Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure – Interview with Liviu Boar

We got the chance to speak to Liviu Boar, one of the creators of Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure, a superbly animated comedy cosmic horror game made in Transylvania. The game is launching very soon on Steam and GOG! 

August 6, 2019

We’ve been following Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure ever since its successful Kickstarter Campaign, back in 2016. We expected the game to be good, but it is so far beyond our expectations that we could barely contain ourselves before launch. With its beautiful hand drawn backgrounds, enchanting atmosphere, and refreshing humor, Gibbous is a must-play for any point-and-click fan. 

The game launches tomorrow (August 07, 2019) on Steam and GOG and positive reviews are already pouring in. We’re super excited we got the chance to sit down with Liviu Boar, one of the game’s creators, before launch. Join us as we discuss the game, Lovecraftian literature, cats, and Transylvania.

Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure

Crazy cultists. Cthulhu. A talking cat. Gibbous takes you on an expansive, traditionally animated, hand-painted adventure. A comedy cosmic horror adventure made in Transylvania!

Unleash The Gamer: Hey Liviu, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today. Can you tell us a few things about your game: Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure?

Liviu Boar from Gibbous a Cthulhu adventure

LIVIU: My pleasure! Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure is a story about the dreaded Necronomicon, a book rumored to be able to change reality around it. Grizzled detective Don R. Ketype is on the case trying to locate it, but the book falls into the hand of librarian Buzz Kerwan, who takes it home, reads a spell from it, and accidentally transforms his cat, Kitteh, into a walking talking abomination.

We all know cats were once worshipped as gods, and it seems they never forgot it – Kitteh absolutely hates being humanized (“My deal is sleeping, eating, and generally being decorative!). The three heroes set off on a quest to de-humanize Kitteh, unraveling  darker conspiracies along the way.

Gibbous is a classically inspired point-and-click adventure, modernized with a lot of quality-of-life features in order to make it as friendly to pick up and play to a newcomer as it is to an adventure game veteran.

UTG: For those of us that are not aware of who’s behind Gibbous, could you introduce the people that worked on this project? We’re specifically interested in your backgrounds. How did developing games come about in your timeline? 

L: We’re a three person studio from Târgu Mureș, Transylvania, Romania, composed of myself (writing, designing, art, animation, music, voices), Cami (art, animation, music) and Nicu (programming and everything technical).

We met when someone smashed into my car and into Nicu’s, too. We spent a couple of hours talking about our common passion, gaming, in an insurance company’s lobby. There and then, we decided to make a game together.

Of all three of us, I was the one with a pretty clear idea for a game in mind: ever since I was a kid, I was passionate about cartoons and video games, and first seeing someone play Day of the Tentacle was a revelation for me: you could make both, at the same time! I knew I wanted to make a cartoony point and click adventure at some point in the future, and 20-odd years later, it’s done and ready to be released.

We worked on a three room demo throughout 2015, squeezing in as many hours of development as we could out of our work days. We successfully Kickstarted Gibbous back in 2016, and we’re releasing it this year, on August 7th.

Gibbous - A Cthulhu Adventure team

From left to right: Liviu, Cami, and Nicu.

UTG: Quite obviously, your game has a Cthulhu mythos theme. What other Lovecraft-derived media do you like? Do you recommend something in particular? The more campy and obscure, the better.

L: As far as literature is concerned, I’ve mostly stuck to the master’s writings; I had read other stuff deemed as “Lovecraftian” and not gotten what I was looking for. Turns out just adding tentacles and fish-people doesn’t necessarily make things interesting. However, I’ve really enjoyed some of the stuff that inspired Lovecraft himself, such as Robert W Chambers’ “The King in Yellow” and Ambrose Bierce’s short stories. I’m planning to dive a bit deeper into weird fiction when I get a bit more time.

Post-Lovecraft, Brian Lumley’s Necroscope series takes the Mythos in a very, very different direction and mixes in a ton of vampirism, plus a lot of his books take place in Romania, which is awesome (and, here and there, unintentionally hilarious for Romanian readers).

Gibbous Concept Art

Gibbous: A Cthulhu Adventure art

Adventure games, in my opinion, make for the best Lovecraft adaptations. If you can get over the absurdly random deaths and strange controls, Shadow of the Comet is a great game, and I think it’s abandonware now. Probably the most faithful HPL adaptation, and still the best Lovecraftian game out there as far as I’m concerned, is the excellent Call of Cthulhu – Dark Corners of the Earth.

