Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with members of Daily Magic Productions’ various development teams about the sequels to their hit brands. One thing has popped up consistently throughout the interviews: Daily Magic’s desire to move their titles in a darker, more mature direction. This idea came up when work began on a fifth series, codenamed “Secrets in the Walls.” Over the course of 12 months, this title would develop into something that Daily Magic hasn’t touched on previously, and, despite being toned down from the original concept, the dark core of the new series will remain throughout. Now named Harrowed Halls, Daily Magic’s new series will be more visually realistic, scary, and unsettling, all thanks to the efforts of a team revitalized by an exciting new style.
Harrowed Halls: Lakeview Lane is the result of two members of Daily Magic coming together with a task: to create a new series that would heavily differentiate itself from the rest of the company’s portfolio. After several years with Daily Magic, the Lead Concept Artist took the opportunity to lay out his vision for a horror game that focuses on scares and terrifying visuals instead of thrills and set pieces. The artist spoke at length with the Project Lead about the best examples of horror, what a lot of HOPA titles do right, and what they do wrong. The two worked feverishly to create a core that could be built upon. This led to concept artist Benjamin Widdowson taking on the task of writing the narrative for the game he was envisioning. As a huge fan of the horror film and game genres, much of Ben’s skillset lies in creating a stress-filled atmosphere and uncomfortable mood with his environments.
“From an early age, I was fascinated by horror films like Poltergeist and John Carpenter’s The Thing,” Ben says. “Halloween easily became my favorite holiday, and even my favorite children’s book was about a haunted house. But it wasn’t until I saw the original Japanese Ringu that I completely fell in love with the presentation and style of Japanese horror. There is a slow burn and agonizing heaviness that the best Japanese writers and directors get right that most American books and films simply miss. It’s especially obvious in the Ju-On movies and older films like Ugetsu. That’s what I wanted to get across the most in Harrowed Halls – a sort of ‘pay-off’ to seeing a ghost and an almost poetic explanation for each of them.” He points out how pacing and holding camera angles in a single direction can totally unnerve a viewer. “Unfortunately, a lot of these ideas don’t translate particularly well to a HOPA title, so I had to think… How could I get that idea across in flat 2-D visuals and game play? Much of the stuff I worked on changed throughout development, but I think the core is still there. It’s a heart that the whole game is built upon. Harrowed Halls is like a child I’m sending to school for the first time – I’m nervous, but I really look forward to hearing feedback and applying that to future games in this series.”
“Working with someone who is so excited about a concept on a personal level really riles up the whole team. That person can act like a battery for everyone, even when the game is almost finished – they just have the energy we need every now and then.”
The Project Lead and artists were similarly excited and fascinated by the project. They were too busy for direct interviews, but the Project Lead sent us some thoughts. “Working with someone who is so excited about a concept on a personal level really riles up the whole team. That person can act like a battery for everyone, even when the game is almost finished – they just have the energy we need every now and then. I think that’s what led to the decision to shift our titles into a more mature visual direction. We saw how the artists and animators got excited finding ways to scare each other and build a really creepy atmosphere into the game.”
It was clear that everyone was invested in the development of Harrowed Halls in a way that was new and exciting. Dry-erase boards were filled with notes, and employees were all talking about which horror movie, book, or game had the coolest way to show off a ghost. The game designers were able to build off of that momentum, using notes from the artists and coders to create unique and exciting new game-play devices.
Everyone at Daily Magic is waiting with bated breath to see how players will react to Harrowed Halls. They know they have a hit on their hands and are so excited for you to witness the horror at Lakeview Lane!