UPDATE: ASHLY BURCH and FELICIA DAY will be joining the cast of Masquerada!
A huge THANK YOU to everyone for your support and getting this project funded! We’ve got a little time left so we’re rolling out a few stretch goals we had sitting on the table. Now let’s try to get these unlocked for an even greater Masquerada!
We’re Witching Hour Studios, and we’re stoked to present you with our upcoming tactical action RPG featuring pausable real-time combat, headed to Steam (PC/Mac) and PlayStation 4.
We’ll refresh the content of the demo halfway through the campaign, so do check out the one listed above while it's still available!
Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is a colorfully grim song of masked deception, set amid a Venetian-inspired city haunted by the shadows of civil war, misplaced faith and fey manifestations.
What is a mask? A craftsman would say it beautifies the sight of the human face. A criminal desires the mask for what it conceals: identity, intention, capability. But a mask is more than what we wear. We put up masks around our hearts so none may see what capabilities and intentions - for honour, for faith, for betrayal - lie within.
In the world of Masquerada, masks are all that, and much more. The masks, now powerful artifacts which are known as Mascherines, bring out the innate destructive capabilities of man into reality. With a Mascherine, the everyman can channel nature’s elements into deadly magic.
Now, magic isn’t just a game for spellcasters. Every battle in Masquerada will be a dance of steel and spells, where players set the pace. Feel the need to pause combat every few ticks and exert granular control over your party members’ positioning? Sure. Or think you’ve got the skills to dive in a la Diablo and set up crowd control in real time? Have it your way.
Our myriad inspirations for Masquerada are owed to superlative, genre-defining titles like Baldur’s Gate, Dragon Age, Transistor, and much more.
(Proper Nouns are coming. You’ve been warned.)
In the turmoil-ridden Citte della Ombre, religion holds no sway. Only the songs sung of one’s deeds will carry an Ombrian’s legacy beyond death. Those who hold even the smallest morsel of power will make every effort to ensure their songs live on.
Thus have the Mascherines become the cornerstone of a culture of class warfare between the power-hungry guildsmen known as the Masquerada and the impoverished lower classes, the Contadani.
Five years ago, the War of Bearings descended upon Ombre. Ignited by Contadani rebels who had stolen Mascherines from the Masquerada, the war was severe and the scars of mistrust it drew across the Citte remain today.
One who bears the heaviest of scars is our protagonist, Cicero Gavar – one of Ombre’s finest sleuths with a deeply haunted past. Originally banished for war crimes against the state, Cicero has been brought back from exile to solve the kidnapping of the diplomat Razitof Azrus.
During Cicero’s investigation, other members of the Masquerada will join his party with ulterior motives, each of them unable to trust in their fellow men and women within this culture of deception. As they discover a darker conspiracy lurking in the shadows, their faith will be tested to its limits.
We’re making a game about battles where flutists bend wind to their will and war dancers kick up earthquakes, but Masquerada isn’t just a pretty face in combat.
Players will bring in Cicero and two companions into every battle, each equipped with their own combat styles and magic. You can control one character at any given time while an AI partner drives the other companions. Pause combat at any time, and plan out the next few seconds of combat with precise positioning of your party:
Or, for the more cocksure amongst you, engage every battle like you’re playing at the frenetic pace of a MOBA, planning be damned:
Magic wouldn’t be magic if it couldn’t be used for crowd control or to inflict debuffs! Cicero and his companions have a variety of spells that can directly influence enemy movement and positioning, forcing opponents into an undesirable corner.
Elemental spells can also be cast in succession to leverage element-based status effects, like blinding smog or a debilitating cloud of steam. For example, an earth spell inflicts an enemy with an earth elemental tag, which can be triggered by a water spell to ensnare the enemy in show-stopping mud.
There are three main combat forms on the battlefields that offer differentiated selection of skills: the roguish Sicario, the monolithic Pavisierre, and the bardic Dirge. Each of Cicero’s companions specializes in one of these stances in combination with a specific element, while Cicero himself is able to choose his own element and swap between the stances at will. We’ll be finely tuning Masquerada’s combat systems such that players can experiment with different combinations of companion skills to find something that rewards their play style!
