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Explore the House, a parasite dimension of cities and secrets. A nonlinear exploration RPG for PC, packed with story and lore.
Explore the House, a parasite dimension of cities and secrets. A nonlinear exploration RPG for PC, packed with story and lore.
Explore the House, a parasite dimension of cities and secrets. A nonlinear exploration RPG for PC, packed with story and lore.
1,103 backers pledged £12,866 to help bring this project to life.

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A House of Many Doors - an exploration RPG

£12,866

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** Last 24 hours! **

Check out my updates here and here for a word on stretch goals and a taste of what we're able to do with the extra funds! Long story short: The game is going to be completely visually transformed, thanks to your generosity. Thank you!

The City of Knives. A city ruled by alchemists and assassins, guarded by golems, and bisected by a river of poison. Art by Catherine Unger.
The City of Knives. A city ruled by alchemists and assassins, guarded by golems, and bisected by a river of poison. Art by Catherine Unger.

"I scuttle nervously into the darkness. I've been commissioned to write an article on current affairs in the Chimeric Empire. I suppose if some horrific event befalls me, I can use it as fodder for my next poem. Provided I survive..."

A House of Many Doors is a 2D exploration RPG coming to PC in July next year. I want to make the kind of game I love to play: a game with narrative depth, compelling characters, and branching, nonlinear storylines.

In A House of Many Doors you are an explorer, poet and spy, traversing and mapping the House – a vast parasite dimension that steals from other worlds.

You explore the House in a clanking train with mechanical legs. You will discover bizarre civilizations, assemble a dysfunctional crew and level up your poetry, while clinging to life and sanity.

I've already spent nine months developing A House of Many Doors, so I have a good idea of how much longer I need to complete it. The bulk of the programming is done, and the blueprints have been drawn. Now I just need time to build a House on that foundation.

Not convinced? Why not try out the early pre-alpha demo?

My influences include Sunless Sea, FTL, Planescape: Torment, the works of China Mieville and H.P. Lovecraft, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, and that feeling you get when you're very alone in a big dark house.

The further you travel, the stranger the things you find.
The further you travel, the stranger the things you find.

In A House of Many Doors, your main quest is to find an answer to one of three questions. What is the House's purpose? Who built it? And how can you escape?

But that's just the main quest, and it's only the beginning. Your irons will be in many fires.

Bandits and other predators will chase you down in the darkness.
Bandits and other predators will chase you down in the darkness.

I want you to feel like a particular type of 19th-century polymath - a Richard Francis Burton or a Gertrude Bell. An absurd figure with absurd talents who propels themselves confidently into absurdly terrifying situations. 

In the game you are both a journalist and a poet, and each of those careers comes with its own challenges to face throughout the game. The poems you write are procedurally-generated, and over time you will build up a proud canon of stirring titles: "The Troglodyte Vomiting of the Mirrors," "An Elegy on the Reluctant Hell of Grief," "Ode to the Strangling Toad." Your poems and travelogues are your route to fame and fortune.

A procedurally-generated poem.
A procedurally-generated poem.

And of course anyone who travels to distant civilizations is going to be in high demand in the game of whispers. Play the espionage game well enough, and you might change the course of history.

The City of Keys. Dominated by an enigmatic Governor and a looming Factory only tenuously connected to reality. Art by Catherine Unger.
The City of Keys. Dominated by an enigmatic Governor and a looming Factory only tenuously connected to reality. Art by Catherine Unger.

 As you explore the House, you will journey through a labyrinth of procedurally-generated architecture. 

 It's not all procedural generation, though - your Navigator will guide you towards rooms in which you'll discover carefully-designed areas of interactive narrative. 

These rooms are packed with quests, stories and lore - by "lore" I mean the House's intricate history, ancient secrets and complex politics, much of which will lurk below the surface and only be revealed in hints and half-truths. In these cavernous rooms you might find cities or ruins or ten-mile-high abomination gods made of inexpertly conjoined crows. 

The adventures you'll have there are accompanied by the wonderful artwork of Catherine Unger. 

