Highlands, Deep Waters [Released]

horror
gender-choice
adult-fiction

#1

Highlands, Deep Waters is a Lovecraftian Noir interactive novel. You will be able to craft your own story while investigating an occult-related crime in a fictional Scottish small town.

Many sources served as inspiration for this game, notably the works of H.P. Lovecraft (The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Horror at Red Hook) and Alan Moore (From Hell, Neonomicon, The Courtyard). Related works are also the American television series Twin Peaks and True Detective.

The game has around 340k words.

@Nerull and I started this project in May 2016 and finished writing it in January 2017. Since the first time we posted about this game, we’ve been producing new content, fixing bugs/typos and seeking improvements. We’ve taken all your posts and answers into consideration and we would like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who contributed in one way or another to the development of the game.

System-wise, we work around a few but crucial stats and mechanics. Not all of them are available for the player to see, but still they have a considerable impact on the storytelling.

Sanity
“We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far.”
― H.P. Lovecraft, The Call of Cthulhu.

Sanity impacts how you perceive the world around you—altering the narrative and the ways you can interact with the environment and with NPCs. Increasingly uncommon choices and weird descriptions arise as you delve deeper into the downward spiral of madness. This can modify your whole game experience, as a sane character will thread a very different path compared with an insane one.

How sane will your character be along the investigation? Can a sane mind grasp the hidden truths?

Deductions
“What one man can invent, another can discover.”
― Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Dancing Men.

Gathering evidence and making deductions is a core element of gameplay. You will follow different paths during the investigation by choosing options from a selected range of hypotheses. What was the murder weapon? Is there something amiss here? If your deduction is correct, you get an insight on the case. If you interpret your clues wrongly, you can be led to dead ends and cold trails, making it harder for you to discover what is really happening in Invernock.

Buddies
“Maybe there aren’t any such things as good friends or bad friends―maybe there are just friends, people who stand by you when you’re hurt and who help you feel not so lonely."
― Stephen King, It.

Perhaps you’re a loner, a solitary person trying to fight back the demons inside your head, but you will have help. The game has a ‘buddy system’ that allows you to interact with characters with their own ambitions, backgrounds and subplots.

Buddies also have archetypes, possessing their own peculiarities and advantages. Will you prefer to have a contact inside the police? Perhaps a person who can tell you about drug routes and chemicals? Or would you be better off with the help of an expert in occultism?

… will your buddy be one of them?

Intrusive thoughts
“Now this is the point. You fancy me a mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded…”
― Edgar Allan Poe, The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings.

Is your reality real? Can you trust the descriptions you read? Intrusive thoughts arise according to how the player decides to deal with the unfounded suspicions and paranoia he/she might stumble upon during the investigation. Intrusive thoughts get more and more frequent as Sanity lowers.

There are three Archetypes that outline the background of your character and the details he/she might perceive or comment on: the Detective, the Criminal and the Scholar. Each one unlocks a singular range of possibilities on how to approach some situations. Many in-game descriptions are only seen by specific Archetypes.

The Detective may perceive some details others wouldn’t. This insightful Archetype has experience in questioning suspects and has a considerable knowledge regarding police procedures and crime scene investigation.

The Criminal is familiar with the darkest corners of the streets. This resourceful Archetype is more capable of intimidating and fighting NPCs, identifying drugs and chemical substances and dealing with shady figures.

The Scholar can recognise and interpret deeper knowledge. This wise Archetype excels in analysing occult symbols, tomes and forgotten grimoires. Although lacking the social skills of the previous Archetypes, the Scholar is many steps closer to the hidden truths.

The narrative takes place in Invernock, a fictitional small town in Scotland. Real-world towns and cities can be accessed along the story, such as the isolated Fort William and the cosmopolitan Glasgow. The time span of this interactive novel ranges from 2006, when a private investigator deals with the aftermath of a bizarre murder case, to 2016, when the main story actually unfolds.

