an amazing sense of humour. I think he’d be very amused and happy with how his cosmology has been taken by people. Maybe he wouldn’t agree with Cthulhu being presented as-

RPS: The core of everything rather than just a minor player?

Cordes: Yes. Maybe he wouldn’t be happy about that, but he wouldn’t be disappointed.

RPS: Do you think we’ve reached the point where they’ve moved from fiction to folklore – not that people believe in them or anything, but baked into the culture in a similar way to things like Paradise Lost or the old folk tales of people like Robin Hood?

Cordes: Yes, yes you’re right. He created such a consistent cosmology and lore, with that feeling of the unknown and blasphemous that still remains so fresh. Those things just never get old.

The Kickstarter for Charles Dexter Ward is now underway. Should it be successful in hitting its stretch goals, the plan is to go on and do other official Lovecraft story conversions in quick order, provided that the Great Old Ones don’t suddenly return and enslave all humanity in coils of madness beyond our comprehension, in which case there will probably be a bit of a delay.

70 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Charles Dexter Ward is one thing, but I’m holding out for a game of Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

    It’s intended to be faithful in a way that no other Lovecraftian game has been, but what exactly does that mean?

    It means it’s gonna be super racist.

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      Only in the between-chapters arcade mini game where Ward beats Undesirables with a shovel to calm his nerves.

    • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

      Admittedly, the late/mature Lovecraft is not racist anymore. He’s closer to socialism actually.

      • Premium User Badge

        Harlander says:

        Those positions are not mutually exclusive, unfortunately.

        • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

          Aye, but they should be.

          Also, seriously, Lovecraft’s later work avoided all sorts of racist ideas. He turned pretty nice apparently.

      • eggy toast says:

        The guy who named his dog Nigger was actually very nice and not racist at all, I agree.

        • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

          Mind you, I’m not saying that he wasn’t racist. Just that he eventually got to see his folly.

          • Niko says:

            Yeah. It’s no use just hating a long-dead writer for his views, but it’s interesting how he changed them over the course of his (sadly, short) life. L. Sprague de Camp’s Lovecraft’s biography makes a good job at that.

        • SRTie4k says:

          That was a cat in one of his stories, and his name was Nigger Man. The story was The Rats in the Walls.

      • manny says:

        The scientific establishment and the general public widely considered other races to be genetically inferior during Lovecrafts time.

    • Orija says:

      So what?

    • SirMonkeyWrench says:

      With out his racist undertones, his abject horror when faced with any kind of other, I do not think Lovecraft’s writing would have nearly as much impact. If any writer wants to write following in Lovecraft’s footsteps their first step should be to developed a deeply unhealthy mind.

      • Shiloh says:

        Alternatively, be born in 1890 in Small Town USA.

      • Agustin Cordes says:

        This is simply not true. Lovecraft’s horror was primarily based on notions of the unknown, the insignificance of the human race as a whole, and powerful, alien forces beyond our comprehension. Racism was just an unfortunate undertone in some of his stories. And it’s true that the more he matured, the less racist his writings became.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          As a lifelong Lovecraft fan and collector, I have to unfortunately disagree. Racism was an overt overtone of many of his stories. The Horror at Red Hook and The Shadow Over Innsmouth come to mind as the primary offenders, but there are other ones as well.

          As others have mentioned, his racial views are absent or relegated to the background in most of his best stories, but that doesn’t mean that racism was just incidental to his work. It was a major driving force in his early career, and any attempt to explain that away or ignore it is just denial. It’s just a flaw in his work and character that all Lovecraft fans need to accept and acknowledge.

          Anyway, your game looks great and I’m excited to check it out. Not nearly enough good HPL games out there!

          edit: actually, looking at your comment below, I’m not sure we disagree much.

          • Geebs says:

            Huge bottom-fetishist too, kept on banging on about people’s taints the whole time.