The best parts of it do qualify as a strictly narrative game, and while it does feel less immersive once the shooting starts, it’s still an amazing experience. And lastly, it’s not purely Lovecraftian, but Bloodborne has a lot of nods to the Cthulhu Mythos and it’s badass. It’s both one of the best action-y games I’ve played in years, and one of my biggest frustrations (I still haven’t managed to beat that final boss, ugh!).

Finally, I wholeheartedly recommend the HP Lovecraft Literary Podcast, they covered the entirety of HPL’s work, plus a lot of weird fiction in general. It’s one of the most informative and entertaining literary-oriented podcasts out there, and a great way to get into Lovecraft’s universe if you’re not familiar with it.

UTG: We couldn’t help but notice that the graphics style is similar to the old Penny Arcade comic-book and, to some extent, the video game Dragon Lair. Were these two a source of inspiration? What other sources influenced your choices?

L: Dragon’s Lair’s animation is still amazing today, isn’t it? That’s the thing about cartoony graphics – even when pixelated, like in Day of the Tentacle or Sam & Max Hit the Road, it’s an aesthetic that never looks dated.

Myself and Cami are huge animation buffs, and Gibbous drew inspiration from a lot of sources, like Warner Bros cartoons of the 40s, classic animated Disney and Bluth feature films, Genndy Tartakovsky, Hayao Miyazaki, Masaaki Yuasa, and many more.

As far as video games go, probably the biggest visual inspiration came from Bill Tiller’s work in “The Curse of Monkey Island”, and Steve Purcell’s work in… Well, pretty much everything he made. We’re not comparing ourselves to any of the above; we look up to them, and we’ve strived to come as close to that level of quality as it is possible in a tiny team of two.

Gibbous - A Cthulhu Adventure screenshot from the game

UTG: What was the biggest problem you encountered during development and how did you solve it?

L: It was only a problem initially, and then it turned into a big improvement on my professional life: working on a very ambitious game, especially when there’s only three of you making it, forces you to become more organized. Much more organized, in fact, than I’ve ever imagined I could become. You’re not just drawing, painting and making music – you need to figure out systems that make everything accessible and easy to understand, and not just to you, but – crucially – to the other members of the team.

That’s an aspect of my professional life that I didn’t think could change so radically for the better, and the game greatly benefitted from it. Managing the production of a video game is an absolute nightmare if you don’t realize, nice and early, that everything needs to be put in order from the get-go. Thankfully, we did!

UTG: We know you guys are huge fans of the Lucas Arts titles from the 90’s. Did you want to recreate that sort of very specific experience of playing an old-school adventure game, or was it a case of this type of game simply being the best fit for the kind of story you wanted to tell?

L: I didn’t set out to have Gibbous feel like it pays tribute to those games, because I knew it would even if I didn’t intend to. When you’re creating something in a space that’s been as well-defined for years and years as adventure games are, you are inevitably going to emulate some of the things you love in that medium. For example, if I found myself writing a line and went “heh, this is probably what Guybrush would say”, I’d force myself to rewrite it and keep my own characters in mind, first and foremost.

We built our own story on the reliable, tried-and-true skeleton that classic adventure game structure provides, so I felt very comfortable to take the story in directions those 90s games didn’t. There are still similarities – crazy characters full of quirks and idiosyncrasies, jokey dialogue options, etc –  but Gibbous has a story of its own, and it’s not exactly a light-hearted comedy through and through.

Gibbous a Cthulhu Adventure interview - screenshot

UTG: As a developer, what do you think of the current state of adventure games? Do you think the genre has gone stale, or is there still room for growth?

L: It’s a tricky question, because there are genres where innovation is key, and genres – like adventure games – where adhering to a decades-old formula and just adding some welcome quality-of-life features still works beautifully.

I have to admit I was much more of an adventure game purist a few years ago, but in the meantime my taste has expanded greatly, and I’ve come to appreciate most types of narrative games. Thankfully, the genre is alive and well, despite the eternal “adventure games are dead” slogan that gets thrown around every once in a while. If someone finds that hard to believe, just look up the #AdventureGameFriday hashtag on Twitter, and you’ll be impressed by just how many indies are still out there making interactive stories of all kinds.

Gibbous a Cthulhu Adventure interview - screenshot

B: In your opinion, what recent adventure games do you think did it right, and which are the ones that did it wrong?