@Nerull, my co-worker, is really passionate about detective stories, has a Medical Science degree and is currently a fifth-year medical student. He also has a paper published on blood spatter analysis and spends most of his free time making believable crime scenes for his RPG groups or short stories. That helps us to bring some authenticity to the forensic elements of the game.

We chose Scotland as a setting for many reasons, but mainly due the fact that he lived there for about a year and started working on his blood spatter project at the same time, making small trips just to take pictures that would serve as reference to places in the game.

We think Scotland is quite a peculiar setting and it really fits our intentions. There are many elements of Scotland’s geography, history and culture that were just begging to be used, and these elements fit really well in the genre we are working on.

We have a small website and you can also like us on Facebook!

As mentioned earlier, we have been inspired by works like The Courtyard, Neonomicon and the works of H.P Lovecraft. Some games also helped us in adapting the game mechanics, like Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines, Sherlock Holmes: Crime & Punishment and This Is the Police.

Our intention is to prioritise the roleplaying experience above all else, giving the player the opportunity to solve the problems the way he/she feels more comfortable with and to create many unique branches that can cause butterfly-effects consequences along the narrative.


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#2

Firstly can I say, amazing concept and writing so far, you’ve really done some great work and I’m looking forward to reading this deeply.

Just had a look before I got in too deep, and one thing I thought I might comment on was the relative opaqueness of the archetype selection. I initially thought there were only three, criminal, detective and scholar but each of those have their own sub-types as well, which wasn’t made clear. Some content discussing how they vary might be good, but that’s just from me. I understand this is a mystery game, so you might want to keep things mysterious, I’m not sure if your intention. You made it clear this was less about playing around with fifty different skills, so I figured knowing specifically about each sub-type might not factor in your plan. But I do like knowing specifically what my choices in regards to archetypes classes are doing, which in the current form seem a bit like guess work. Sorry, was that clear? Anyway, this is great, thanks for a good read so far!


#3

Got this line after grabbing a drink from the bartender.


#4

Thank you for your feedback. That was quick!

I totally agree with you on the sense that I, as a player, also value very much knowing the impact of my choices. I’m the kind of guy who takes a lot of time picking my choices when I’m building a character to roleplay with.

That being said, I must acknowledge that the original intention on giving “sub-archetypes” was quite simple.

At the beginning, we worked around the idea of the three Archetypes as being “Private Investigator”, “Lawbreaker” and “Bookworm.” From the start, I thought that maybe some players wouldn’t like being called “Lawbreakers” or “Bookworms”, seeing that in my opinion those could be a perceived as pejorative terms.

Then came the idea of letting the player choose how he wanted to be called. So you choose an Archetype at the beginning, during the dream sequence. Later on, during your conversation with Alexander, you might decide to be called something else inside the possibilities given by your Archetype.

It’s there just to add some flavour to the game, but you can also be called by it at some point. There’s even the option, if you choose Bookworm/Scholar, to avoid correcting Alexander’s assumptions and keep him thinking that you see yourself as some some kind of medium.

Anyway, that is certainly something that we can work on, or at least make more evident to the player.

Thanks again for it!


#5

Never thought I’d see a Lovecraft game. Looking forward to it!


#6

Boy, that’s embarrassing.

I actually forgot to set the variable true there. I fixed it now and I’m updating the files on the dropbox.

To be honest, the prologue was the hardest part to work with because of some wrong assumptions that I had on designing the game, mostly about having to keep all in one .txt.

We eventually moved past this and started doing things more efficiently. It’s a lot easier dealing with the great number of variables now.

Anyway, thank you for reporting it! Don’t know how that one got through, but I’m glad you noticed it and we got to fix it.


#7

I’m so proud of myself for getting the deduction right on the first try! I’m usually not very good at these games so that was a surprise to me.

I quite like the writing, the dialogue is very smooth. The stutters and the trailing sentences really add to the atmosphere-- clearly no one knows what to make of things. The murder mystery itself is very intriguing! I understand there’s going to be some horror elements to this game, but even if it was simply an investigation, I think I’d be enthralled. I read every bit of evidence I could get my hand on and thought it all over.

