We recently covered Coven Games’ first crowdfunded hide-n-sneak game, Witchkin. With the Kickstarter campaign now in full swing I reached out to the game making half of Coven’s development team, David Jennison, to get an inside look at the project.
Jennison has worked in the game industry for over a decade as a 3D artist. His credits include NHL 2K, Star Wars the Old Republic, DC Universe Online, and Chronos, in addition to some voice-acting. He and his wife, Rachael teamed-up and created their own studio, Coven Games. Their first game, Witchkin, a survival horror, is planned for a 2017 release.
“I had been wanting to do my own game for a while and a small scale horror game just seemed the like right way to go,” Jennison said. “I am a huge horror fan, mainly books and films. At the time I started on Witchkin, my kids were playing a lot of Slender and FNAF.”
Horror for the whole family
Coven Games really is a family business. Apart from offering inspiration, the Jennison children have also pitched in to help their parents with Witchkin’s voice-acting and music composition. Keeping the game “family friendly” is perhaps one of the motivations behind Jennison’s focus on “goreless horror.”
“There are some great games filled with gore, but it just didn’t fit in Witchkin. Basically, one of the most innately terrifying scenarios that you can put any human in is one in which they are a) alone, b) powerless, and c) being stalked by a predator they cannot see. The scariest games I think have those ingredients,” Jennison explained. Witchkin’s formula, “proved to be quite enough to terrify, without throwing in body parts and blood.”
Through the eyes of a child
Witchkin puts the player in the role of a child trapped in a house where terrifying toys and the potential for other dangers lurk around every corner. “The gameplay is really about stealth — avoidance, and hiding. It comes down to how quickly you can react to the toy and split second decisions as opposed to a slow burn story or puzzle solving like many horror games,” Jennison said. “Consequences are immediate and final.”
As players make their way through the house they are hunted by the toys, each of which has its own unique stalking and capturing abilities. The antique toys are also all deeply unsettling. Jennison explained that the game’s imagery is the real source of Witchkin’s horror.
“The disturbing elements of Witchkin come from the imagery- the appearance of Marcy, for instance, was designed to resemble a dead child, a fundamentally off-putting image to most people.”
In addition to the high contrast black and white film grain aesthetic, Wichkin attempts to differentiate itself by incorporating local lore into the game. Building from the Texas legend of Clara Crane, the Candy Lady, Jennison was able to develop his own tale for players to explore.
“We have taken the legend and expanded quite a bit on it for the game. Clara Crane’s story struck me as a modern day (or more modern day) version of Hansel and Gretel, which I think speaks to the archetype of the witch disguised as a nurturing motherly figure.” While he didn’t want to comment on all the surprises Witchkin has in store, Jennison did promise a “satisfying, if unorthodox, conclusion” to this story.
“The game will build to a finale that is more than the sum of its parts,” Jennsion said. “We expect players will be surprised.”