Let’s get this out there: We’ve eschewed an inventory system. Masquerada isn’t meant to be a loot fest like Diablo. We aimed to create an experience that meaningfully balances deep combat mechanics with a haunting narrative. We don’t want you distracted by the grind for a +10 Sword of A Thousand Truths.
That said, every character still carries a signature weapon that can be upgraded with sigil engravings and ink patterning, which improves weapon strength and provide buffs to existing skills and magic. You’ll want to explore the vast hand-drawn environments that Cicero and team investigate, if you hope to find new sigils and plant inks!
There are more features we’ll be highlighting throughout the course of our Kickstarter campaign, so stay tuned to our updates!
When we decided Masquerada was to be a narrative experience with a deeply dramatic and emotional core, we pulled together everything we had to bring on the very best voice talents we could get our hands on. Working with heavyweights like Matthew Mercer, Dave Fennoy and Jennifer Hale has been an absolute dream! Have a gander at our shortlist of the main cast:
We would be remiss if we didn’t give a shoutout to our brilliant voice director, Michael Csurics of The Brightskull Entertainment Group, who assembled the amazing cast and engineered, well, everything voice-related. Hats off to you and your team, Michael.
The wellspring of colours and 2D linework that you see in the environments of Masquerada are the hallmark of French comic books, reflecting the influences of renowned artists such Moebius and Hergé (the creator of the Adventures of Tintin). We want every instance of the game, whether in battle or in dialogue, to feel like the player could print-screen and land themselves a beautiful illustration anytime.
Of course, the game must absolutely move as well as it looks in still life. We’ve invested a great deal of time into crafting a painterly 3D character animation style that harkens to both the golden age of Disney character animation and the iconic works of Don Bluth. We’d love for Masquerada to be played 10 years from now and have its timeless aesthetic still remain gorgeous.
We have the inimitable Josh Whelchel as the composer on the soundtrack of Masquerada! Songs being as vital as they are to the culture of Citte della Ombre, we needed someone who could do justice to the complexities and drama of this world we built. Josh previously worked with us on the soundtrack for Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion and he has also composed for games like Oblitus and Mojang’s Scrolls to mention a few. Have a listen to a selection of his OST:
Backing up Josh with ethereal vocals on the trailer track “Broken Clay” is our homegirl, singer-songwriter iNCH. She’s been showcased twice at the South by Southwest music festival and we couldn’t be happier to have her contributing to Masquerada’s tapestry of music!
Last but not least, another shoutout to our trusty audio crew at IMBA Interactive, who are responsible for balancing the complex soundscape of Masquerada. Between the voice acting, the sweeping soundtrack, and a whole boatload of mood-specific sound effects for the flora and fauna of Ombre, they have a huge task on their hands, and all we can say is, they’re incredible at it. Put on a good pair of headphones when you try the demo of Masquerada and you’ll see what we mean!
Now you’ve read all these wonderful things about our ambitious little RPG, and might be chomping at the bit to back our campaign. But you’re probably wondering: other than the game, what the heck do you get for chipping in?
Well, we’re making the basic game available at a 20% discount from our intended retail price. However, we think you’d much prefer LIMITED EDITION rewards to sink your teeth into. Some of these rewards will never be produced again. A very limited quantity of these rewards will even be signed by the cast! All of these will be exclusive for people who helped us out in our time of need. Yes, that means no Slacker Backer type of schemes.
Here's a detailed look at each individual reward:
The masterfully written original score and soundtrack of Masquerada with over 2 hours of listening pleasure.
A book packed with pages of the vibrant art of Masquerada layered next to excerpts of the game’s narrative script.
A handsome fully hand-painted poster from our lead artist, specially designed for this Kickstarter campaign.
A flash drive branded with the sigil of the Registry, the organization that governs Ombre. Comes pre-loaded with the following:
- A DRM-free copy of Masquerada: Songs & Shadows
- A digital copy of the Masquerada Soundtrack
- A digital copy of the Masquerada Artbook
- A digital, high-resolution copy of our Kickstarter Special Poster
An intricately sculpted, 10 cm (approximately 4”) tall figure of Cicero Gavar. Dynamically posed and ready to take on whatever cursed Fey lie lurking in the shadows of your desk.
