Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of The Earth
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When Howard Philips Lovecraft wrote the majority of his books in the 1920s and '30s no one took much notice. When he died in 1937, aged 47, his writings were considered 'cult' material and his stature began to grow. Now he is generally recognised as the major American horror-story writer of the 20th century. It is from Lovecraft's chilling tales that we were given the Necronomicon and Shub-Niggurath, and several other staples of modern horror. His ideas have been adapted into films and TV shows, and are now set to be fashioned into a computer game.
Headfirst Productions, the UK-based development team currently working on Simon The Sorcerer 3D. have obtained a licence from board game manufacturer Chaosium to make a game based on its Call Of Cthulhu (pronounced Cuh-thoo-loo) table-top RPG.
"Our game won't be too closely linked to the RPG though," explains Cthulhu designer Andrew Brazier. "Those pen-and-paper games never translate very well - you usually end up with loads of stats and numbers." One thing Headfirst is planning to take from the table-top original, though, is the 'sanity* raring - a device that monitors your wellbeing and erodes as you come across scary or hideous situations. So over time you'll begin to hear voices inside your head if you don't take care of yourself, just like in real life.
Having already licensed NDL's Netlmmersive 3D engine to create Simon The Sorcerer 3D, Headfirst decided to use it to make Call Of Cthulhu as well. Andrew says: "Netlmmersive is a very flexible third-party engine. Using that instead of developing our own gives us more time to concentrate on the game rather than constantly fighting to keep our engine competitive. They do all that for us. Having said that, we're also incorporating our own code, like the advanced physics engine, which isn't in Simon The Sorcerer 3D."
Regardless of the engine politics, early peeks seem favourable and Cthulhu appears suitably dark. But how scary will this game be? Will it measure up to the hair-prickling suspense of something like System Shock 2?
"We're thinking of including a free, clean pair of skids with each copy," boasts Andrew. "We will really be concentrating hard to make it as scary as possible by using dramatic graphics and locations, as well as tailoring the music and sound effects to suit the action." Apparently Andrew and his team spent a lot of time watching horror films in the build-up to Cthulhu's green light (no doubt including Stuart Gordon's Lovecraft-based From Beyond, which is worth checking out if you've never seen it), and even consulted a psychologist to ensure they capture the madness inherent in much of Lovecraft's writing. As for the gameplay, co-operative, story-based multiplay, straight-forward deathmatch, and six huge single-player stories will provide the backbone of the game, to keep the scares flowing.
At this stage in time Call Of Cthulhu: Dark Comers Of The Earth is still a way off. Headfirst estimates an autumn 200I release for the game when it's eventually picked up by a publisher.