Curse of Anabelle is a puzzle and story-driven adventure game set in the fictional Ramsey Mansion following the mysterious death of a nine year old girl, Anabelle. The gameplay boasts Resident Evil-style graphics with a Blair Witch-esque, first-person camera angle. In addition, players are required to use knowledge found in various tomes to progress through the story highlighting the old adage that the pen is mightier than the sword.
In an exclusive interview with OnlySP, Engin Yüksel discussed Turkey’s emerging game development industry, horror influences, and hints that a Curse of Anabelle sequel is already in the works.
OnlySP: Tell me about Rocwise Entertainment? What is it like to work within a game development studio in Istanbul, Turkey?
Yüksel: As you may know, game development is a newly emerging industry in Turkey and we are experiencing difficulties like every other studio here. Nevertheless, although we’re a small development team, I believe that we can handle large scale development processes rather well but this comes with a price of course. Every employee at Rocwise Entertainment has to work a little harder than they’re capable of to improve themselves. Because that’s the only way we can do “more”. Our recruitment process works accordingly. It is very important for me to foresee what our employees can do in the future, rather than what they can do now.
OnlySP: What horror films, books, and games have influenced you to create the characters within your horror-adventure game, Curse of Anabelle?
Yüksel: In its own way, every book I read, every movie I watched, and every game I played have an effect on my projects. I can’t point out one specific title really, but Stephen King’s Rose Red mainly pushed me towards developing a horror title. Another big influence on my creative process is music. I mainly favor soundtracks from various movies and video games. My favourite at the moment is Death Stranding’s soundtrack composed by Ludvig Forssell.
OnlySP: How will time travel be featured within the gameplay? Will it be via flashbacks where players watch past scenes unfold, or will the player actively be moving through different timelines?
Yüksel: About one hour into the game, players will come across a crafting mechanic which they will have to gather certain items. At this point, the time travel mechanic comes in to play to explore the in-game past and present states of the mansion. However, players will have to be careful because one of these timelines hides a dark presence. We call it soul-sucker internally, but of course, there are certain ways to get rid of it.
OnlySP: Gameplay features overwhelming visual and audible stimuli to create tension including the character losing torchlight, and child voices saying “I can see you.” Is it challenging to create and maintain suspense without using physical enemies, and typical combat scenarios?
Yüksel: It’s not easy to say the least especially if you want to reflect the atmosphere to the player in a meaningful way. The advantage we have on this point is that Curse of Anabelle is not a pure horror game. Yes, there are some horror elements in it but our main focus was to make people curious about certain topics and most importantly provide a game that is connected to the storyline and lore with its mechanics. No more or less.
OnlySP: The reveal trailers showcase stunning visual Resident Evil-style graphics with characters using practical tools like a torch and books similar to a Blair Witch style film. Furthermore, the message portrayed within Dr. Watson’s letter and King Solomon’s quote is that knowledge is the only way to defeat the ‘demons’. Why did you decide to create a puzzle and knowledge-based game instead of using weapons and brute force?
Yüksel: In general, players use some kind of weapon in most games today and if you ask me, they all look similar in a wider sense. I wanted something different and conceptualized a combat system that uses ancient mystical books. I don’t want to sound too boring but there is also a short answer for this: the pen is mightier than the sword.
OnlySP: What is an important detail about Curse of Anabelle that no one really picks up on? Will the game have secrets and/or easter eggs that will be easy to miss?
Yüksel: There might be some easter eggs and secrets here and there. I’m sure that keen-eyed players will pick up on them instantly. On the secret side of things; there is nothing that changes the storyline and gameplay but I strongly suggest that players have a pen and paper ready at their side while starting our game.
OnlySP: On the game’s Steam page, you emphasise that the narrative is based upon real-world myths and legends. Could you go into more detail about which myths and legends inspired different aspects of the story, characters, and environments?
Yüksel: There are a lot of references in the game but I’m not sure how many of them you will encounter. There are names, locations, and stories that are written with each element of the game in mind. The cornerstone of our project is the legend of King Solomon and especially his ancient grimoire which is called “The Key of Solomon” and his seal. We did a lot of research about these topics and I think Curse of Anabelle is the first game that dabbles on this subject.
