Lovecraft and Kings Quest inspired this developer to Kickstart his horror title.
Agustin Cordes, creator of cult favorite Scratches and currently hard at work on Kickstarter and Steam Greenlit horror title Asylum, is quick to correct me: no, the Hanwell Institute – where Asylum‘s action takes place – isn’t based on the famous Hanwell Asylum in England. In fact, Cordes borrowed Hanwell from H.P. Lovecraft’s tale The Rats In The Walls. “I just liked the name,” he says, but then he’s a fan of all things Lovecraft, as anyone looking at his stretch goal list – aka The Dream Quest of Stretch Goals – can see.
King’s Quest also had its part to play. The interactivity of this Sierra classic, for a kid used to Zaxxon and Space Invaders, was revelatory. “My biggest childhood memory,” says Cordes, “is typing ‘look at flowers’ and having the computer reply back to me, telling me ‘yes, they are gorgeous.'” The computer was talking directly to the player, something that seven-year-old Cordes hadn’t imagined was possible. King’s Quest practically defined the rest of Cordes’ life; it, and Infocom titles like The Lurking Horror and Trinity.
Hence Asylum, Cordes’ latest point-and-click creation, in which you go to Hanwell – a place you believe to be abandoned – to find out more about yourself. The first surprise is that it’s not abandoned, and soon after that things start to go really wrong for you. Cordes doesn’t want to give any plot details away, just yet; he’d prefer it if players came to Hanwell unspoilt. “It was the same with Scratches,” he says, “I never say much about the story!” The intricate corridors of Hanwell are based on Cordes’ research, as well as a visit to an Argentinean institution, which Cordes cites as a key influence on the finished game.
He’s a horror fan, but he doesn’t think too much of recent, formulaic, developments on the horror front: too many jump scares, not enough atmosphere. “Horror to be scary, must surprise you,” he says, “and mood is a key aspect of horror. Jump scares don’t help.” Cordes has fond memories of beta testing Amnesia and loves UK independent horror title The Cat Lady; it’s that kind of terror that he’s aiming for.
As for platform, at the moment it’s intended for PC and Mac, but given enough stretch goal funding he’d like to take it to iPad, Android, Ouya and even the Oculus Rift. “My philosophy is to reach as many people as possible,” says Cordes, and he sees those platforms – especially Android and Ouya – as being tremendous potential growth areas for gaming.
He’s hoping for a Halloween release for his horror title. “It’s going to be a very busy year,” he says, “but we can make it!”
The Kickstarter is still going for another few days, and Asylum, at time of writing, is only $4,900 away from its target. Another $10,000 on top of that will see the first stretch goal met. In the meantime, Cordes is hard at work building his Asylum, waiting for the chance to introduce you to it. There’s a cell already picked out, you realize …