Developed by Witching Hour Studios, based in Singapore, Masquerada: Songs and Shadows is an isometric Role Playing Game with an art style reminiscent of The Banner Saga. The game catches the eye with beautiful visuals and hooks you in with its interesting real-time-with-pause gameplay system. After playing, and falling absolutely in love with it, we wanted to have a chat with the developers themselves, and they were kind enough to oblige us. We talked with Ian Gregory, Creative Director at Witching Hour Studios, who told us about the games he loves, and what inspired him to make Masquerada Songs and Shadows.
Gaming Central: Hey Ian, thanks for agreeing to this interview and letting us pick your brain. So tell us, when did you get started with playing games (and what was the first game that you remember)?
Ian Gregory: No lie? The first game I have fond memories of was a copy of Duke Nukem II that came free with a bunch of floppy disks I bought at a bookstore. I had my friends come over and we’d take turns trying to finish the damn thing. It was shareware, so we couldn’t save and had to start from the beginning every time. Around the same time, I really got into Worms and Warcraft. The first one. Where you had to control one unit at a time. Hah.
GC: How did you get started with developing games?
Ian: I actually started while playing Dungeons and Dragons. As you know, getting a bunch of people to sit down in a room together at the same time can be a monumental task. So I would design little games to entertain my friends who were punctual. They ranged from simple tic-tac-toe like games to a sprawling political social game that my friends nicknamed Back Stabby Death. I’m not allowed to talk about that game anymore. One game that stood out was a tabletop strategy game that would be become Ravenmark, our first title.
GC: If you weren’t a game developer you would be a…?
Ian: An advertising copywriter. Hell, I went to school for that. Even won a couple of awards and had a bunch of job offers. We had started Witching Hour by then though, so it was all a moot point.
GC: How did you come up with the idea for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows? What plans do you have for the game’s future?
Ian: Hah. I constantly tell my tale of drunken (wooden!) sword fights along the canals of Venice. Surrounded by shuttered shops selling masks lit by the dim street lights. It left a poignant mark and served as the starting point of Masquerada. What brought it to life, though, was what the team brought to it! The art, story and world-building that followed, is, what I believe, what makes Masquerada so special.
As of right now, we don’t have plans — well, official ones at least. The team is taking the time to recover from the long development cycle and we’ve been experimenting on new ideas.
GC: What were your inspirations for Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, if any?
Ian: We drew from many sources, for the many aspects that made the game. Design took some cues from D&D (obviously!) and other games we like, like Diablo, Baldur’s Gate and MOBAs, while art and animation pulled strongly from Don Bluth era animations and French comic books.
GC: What inspires you outside of gaming?
Ian: People. I’m a serial eavesdropper and observer of people. The way we interact as humans details what kind of players we are. We can see this in action while playing D&D! Past that, I’m a bit of a sponge. Between books, comics, movies and other games, I doubt I’d ever run out of inspiration!
GC: What would your dream game be like?
Ian: Hah. Masquerada came close. I tend to bring my dreams to fruition, so dreaming is the simple step in the action of making things happen.
GC: What lessons have you learned from developing your game?
Ian: It’s a collaborative process, so it involves far more people skills than most realise. Also, it’s risky business, whether you’re an indie or a AAA developer, employer or employee. Having the right appetite for it helps loads with the stresses that come with game development.
GC: Where do you see the games industry heading in the next 5-10 years? More games as a service, virtual reality, or as things are now?
Ian: Here’s the thing. The game industry isn’t a zero sum. It’s additive. Every new technology and strategy is embraced and added to our repertoire. So things that are familiar today will have its place in the future, while new things are heartily welcomed. I think premium games will always exist, while games as a service is going to get better as the dust settles from the current arms race that is user acquisition.
GC: What games did you enjoy playing this year?
Ian: Ooo. Pyre. Total War: Warhammer. Pit People. Northgard. Life is Strange. Also! I got into Borderlands 2 again with my girlfriend. The sad irony is that the making of games leaves little time to actually play games. I still have Horizon: Zero Dawn sitting on my PS4, waiting to be loved!
GC: What is your favorite game at the moment and what makes it special?
Ian: Totally digging Pyre right now. The art direction just blows me away. Supergiant constantly delivers a fantastic experience with every one of their games.
GC: Anything else you would like to add?
Ian: I would like 32 hours in a day so I can play more games!
GC: Wouldn’t we all! Ian, thanks a ton for taking the time, and we look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!