OnlySP: The Curse of Anabelle feature image shows a ‘Grim Reaper’ demon standing behind the protagonist, Nathan, with its bony hand on his shoulder. What can you tell me about this character, and if its relationship with Nathan becomes clear within the game’s narrative?
Yüksel: Really unfortunate things happen to Nathan in our story. What happened to him made us question ourselves again and again, but for this game, he’s the character to pull the heavy load. As for the ‘Grim Reaper’, I define it as an entity that controls the doors between different realms. The players will come across it multiple times and that makes it our main antagonist.
OnlySP: On the Curse of Anabelle website, the game’s title features “by Dr. Watson.” Additionally, the character biography of Dr. Watson reveals that “he is more than meets the eye…” What can you reveal about this intriguing character? How will he shape the narrative and reveal his true nature?
Yüksel: Dr. Watson is a mysterious character that I sneaked into the production and story. You will hear his name many times throughout the story, but you’ll have to finish the game to reveal the secret behind this character. He really is a character that has more than meets the eye considering the story. He is not a character that we spend time actively through the gameplay but I want him to be on our second instalment.
OnlySP: The Curse of Anabelle’s plot largely takes place within a haunted mansion called the Ramsey Mansion. Why did you choose to set the story in a mansion specifically?
Yüksel: I believe that houses, mansions, and castles whatever you call it, have a soul. The possibility of creating a story by using the history of the location, the residents’ past or just the items that lying around really excites me. Like I said before, Rose Red by Stephen King has a big influence on me. I’m sure you will see the similarities when you experience our game.
OnlySP: How did your experiences developing first-person shooter Soldiers of the Universe help you create Curse of Anabelle? Why did you decide to create a classic cult-horror game from a military combat game about fighting terrorism?
Yüksel: Frankly speaking, Soldiers of The Universe was a rapidly developed game that focused around regional conjuncture at the time. Our main goal on that project was to raise awareness about the conflicts in and around our home country. I can say that Curse of Anabelle is truly my first game project with complete creative freedom.
OnlySP: Did Rocwise Entertainment have a strong vision of how the studio wanted the project to look, or did the game that we see in the trailers and demo come about via learning and experimenting with different ideas?
Yüksel: The first notes that I took about Curse of Anabelle dates back to around three years ago. However, throughout the development process, our storyline and gameplay mechanics [have] really expanded. At one point we realized that we bit more than we can chew, so we had to cut some of the features from the game. That’s why we’re planning to develop a sequel with a deeper story and gameplay mechanics.
OnlySP: Can you reveal any details about how long the campaign will be? Will the game feature a linear story, or is it possible to create multiple endings?
Yüksel: Well, depending on your playstyle it takes around 4-5 hours to complete the story, but it varies from player to player. We created the story with a sequel in mind, so it presents linear gameplay, and we used an algorithm to create different experiences for each player. At a certain point in the game, players will come across 4 different doors and depending on the one you choose, you’ll be performing different rituals that refer to different demons by using different crafting items.
OnlySP: In November, you announced on the game’s Kickstarter page that you’re looking for alternative funding sources. What are your plans for finding funding, and will this affect the timeline for a release date?
Yüksel: As a small development studio, financial support is really important for us. Luckily, we don’t see any delays on the horizon at the moment. We will be releasing the Curse of Anabelle in Q1 2020.
OnlySP: Rocwise is listed as a brand under AI company Armoya Interactive. Has this relationship enabled you to input specialist technology into your games or development processes?
Yüksel: Not yet. Of course, we’re working closely with our roof company on many different subjects. Video games are one of these topics and we’re working on some infrastructures but we’re not using it actively as of now.
OnlySP: Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Yüksel: First of all, I’d like to thank you again for the opportunity and thank your readers for their time. We worked really hard on this project and hopefully, we will deliver a great experience to the players. I like creating video games and I’m in love with my work. Fantastic stories and mystical worlds are really interesting to me and like I said I want to create a sequel to Curse of Anabelle but it’s still a long way away. Truth to be told, I’m a sci-fi guy at heart so keep your eyes peeled for a sci-fi project before a sequel for Curse of Anabelle.