            It’s a bit odd that Lovecraft gets defended wrt his massive racism and fear of deformity because the modern day milieu is only very slightly less racist and there were plenty of funny-looking people about then as now. I find his stuff uncomfortable to read, and that’s not even the use of n***** , it’s all the deformity=evil nonsense.

          • Turkey says:

            Yeah, I think it’s cause people get their identities wrapped up in the things they like, so when people call out Lovecraft for being racist they think they’re being called racist for liking his stuff. Which is pretty silly.

          • Agustin Cordes says:

            Exactly, I’m not denying at all Lovecraft’s racism. It’s all over the place, especially in his early tales. However, I don’t feel it adds or detracts from the overall Lovecraftian experience. I get the feeling that he used such slurs as an ill-conceived social commentary. The only story that is blatantly racist through and through perhaps is Arthur Jermyn.

            Again, we’re focusing on the positive aspects of his work, and we can definitely provide a genuine and faithful Lovecraftian experience without resorting to racism.

            In any case, there’s practically no racism in Charles Dexter Ward. I’ve re-read three times just last year, I know what I’m talking about :P

          • iucounu says:

            The thing about whatever HPL’s hangups were – racism, xenophobia, fear of sex, fear of deformity – is that in his fiction it’s all pretty well sublimated and transmuted into horror. There are parts where worryingly nasty authorial neuroses bob to the surface of the fiction, like a finger popping up in an otherwise delicious stew, but otherwise, to switch culinary metaphors, you can enjoy the sausage without being confronted with how it’s made. And indeed you can write a Cthulhu Mythos story, dealing with and evoking the same kinds of disgust and dread and horror, without having to think precisely as Lovecraft did.

            I very much enjoyed Nnedi Okorafor’s post about the World Fantasy Award trophy, which is a bust of Lovecraft and which she recently won. The ghastly poem is hard to read. (I think I’d go further than the Mieville solution and replace the bust of HPL with a bust of Cthulhu. It’s then celebration of the work, not the man.) link to nnedi.blogspot.co.uk

    • Agustin Cordes says:

      It’s true, Lovecraft was racist — there’s no way around it. While we prefer to focus on his contributions to weird fiction and science, we’re planning some sort of commentary on this unfortunate aspect of his character if the game happens. He was nevertheless a fascinating person and remarkably cultured, yet surprisingly ignorant in many aspects.

    • purpleaardvark says:

      The thing I most remember about my experiences with lovecraft is that I had to stop every couple of pages to look up a racial slur that he’d use simply to work out who he was being racist to.

    • farco says:

      You judge someone who lived in New England nearly one century ago as a racist. Let me laughing by your lack of common sense to be in the context of this era.

      Lack of knowledge and common sense are the perfect tools for so called modern white knights internet morale warriors of today.

      • JamesTheNumberless says:

        Internet morale warriors? Are they the ones who keep posting pictures of cats so on?

        Come off it though. Lovecraft was a brilliant writer who also subscribed to a number of racist notions, we know this because they’re evident in his writing. Not everyone who lived in his time was racist and not everyone who was racist in his time ,and wrote, demonstrated their racist views in their writing. Making the point that Lovecraft had racist ideas and racist themes in his stories and letters is not a moral or even a critical judgement, it’s an unbiased statement of fact.

        e.g. The Late Arthur Jermyn and his family is an example of a story he wrote which was a good story and a good horror – ticks all the boxes for me of a brilliant horror story. At the same time it’s racist. The whole premise of the story is based on discredited and outdated racial theory and western fears about the nature of Africa and Africans. it loses some of its impact today because our modern understanding of genetics and anthropology tells us it couldn’t possible ever be true or really have happened, but it doesn’t lose its power to disturb or disconnect us any more from the plight of the main character. Still, not less racist for being so effective and well executed.

        Compare and contrast with that little poem he wrote, you know you one I mean! Terrible poem because it’s badly written and clearly just a way for him to let off some steam rather than a serious work, but no less racist for being poorly executed, even if it was intended as a joke.

