Quebec may be considered a massive hub when it comes to video game development, but how many of those games are actually about our Belle Province?
The answer, finally, is one, thanks to South Shore indie Artifice Studio, who are putting the finishing touches on Sang-Froid: Tales of Werewolves, a beast-trapping tower defence game that takes place in 1858 Quebec. The six-person studio, made up of ex-EA Montreal employees, has been working on it (and paying for its development without any backers) for three years, and plan on releasing it in a few months.
Sang-Froid is largely split into two parts: day and night. During the day, bed-ridden clairvoyant Josephine O’Carroll receives premonitions about impending werewolf invaders, so it’s up to her two brothers Joe and Jack to fortify the forest with traps in preparation for the night. Once the sun sets, the wolves, along with other folkloric favourites like Wendigos and Will-o’-the-Wisps, emerge from the darkness in attack mode.
“At the beginning of the game,” says game designer and Quebec history buff Yan Pépin, “to keep things simple, you don’t have a lot of traps and it’s easy to figure out which traps you use. But later on it becomes more like the board game Mouse Trap, where you construct these complex traps and you have to combine them together in order to be as efficient as possible.”
Pépin adds that Sang-Froid is not an easy game and definitely not a hack-and-slasher, as the O’Carroll boys are weaker than their beastly foes and are always outnumbered. You also only get to play as one of the brothers, while the other tends to their sister. “You’re alone, so you can’t cover the whole forest at once. You need to learn to funnel your enemies.”
The game’s story is inspired by the works of 19th-century Quebec writers such as Louis Fréchette and Honoré Beaugrand (now you know why there’s a metro station named after him), but the creators also turned to one of Quebec’s most famed current fiction writers, Amos Daragon author Bryan Perro, to help craft a story rooted in Quebec, Canadian and Native culture that was also entertaining.
“In Quebec there’s a long history of tales about werewolves, since the founding of the colonies really,” says Pépin. “And the interesting thing is, they don’t talk about them the same way as Hollywood.”
“For instance, in Hollywood if you get bitten by one, you then turn into a werewolf when there’s a full moon,” adds animator Adam Rotondo. “In our tales it’s not your physical body that turns into a werewolf, it’s your soul. Your soul goes out and inhabits animals who then turn to werewolves.”
In the effort for accuracy, the traps, guns, axes and even booze are based on real items that were used back then. One of the protagonists of the game, Joe, was also based on a real French-Canadian hero, logger Jos Montferrand. “I don’t think games are good at teaching,” says Pépin. “But they’re good at getting people interested in subjects they might not know about, so I hope those who enjoy the game will then want to do research on their own.”
Artifice have turned to recently debuted Steam Greenlight to help them release their game. Greenlight is in beta form right now and a bit of a manic free-for-all, but essentially it allows for indie developers to show off their projects on the popular game downloading service and have Steam users decide which ones are worthy of being released (with a very simplistic thumbs up/thumbs down system).
So go have a look here, and if you’re a member of Steam give them a thumbs up, because trapping and chopping wood — whether in real-life or in game form — is in your blood. ■