Alexis Kennedy is afraid of the ocean. His best-known sport, Sunless Sea, is a couple of harmful Lovecraftian ocean – but, in it, the digital camera takes a fowl’s-eye view, pulling gamers safely away from the chilly embrace of its darkish depths. The Failbetter Games founder has a very good motive for his thalassophobia: his want to avoid the lapping waves and the alien world that lives beneath the floor – you see, the ocean took his father.
On June 25, 1973, Hugh Peter Calday Kennedy, a pilot within the Royal Air Force, was piloting his Phantom FGR.2 fighter jet on a routine flight over the North Sea. Somewhere, one thing went fallacious, as a result of the aircraft crashed into the ocean and Kennedy, in addition to his navigator, David Noel Hodges, have been by no means seen once more.
“The range officer saw an explosion, reported it, and he didn’t come back,” Alexis Kennedy tells me. “The air accident report theorised that, unlike the three previous pilots who had been out on the range that night, he applied afterburners, which gives the impression of pitching upwards, even when you’re actually pitched forwards. It was a moonless night, he was flying on instruments, there was a risk of ice. If he had lost his instruments for as long as four seconds, that could have been enough for him to plow into the sea. But they’ve got no radio transmissions, neither he nor the navigator bailed out, and they never recovered the bodies.”
Kennedy was virtually two-years-old on the time so he can’t recall the interval, however his mom tells him that he spent weeks dashing to the door and calling his father each time a automobile got here by. One night time, when he realised his dad wasn’t coming residence, he cried himself to sleep. “I don’t remember any of this, but I suspect it’s the kind of thing that leaves an impression,” Kennedy says. “The fucking tragic thing about this is – it was this young happy couple and he just disappeared overnight. She never saw the body; there was a memorial service, obviously, but she found that she was two months pregnant. She named him after my father, Hugh.”
Hugh Kennedy started affected by psychological sickness on the age of 18 and was institutionalised. “He escaped from the institution twice,” Kennedy remembers. “When I asked him how he did it, he said ‘Well, I am a ninja, Alexis’. At one of the tribunals where he was being assessed for release into the community, they said ‘So how do you think these people felt when you came out of their wardrobe so suddenly?’ He’d been in some elderly couple’s house. When asked how he thought they felt, he said ‘a bit surprised at first, I suppose, but then happy and excited.’ There was no malice in it. He was released into my mother’s care, but on anti-psychotics that kept him stable but left him subdued and miserable. And then two days after Valentine’s Day, in 1996, he put his head on a train track.”
Death has been a giant a part of Kennedy’s life, so he’s properly conscious of how somebody might be cruelly snatched away. He received some perception into his father’s persona by studying his few remaining books: Lord of the Rings, The Shape of Things to Come, a Michael Moorcock-curated New World sci-fi anthology – which, at eight-years-old, “blew the fucking top off” Kennedy’s head – and a grim e book referred to as Implosion, a narrative set in a dystopian future within the vein of Children of Men and The Handmaid’s Tale. Reading his father’s books at such a younger age helped type Alexis’ style for darkish fiction, whereas the impression of these losses at all times sat behind his thoughts.
You see, all Kennedy’s video games are about loss of life. Sunless Sea, a sport the place you management a ship captain as he crosses an eldritch ocean stuffed with risks that may simply snatch your life away, has apparent parallels with the tragedy that befell his father, although Kennedy says this wasn’t intentional. He wrote concerning the sudden realisation in a weblog publish referred to as Why the Unterzee Eats Ships.
“The Father’s Bones plotline in Sunless Sea – where you literally have to go and recover your father’s bones – when I wrote it I was thinking of [Shakespeare’s] The Tempest,” Kennedy remembers. “‘Full fathom five thy father lies; of his bones are coral made’ – this always spoke to me as well. Of course, the reason it always spoke to me was because my father’s bones are somewhere in the North Sea. I worked on Sunless Sea for months before I made the connection consciously. It was 40 years before, when he died. It’s not like I never thought of it, but it fades into the background. But I have always been scared of the sea.”
Kennedy doesn’t thoughts the ocean from a protected distance – when he’s in a aircraft and it seems to be virtually faux, as an illustration, all of the toy boats skidding alongside its glassy floor. It’s when he’s close to the ocean and may see its violence, the place his creativeness can surprise what’s under the floor, what unsavoury issues lurk in its depths. Like in Sunless Sea, he feels safer from a vantage level.
“Sunless Sea is innately a metaphor for the unexplored,” Kennedy says. “One of the things I brought away from my father’s and brother’s deaths is the sense of how arbitrary death can be, even when you feel completely safe. I was talking to my girlfriend a while ago and she was like, ‘AK, is all your work about death?’ I hadn’t thought about it in those terms, but I said, ‘Yeah, actually’. Fallen London is about loss, it’s about what you’re prepared to give up to satisfy your desires. It’s about a city that’s shut away from the sunlight, and though they don’t die, they would if they ever see the sun. Death is something that walks beside you through your life, and most of the time it’s invisible, but at any moment it can put its hand on your shoulder or take someone next to you.”
Kennedy tries to seize the chaos of the world in his video games. To obtain this, he tries to bottle its arbitrary nature, even in digital worlds which can be logical and man-made, capturing the randomness of this bizarre ball of rock hurtling by area. Add in a sprinkling of gallows humour and also you’ve received a thematic fixed.
The author lately did a contract writing stint at BioWare, engaged on a particular part for a sport within the Dragon Age collection. If you have been a betting individual, your cash can be protected for those who put it on Kennedy’s involvement being one thing to do with loss of life, containing darkish humour, and probably passing by a metaphorical mirror.
“Dragon Age 4 – we can neither confirm or deny,” Kennedy laughs. “This is what folks assume I used to be engaged on and no one at BioWare has mentioned ‘that is a crazy assumption’, however, equally, neither have they mentioned, and neither have I mentioned, that’s what I’m engaged on. It is confirmed to be a challenge within the Dragon Age franchise and I did work with Dragon Age writers…
“They hived off a little bit of the lore for me to go and do a deep dive on, and develop a bunch of sometimes gothic, miserablist, surreal, Kennedy stuff. I believe it might not be stunning if it have been about loss of life, and I believe that ingredient will survive if nothing else does – will probably be associated to the physique of my work.” The part Kennedy is growing will likely be a playable a part of the story, not simply background lore, which suggests he’s fleshed out characters, written dialogue, and labored on the backstory.
After six months with BioWare, he’s now again at it as a lone agent, making one other sport about loss of life: Cultist Simulator. Well, loss of life and longing. Just as folks miss family members who’re gone from their lives, we typically miss issues we by no means had. And that longing would possibly lead us to surprise, ‘What’s on the opposite aspect of the ocean?’
“The ‘sea’ in [Cultist Simulator] is the pores and skin of the world,” Kennedy explains. “You feel like something is missing. If you feel a yearning for something more, or you feel anger, or you want power – if you’re living in a world where the occult has real effect, you would pick away at the skin of the world until you find the bright colours underneath, and then you would do unwise things for them.”
Kennedy thinks loss of life is the factor that unifies us all. Not everybody is aware of their dad and mom, not everybody has entry to wash water or the web, we don’t all get to get pleasure from videogames. But loss of life is common. We all die and all of us lose family members, and our nature means we’re pressured to contemplate our personal finish. Like Kennedy’s worry of the ocean, and the creation of Sunless Sea, typically it’s finest to confront loss of life head on.