Kickstarter Launched for 1920s RPG Mystery, Witchmarsh

Luciano Sgarbi speaks on Witchmarsh, the latest from Inglenook Games.

Luciano Sgarbi speaks on Witchmarsh, the latest from Inglenook Games.

Inglenook Games recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for their side-scrolling supernatural mystery RPG, Witchmarsh.

The game is set in 1920s Massachusetts where 12 townsfolk have gone missing. Your job is to create a team of detectives and find the missing people while encountering supernatural obstacles.

Witchmarsh can be played single player or in a two to four person co-op mode. Characters are highly customizable with over 50 unlockable abilities, so players can either meticulously detail their characters to fit their preferred playing style or simply select a character template and dive straight into the game.

To fit the era of the Roaring Twenties, jazz style music by Francisco Cerda sets the mood.

Inglenook’s Luciano Sgarbi, who does the lead game design and story for Witchmarsh, spoke with GameSkinny to share some insight into the team’s Kickstarter-funded project, including their recent publishing agreement with Chucklefish Games and what we can expect from Witchmarsh upon its release.

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Derek Paulus (DP): How long has Inglenook been in existence and is Witchmarsh your first project as a team?

Luciano Sgarbi (LS):We formed Inglenook specifically for Witchmarsh, but I’ve known Pixel Artist and Coder Joe for about ten years. We started making games together in our late teens, but it was really just for fun. Later we went on to do 3D at the same University, and we’ve worked together on various CGI projects ever since. In mid-2013, I had the idea for Witchmarsh and we started working on a prototype, first in 3D, then in 2D. After a few months we were so infatuated with the idea of making a side-scrolling, action cRPG that we decided to drop everything else.

DP: I’ve noticed that you are from the UK, so what inspired you to create a game set in 1920s Massachusetts?

LS: We knew from day one that we wanted to set the game in the 1920s, with a supernatural, possibly Lovecraftian theme. Why Massachusetts? There was certainly a lot more going on in America during the 20s. Combined with the abundance of myths and folklore, the enormity of its wilderness and scope for exploration; I suppose it just made sense!

DP: The primary goal in the game is to find and return the missing “Witchmarsh Twelve.” Can you reveal more detail about who or what is the “Witchmarsh Twelve,” or will this be slowly revealed in the game play?

LS: They’re an otherwise unrelated group of townsfolk who have mysteriously vanished. The local police botched the initial investigation: allowing the public to wander in and tamper with evidence and take away ‘souvenirs’ from the various scenes, which would often happen back then. It’s really down to the players to get in there, sort things out and show the inept police how it’s done. The ultimate goal is to solve the mystery and bring them all home safely.

DP: Despite having a main storyline, how open will the game be? Will players be able to make their own decisions about which direction to next take in the game based on information they gather or does the game walk them through the main story?

LS: The game’s main story will be pretty linear in terms of level paths, but the number of things which can happen along the way, and how the players shape the plot is planned to be pretty expansive. There will also be lots of optional areas to discover and explore along the way. We’ll be posting an update during the Kickstarter campaign which focuses [on] the Clues and Leads system, this should shed some light on how open the game will be.

DP: With so many characters and different ways to customize your character, are characters designed to work better with a specific selection of other characters, or is character selection based mostly on an individual player’s preference of play?

LS: We’ll be recommending that players create a balanced team if they want to take on the game’s hardest challenges. I think [it’s] a pretty good approach to RPGs in general. If you run with a team of all-magic users, or all-warriors, then there’s a chance you’ll bump into problems along the way.

With the four character slots, a balanced team would look like: 1x Support (either buffs, healing or crowd control based), 1x Damage (magic – 5 types to choose from, brawler or assassin) and 1x Brawler to soak up some of the damage. The final slot would be down to the player, with the 5 attributes and 5 ability types, they’ll have a lot of choice.

DP: What level of player interaction will there be with NPCs? Will players be able to communicate with them in a way that can affect the storyline?

LS: Absolutely. How to deal with suspects, witnesses and members of the public will have an impact on your reputation as PIs. We’re using a branching dialogue system similar to other western RPGs.

DP: I’ve seen that co-op mode can be played with up to four players. In single player, will players be able to select AI characters to accompany them or will they be on their own?

LS: There will be friendly AI on the other members of your party, and you’ll also be able to switch between them to perform specific actions.

DP: Any idea roughly how many hours of game play Witchmarsh is expected to provide? What aspects of the game may entice players to come back for more than one run through the story?

LS: We’re expecting the average game to last about 13 hours, but with all the side content it could end up being a bit longer. With all the different character combinations and plot outcomes we’re hoping it will appeal to people who enjoy multiple playthroughs. If it’s financially viable for us to do so, we’d love to expand the game after launch with more end-game adventures and mysteries.

DP: Recently Chucklefish jumped onboard as publishers for the project. How significant is their involvement?

LS: Chucklefish have been great. They’re really busy moving offices to London at the moment but they’ve still made time for our project, mostly in their own personal time I should add. Their passion for videogames is undeniable, which is really important to us. It’s an impression you don’t always get when you speak with publishers.

They’ve been helping out with the marketing and it’s given us a fantastic reach. We’re really lucky, and we look forward to working with them more in the future.

DP: Looking at the Kickstarter it seems as though you will be funded with time to spare, but in a hypothetical world, what happens to Witchmarsh if the game doesn’t get funded? Could Witchmarsh have been developed to the extent you’d have hoped without fan funding?

LS: That’s a good question. It’s far too large a project for us to continue making it in our spare time on evenings and weekends, as we have done. I assume we’d plan a relaunch with an improved campaign and take it from there.

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