        I’m sure someone who thought Arthur Jermyn was terrible will now correct me :)

  2. tumbleworld says:

    It sounds fun, but the very odd claim that it is an “official” game is off-putting. Lovecraft is long-dead, and out of copyright. There’s no-one to get an “official” license from, and Cordes must know that, so why such a dubious marketing spin? Makes me worry that a lot of what he’s saying is equally dubious.

      • tumbleworld says:

        I’ve just run a series of trademark and copyright searches. None of them could turn up any registered trademarks or copyrights for the term “H. P. Lovecraft” in the US, UK, Canada or Australia.

        EDIT: The following paragraph is unnecessarily hostile in its phrasing, for which I apologise.

        I really want to like this project, but it seems to me that Cordes is flat-out wrong on this — which implies that ** EDIT: I was being an arsehole here, in retrospect, and made unfair suggestions. My apologies. **

        • Agustin Cordes says:

          I believe that I replied to your private message on Kickstarter, but just in case: I’ve been dealing with a group based on Providence called Lovecraft Holdings LLC. They have the legal rights to the H. P. Lovecraft trademark and intellectual property. It’s very common to license such rights to movies, but not to games. Our case is really the first licensed one and a direct adaptation from one of this stories. No need to change names and places: it’s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward through and through.

          S. T. Joshi, one of the most renowned figures in Lovecraftian circles, is attached to the project and pointed me in the right direction to secure these rights. I *hate* manipulation and deceitful marketing practices myself, but in the case I can claim 100% for sure, without a shade of a doubt, that Senscape has negotiated the official rights to make a series of H. P. Lovecraft games.

          • tumbleworld says:

            Hi Agustin.

            I’ve finally found Lovecraft Holdings, on justia.com (link to trademarks.justia.com). As you can see here, they were only founded in 2009, and are claiming trademark on just two Lovecraft-related properties — the image of the words “H. P. Lovecraft” in a specific font, as applied to T-shirts and other clothing; and a silhouette portrait of the Old Gentleman, also as applied to T-shirts and other clothing. The registered contact for Lovecraft Holdings, Tobias Lederberg, also claims trademarks on some other T-shirt designs (link to trademarkia.com).

            From the assorted other people who mention, in their products, that they have sought permission from Lovecraft Holdings, it would appear, at first (and non-legal) glance, that you have grounds for a lawsuit against Mr. Lederberg for misrepresentation. The only “official” trademark he appears to be able to license is the right to use the silhouette picture he has registered (or, to be fair, T-shirts bearing just “H. P. Lovecraft”.

          • sairas says:

            About five years ago, I was somewhat involved in a swedish translation of The case of Charles Dexter Ward, published only because there was no longer any copyright claims to consider since the author had been dead for more than 70 years. This may be a rule that only applies in Sweden, but after 2007 there was a truckload of new Lovecraft released because of this, without anyone having to pay any royalties or license fees.

            edit: later comments seem to say that this is EU rule but not the case in the US.

          • Shuck says:

            My own reading about Lovecraft IP issues indicates that it’s a bit of a mess. His earliest work is public domain (having been written sufficiently long ago). HPL’s friends and fellow writers Derleth and Wandrei supposedly gathered the rights for his work for Arkham House publishing from Lovecraft’s heirs and Weird Tales, but there were questions as to whether Weird Tales properly renewed the copyright on the work back when that was required, in addition to some ambiguities (to put it kindly) in the inheritance of the story rights from Lovecraft’s heirs. So it’s unclear that Arkham House ever really had the copyright to his work. That didn’t stop Arkham House publishing from claiming to have the copyrights for many decades, however, despite the legal uncertainty. Then, in the early ’70s, legal action within the company resulted in the publisher essentially denying they owned the copyrights, claiming they were actually public domain. So for the last 40 years, there was no one who could make any reasonable legal claims to H.P. Lovecraft’s work. Lovecraft Properties LLC apparently was recently started by a descendent of one of Lovecraft’s legal heirs and is trying to capitalize on the ambiguities of the inheritance, claiming the rights didn’t go to Arkham House. The problem is, there’s no evidence that they have any legal claim to any of Lovecraft’s work either, however, as the chain of ownership they’re claiming didn’t involve the necessary renewal of copyright, making it public domain.
            TL;DR – There’s no one who can make an even vaguely convincing argument that they have the rights to any Lovecraft story, much less claim to control his literary estate.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          It’s gross and immoral that anything written or created by Lovecraft would not be in the public domain, but there’s a long and tangled web of history there that means, at the very least, you need to prepare for a lawsuit when trying to adapt or reprint some of it.

