PokeMi-Go: The Whisperer In Darkness

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.

From this site

10 Comments

  1. jusplathemus says:

    Lovecraft? In visual novel form? Sold! I love both of them pretty much and I’ve never heard of this before, so thanks for the article!

    • mgardner says:

      IF you have an iOS device, check out the app iLovecraft. I just found this recently and downloaded it last night. It’s the text of a HPL story (3 included in the app) interspersed with interactive elements e.g. audio, images, and animation. So far I am really enjoying it. Example: while reading about a grave-digging scene in The Hound, you also see an image of the graveyard at night and hear shovels digging in the dirt. If you touch the image, the digging stops for a moment while two figures rise into view, looking over their shoulders at you suspiciously. Eventually they disappear and resume digging.

  2. JagdFlanker says:

    switch the planet from the 9th to the currently unexplored 10th
    link to en.wikipedia.org

  3. theapeofnaples says:

    When will people realise that you simply can’t adapt Lovecraft visually? It never, ever works.

  4. Koozer says:

    I get the feeling this guy’s thinking too long about making brain-sucking aliens believable.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Yes, but in some ways also not enough. Nanomachines? Come on now.

    • TheOx129 says:

      A good part of me worries that if he focuses too much on believability in a contemporary setting, he’ll effectively miss the
      “point” of Lovecraft, which is basically “contrary to our self-perception, humanity is utterly insignificant in the grand cosmic scheme of things and, moreover, there are things that are – and will remain – beyond human comprehension.”

      Hell, if Lovecraft had a stock character, it was the rationalist intellectual who, inadvertently or not, stumbles upon something that completely shatters his perception of the cosmos at large and humanity’s place in it (often destroying his mind in the process).

      I’ll keep an eye on the project because it sounds interesting, but I really hope he doesn’t lose that uniquely Lovecraftian aesthetic in the quest for scientific plausibility.

  5. Insidious Mental Pollution says:

    While I enjoy the thought of Lovecraftian games, the concepts work better better in written stories where imagination creates the visuals.

  6. Buggery says:

    Half of Lovecraft’s stories are, “Then the eldritch horror turn towards me, and the horror was such that I immediately went mad and couldn’t possibly explain what I saw.” Which, just as well as being equally good technique on his behalf and an extremely lazy writing trick, also kind of means that most of his stories are missing the details necessary for visual representation. Also, nanomachines? Yeesh.