A life-sized mask modelled after the very same Mascherine that Cicero dons in our cinematic introduction. The pièce de résistance of all our physical rewards, the mask will be produced just around 18 cm (approximately 7”) in height. Spells and abilities not included.
Now here's a look at the Reward Tiers we have to offer:
NOTE: All rewards tiers will receive their copy of Masquerada: Songs & Shadows as a digital downloadable version of the game via a Steam (PC/Mac) key or a PSN code.
The team at Witching Hour Studios, hailing from the sunny island state of Singapore, are a diverse bunch. Our nutty family of 15 artists, programmers and designers led by Creative Director, Ian Gregory, have been hauling butt together for nearly six years now, working on RPG and strategy games that we hope have delivered on our core principles of thoughtful gameplay mechanics combined with meaningful storytelling and worldbuilding. If you’d like, check out our previous work on Ravenmark: Scourge of Estellion or Romans In My Carpet!
We aren’t your usual rogue’s gallery of ex-AAA game developers. We may not have double-digit man-years of game making experience. What does matter is that we would like to prove you don’t need all that to make an incredible game! Hopefully what you’ve seen here gives you a sense of our dedication and our vision.
We’re in the final stages of production for Masquerada, and we’re hauling ass right now to finish the game. In fact, we could release the game next month after telling you all these awesome things about it. Nobody would be more eager than us to push the game out right now so we can actually relax for a bit after 2 years of grueling work.
However, eagerness does not equate to satisfaction. We could release the game next month, but we would not be satisfied with the final product. It’s like giving up on a personal best in the gym just because you’re really exhausted. Problem is, we don’t directly have the means to keep on working on the game.
Back in 2014, we signed a publishing partnership with Ysbryd Games to secure a funding warchest for the development of Masquerada that basically lasts until April 2016 (i.e. end of this month). Of course, because we don’t have the financial means to continue beyond April, we asked Ysbryd for a bit more to see us through this period of extra refinement. Unfortunately, even their hands were tied with respect to further funding. But they are helping us push out this Kickstarter, and now we need your help!
It’s famously said in game development that the last 20% of production is the last 80%. We will work our bones off if we can grasp the chance to make the game feel exactly as we envisioned it. Our target funding keeps the lights on and feeds people for another three months so we can pour ourselves into this final stretch.
With your money, we’re going to continue iterating on the hundreds of combat encounters in the game to ensure they are balanced in a deeply satisfactory way for all skill and character configurations. And we’re going to throw more tweaks and layers at our visuals, so that things don’t just shine, they’ll be eye-popping. (Well, ours might literally pop so that yours does figuratively. Just saying.)
Oh, before we forget. This Kickstarter campaign gives us a chance to put together physical rewards like what you've seen above! We love games and we’re even more manic about quality collectibles, so the opportunity to create and share tangible tokens from Masquerada’s world with you is really special. Naturally, a significant portion of what we raise will go towards the manufacturing and distribution of our pledge rewards.
Here’s a chart detailing what we’ll be doing with the funds we receive:
Risks and challenges
Game development is a challenging endeavour we’ve become well familiar with over the last five years at Witching Hour Studios. With practically every new project we’ve undertaken, we've bitten into an apple that’s far more ambitious than what came previously.
Having come this far with Masquerada, we can assure you that the game is feature complete and primarily needs QA testing. Again, we could launch the game next month if we so desired. There is practically no risk that would impede the eventual release of Masquerada on Steam by the end of the summer, short of a force majeure situation where our office AND our off-site backup are simultaneously carpet bombed.
That brings us to the main issue of why we’re on Kickstarter – giving us enough time to polish the game and make it as perfect as we can. The biggest risk to you, the potential Masquerada audience, is that you get a game that delivers less than its full potential. If our campaign is successful, everyone gets what they want! (Except those people who want Half-Life 3.)
We could launch on Early Access, but we feel that isn’t the right venue for singleplayer RPGs. The RPG audience deserves an experience that’s been tweaked and fine-tuned to perfection; you don’t deserve to be guinea pigs. That would be more of a risk than asking you to pledge money to us.
Having said all of that, we’re determined to share Masquerada with the world, and we will figure out a way to ensure our labour of love is completed to our heart’s desire, one way or another. We have faith!
- (14 days)