Surrealist Exploration RPG: A House Of Many Doors

I’ve been waiting for A House of Many Doors [official site] to arrive on Kickstarter for a while now. Developeres Pixel Trickery are asking for £4,000, which will be added to savings and £12,000 of funding from Sunless Sea makers Failbetter Games, it’s an exploration-based RPG set in a bizarre world in which you play a poet/journalist. Listen.

“In A House of Many Doors you are an explorer, poet and spy, traversing and mapping the House – a vast parasite dimension that steals from other worlds. You explore the House in a clanking train with mechanical legs. You will discover bizarre civilizations, assemble a dysfunctional crew and level up your poetry, while clinging to life and sanity.”

The list of influences includes Planescape: Torment and Calvino’s Invisible Cities. I want it.

There is a pre-alpha demo and it feels like a pre-alpha demo, which is to say it feels more like a proof of concept than a slice of game. The text on the campaign page is a more convincing sales pitch than what is playable at the moment and I’m fine with that – this is a game, like Sunless Sea and Fallen London, that will be thick with words.

“I want you to feel like a particular type of 19th-century polymath – a Richard Francis Burton or a Gertrude Bell. An absurd figure with absurd talents who propels themselves confidently into absurdly terrifying situations.

“In the game you are both a journalist and a poet, and each of those careers comes with its own challenges to face throughout the game. The poems you write are procedurally-generated, and over time you will build up a proud canon of stirring titles: “The Troglodyte Vomiting of the Mirrors,” “An Elegy on the Reluctant Hell of Grief,” “Ode to the Strangling Toad.” Your poems and travelogues are your route to fame and fortune.”

We here at RPS have an affinity with procedural poetry and all of those titles are apt descriptions of my hungover Sunday mornings.

“As you explore the House, you will journey through a labyrinth of procedurally-generated architecture.

“It’s not all procedural generation, though – your Navigator will guide you towards rooms in which you’ll discover carefully-designed areas of interactive narrative.

“These rooms are packed with quests, stories and lore – by “lore” I mean the House’s intricate history, ancient secrets and complex politics, much of which will lurk below the surface and only be revealed in hints and half-truths. In these cavernous rooms you might find cities or ruins or ten-mile-high abomination gods made of inexpertly conjoined crows.”

If A House of Many Doors is a weirder Sunless Sea with procedural places, that’d be dandy. If it’s even more than that, I’ll be very pleasantly surprised. July 2016 is the planned launch window and a £5 pledge is enough to secure a copy of the game.

You can read more about Failbetter’s involvement here. And if you think the whole thing looks a little too much like Sunless Sea, this comment from the creator might set your mind at ease.

It has real-time-with-pause combat where crew placement and damage to vehicle components are very important. It is also extremely focused on procedural generation – almost all of the House consists of procedurally-generated architecture, and half of the crew are also procedurally-generated. The player character is a poet, and writing proc-gen poetry is one of the core loops of the game.

PROCEDURAL

18 Comments

  1. Weremoo says:

    Ooh, this looks rather stonking! Anything that has Fallen London and Planescape Torment as influences gets my attention, and this seems like it’ll shine!

  2. JFS says:

    Italo Calvino? That’s a name you don’t hear often around videogames. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

    • dreadguacamole says:

      I think he’s influenced lots of stuff indirectly, but yeah – he’s seldom name-checked. I am so backing this.

    • Ayslia says:

      I dunno, both Jonathan Blow and Daniel Benmergui have cited him as an influence on their work. I’ve heard more about Calvino through games than anywhere else (sadly), but maybe I’m just not looking in the right places.

      Anything that mentions him gets an instant +1 in my book. But I’m still waiting for the game that does with video games what If on a winter’s night a traveler did with the novel.

    • Baal_Sagoth says:

      Calvino was definitely a focus during my time studying literature. His writing is certainly well-established and frequently discussed in some academic circles.
      One of my big pleasant discoveries at university since his work passed me by entirely before that.

  3. Talesdreamer says:

    It’s like House of Leaves had a child with Sunless Sea! Gotta throw money at this baby.

  4. Captain Joyless says:

    money successfully thrown

  5. Hobbes says:

    Possibly the best reward tiers I’ve seen yet, I approve of this. I’ll have to work out a tier to back.

  6. Premium User Badge

    teije says:

    So very awesome – with Sunless Sea, Italo Calvino (specifically Invisible Cities) and Planescape in the imago-hopper, I’m stoked for this one. Definitely backing since this is the kind of intriguing stuff we need more of.

  7. Universal Quitter says:

    “. . .you are an explorer, poet and spy, traversing and mapping the House – a vast parasite dimension that steals from other worlds.”

    Based solely on this description, if I close my eyes, all I see is that Doctor Who episode where the TARDIS is trapped in a woman.

  8. Fuzzyaardvark says:

    “My influences include Sunless Sea, FTL, Planescape: Torment, the works of China Mieville and H.P. Lovecraft, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and that feeling you get when you’re very alone in a big dark house.”

    Backed.

    • steves says:

      “the works of China Mieville”

      Hell yeah! Specifically Railsea by the looks of it, though I’d have backed it for a mere fiver based purely on “ten-mile-high abomination gods made of inexpertly conjoined crows”. Though ‘cows’ would have been even better…

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Take “my influences” statements with a grain of salt. They’re an excellent opportunity for unproven devs to namedrop a bunch of famous titles that may or may not have anything to do with the finished product.

      To be fair, the concept looks unique and interesting, and could very well be great. But since we have very little to base that assumption on other than the dev’s stated goals and a rough alpha, I’d be wary of getting too excited at this point.

  9. trn says:

    I really wanted to fall in love with Sunless Sea but found the early game utterly tedious,the combat feeble and ended up having to watch other people play it just to enjoy the writing. This sounds more promising.

  10. lowprices says:

    Backed. The pitch says all the right things, and references so many of the things that I love that I couldn’t not back it.

    Also: I was only going to throw in a fiver, then I saw that the £15 tier was called Poet-Knight. So obviously I had to go for that. If you get the chance to be a Poet-Knight, you’d be a fool to pass it up.

  11. ribby says:

    Ooooooh

  12. ribby says:

    There’s a lovely sense of humour to both the trailer and Kickstarter page. Take this for example:

    “My influences include Sunless Sea, FTL, Planescape: Torment, the works of China Mieville and H.P. Lovecraft, Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, and that feeling you get when you’re very alone in a big dark house.”

  13. TopI says:

    It looks lovely, I will back it on KS I think.

    I heard that also these guys are going to KS: elveonthegame.com