How Blowfish Studios crafted this alternate history journey.
Good Evening Good Morning. Oh apologies… I’ve become so used to the standard greeting used by the people of Sundäe, the small Norwegian town that forms the setting for Nine Witches: Family Disruption, coming to PS4 this Friday.
To comply with the protocol of education and good manners, I must first introduce myself. My name is Diego Cánepa and I create video games. I come from the past, from a time when the Atari 2600 reigned the world and arcades were the AAA of the time.
I started working on video games from age 12. My first computer was a Timex Sinclair 1000 with 2 KB of memory. Later, a TI-99 / 4A. And to end the era, the Commodore 64 — before the entire generation of PCs would arrive.
The Commodore 64 brought with it a lot of unique games with previously unknown mechanics, including my favourite genre – Adventure Games. Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken and the Alien Mindbenders, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ultima I, II and III stole all of my attention growing up and grew my desire to create these types of video games and share them with a wider audience.
I have worked in the video game industry as a game designer and creative director for over 25 years. Having designed more than 140 games (web and mobile) and with so many years of experience under my belt, it was finally time to fulfill an old dream: to create my own video game for consoles. One day, I made the decision to begin my career as a freelance developer.
Creating an “indie video game” is something very personal, a purely artistic process. I believed the ideal team to be a team of one – not because of self-centeredness or selfishness, but because it is a creative self-inquiry. My initial idea was that I’d try to do everything myself and form the very core of the game.
The first thing I asked myself was “what things could I do and what not?” In order to define that, I first had to know “what things would the game have and not have?”
Starting from scratch on a team all alone was daunting, but it led to me experimenting and trying many different things that I’d seen within the Adventure Game genre, so I threw all rationality out the window for the time being.
While writing the story I was split, with part of me wanting to be dedicated to the overall creative process, but the other half of me knew I had to make the game work in terms of gameplay and programming. This first stage lasted about ten months, creating several scenarios with strict rules of simplicity, limited characters and some basic adventure mechanics, but almost all of these were left at the prototyping stage.
I’d consumed 60% of my time and resources and all it had left me with was the dilemma: do I continue with what I’ve done so far? Or do I scrap everything and start from the beginning? As Rambo says, “Live for nothing or die for something,” so I set out to start again.
So I threw out all misconceptions of what I thought the game should be and said ‘to hell with it’, ripped off the chains, gave a character hemorrhoids and sought to give the game its own sense of humor and identity. As a clear sign that things were heading in the right direction we had submitted Nine Witches to the Festival Européen du Film Fantastique de Strasbourg (FEFFS) independent video game festival, which to much surprise…. We won!
But all this was taking a toll. Designing a graphic adventure in solitude is complex, incredibly so when set against the backdrop of World War II, aliens and the supernatural! While the game was growing steadily it was clear our team needed more. I sought out legendary game designer and close personal friend Pablo Mamone to join the product. Growing up together in high-school, we shared a love of playing and designing fantastical settings for adventure games.
After spending a further year and half polishing and iterating, adding in more than 40 new interactable characters, having new team members join our team, finding a publishing partner, winning multiple awards and weathering a global pandemic: we’ve made it.
All along the way we’ve not had to compromise our vision, so it is with great joy I can finally welcome you to Sundäe, the small Norwegian town where our story takes place. Join Professor Alexei Krakovitz, a tetraplegic Russian expatriate recognized for his research in the occult sciences who has the ability to speak with the dead and Akiro Kagasawa, his faithful Japanese assistant, as they lift an ancient curse and bring an end to the madness.