I got an error when I tried to pump the bartender for information. “startup line 5066: Invalid expression, couldn’t extract another token: ?” Also! When I was interviewing the neighbor it allowed me to ask her if she’d known the body was moved infinitely. I’m not sure if it was your intention to allow us to ask the same question several times, or if a *hide_reuse was needed.

It was really lovely, though! I look forward to playing it again when I’m not trying to sleep.


#8

Just played through it… and I got my head smashed in with a sledgehammer. :frowning:


#9

Thanks so much for the feedback!

I think I found out the error you mentioned: it is something that the quickest didn’t showed, a variable regarding whether you kept drinking on your first night on Invernock or not wasn’t being properly tested. I fixed it now.

About the horror elements, they are really subtle on the prologue. We tried not to put anything there that we couldn’t explain somehow.

Also, about the possibility of repeating the same questions, you’re right, it is lacking a *hide_reuse there. There are very few situations on the game where you can repeat the same questions. This gets a bit tricky because of the way I handled some of the most complex interactions in the prologue, and I’m manually fixing that with time.


#10

There was a bit of an odd moment where I picked the PI backstory and was talking to the policewoman - Olivia - who gave me the case… and was all of a sudden I was on the phone with a male drug dealer named Robert. :scream: I wasn’t paying too much attention to the lines so I missed if my character hung up and called him or if it just suddenly jumped from one character to the other. :sweat:


#11

All right. That is strange. I thought I’d fixed that.

We use Google Drive to work on the same files and sometime strange things happen. This specific interaction with your “buddy” if you have the Archetype “Private Investigator”, is a conversation with Sgt Olivia. Robert is the “buddy” of the Lawbreaker Archetype.

(On the prologue, you only have one “buddy” per Archetype. So yeah, you shouldn’t talk to him.)

So it is indeed a bug. It is probably jumping from one label to another like it was before. Might I ask what was the gender of your character? It will help me locate it

I’ll look into it right now.

EDIT: I found it. It was the male version of the conversation.

I think I’ve fixed it now.

Thanks so much for reporting it!


#12

Found this:

The most likely scenario points out to Mr MacLeod as the killer of her wife, a homicide followed by a suicide.


#13

Thank you! I’m fixing it right now.


#14

A detective Lovecraftian story sounds awesome.


#15

My character was female. Another odd thing was that despite me picking the cop backstory, when I was picking the “character vice” (alcohol, cigarettes, etc) one of the options was to more or less recreate one of the scenes from Scarface… which wouldn’t exactly make sense for a cop unless she was dirty.

I’m curious… given the Lovecraftian setting, will we be presented with the option to join a cult?


#16

Ah, so this is like a Call of Cthulhu style choice game? Never played a game of Call of Cthulhu myself, but it’s always interested me so this should be fun!


#17

A lovecraftian type one… Feel like I’m going to love this


#18

Right, so I like Lovecraft so much I liked this post before reading it just to thank you for making the attempt. After reading it I wish I could like it again.

You managed to write in a very believable Lovecraft voice but with a more modern feel. It still had the gritty sense of paranoia and doom, but without the opaque language and old time racism.

I obviously very much enjoyed this game, however there were a few places where the search for clues seemed to get out of sequence. For example when I got to the murder scene I first examined where the man was found. While doing so I commented on the state of the door lock. Which I had no way of knowing as I hadn’t seen it yet. Later when I called the man who hired me I had the option to tell him the address of the final house, despite not yet finding that clue. And finally when I did get to said house I chose to check the garden only to suddenly find myself already inside the house.

If it helps find these bugs I was playing as a male scholar.


#19

Fallen London anybody?


Joking aside, I like the idea, and I’m off to play the demo.


#20

was this inspired b by lovecrafts “shadow over innsmouth”?