          At the risk of getting into a huge rant about the absurdity of the moving goalposts of copyright, I’ll just say this: if you are claiming ownership of the work of someone’s who’s been dead for 80 years, you are a fucking parasite.

          edit: I should note that I’m not directing that at the developers of this game.

          • tumbleworld says:

            My understanding is that current EU law means that it is all public domain in Europe, but anything printed before 1923 is definitely public domain in the US. Stories printed after 1923 have some (almost entirely spurious) lingering claims against them which cast a bit of a shadow (heh). These claims haven’t been contested in court yet, mainly because they’d almost certainly be struck down if it came to a fight.

            This particular chap appears to me to be leeching off over-cautious business folk by asserting claim over a T-shirt design and using that as a way of saying he has the trademark on H. P. Lovecraft. If he does have any other trademarks or rights, he’s keeping them quite secret — which would seem, to my limited understanding, to rather invalidate a trademark.

          • iucounu says:

            Recent developments in the strange case of Sherlock Holmes might be worth a look.

    • Sarre says:

      There is a very long but very interesting (for the wonks among us) exploration of Lovecraft’s copyright status here: link to aetherial.net. The author concludes that essentially the entire estate is Public Domain, and that Arkham House has no foundation for any copyright claims.

      • Agustin Cordes says:

        I had a discussion with the author of this article and he had to agree that company who granted us the rights (Lovecraft Holdings LLC in Providence) had a strong case for claim them.

        • Emeraude says:

          That’s… kind of more horrifying than the whole of Lovecraft’s body of work.

  3. TomxJ says:

    “We’re working with S. T. Joshi”

    Good call Cordes.

    • Agustin Cordes says:

      To me, having Mr. Joshi involved was just as important as securing the license :)

      • emperor_nero says:

        I’ve spoke at some length with Mr. Joshi via email and it is amazing to see him attached. I know there has to be ‘game’ elements but you have someone there who can guide you as close to the source material as possible.

  4. RedViv says:

    Ah. If they are influenced by the autobiographical interpretation of the source, I am no longer confused by how much Charles resembles his very creator. That’s… meta, as the hippity hoppity hip cool cats these days say, right?

    • Agustin Cordes says:

      It’s widely accepted that Lovecraft based the description of Charles Dexter Ward on his own. I’ve always imagined this character as a sort of blonde HPL, so I’m suitably thrilled with how he looks in our game :)

    • Turkey says:

      I’m working on a comic book adaptation of “From Beyond” where the nameless protagonist pretty much looks like old Herbert. It kinda turns the tale into a weird joker origin story.

  5. Threstle says:

    Well, I was writing a comment about how The Case of Charles Dexter Ward is more like a short story, and how The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath IS the only full novel of Lovecraft. Then I actually checked online… Weird, I remember reading the former in a collection, and the later as an independant book…

  6. Anthile says:

    I am curious now. What did you think of Scratches, Richard? I played it about a year ago and I thought it was merely okay – certainly nothing that would make me give them money for a kickstarter project. Are their other games any better?