In these rooms you tackle side-quests, gather resources, and plot intrigues before launching yourself once more into the dark.

Augustus Ribbins: just one of the Pilots you can recruit. Art by Catherine Unger.
Augustus Ribbins: just one of the Pilots you can recruit. Art by Catherine Unger.

A House of Many Doors focuses heavily on its characters. You recruit a rag-tag bunch of dysfunctional souls to accompany you on your expedition, and each of them has a secret or not-so-secret agenda. You must talk to them, build their morale, and uncover their secrets, if you hope to keep them both loyal and alive.

There will be dozens of characters to choose from, each with tons of dialogue and a well-defined arc - which can be abruptly cut short.

Death comes easy in the House, and the attachments you have formed with your crew will be at risk every time you fight. A character's storyline won't necessarily end if they're killed in combat, but it will certainly change to reflect their death. And you may well have lost a friend.

Exchanging artillery fire with another train.
Exchanging artillery fire with another train.

Combat is a real-time-with-pause system which relies on careful management of both your crew's placement in the train and the distance between you and the enemy. 

It is generally a last resort - even after upgrading your kinetopede with powerful weapons and a thick hull, you should never expect to escape a battle unscathed. 

The other vehicles you encounter within the House will be as bizarre and varied as the civilizations themselves - biomechanical flesh-wagons, gigantic beetles, the hollowed corpses of gods. That's just the start.

So what will I use your money for? What made me choose the £4000 target?

The £4000 will go towards a fantastic, atmospheric soundtrack - which is hugely important in a game that involves a lot of exploration - and to fund art by Catherine Unger, who has agreed to draw all the game's illustrations. 

The rest of the funding for her art will come from my savings - unless this Kickstarter exceeds its target, in which case extra funds will go towards extra artwork!

You might wonder, given the above budget, how I’m going to be able to work on this game full-time for the next year. I’m very pleased to announce that Failbetter Games, the indie studio behind Fallen London and Sunless Sea, have agreed to partially fund the creation of my game! Their funding will be enough to pay for all the writing and coding - a.k.a my living costs for 10 months - meaning your money will only be going towards extremely cool art and lovely music!

Here’s a pie chart:

 (This is why I need an artist.)

I'm seeding the House with dozens and dozens of hand-designed rooms - gems of narrative carefully scattered through a procedurally-generated world. The game is currently able to generate over 1 million rooms, each of them unique, but the hand-designed rooms risk getting lost if the number available is not limited. So, on release, there will be approximately 40,000 rooms to explore. This limit not only leads to a balanced experience, but also means I have the ability to add more rooms with ease. Unless the game fails this Kickstarter, or is a total commercial failure, I plan to continue to add new rooms and settings to the House as new ideas come to me.  

The game you play on release will be a complete game. But new content will constantly be added. New places to discover. New characters. Established content will be deepened. More and more branches will be added to existing storylines.

For £5 now, you could have access to a game that will continue growing for years to come. And of course, I'll maintain my dev log all the while!

Risks and challenges

Functionally, the game's code is nearly complete, bar some polishing. The only thing missing now is breadth: almost all of the systems are in place. Of course, for an exploration-focused RPG, breadth is extremely important!

I've done enough work on the game, however, to know how long it will take to add the content I've planned. And my July deadline for release is based on a pessimistic estimate - bar some kind of personal disaster, I'm not worried about missing it.

Here are the main risks or problems I can foresee:

1) Feature Creep. If the game is commercially successful, I want to continue to update the game with free content, 'expanding' the House after release. But I mustn't do this during the development process! ‘Feature creep' is a notorious problem in game development, and if I fall prey to it I might slip behind schedule. The fact that I'm aware of this risk will help to mitigate it - I just need to ensure that I stick to my plans, which are already ambitious enough.

2) Data Loss. Losing data to corruption, burglary, or some other minor disaster has the potential to set the project back a great deal. To mitigate this risk, I’m making regular back-ups online, as well as regular back-ups to a laptop and 4 different external USB devices.

