Thomas Busse Discusses The Eldritch Cases: Dagon
By Suzanne Verras
I recently had the pleasure of speaking to Thomas Busse, the developer of the point and click horror adventure, The Eldritch Cases: Dagon. We asked him about the Kickstarter campaign, The Eldritch Cases: Dagon and of course his love for H.P. Lovecraft.
Cliqist: First off, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Thomas Busse: Hey folks, my name is Thomas, and I’m the developer of The Eldritch Cases: Dagon.
I’m German, but moved to sunny (well, once or twice a year) London about 3 years ago where I now live with my wife and three cats.
I have worked in IT for most of my professional live doing everything from technical support over QA to software development. I have also studied Media Production at university where I learned all the necessary skills like graphic design, 3d modelling, video editing and storytelling.
Cliqist: .. and of course about The Eldritch Cases: Dagon.
Thomas Busse: The Eldritch Cases: Dagon is based on H.P. Lovecrafts writings, it combines a couple of his stories: Dagon, Shadow over Innsmouth, Horror at Red Hook and Herbert West, Reanimator. That sounds like a wild mix, but it actually works!
The player takes control of two main characters, Detective Thomas Malone and Rose Babcock. Both stranded in the bleak, desolate coast town of Innsmouth for very different reasons, but have to team up together to fight against the sinister Dr. Herbert West and the Esoteric Order of Dagon, an evil occult group that West controls.
Thomas Busse: For practically all my life I have been drawn to the darker side of things, be it in literature, movies, music, people … if it had a horror, mystic or occult or at least very weird element, it was my thing. I came across Lovecraft when I was about 13, and was immediately hooked with the way he created horror without describing it in too much detail, how he forced you to imagine the true horror yourself.
And for the adventure part, they are and have always been my favorite genre when it comes to video games. They are still the best way to transport a story and develop characters in my opinion.
So, combining the two came natural to me, and I think the combination works great!
Cliqist: The Cthulhu mythos is not the only source of inspiration. Can you tell us a little about the other stories, authors and video games that have inspired you in making The Eldritch Cases: Dagon? Why did you choose those as your inspiration?
Thomas Busse: Yes, so, gaming-wise I’m mostly inspired by other adventures, e.g. the Broken Sword series, from where I got the idea of having two playable characters, and then games like the Gabriel Knight and Black Mirror series (mostly part 1 for this one though), but also games like Dark Corners of the Earth and Silent Hill for its atmosphere.
Literature-wise I’m also quite influenced by the Illuminatus-trilogy, which may seem a bit odd at first, but makes sense. For those of you that aren’t familiar with Illuminatus, it’s basically the mother of all conspiracy theories. The authors, Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea, were working at Playboy in the 60ies and were responsible for maintaining the fan mail pages (yes, there are not just interviews in the Playboy!), and they would get all sorts of odd mail from weirdoes who wanted to spread the word about all kinds of conspiracy theories. The two collected these letters and created a trilogy about a worldwide global conspiracy theory spanning millenias out of them, and these three books are – for me – so most fascinating, hilarious and thought provoking literature out there, even after nearly 40 years of their first publishing.
Now, if you wonder what all that has to do with Lovecraft: A lot! Not only do the books feature a variety of Lovecrafts old ones, they even have himself as an actual character in the book (albeit in a minor role, but still!).
What I took from it was the idea of a war between the forces of good and evil (although it’s never really clear which is what!) being fought in secret behind the scenes. And the conspiracy we will deal with in The Eldritch Cases: Dagon was made public by one Abdul Al-Hazred, over a thousand years ago in Damaskus…
Cliqist: Ambience seems to be an important part of any type of horror or horror themed game, keeping the player on edge with music and background sounds is definitely something that makes or breaks the scariness of the game. How will The Eldritch Cases: Dagon make sure the player will be on the edge of their sanity?
Thomas Busse: For the aural part, my old friend Jan Kavan will be responsible, and it is in very good, capable hands with him.
You can already hear a glimpse of what is to come in the trailer on the Kickstarter page. Jan is using actual live instruments and voices and mixes them with digital sounds only when necessary. He has already composed the soundtracks for a number of horror games and is also a huge Lovecraft-fan himself, so he knows which strings to pull to keep your sanity levels low!
Cliqist: Now about the Kickstarter campaign. There are a lot of tiers backers can choose from and a lot of ways they can give their own touch to the game by having their names on a gravestone and even as a corpse in the morgue. Why did you take this approach?
Thomas Busse: I think Kickstarter and other crowdfunding-platforms are helping to democratize the development process by giving small-scale developers like me the chance to create the projects of their dream without having to convince publishers, who see everything first through the lens of profitability and hence only fund projects that are save bets.
Kickstarter enables me to create a community rather than customers – people who back the game become a part of the journey, not only by giving me money, but also by engaging themselves in discussions, giving me tips and opinions, and even by becoming beta-testers early in the development stage.
Those backers who are really convinced with the project also become the chance to become a “physical” part of it, by appearing in the credits, or even by having their name or picture in the game, or even by becoming a character in it themselves!
I think this is a great way of involving fans much more directly than traditional publishing models would allow.
Cliqist: You have been working on The Eldritch Cases: Dagon for some years on your own and you have a team ready to help you once it gets funded. What do you hope to achieve once it gets its funding and is completed? Also, what would happen if the funding goal is not reached?
Thomas Busse: Yes, I have first started to work on the game in 2009, but had to stop after a while due to work commitments. About a year ago, in April 2013, I have started again from scratch. The funding from Kickstarter would enable me to get help in those areas where I either can’t do it on my own at all, like the music, and also where it is too much work for me to do it on my own, for example doing animations, modelling or 2d design.
The Eldritch Cases: Dagon however is something that is very close to my heart, so even if the Kickstarter should fail I will still continue to work on the game. One possible route would be to break it down into smaller episodes and release them separately.
Thomas Busse: Yes, to anyone who has already backed the project: Thank you so much, it really means the world to me! And to anyone who considers it, I know investing your hard earned money into an unknown indie developer can be a daunting thing to do, but please have a look at the project, and if you find yourself liking it, consider backing it, even the smallest amount can make a difference.
And if you ever thought there were not enough Lovecraftian games out there: The title “The Eldritch Cases” hints it already, but the plan is that in case Dagon proves to be a success then other Eldritch Cases will follow.
And if you back it, Cthulhu will spare your house when the time of the apocalypse comes, at least for a while.
Cliqist: Now lastly, if you were chased by a T-Rex, or Cthulhu whichever you prefer, and you had five words to describe The Eldritch Cases: Dagon, what would you say?
Thomas Busse: In case of the T-Rex I would say: “Pointing. Clicking. It’s so easy, even you can do it!”
(T-Rex’s are known to be notoriously bad at maths).
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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/suzanne.jpg”]Suzanne Verras is a freelance writer and a university student from Leiden, The Netherlands. She is a video game enthusiast, but also loves movies and art. She has her own video game, film and art blog called Miss Lily Blogs where she posts all kinds of articles as well as her Let’s Plays. Her favorite games include Bioshock, Myst, Ratchet and Clank and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. In the future she hopes to be writing full-time and one of her dreams is to sell her artwork one day. You can follow her on Twitter: MissLilyTweets. [/author]