Project Goetia – BCG interview creative designer Moeity & chat indie development aboard the Square Enix Collective.

Blackwood Manor

Hold a fondness for independent games? Such titles can intrigue and excite with a beauty or a tale well told. Not only on premise alone are these works deserving of our time, often the development process will equally be as compelling. With a thought to crafts of said excellence, Battle Club Gaming brave the chilling journey @PlayGoetia have for us.

Born in northern England, Abigail Blackwood died, aged 12, from a fall. Some 40 years later Abigail awakes – expelled from the land.

Surprise and shocks aplenty, as Abigail seeks to unravel the occult mystery her family estate conceals. With over 100 meticulously created screens, exploring Blackwood Manor (one of five main areas) and surrounding locations will, no doubt, delight the eye… and tremble the soul.

Guiding our spectral friend around the environment (through walls, floors and ceilings) solving the game’s many puzzles will require no small amount of lateral thinking. Abigail will have no inventory as such – as you would expect. Of course, that’s not to say she can’t ‘possess’ items.

Currently enjoying the support of Square Enix Collective, a platform dedicated to showcasing sublime talent, BCG were lucky enough to chat with Moeity, digital artist and Goetia’s conceptual visionary.

Moeity, thank you for speaking with us, especially at such a busy time sir. From what we’ve seen so far, Goetia looks and sounds amazing. Visually stunning, a haunting score – without giving too much away – tease us with a synopsis.

Abigail Blackwood is a young English lady, heir of a very old family. She died by accident at the age of 12, in 1908. It’s February 1941 now, and she suddenly “wakes up”, like after a bad dream, near her empty childhood manor. She has no idea why she came back. You will guide Abigail and help her find out what she’s doing here, and what happened to her parents and her big sister, Annie, who also was her best friend and confident.

It quickly appears that the current decay of Blackwood Manor is owing to its inhabitants, and their fascination for the mysteries of the Other World.

There’s a staggering depth to the mysteries Abigail Blackwood must contend with, can we ask where you found inspiration, and how the project initially came to mind?

Goetia is actually born around a drink, as I told Benjamin from Sushee about my work as a digital artist. I started photography in 2005, then headed towards mattepainting, which was more relevant, as my inspiration takes root into fantasy and science fiction, from spiritualism to alien landscapes.

A few years ago, I experimented with a photograph-based 2D cut of an old house, and called it Muireall Manor. I was happy with the result, but it felt incomplete, so I asked Sushee if they were interested in developing a video game around this idea of an empty haunted house. They accepted immediately.

So Goetia is your first experience of video game development? Penny for your thoughts thus far Moeity, is this a media your keen to pursue further?

Indeed, I’ve never worked on a video game before. It’s a fantastic experience, as I had to think not only about the environment, but about everything that must have led to it: the people who lived in the mansion, the historical background and its influence on the characters. To me, creating the scenery isn’t the hardest part (only a lot more work than what I’m used to!). It’s writing the story and giving life to interesting and appealing characters that’s the most challenging.

I still have a lot to think about (with Goetia) for now, so I’m not yet thinking about the future. But I think I won’t stop now that I came to like it – a lot.

Sushee are the folks partnered with you on the project. Can you give us an introduction, how you met? You gentlemen are based in France correct?

Sushee is a studio based in Lannion, in the north of Brittany, in France. They usually develop video games for clients who want their product ‘gamified’ – they have worked for companies such as Bandai Namco, Opel and KFC. It’s the first time creating a video game of their own. They truly believe in this project and their motivation is communicative!

To quote a none spoiler “We’re sure you’ve always dreamed to be a candle holder”. Words defining a certain charm, no doubt a tip of the hat to childhood stories of adventure and a promise of danger. How excited are you for players to experience the game?

When we wrote this sentence, we obviously thought about Lumière in Beauty and the Beast – staying grown-up children keeps us in the right path for this kind of creation!

As I said, it is our first very own video game, so you can imagine how nervous we are every time someone hands over our creation! But every time the feedback is very positive, and it makes us even more eager to create an unforgettable experience. We all have games we played when we were younger that still haunt us today – we want Goetia to be one of those for people. An experience they can seize, rather than an entertaining interlude in their life. It sets the standard even higher, but no one works properly without an ambitious goal!

The name Goetia, it does have a certain connotation. Just how scary is the game? Is there an age range in mind? Fear aside, our young protagonist does indeed seem a capable guide for players of all ages.

Ghost stories don’t have to be scary to me. It depends on how you look at it: as a ghost, Abigail won’t be frightened; she would feel rather misplaced, and completely lost. So we want to emphasize gloominess, mystery and melancholy rather than fright. We aim to set a certain discomfort, something more insidious.

As you said, we believe Goetia is fit for people of all ages – and we want it that way, even if the scenario explores the mysteries of demonology and spiritualism.

Support, with feedback from peers and fans is clearly evident. Can you give an example of where this has been beneficial? In contrast, has the project seen any setbacks – if so, how did you overcome and resolve these?