3) Compatibility. I've been testing the game on various different machines, from gaming rigs to laptops, and I've already found several problems only appearing on one machine that I've had to iron out. Towards the end of the development cycle, this could end up eating a lot more of my time than anticipated. To mitigate this risk, I've allotted a very generous period of time for facing this challenge in my schedule.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge £1 or more About $1.54

    VISITANT - Thank you! You will receive my everlasting gratitude and goodwill.

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    Pledge £5 or more About $8

    KEYBEARER - Receive a digital copy of the game on launch day in July 2016. PLUS: DELIGHT as your name is forever enshrined in the game's credits.

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    Pledge £8 or more About $12

    SCHOLAR INCARNATE - The previous reward is included, plus a unique backer-only 'Making of' PDF! This will be full of behind-the-scenes info on making the game, along with original lore, exclusive artwork, letters, short stories and other enticing tidbits!

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    Pledge £12 or more About $18

    MATRON - All previous rewards are included, plus access to the pre-release game in alpha and beta stages! Help bring the game into the world and watch it grow!

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    Pledge £15 or more About $23

    POET-KNIGHT - All previous rewards PLUS you will receive a digital copy of the game's soundtrack! Your ears will thank you. Probably. I guess I shouldn't speak on your ears' behalf.

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    Pledge £20 or more About $31

    PARTY SKELETON - All previous rewards PLUS you will have your name carved on an in-game gravestone, with an epitaph of your choice! AND you will be invited to the launch party!

    (Launch party will be somewhere around London, and you'll have to make your own travel arrangements.)

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    Pledge £25 or more About $38

    SHROUDED COUNCILLOR - Just for fun, I'll send you a video in which I thank you personally for your loveliness and - more importantly - reveal the secret to curing hiccups, which has genuinely been passed down through my family for generations. Oh, and all previous rewards, of course!

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    Pledge £30 or more About $46

    GHOUL MINISTER - All previous rewards AND I'll send you a handwritten postcard from one of the areas in the House.

    CHEEKY BONUS: I'll send you a digital copy of the terrible novel I wrote when I was 16 and which should never, ever see the light of day. Some bits of it are good! Most bits of it are bad.

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    Pledge £40 or more About $62

    GHOUL PRIME MINISTER - All previous rewards except GHOUL MINISTER. Instead, with PRIME, I'll send you not just a postcard, but a postcard with a hand-drawn, unique, game-related sketch on it!

    Plus I'll send you the terrible book.

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    Pledge £80 or more About $123

    TRICKSTER - All previous rewards except PARTY SKELETON. Instead of a gravestone, you'll have an entire in-game location named after you!

    You'll still be invited to the party, of course. Not that you need it. If you back at Trickster Tier, you ARE the party.

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    Pledge £100 or more About $154

    GOVERNOR - All previous rewards, and your likeness will be featured as one of the selectable character portraits used to represent your character in-game! This means you'll be able to play the game... as yourself!

    And so will everyone else. Even if they don't know it.

    Contemplate that for a second.

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    Pledge £250 or more About $385

    GOD - Are you finished contemplating? Good. Because God Tier includes all previous rewards. AND you will be able to work with me to design an entire in-game location. You provide a concept, and I'll work with you to make it happen.

    The House is a parasite dimension of infinite klepto-architecture which steals things and people from a billion other worlds. The possibilities are unlimited! Nothing can stop us!

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  13. Reward no longer available

    Pledge £500 or more About $770

    ARCHITECT - Wow, that's a lot of money. What can I even say? Thank you!

    You get all previous rewards, of course. And you'll be listed in the credits as "Associate Producer." But how about this:

    I will work with you to create a character with your face and name. This NPC can join your crew, making them one of the most fully-fleshed characters in the game.

    But lots of Kickstarters offer the whole "face and name" thing. This character will also have your biography! They will *be* you, if you were stolen from Earth by the House. I will work with you to ensure that this NPC is as accurate to you as possible, and their dialogue will reflect exactly what you would say and do if you were transported suddenly and inexplicably to a nightmare dimension!

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Funding period

- (30 days)