“Got your book. Pretty good condition, too. Bit blurred round the edges, but the little fellow’s taken good care of it…” (January 15th-ish, 1906)

Yes! This should really be called ‘NOV #1: WESTENRA’, but this producer is Off The Rails. You can’t stop me. I’m naming this sprint update after the rather curious case of D and The History of Inks, written to a Dr. Serena Blackwood at the Office of the Curia.

Click to read photographs of the original letter, long now lost to a fire. Or if you struggle to read D’s handwriting – well, she should have delegated to Propsy, now, shouldn’t she? You can scroll down to the bottom of this post for a transcription in plain text, anyway.

This sprint I’ve also been hard at work with some new merch. I announced what that was to the select few of you who follow me on Twitter: a 78-card, full-colour, totally illicit TAROT OF THE HOURS.

(The dark background detail on the card backs / box are quite hard to see if your monitor isn’t set to ‘Mental Artist’, so if all you see are white lines on black, TRUST ME THERE’S MORE THERE.)

I’m waiting to receive a test print of the whole thing, to check all the art looks nice. Then it’s a matter of buying a tonne and making a new listing on the Church of Merch.

The question in the meantime is: who are the Pages, Knights, Queens and Kings of each suit? And which Principles correspond to Swords, Wands, Cups and Pentacles? Try your luck in the comments below, and I’ll reveal any of the correct cards in next sprint’s update…

The rest of this sprint was devoted to, oh, you know, launching our Russian beta on Steam and participating in this year’s Singles’ Day, which you probably all know is a manufactured celebration of both being single and being in a relationship which Alibaba co-opted to sell stuff, but hey, it’s 2019, and it makes me feel all Blade Runner-y to put Chinese text on my designs.

Any Russian speakers waiting until the beta’s complete have only another WEEK to wait until Russian’s live in the main game on Steam, GOG and Humble: that update’s coming on Monday 25th November. So yay, my drugis, which is the only pseudo-Russian I know from reading A Clockwork Orange when I was sixteen.

Enjoy your weekends, Believers.

VIENNA
January 15th-ish, 1906

Dear Serena –

Got your book. Pretty good condition, too. Bit blurred round the edges, but the little fellow’s taken good care of it. Not what I expected, though, rum business all round. Tell you how it was.

Trail in Venice long cold, obviously. They still tell stories about old Hokobald, say the place is cursed now, but it’s mostly cursed with rising damp. Don’t know how anyone lives there. Anyway, no trace, so I thought, all right, D., my girl, get your head down, get seventy-seven winks, see if the Sage-Knight’s entertaining, he’ll know what’s what.

You’re reading this and thinking, come on, D., you know better than that, Sage-Knight’s a bit high in the Mansus to be talking to Raw Prophets, what? But here’s the thing, Sage-Knight knows the odd Ivory, Ivories know the odd Thirstly, Thirstlies know Raw Prophets. So I’ll put the word out.

Sage-Knight’s in a helpful sort of mood, so we both have a cup of that wine of his and then another cup and then another cup and we get to gossiping. He’s all right for a Name. Shame he doesn’t keep proper port, even dream-port, but he’s all right for a Name. And I wake up and I pop out for a dawn smoke and a bit of the old practice and when I get back inside there’s an address written on the mirror. Not bad for a Name at all.

Address is in Vienna. Now you know how I feel about Vienna, never quite comfy there since all that with the Club, but I think, Serena’s a good sort, owe her a favour or two, not so far on the train. Off I pop.

Vienna, two days on. Find the address, have a snout about, you know, see what’s what. Nasty little den, full of the wrong sort of the wrong sort, and they’ve got their own little shrine for the Raw Prophet. (Sage-Knight gave me its name, I tried to write its name, won’t fit in this alphabet. Let’s call him Propsy.) Little cult for Propsy. Now you know me, Serena, live and let live, all sorts, but a shrine to something like Propsy, I always thought it’s like building a shrine to a lamb chop. You’ve seen Prophets, haven’t you? They look like a horse stepped on a starfish. But bigger.

But, dashed odd thing… Propsy’s not a bad sort. Can’t talk, of course, but the little feller can write. And I don’t just mean write like I’m writing this letter, express itself, put its point of view, sort of thing. I mean it’s a calligrapher. Dashed good calligrapher. Every one of those little tentacle things, good as a Japanese paint-brush. Where does it get the ink, you’re wondering, aren’t you, Serena? Be glad I’m not telling you.

Long story short, Propsy reckons it wrote the ‘History of Inks’, reckons it was stolen, reckons all sorts of the worst about H.H. (Sorry, Serena.) So we had a good old chat, and I did knock it about a little bit, but we agreed in the end, and it gave me the book back, but it wanted paying. Seemed fair enough. And I’ve added a line to my bill for that. Bit of a sum, I’m afraid, try not to kick. Sure you won’t, know you’re a good sort.

So here you go, bill, book, all we’re missing is a candle, ha ha! I’ll be by again for the Equinox. Could use your help on a thing with the Mausoleum. And the Club, actually. Bit of a business, there.