Feedback is always essential, but when it comes to a first project like Goetia, it becomes an obsession!

A few weeks ago, we showed the game for the first time at the Stunfest (a video-game event in Rennes, focused on indie games and pro-gaming). It was a very simple demo – people were only able to explore a dozen rooms without being able to interact with the objects. We only wanted to show the atmosphere and tease about the game, so we didn’t expect construct feedback. But it appeared people didn’t follow the path we set at all, as the “go through the wall” thing wasn’t that intuitive. So, even if the feedback was positive, we had to rethink most of the room’s level design. It was really interesting and surprising to see that folks could stay more than half an hour in empty rooms just to find every one of them!

We also had questioning times, like the choice of the technology we would use, for example. We lost a few months thinking the game (or at least the demo, like Amanita Design did with Machinarium and Botanicula) could be playable online. But it appeared we missed the point doing so, as playing in a browser isn’t the best way to create an atmosphere (especially in a 1280 x 800 window). So we had to turn back and start over again. Hopefully it wasn’t all for nothing, as we kept maturing the idea during all this time.

Was the decision to offer point and click play an intuitive one? How many hours of exploration can we look forward to?

The choice of a point and click came naturally, I think we didn’t even discuss it! It was the best choice, as we wanted players to explore the manor in every nook and cranny, and the best way to stress certain parts of the environment was – to us – to make them click on every object they see.

When I think about my favorite childhood point and click games, what I recall first is the way I was thinking about the puzzles even when I wasn’t playing them. I drew notes on pieces of paper, tried to remember where I’ve been and what places I could have neglected. Of course it is now easier to find the solution on the Internet, but still, those who want to make their head spin will be able to, and as they do, the game should grow on them even more. This is really important to us.

We think there will be around 10 hours of gameplay – depending of course on how fast you will think! – as the number of explorable zones is quite high (around 120 rooms).

Can we chat about the Square Enix Collective? This is the platform currently showcasing Goetia – along with a plethora of other projects. Collective is akin to Steam’s Greenlight initiative yes?

Collective is dedicated to helping and accompanying indie games in preparation for a successful release. It is indeed comparable to Greenlight, as it is the community who puts the finger on one game or another. Square Enix first choose which games will appear on the platform. Then, if a given game has enough votes and a sufficient percentage of “Yes, I would back this project on crowdfunding” after 28 days, then Square Enix will do their best to help the crowdfunding succeed.

If I’m right in thinking, Collective is quite a new enterprise. It does sound like a fantastic launch platform. At what point did you become involved with Square Enix, can you give insight into that process?

Collective is quite young indeed – they only pushed one project so far (and we hope we’ll be the second one!). The process is simple: you think your game is worth their time, you fill up a form, show them a trailer or a gameplay trailer, some screenshots and a few words about the concept, and they decide if it’s worth being featured on Collective. The time we’ve been allowed to gather votes isn’t over, so we don’t know a lot yet about how Square Enix will support us. All we know is that they’ve been very enthusiastic about Goetia so far, and that they seemed quite proud to present it to their community. It’s been very motivating!

Obviously with the Collective your options are not limited, any thoughts to other gaming platforms, can you say at this point?

The game isn’t finished yet, so we are dedicated to development at this point. We’ve been thinking about all the options we could choose if Goetia didn’t pass the Collective “test”, including crowdfunding, or finding another editor, but nothing tangible for now.

Project Goetia aims for a PC and Mac release, with that you certainly have our support! We at BCG are very much looking to this title, do you have an estimated time frame in mind?

We’re really pleased to see it inspires you, your impatience is a compliment! We like to think the game will be ready this winter – probably early 2015. In any case, it is our aim. In the meantime, a demo will be ready this summer!

How can folks support Goetia? Fearless adventurers can cast their vote via the Collective’s website yes?

The Collective campaign will end in a few days; you can indeed support us by voting at their website – there’s not much time left, so hurry if you like what you see!

Where can we find you on social media?

We’re quite active on social media, especially on Facebook and TwitterAbigail is speaking there; come and greet her (she will spend quite a lot of time alone in the manor, she’ll certainly like some company before she delves into its dark corridors). She also has an Instagram account filled with ghost-related pictures and development-related photographs!

Again, thanks for lending us your time Moeity, you are a gentleman sir. We will of course include all links to where Goetia can be found, further recommended reading, and – most importantly – where folks can vote.

Goetia promises a fun and challenging experience for those seeking a rewarding narrative within graceful design. This wonderful indie project would certainly benefit from your support and feedback.

You can do that by casting a vote, and leaving a (optional) comment at the Square Enix Collective (as linked above). This is free to do, a Square Enix account, of any region, is but required.

Abbey Ruins

Battle Club Gaming would like to thank Moeity, the folks at Sushee and Square Enix Collective. Thanks also the Tamoor (at CVG UK), Paws (at RPGamer), Torgo (at PSNation) and Lusipurr (at Lusipurr dot com) for their time and helpful insight.


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