We interviewed Ashton Raze from Owl Cave about being part of a gaming collective, their commitment to the horror genre, and exclusive details about The Charnel House Trilogy and upcoming Augur Peak.
Owl Cave isn’t your average indie gaming studio. Rather than being comprised of a core team of developers, Owl Cave features a fluctuating group of people—the team that develops one game may not work on the next, allowing a lot of freedom and flexibility in their tone. That doesn’t mean their games are scattered or inconsistent, though. Similar threads of horror, adventure, and mystery run through The Charnel House Trilogy, Richard and Alice, and Masked, thematically uniting these Owl Cave IPs.
We recently chatted with Ashton Raze, horror writer and one of Owl Cave’s owners, about how the studio came to be, the influence of gaming culture, and what we can expect for Owl Cave’s future.
Owl Cave Infuses Adventure Games With Signature Horror
Though AAA trends might come and go, indie game developers like Owl Cave keep the love for favorite genres (like adventure) alive. As Raze points out, these genres don’t really die. Though they may show up in new forms, adventure games are as important as they ever were to the games industry, especially as foundations for developers like her.
“It’s my favorite genre!” said Raze in an email. “I grew up playing the likes of Monkey Island, Broken Sword, etc, and from then on I played pretty much every adventure game I could get my hands on. The genre never died or went away, despite what people say every time a successful new adventure game comes out, so there’s a LOT to play in the genre.”
Combine that deep-seated love of adventure games with a dark twist and you get Owl Cave’s style—creepy and macabre adventures with a generous sprinkling of humor.
“Horror’s my thing,” Raze said, “it’s always been what I write, and I consider myself a horror writer. We have talked about making a non-horror game, but it’d be an anomaly in our catalogue.”
Owl Cave’s Collective Approach Encourages a Variety Of Voices and Talents
Owl Cave isn’t just Raze’s vision—it’s the collaborative effort of a variety of developers working in several different positions. Raze explains, “Basically what this means is each game we make might have someone who owns a share of it who isn’t officially part of Owl Cave. The best thing about this is that it means I get to work with a variety of different people, and we’re able to offer work to freelancers if/when they need it.”
The diversity of voices and influences make Owl Cave a pretty unique studio. It also means they get a variety of gaming professionals to contribute, making their games representational of both new and respected figures in gaming.
“Right now Owl Cave is myself and Ivan [Ulyanov], with Lewis Denby sort of lurking in the background (he didn’t work on Charnel House Trilogy),” Raze said. “We work a fair bit with a couple of the guys from Wadjet Eye too; Ben Chandler did some of the art on Charnel House, and Francisco Gonzalez (Grundislav Games) is going to be voicing the new major character in Augur Peak. His name’s Adam Tudor. That’s an exclusive reveal!”
Owl Cave Has Deep Roots in the Games Industry
Owl Cave is firmly grounded in the games industry, and not just because of the references and voice talents of popular gaming figures in The Charnel House Trilogy.
“I’ve always loved games, since I had a Spectrum at 2 years old, so as a fiction writer it was probably inevitable that I’d end up writing at least one,” Raze said. “Never saw it as being my career, but back when I was younger, a career writing games wasn’t something you really saw as attainable.”
Raze also has experience as a games journalist, previously writing reviews. Rather than being stuck in one position, Raze naturally moved from one sphere to the other, settling on writing horror in prose form, as well as for games.
“Moving into dev was a good idea…but I’m glad for the experience I got as a journalist. I think it helps Owl Cave’s customer-facing policies,” Raze said.
That well-roundedness also serves Owl Cave’s games well, as they always feel in touch with the gaming community despite a distinct commitment to being frequently weird and unsettling. That’s just part of the appeal, and something that’s likely to continue in Owl Cave’s future work.
What can we expect in the future from Owl Cave? “Well, everyone knows about the Augur Peak game, due in 2016,” Raze said, “but I can reveal that we’re working on another game in the interim; it’s a multi-generational ghost story with a fairly different tone than Charnel House and R&A.”
With Augur Peak and this new ghost story game on the way, the future looks bright for Owl Cave. Their intriguing blend of horror, humor, and community involvement makes them a unique voice among indie studios, and we’re eager to see what they’ll come up with next.