Pip pip
D.

PS! Propsy wants proper attribution. Name in the catalogue. Course, can’t write its name here. Won’t fit in this alphabet. Hope you can sort that out. Might cause a bit of a stink if not. Leave it with you. Best of luck. D.

OCT #2: VAN HELSING

Happy Halloween, Believers! I’ve just finished Roger Zelazny’s A Night In The Lonesome October and highly recommend it if you’re in the market for some spooky All Hallow’s escapism from a world-class author who’s putting his feet up and drinking a big glass of goth.

This sprint we released a bunch of new stuff to the Church of Merch. I have more planned, but for now I focused on PINS. Let me introduce:

Limited edition cultist pin

First, we have a gold-rimmed cultist pin we designed in tandem with the lovely people at Playdigious, our mobile partners, to celebrate Cultist‘s mobile launch. We only have 50 of these, so snap ’em up while you can! We won’t be restocking these particular designs, much though I love them. 😢

Glitter witch pin

Next, a glittery rose-gold witch who’s secretly the logo of Coven Club. A sparkly crescent moon – BECAUSE I COULD – means she is entirely pandering to my personal tastes but HEY who doesn’t like glittery witches?

Feather pin

And finally, a cardinal-red feather pin, which again comes from the vaults of Playdigious. They’re Playdigious’s logo, though they also make you look like a lieutenant in some burlesque flying squad if you stick them on your lapel.

You can get ’em all bundled up together with our original Iris pin in the PINS OF POWER bundle, should you wish.

I’m busy designing a bunch of new stuff I can’t remotely tease without totally revealing what I’m doing. What I can say is they’re significant additions to the shop, and I have to draw an extra large (and better quality) version of everyone’s favourite unhinged gentleperson. Any guesses?!

A reminder that we have RUSSIAN coming out in Steam beta on Monday 4th November – happy Russian Unity day, for those of you who’ll be checking it out! Full Russian release is scheduled for Monday 25th November across Steam, GOG and Humble. It’s so weird to see things like this in my Dropbox these days:

In the meantime, if you haven’t already, check out the whole Secret Histories suite discounted in Steam’s and GOG’s Halloween sales. Have a good weekend, erryone.

OCT #1: UDOLPHO

First things first: an announcement! We released simplified Chinese last month, which was an extremely weird but also wonderful experience. Once we’ve a few months of data I’ll write a deep-dive into the numbers, but for now, we have another long-awaited localisation to announce: RUSSIAN.

Russian will first go live in an opt-in Steam beta on Monday 4th November. Once we’ve had a few weeks to sort bugs and typos, we’ll then release Russian to the main game across Steam, GOG and Humble on Monday 25th November. (We would release to you, too, itch.io, but you don’t support this stuff yet. 😢) Thank you to the excellent QLOC and errant-knight Nikita for your translations!

Now we have full translations for Cultist Simulator and its DLC, this means we can make a move on mobile updates without confusing people. It turns out that releasing a language on one platform without content parity was a terrible idea, especially when you can’t speak that language yourself… who’d have thunk, huh? Anyway, one for the postmortem.

Q4 – that’s October through December, if you’re not a biz person – is a weird time in an indie’s year. You’re not supposed to announce or (gods forbid) release anything in it, as there’s Halloween, then the long grey wasteland of November, then Christmas itself, all while the AAA big-guns come out and devour your press and customers. So we’re biding our time, prepping for future things. Can you guess what I’m doing with these?

We’re away next week, so next update is liable to be light. So I’ll leave you with a passage I read in bed this morning, shivering with ghouly delight:

“Even as Frodo spoke he felt a great malice bent upon him, and a deadly regard considering him. Not far down the tunnel, between them and the opening where they had reeled and stumbled, he was aware of eyes growing visible, two great clusters of many-windowed eyes – the coming menace was unmasked at last. The radiance of the star-glass was broken and thrown back from their thousand facets, but behind the glitter a pale deadly fire began steadily to glow within, a flame kindled in some deep pit of evil thought. Monstrous and abominable eyes they were, bestial and yet filled with purpose and with hideous delight, gloating over their prey trapped beyond all hope of escape.”

The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers, J. R. R. Tolkien

N.B.: ‘Shelob’ just means ‘She-spider’, cos ‘lob’ is ‘spider’ in Old English and I suspect Tolkien fancied a pint when he got to naming her. Pip pip, internet.

SEPT #3: THEODORE

“Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all,” said Ernest Shackleton, somewhere between Antarctic triumph and dying in South Georgia of an alcohol-induced heart attack. I wonder which end of that spectrum I’ll end up on?

I’ve always had a thing for cold, heroic exploration. Whether it’s a first-hand account of Scott’s final expedition to the South Pole in The Worst Journey in the World or the inescapable paranoia of John Carpenter’s The Thing, there’s something about the mad, unnecessary heroism of humans conquering the impossible that really gets me where it hurts.

