The Whisperer in Darkness [official site] is a visual novel adaptation of the Lovecraft story of the same name. Like many, I went through a cosmic horror stage during my teen years and devoured as much HP sauce as I could handle, but I find that I struggle to separate one piece of Lovecraft from another in my mind. I had to look up The Whisperer and was delighted to find it’s the story in which alien funghi, the Mi-Go, offer to pull out peoples’ brains and transport them across the universe in jars, making budget airline operators the world over green with envy.
The adaptation is interesting to me primarily because of the detailed devlogs about the challenges of both modernising the story and introducing interactive elements.
It’s worth noting, before digging into those devlogs, that the game isn’t entirely made up of the usual Visual Novel screens with their background art and endless text to click through. There are exploration sections as well, and they look like this:
The story has been updated to the first decade of the twenty-first century, which means Amazon Echos are very much out but mobile phones are in. It also means that the context of some of the original’s science fiction concepts has changed. That’s something developer Nathaniel Nelson was looking into back in June:
“Specifically, ‘The Whisperer in Darkness’ features aliens that cannot be photographed (originally because of the ‘vibration rate’ of the electrons composing their matter (total bogus)). The solution I’m currently considering is that they’ve actually incorporated nanotechnology (or some advanced mechanism) into their skin, which detects humans’ cameras when they shoot a picture, and employs a burst of electromagnetism or somesuch to prevent any kind of photographic evidence.
“I’m researching the ninth planet because in the original story, Lovecraft’s alien Mi-Go visit earth from the planet Yuggoth (a.k.a. Pluto, and not actually a planet–which violates scientific believability because we have images of Pluto’s surface, which is not, in fact, composed of remarkable black stone, magnificent spires and alien architecture). To make this adaptation more believable, I need a location for Yuggoth that scientists haven’t actually explored enough to disprove the possibility. The possible existence of another ninth planet is almost too good to be true, because the original story was published at a time when Pluto had just recently been discovered, playing off scientific curiosity and fear of the unknown. To have almost the exact same scientific occurrence happening right as I release the game, playing off it just like Lovecraft did, would be an incredible coincidence. So, fingers crossed on that one. (I haven’t done really any research at all yet as to whether the 9th planet would make a plausible homeworld for the Mi-Go. Could still turn out to be totally unworkable.)”
Nelson has also been thinking about other ways to make changes to the game and its story:
“I removed the explicit gender of the player character, Wilmarth. You may have seen me in other devlogs encouraging devs to improve gender diversity in their characters… yet my game always starred a pretty generic white dude. I finally realized that Albert Wilmarth’s gender was completely irrelevant to his personality, so now the main character is called Alex N. Wilmarth, and NPCs refer to them as ‘Professor Wilmarth’ instead of ‘Mr. Wilmarth,’ so any player can insert their own identity when playing.”
If you’re interested in Lovecraft and the difficulties that adapting his work can present, I’d recommend reading from the very beginning of these posts. The game itself will be out on 18th October and will be available on Steam.