L: I don’t think I could say any adventure game did it wrong, mostly because if you’re making this kind of game you’re making it out of passion for the genre, and if you’re true to your vision you can’t really be wrong. When games go bad – and I mean financially – it’s probably because the devs got so caught up in actually making the game that they unintentionally ignored letting the world know that their baby existed. It’s a problem that’s very present in other genres too, but it’s compounded by the fact that adventure games are still a pretty niche genre.

As for doing it right – I think everyone making games in the genre could learn a lot from people like Dave Gilbert (Wadjet Eye), Francisco Gonzalez (Grundislav), Isak and Natalia Martinsson (Killmonday), all guys whose work is super high quality, and managed to reach mainstream success.

UTG: If I were to randomly walk into your office during the last weeks of development, what would I have been most likely to find there?

L: Cats.

UTG: What’s your advice to people who want to get into game development?

L: Go for it – if it really is what you’re passionate about, you’ll wake up every morning going “I can’t wait to get to work!”. Just keep in mind that not all projects are created equal, and make sure you don’t fall into the trap of working in secret and not letting the world know what you’re tinkering on. As soon as you have something you’re not embarrassed to show, put it in front of your potential audience. Their reaction will let you know whether it’s worth pursuing, or you need to go back to the ol’ drawing board.

UTG: Transylvania is making waves on the gaming map. With architecture and nature being all inspired by Vlad the Impaler’s birthplace, are there any other inspired pieces of the environment that one might not catch?
Gibbous animation

Gibbous animation: fetch

L: Transylvanian buildings are everywhere in the game, even in non-Transylvanian locations such as Fishmouth and Darkham, which are in theory American.  We just felt it would be a lot cooler and more authentic to use real life structures as reference, and it’s all detalied in the (very spoilery) art book you’ll be able to purchase along with the game.

Plus, we’ve never been to New England, and I’m a big believer in “write about what you know” (or in this case, “draw”). Other than that, I’ve drawn some inspiration from other Romanian buildings, and let my imagination roam free and fill in the details.

UTG: Creating a Lovecraftian-adventure-point-and-click game sounds like you either had that from the get-go, or you figured the recipe as you went on with it. Let us free from suppositions, could you tell us how did the idea of Gibbous came about?

Gibbous a Cthulhu Adventure

 Gibbous artwork

L: I always knew I wanted to make a cartoony adventure game, but I had a bit of scary writers’ block at the beginning. There were just so many possibilities, how could I focus on just one thing? …So I didn’t.

What I did was to take a bunch of things that I love – and that are completely unrelated to each other! – like Lovecraft, LucasArts adventure games, old cartoons, campy 40s adventure movies and serials, cats, Romanian folklore, and tried to see how I could fit them all together in one coherent whole.

It was an interesting challenge, sort of like trying to figure out a convoluted adventure game puzzle. Thankfully, it all came together nicely in the end, and it was extremely satisfying to finally see all the puzzle pieces fit together into a cohesive narrative. We really can’t wait to see what people think of the game’s story, characters and themes.

UTG: Out of curiosity, how did you go about recording footsteps?

L: Footsteps, like most sounds in the game, are a combination of foley I’ve recorded myself and royalty-free sounds downloaded from freesound.org, which is a holy grail for poor indie devs. The process was a lot of fun, but I’m more grateful for other people’s work than mine, and the fact that they’ve generously offered it via attribution – I still need to improve on the technical aspects of recording SFX.

UTG: Seeing as the funding part was highly successful – you blew past the $40.000 initially needed – what would qualify the game as being a success inside your hearts? What more could this experience offer you?

L: Our highest hope right now is that the game does well enough that we can keep making games. These past three years of production have been the most exhausting and beautiful times of our lives, and we’d be grateful if we could keep doing what we love for a living. That’s definitely our biggest dream.

UTG: Thank you for taking the time to answer all our questions. We’re looking forward to the launch!

L: Thanks!

If you like the game, don’t forget to buy/wishlist it and follow on social media:

Gibbous – A Cthulhu Adventure

Crazy cultists. Cthulhu. A talking cat. Gibbous takes you on an expansive, traditionally animated, hand-painted adventure. A comedy cosmic horror adventure made in Transylvania!

Unleash The Gamer

Unleash The Gamer

Editing Team

This interview was conducted by Marco Giuliani, Mihai Raducu, and Baabuska. For more editorial pieces please visit our news section

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