I wouldn’t last five minutes in the Antarctic, but I do think Shackleton’s worth listening to. I like seeing problems as a challenge, though I should admit I’m a pathological fixer. I have actually practised the scene in Parks and Recreation where Chris Traeger, another pathological fixer, learns two very important words:

When your life’s been shredded, I hear, one way to deal with it is to look up at all the pieces floating down on you and actively decide which bits to catch. So here’s what AK and I plan to do next.

We’re going to do More Stuff with Cultist Simulator. It’s a great, flawed game that we can improve upon and shout about, proudly, to a lot more people than we have already. So you can expect more from that quarter over the next six to twelve months.

We’re working on a previously unannounced title, which we were working on before all this happened, and which goes back to Weather Factory’s specifically experimental roots. If it works, it’ll solve a really interesting creative problem AK’s been working on for years. If it doesn’t, we will understand why nobody’s managed to solve this problem yet and look a bit sheepish. It’ll also allow us to try a bunch of experimental developmental and marketing stuff, which is good when you’re personae non gratae outside the golden glow of the communal campfire. Us and the trash pandas. And Shackleton, if he likes.

We’re no longer able to work on multiple titles at once, but once this unannounced experimental game’s up and running, we’ll most likely return to BOOK OF HOURS. It’ll be a smaller beast than it was, comparable in size and imperfection to Cultist Simulator, but just as hygge and friendly. I’m too disappointed right now – in people, and the internet – to totally get on board with a kind, satisfying game about organising a magic library, but in twelve months’ time, I’ll be ready.

In the meantime, our “State of the Factory: Year 2” should make for interesting reading, if you’re into the business ramifications of pretty much the worst PR a small indie studio could have. AK may turn his hand to some non-game-specific writing, but again, we’ll see what happens.

I don’t think we’re what Jon Ronson called ‘the brutal nadir’. But I’ve done a lot of reading on the subject, from Cybersmile to the UK government’s advice on workplace bullying to Crash Override. So I’m slowly beginning to understand what happened here, and can start making plans for the future again. Weather Factory’s road leads on, and if it isn’t the same golden path it used to be, there are still a few mad-eyed birbs in the underbrush which keep it worth the walking.

AUG #2: QUINCEY

Happy end of sprint, Beloveds! I open this update with a vile crime: the Case of the Ravaged Yums. Gotta watch out for mounting, Damning Evidence, like, er, COMMITTING A CRIME IN FRONT OF SOMEONE WITH A CAMERA.

bang goes the diet.

I should also say early on that we have a V GOOD APP STORE sale on right now, offering 50% off on Cultist Sim until Tuesday 27th August. So iOS people, if you ain’t got ur cult on yet, now is a really good time. Also, we finally got some featuring on the US App Store. SO THEY DON’T HATE US! YAY.

Meanwhile, Alexis tripped off to Krakow and Berlin. He spent some time doing an ‘inspirational lecture’ and ‘expert mentoring’ at Write the Game V4, a summer school for up-and-coming game devs in Krakow. He then took the train up to Berlin and spent eight hours straight talking at designers in the Ubisoft studio there as part of a knowledge exchange. Thanks for setting that up, wonderfully-named Yves Le Yaouanq! Alexis sent me a picture of a hideous gold Dolce & Gabbana SMEG fridge, but otherwise seemed to have a bally good time.

On his return, he worked on some more BoH lore, developed a fever and drew this. So there we are.

mysterious, genuine BoH design notes

Claire tripped similarly off to an amazing-sounding holiday in Japan, where she failed to be melted by the sun or eaten by snakes. This makes her at least Exalted, if not a cult leader in her own right. Now she’s back, she’s working on a pretttty cool WF event coming (hopefully!) before the end of the year, as well as managing various Cultist Sim sales, Chinese loc and BoH Kickstarter prep. Marketing is nuts.

Hannah published her first Weather Factory blog on her BOOK OF HOURS prototype so far, as well as turning that same prototype into a living, breathing, probably haunted facsimile of Catherine Unger‘s glorious concept art. I can’t share all the concept art yet – you gotta watch our social media countdown to the KS for that – but here’s a peek at her work in progress.

Marc’s been working on the secret project of which I cannot speak, which makes it a little more difficult to sing his praises publicly. I can say at least that he’s been working on a DLC page revamp to help sell Dancer, Priest and Ghoul, and that he, like Claire, are doing great work behind the scenes which isn’t fairly represented in the public eye. So… raise a glass to them.

Finally, we finished our BOOK OF HOURS Kickstarter page this sprint, including our (human-centric, aka a bit janky) KS video. I’m sad to say that Claire’s starring role in its intro had to be replaced, partly because of the black bar on the right I couldn’t get rid of, but mostly because I thought she might scare America. We will remember u, Old Edit Claire. <3

I leave you with news that I continue my meteoric rise to video editing fame with each animation filter I discover on this Windows camera…

final freeze-frame from buddy cop drama, Cat + Girl
hannah’s BOOK OF HOURS shaders are quite something, huh

..and, that, well, next sprint we ACTUALLY LAUNCH THE BOOK OF HOURS KICKSTARTER, which is perhaps slightly more important. Keep all your fingers crossed, and tell everyone you can think of about it.

Pip, pip! L.