An Interview With The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow Designer Shaun Aitcheson

With intricate pixel art, complex but fair puzzles and a familiar point-and-click interface, you’d be forgiven for assuming that The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a long-lost Sierra or LucasArts game and not the latest modern graphic adventure published by Wadjet Eye Games. Designed by Cloak and Dagger Games in Adventure Game Studio, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow is a frightening, moody period mystery set in the bleak rolling hills of northern England, and explores what happens when we seek answers to questions that we shouldn’t have asked. But we decided to throw caution to the wind and ask Cloak and Dagger’s Shaun Aitcheson all about his spooky new game.

Something is wrong in the north of England

You’ve primarily worked in adventure games. 

Cloak and Dagger Games is a little indie collective that’s been around since 2012, 2013. Before then, I’d been wanting to make a point-and-click adventure game and found out about Adventure Game Studio. It’s really cool and easy to learn. At the job I was in at the time, I met a like minded soul, Mr. John Inch, and we concocted game ideas on our lunch breaks. We’ve released a few, The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow being the biggest.

Talk about the inspiration for this game.

I’m a fan of British folk horror. It was always in the back of my mind to do something along those lines. In 2019, I was chatting to my friend at work and she said that she and her partner were going on a drive to the North of England to do some nature walks. She was going to Hob Hurst’s House — it’s a barrow, and not to spoil the game, but there’s folklore that helped inspire the first seeds of the game.

What are some point-and-click games you like?

I grew up with an Amiga 500. The first point-and-click I played was Quest for Glory. It took me months and months to finish it. I loved The Secret of Monkey Island and Monkey Island 2. And then when I got a PC, I liked the Sierra games. The Gabriel Knight ones are my favorites. That was my teenage years essentially, running home to play Sierra games. But in terms of inspiration for Hob’s Barrow, I loved Last Door. I don’t play a huge amount of point-and-click adventure games, but I do try and play games in the indie community. I’m playing a game called Nightmare Frames at the moment.

Unsettling looks pervade The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow

It might seem like it would be difficult to make a point-and-click game “scary.” But Hob’s Barrow has a lot of unsettling quick cuts, and unsettling moments in scenes. How do you make a point-and-click game scary?

We tried to build up the atmosphere. It’s sort of a brooding atmosphere that is slow-burning. It’s in the writing, the sound, the music. The close-ups are by John Inch, which lends itself to an uncanny “otherness.” That’s something that has been a signature of our games over the years, these weird closeups. Late on in development we added a bunch more.

Get The Excavation of Hob’s Barrow on Steam.