    Also, I see you called Hastur by name which is generally considered a bad i

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      I played it long, long ago, so my memory’s hazy. It’s not really my kind of adventure (I’m a complete horror-wuss and tend to prefer third-person to first in adventures), but I remember it being decent enough. And I don’t fear Hastur. Now, Candle Jack, that’s a different

    • Threstle says:

      Haha, ok I got it, because you’re not supposed to say “Hastur”. Very fu

    • Niko says:

      What is going on here? Who is Hastur? I’m so confu

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      So, what, Hastur is also pressing the ‘Opinion, away!’ button after whatever grisly

  7. wodin says:

    I’m sure Mountains of Madness was a full novel aswell.

    • Solgarmr says:

      yeah, I think Case of Charles Dexter and At the mountains of Madness count both as Novellas

      • Sunjammer says:

        Apparently Dexter Ward’s length only juuuust qualifies for novel, whereas Mountains and Innsmouth are “just” novellas. Yeah it’s a stupid distinction.

  8. statistx says:

    “His only full novel” ? what is that supposed to mean? Where does that leave “Shadow over Innsmouth” and “Mountains of Madness”?

  9. Shiloh says:

    Eldritch Horror is a great Lovecraft game. A board game, admittedly, but it makes a good fist of capturing the insignificance of humanity vs The Ancient Ones (not William Shatner and Keith Richards, but the cosmic gods from Elsewhere…) while wrapping it all up in a globe-trotting investigative against-the-clock adventure.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Mungrul says:

    It’s a toss-up between Mountains of Madness and The Case of Charles Dexter Ward as to which is my favourite Lovecraft story, but I’ll freely admit I haven’t read everything he’s written. And it’s a good three years since I read any Lovecraft at all.
    Not sure I’m excited enough about this to Kickstart it, as someone else’ imagining of the story will vary from the one that runs in my head.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    So a second Kickstarter project despite the first being undelivered.

  12. Tekuu says:

    As a backer of their first kickstarted project, Asylum, I am very glad they return with one! Asylum – while not yet completed – has had great updates on their progress, so as a backer I never felt betrayed and it’s a good idea to give the visual artists something to work on while the programmers finish Asylum. Only makes sense to me…and Scratches is a game that haunted me for years after playing it. Now that’s something a horror game should do! Can’t wait to back this…thank you for an informative article!

  13. Geebs says:

    I still can’t get over how bitter I am that nobody backed when I kickstartered my Half-life 2 mod based on Lovecraft’s life, ‘HP: Source’

    • Scurra says:

      Where’s the thumbs-up button? Wait, don’t tell me – it’s only visible to Supporters…

      (One of my favourite variants of your joke comes from the old BBC radio show The Burkiss Way when an author was introduced as “Lee & Perrins Lovecraft”.)

  14. Emeraude says:

    The thing that fails for me in most (if not all) of Lovecraft’s (official or inspirational) adaptation – a lot of horror games in general – is that it’s an author that for me works best really at expressing the horror of the ineffable and the untold. It’s not what you see that so much matters. It’s not what you’re told, it’s all that isn’t and is being suggested but never confirmed. If anything that’s how he manages to sublimate his own personal racist bias into something more pervasive, fear of the unknown, of the different and alien as irremediably destructive and corrupting. Which isn’t false when you change the lense; opening yourself to others means being changed by them, and if you value permanence that can means a metaphorical death.

    Anyway, I think the most interesting thing I’ve played in the genre that almost tapped that was the first hour or so of Amnesia. When the game was all about mood, about the inability to reconcile yourself as a cold, rational player and that avatar running panicked from fear of the dark, the tidbits thrown at you during loadings that made no sense but where the key to who the you were supposed to be but couldn’t quite grasp. There was something strong about dissociative episodes and self-alienation that sadly died the minute the game grew more assured and predictable in both plot and mechanisms.
    Still, closest I can think of the proper approach in game form for a Lovecraft adaption. That and maybe Pathologic, though for obviously relatively different reasons.

    Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was going at it completely wrong at it, it was a game about player *power*, mechanically about dealing with the known and visible and barely interested in the rest. Like a b-movie plastic monster video game equivalent. Regardless of its quality as entertainment, it failed the mark for me.

    • Sunjammer says:

      You know, it’s funny how different the DCotE experience is on PC vs the Xbox. On the xbox the gun aiming was so unwieldy and difficult, combat was almost *completely* disempowering, whereas on the PC it was headshots all day long. I think the Xbox version was far superior for this reason alone. I remember that game as completely nerve-shattering, but installing it on my PC I was baffled that I’d thought that way.

      • Emeraude says:

        Interesting.
        I wonder how much of it was wanted on the console side, and if so why it didn’t make it to the PC (half rhetorical question I guess) ?

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    tigerfort says:

    While I appreciate the efforts of the phantom alt-texter, can RPS please hire Richard to supply image alt-texts wherever the author of a story has failed to do so? Pretty please?

  16. Sunjammer says:

    Awesome, another Lovecraft article, another bout of folk crawling out of the woodwork to cry about racism. It’s almost as if we’re not allowed to enjoy things that come from troubled places.

    I’m a perhaps-obsessive Lovecraft fan, to the point where I know him more through his letters than through his actual stories. The biggest takeaway from his character is that he was a worried, small man who lived large through words. He was a textbook example of the internet recluse. His racism was occasionally distracting, but you have to be a howling mad idiot to see it as a harmful force. This was a dude that named a cat he loved to bits the n-word, who wrote a truly EPIC takedown of dogs because why not, and thought living in a poor NYC neighborhood full of immigrants was scary because he grew up with his aunts in a totally white providence and would rather not leave the house if he didn’t absolutely have to.

    It’s important, I think, to know and accept that Lovecraft was a racist. It’s also important to know it was the racism of a guy in a self-erected echo chamber who had phobias for pretty much everything imaginable, and that this racism fed into a kind of horror few people were really doing at the time: The fear of the intrinsic self, for one, and for ones own history and its effect on oneself. Dexter Ward is my favorite HPL story and a perfect example of how this obsession with genealogy *typically* went places beyond “oh i sure hope there’s no COLORED blood in my gene pool”.

    No, for sure, HPL was a racist, no matter how much he mellowed out, especially as his work turned away from gothic horror and towards science fiction. But overt and identifiable racism in his work is spread thin at worst, typically showing up as a loud fart in a cathedral once every dozen stories or so. It’s embarassing and distracting, but it doesn’t actually ruin the cathedral.

    • Melody says:

      It’s hard to have a nuanced, complex opinion of anything.

      Look at how many times, in Tropes vs Women, Anita repeats that “it’s possible to enjoy something even while pointing out its flaws”. If that wasn’t so, we should maybe throw away all of Nietzsche’s philosophy because sometimes he was a mysoginist. And Aristotle, was a mysoginist AND argued in favour of slavery, therefore the rest of his work should also be dismissed.

      So… don’t get too mad. I don’t mean it in a patronizing way, it’s really really hard for anyone, me included, to have a nuanced opinion of anything, to admit that there is good in what is overall bad and viceversa.

  17. Jakkar says:

    Tsk, a lack of mention of our console cousins!

    Eternal Darkness: Sanity’s Requiem, the Gamecube-exclusive Resident Evil-alike horror adventure, its overt colour-coded enemies/elements and OTT violence and ridiculous monsters accepted, hit the ‘insignificant humans’ angle nicely. Certain phases of the game allow you to wield considerable power, but the ‘skin of your teeth, fighting the least of its forces’ atmosphere, and the constant struggle to maintain your sanity while learning magic and conserving ammunition/equipment across many historic eras… Delicious business.

    The best of the Lovecraft-inspired, I believe. Dark Corners Of The Earth was an interesting attempt with some great features, but its clunkiness and bugginess inhibited my immersion to the point that I’ve never gotten past the first five or six hours.