The Land’s Voice
“After the red leaf and the gold have gone,
Brought down by the wind, then by hammering rain…
…I speak to you now with the land’s voice,
It is the cold, wild land that says to you
A knowledge glimmers in the sleep of things:
The old hills hunch before the north wind blows.”
— Howard Nemerov, ‘A Spell Before Winter’ (1962)
By the time you read this I’ll be in Dungeness, a wonderfully desolate shingle headland in Kent where I go for writing breaks, sometimes (although inaccurately) called ‘Britain’s only desert’. Dungeness features an army of gulls, three lighthouses, two defunct nuclear power stations, a snack shack, a lot of sky and absolutely zero distractions. I’ll work happy twelve hour days, subsist on cornichons and rainwater and a half a bottle of emergency late night Eagle Rare, come back with the last major writing tasks complete. These are the visitor stories – The Affair of the God in the Wood, The Affair of the Threshold Revolt – and the endings – That Old Lost Music, A Final Understanding, The Sun’s Secret.
I reserve writing breaks for the difficult, deep dive design & writing work where I need to splash about in spreadsheets and cover the dining room table with index cards. The visitor stories and game endings – which interweave references with each other, with the Librarian origins, and with the deep lore of Hush House, the Secret Histories, pentimenti and numina – are some of the most allusive and self-consciously literary work in the game. They need to be compelling and satisfying for the casual players and they need to reward years of analysis and argumentation by the most dedicated players. So they merit a whole-ass not a half-ass approach.
Fig. 1 — A ‘whole-ass’ approach
And after that, the hay is in the barn. We’ll have a release candidate that we could go with if we absolutely had to, if we didn’t mind the launch being a bit of a shambles. We’ve still got lots of QoL work, bug fixes, audio tuning, performance optimisation and balancing to do so that it won’t be a shambles – and some features it would be nice to add before rather than after launch (‘Mr Kille sends you marrows if you’re nice to him’; ‘Hokobald steals his own book’) – but even if I fall into a deep coma on June 17th, we should still be OK as long as I wake up on August 17th.
Three things I want to say, just in case I do fall into a deep coma!
First: a big thank you to everyone who’s participated in the beta and sent us helpful feedback and bug reports. All I can offer you is the assurance that it’s made a serious and significant difference to the final quality of the game you’ll end up playing: but I can offer you that assurance. We’ve kept a lot of final detail back, partly for canny reasons but partly with beta testers in mind. Everyone was keen to see everything, and I know how tempting it can be to spoil yourself on one too many details. (There will be one last beta phase, but even that will keep some juicy stuff back for launch.)
Second: a big thank you to Lottie, who is going to be embarrassed now she has to put this into a blog post. There’s been a real creative dialogue on this one between writing and art, and as a result, Brancrug and Hush House and the moors above, with all their mists and histories, feel wistfully and transcendently real. I half-forget sometimes that they can’t actually be physically visited.
But we’ll be making the place as visitable as we can very soon now. Just a few more weeks to oil the hinges, clean the bird droppings off the windows, lay fires in the hearths. We wanted Hush House to feel like a home to anyone who’s ever been momentarily tempted by the idea of life as a country librarian or a lighthouse-keeper. If that’s you, then welcome home.