Dave Gilbert on his fork into goth horror and why voice acting is his “favourite thing in the world”.

As I sat down with Wadjet Eye founder Dave Gilbert last week, he was trying to wrap up The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow, a new point-and-click adventure from Cloak And Dagger Games that his studio will be releasing later this year . “Usually when a game comes out I have it compressed into a sexy bit of sound. I’ve never done that with Hob’s Barrow,” he says. “Basically a Victorian gothic horror story. That’s the best way to describe it.”

Originally announced as Incantamentum (Gilbert jokes that one of the reasons for the name change is that he could never pronounce “Incantamentum” properly), Wadjet Eye got involved after Gilbert played the Steam demo last year and emailed the developer had sent. “I said, ‘Hey, I played the demo. I really liked her. Please tell me you’re going to add the voice acting because it just calls for it,'” Gilbert tells me. “And he said, ‘Well, we will if we find a publisher to do it for us.'” So Wadjet Eye is now publishing and Gilbert is supervising the voice overs.

Read More :   Manin Densha Folge 1 Untertitel Indonesien

I played a preview build of The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow that represented the first day of the game and I can confirm Gilbert’s assessment of it as “Victorian Gothic Horror”. It’s creepy, to say the least, right from the start. You take on the role of Thomasina Bateman, a modern day suspender who has no time to get married because she is too busy digging up the burial mounds – ancient burial mounds – of England. To that end, Thomasina has come to Bewlay, a remote horseless town somewhere in the Peak District, to dig the title grave. But once she arrives, she’s blocked by rebellious locals, all of whom pretend they haven’t heard of Hob’s Barrow or, if they have, don’t know where it is. Also, they hate outsiders, thank you very much.

Read More :   Activision Blizzard rakes in $1.2 billion despite Warzone & Vanguard bringing in lowest player count in years

“What’s funny is that the supporting characters often don’t realize it’s supposed to be a scary game because the scary doesn’t happen to them,” says Gilbert, who caught up with some of the voice actors at Develop in Brighton earlier this month and showed them the unreleased trailer to Hob’s Barrow. “And they were surprised like, ‘Oh, it’s like a horror game!’ Because the bartender just casually talks about a cat and [the actor] thought, “Oh, it’s just a cat in the pub, but in the trailer you can see the cat. And it’s this damn one creepy Thing.”

Thomasina, the main character in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow, explores the moors.  She looks at a pile of stones on which a little blond girl is standing and playing the violin

Welcome to the normal city, population: Hell!

It really is (you can see it in the headline above), and The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow goes all out with its Turn Of The Screw-esque atmosphere of uncertainty: is it all normal, and am I imagining it? Or is it actually really supernatural? For example, on one level the cat is a cat, but in my preview build the cat pad into Thomasina’s room at night through a door that should have been locked and sits on her bed for the camera to give her a love, horrible close-up.

A goblin stares at a woman in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow

I’ve previewed a few close-ups like this one, and they’re an intriguing and gruesome application of The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow’s pixel art style. They are mobile and mighty strange. The cat looked sort of like an old man when its features calmed down, and in another one, where the town priest seemed to get sick at the sight of Thomasina, I almost wanted to look away. “The game is full of it,” says Gilbert, referring to the “amazing” close-ups. “And it kind of makes it stand out, because pixel art adventure games like this are a dime a dozen now, and those close-up shots really double that style. That’s another reason I was drawn to it.”

I’m saying that I love watching point and click adventures that are horror games or at least dark and/or scary because I feel like the genre still has some kind of crazy hangover in people’s minds . Gilbert says yes, a little bit, but he doesn’t like the funnier stuff that much anyway.

“Whenever we make a more comedy-oriented game, it usually doesn’t sell well. I think that’s just because I’m not entirely sure how to sell these games. If you’re in a spooky mood, you can compress that, it’s pretty easy to present. You’re like, ‘Hey, this is a scary game’, you know? And then you have all these creepy pictures: There you go,” he explains. “And humor is harder to make that way. Because you have to see him in action. And you can’t just show us a funny screenshot. Because humor becomes less funny the more you’re exposed to it [the game] When there’s nothing else going on, it’s a little more difficult.”

Thomasina stands outside the village pub on a dark, misty night in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow

A woman enters an open door in a cave emanating violet light in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow.

A woman talks to an elderly lady in a church in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow.

A woman converses with an old man outside a cottage in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow.

Because of this, Gilbert is usually more drawn to moody, atmospheric games and urban noir. Not that The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow can be called urban at all. The two most intact buildings in Bewlay are a large church and the pub; If you receive a package on the day the postmaster is absent, you must pick the lock with a hat pin taken from a ragdoll buried in a fairy circle. It’s folk horror through and through, and familiarity with it helps. I partially solved the latter puzzle quickly because I knew exactly what to look for in order to find fairies, but your mileage may vary. I think The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow is effective in part because it’s so specific and regional, but that posed a challenge for Gilbert, an American, especially directing the voice actors. He had to rely on the developers or the actor himself as the voices are all British.

“It’s different when I’m releasing a game because I’m not as sick of it as I am with the games I write myself.”

“There were some things I just wasn’t sure if it was a typo or slang,” he says. “‘Every street up.’ That was one thing. ‘Any Street Up’. He also had to rely on the developers to check if someone spoke a good British accent: “There are a lot of people who think they can speak a British accent, but they really can’t,” he says. “But my brain isn’t designed to really tell the difference.”

In general, however, Gilbert loves adding voices to a game. “It’s my favorite thing in the world. I always look at it as my reward for getting the game this far, because especially when I’m working on my own stuff, by the time I’ve gotten to this point I’m fed up with death from it,” he says, explaining that involving actors breathes new life into the characters he’s written.” They make interesting choices and again make these characters new and refreshing, and it’s so rewarding to bring a game to this point. It’s different when I.” releasing a game because I’m not as sick of it as the games I write. But I still enjoy it.”

The main character in The Excavation Of Hob's Barrow, Thomasina, stands in front of a church door with a minister.  He says to an elderly woman who runs a cake stand by the door,

When he’s casting, he looks for actors who can make those interesting choices rather than those who can capture what’s already in his head. “Not so much ‘Oh, that’s it, that’s perfect’, but ‘Oh, that was an interesting decision they made.’ It also means they’ll be making interesting decisions during the actual recording, and I’ll have to do less work myself,” he says, laughing. But he says he doesn’t have to work as hard to voice actors for The Excavation Of Hob’s Barrow (regardless of whether they’re aware they’re creepy or not), “when the characters are so well written and very well defined…there’s not a lot I have to do to pull that off.”

The preview build I played only partially had voice acting, but I can confirm Gilbert’s assessment there as well. The voiced parts certainly contribute to this, but even without them the game just floats along fear. Multiple times you have the option to lie about who you are or where you are from in case you don’t trust the villagers. Before the preview was over, Thomasina had to do at least two things that locals had specifically warned her about as bad luck. I grew up near a long burial mound whose name was verified by Thomasina. You can enter part of the interior and see the offerings people leave behind, drawn by the strange attraction these things still have: flowers, necklaces, a hospital bracelet. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing good in Hob’s Barrow. Except hopefully a very good Victorian gothic horror game.