Incubation is a way for us to share what we have (a nice office, indie game expertise, coffee) and pass some advantages on to new developers who are making games we like the look of.
We met Harry at Develop 2015. We were immediately interested in his game and impressed with his significant progress as a one-man-band. He’s hand-built A House of Many Doors himself, written both the code and the narrative, and is about 10 months from a finished game.
It really is the kind of game we’d want to play, so we are funding some of his development costs (which is separate from the incubation thing!). Harry has just launched a Kickstarter to help pay his artist, Catherine Unger, and secure some wonderful music.
Here, in fancy interview format, is some more about Harry and A House of Many Doors:
How did you come to make A House of Many Doors?
Writing stories and designing games was just something I did in my spare hours. I couldn’t actually code, and for a long time I assumed I wouldn’t be able to learn, but I thought about games and how they tell stories almost constantly.
So over the last year I finally sat down and learned to code. And things seemed to snowball from there.
The House and its characters had already been knocking around inside my skull for a few years, and it seemed very natural to slip into the process of making a game about them.
Tell us a little about the inspiration that you took from Sunless Sea, and what a Sunless Sea player might find to enjoy in A House of Many Doors.
Sunless Sea changed the way I thought about RPGs, and my game is partly a reaction to that.
Like Sunless Sea, A House of Many Doors is about exploration, because exploration seems natural when the player finds themselves in an interesting world and wants to see more.
And like Sunless Sea, many of the most interesting parts of the House are conveyed through text (along with gorgeous illustrations by artist Catherine Unger). Interactive narrative is simply the best way for me to convey my ideas, and I don’t think I’ll ever make a game where text doesn’t take centre stage.
Someone who likes the way that these two systems are married in Sunless Sea will probably enjoy A House of Many Doors. There will be cavernous, procedurally-generated rooms to explore, filled with stolen architecture and scattered ruins, and through every next door a new place with new stories could await.
What are some of your other inspirations?
Games like FTL and X-Com, where you form attachments to your characters and then watch them die while knowing it’s ALL YOUR FAULT, are what helped inspire the combat system!
The people on your train are a mix of procedurally-generated lower-deck crew and hand-designed upper-deck crew (with portraits and backstories and dialogue and hidden agendas). But they both die the same. An upper-deck character who you’ve just had a conversation with about their deeply-held fear of disappointing their older sister might be wiped out by an artillery shell unceremoniously.
For the setting and story, much of my inspiration comes from China Mieville and Italo Calvino. I was reading and re-reading Invisible Cities while designing the game and the House ended up being full of cities, each of which I’ve tried to make a character in their own right.
And Lovecraft looms large and incomprehensible in the background, as he tends to do.
What would you tell an interested party about the experience of incubating with Failbetter?
I couldn’t imagine a better environment for a burgeoning indie developer than the Failbetter offices. Making a small game on your own, or as part of a team that only meets online, can be very isolating. That bubble might be great for getting things done, but sooner or later it’s crucial to step outside of it and get a second opinion.
Failbetter are a group of lovely, sharp, enthusiastic people who are very creative and very on-the-ball when it comes to the practicalities of game development. Their office is warm and friendly and they’re free with their advice – of which every bit is gold. Bring a notepad! Their support has transformed how I make and talk about A House of Many Doors. Plus I got some free fudge.
And all this in return for only three of my organs!
I feel insanely lucky to have had the chance to incubate with Failbetter. If you’re based in or around London and you’re making a game, particularly one that does something interesting with narrative, then you should apply as soon as you can.