Interview: How Cyanide are adapting the Call of Cthulhu RPG to digital form

The horror works of H.P. Lovecraft  have long had an influence in video games, and just about every popular horror title these days contains elements that could be described as "Lovecraftian." The upcoming Call of Cthulhu from Cyanide Studios is an official adaption of the popular pen and paper roleplaying game, long hailed by Lovecraft fans as one of the most authentic ways to experience the author's particular brand of weird fiction and horror in game form. The video game will see players guiding protagonist Edward Pierce as he investigates multiple interconnected mysteries on Darkwater Island, and early looks at the game make it seem less like traditional survival horror and more in keeping with the investigation aspect of the tabletop Call of Cthulhu game. 

For more insight on what we can expect from Call of Cthulhu, we reached out with some questions for the developers at Cyanide Studio. Answers were provided by Jean-Marc Gueney, the Lead Game Designer on the title. 

GameCrate: What sorts of players will your Call of Cthulhu game appeal to? Is it necessary to already be a Lovecraft fan to enjoy it?

Jean-Marc Gueney: We want Call of Cthulhu to be enjoyable for everyone, not just Lovecraft fans. That said, this is very much a Lovecraft-style experience, with a degree of psychological, cosmic horror you’d expect from the author’s work, so players should be prepared!

GC: What’s the toughest part about adopting the Call of Cthulhu RPG to a video game?

JMG: During development of the game, we were very focused on keeping the setting and pace of a Lovecraft novel. This can be challenging, as this style doesn't always suit the expectations of a video game’s storytelling.

GC: What makes your game different from Lovecraft-inspired games we have seen before?

JMG: I think the biggest difference in how we’ve worked to be extremely faithful to the Lovecraft universe in just about every aspect. We worked with Mark Morrison, a Lovecraft expert and talented writer for Chaosium’s pen and paper RPG. This helped ensure we had the story narrated well and an authentic RPG feeling.

GC: What can you tell us about the game’s sanity and psychosis mechanics?

JMG: The SAN is mostly a narrative element. As the story advances, your SAN can only go down. Depending on the SAN level, our hero will experience and see different things, real or not. The psychosis works differently. When the character is in a place that reminds them of what originally caused their psychosis to first appear, they will suffer terror that can lead them to collapse or even die.

GC: Will the skills and abilities in the game be the same as those found in the pen and paper RPG?

JMG: As our game is the official adaptation of the pen and paper RPG, we use many elements of it. We chose some of the skills and use roughly the same game system. There are, of course, adaptations that have been made though.

GC: Does the game borrow story elements directly from Lovecraft, are they included as Easter Eggs, or is everything totally original? In other words, am I going to be able to experience stories like The Rats in the Walls or The Picture in the House first-hand?

JMG: Mark Morrison wrote our story and it's a totally original one. Of course, we do have some references to the novels. The story is absolutely in the vein of the same Lovecraft universe fans know and love.

GC: Can you give us a sense of how meaningful your choices are in the game? How different of an experience can two different players have?

JMG: The choices players make during their investigation will impact relationships with NPCs – companions and otherwise - as well as what clues they can gather. This will have consequences for how they will solve the mystery around Darkwater, the island where our game takes place, and even the climax of the investigation.

GC: What are the specific Lovecraft stories (or Call of Cthulhu questlines) that influenced this game the most?

JMG: Our original story has been influenced in particular by novels like The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Dunwich Horror and, of course, The Call of Cthulhu.

GC: What are your biggest non-Lovecraft influences?

JMG: We have many influences among video games (Dark Corners of the Earth, The Evil Within) and movies (In the Mouth of Madness).

Call of Cthulhu has a targeted release date of 2017 according to the game's website, and will be coming to consoles and PC.