December 2015 brought with it the announcement of Deal with the Devil, a curious narrative-led horror game from the debut team at Round Table Games Studio (RTGS). The project never received a huge amount of attention, though it was featured on several well respected sites, including Rock, Paper, Shotgun; GameWatcher; and, of course, OnlySP.
WHAT IS DEAL WITH THE DEVIL?
Inspired by the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, Deal with the Devil would take place in the 1920s and cast players as Amelia Woods, a morally ambiguous woman tasked with uncovering ancient mysteries. While many horror games feature relatively strong plots, RTGS wanted to go further with its project, stating several times that its intention was to create the strongest female protagonist ever seen in a game. To that end, Amelia would have a developed backstory as a suffragette, as well as being human above all else, and players would be able to choose whether to emphasise her positive or negative traits depending on their inclinations. To help craft a convincing female lead, RTGS sought the assistance of Tanya Krzywinska, a professor of digital games at Falmouth University.
Beyond the character, the studio’s approach to creating a sense of horror was fundamentally different to that of many of its contemporaries. Jump scares, gore, and similar shock tactics were to be sidelined in favour of a more nuanced and psychological method of creating tension and the unsettled feeling that generates fear.
WHEN WAS IT SUPPOSED TO RELEASE?
Although the initial reveal indicated no release window, the team told OnlySP that it was targeting an early 2017 release for the first episode of a series. The exact number of episodes and the projected release windows for them were never made public.
Around the time that the first episode was scheduled to release, Gameumentary reached out to RTGS to uncover the status of Deal with the Devil, finding out that, due to an amicable split between the developer and original publisher AntiMatter Games, work on the title had been restarted in early 2016. As a result, the new expected release window was late 2017.
WHERE IS IT?
That period has now long since passed, so OnlySP contacted the head of RTGS, Rich Barham, for an update. Unfortunately, RTGS has officially ceased work on the title, and “[p]roduction closed late last year” after approximately two years of active development.
Said Barham, “unfortunately, [my partner and I] just weren’t both able to put the time into the studio with other concerns and responsibilities, so it didn’t make sense to keep the studio alive as a vehicle for future opportunities.”
However, the issues facing the project were more focused around funding shortages than time or passion. According to Barham, “the funding I’d been led to believe was extremely available for games as part of the digital economy in the region just wasn’t available.” He says that investors in the south west of England are leery of supporting not just Deal with the Devil, but video games in general because of the “long delay to see money and [the] unpredictability video games represent. They’d rather put their money in a person making a new product they can make somewhere cheap and show a quick turnaround profit per unit.”
Meanwhile, the lack of funding meant that the team was unable to progress far enough to be able to attract the interest of a publishing company, putting the studio in a catch-22 situation. Despite the disappointing outcome, Barham retains the rights to the project and insists that he “will work on it again in the future, but how and when isn’t certain.”
Until he is able to get together an experienced and the required funding support to bring Deal with the Devil to life, he is a director and executive producer at AntiMatter Games, which released Rising Storm 2 : Vietnam last year and is currently working on a variety of unannounced projects.
Deal with the Devil is no longer in active development, but hopefully Barham is able to gather the resources to try again to bring the ambitious horror story to life.