The new Blair Witch video game is in the trustworthy hands of Bloober Team. One of the most acclaimed developers in the first person horror genre, the Polish studio is best known for their work on the Layers of Fear series and Observer. Their latest project is based on the world first explored in 1999's The Blair Witch Project.
Unlike some licensed video games, Blair Witch is not adapting a particular event or sequence from the film series, but the setting itself. From the beginning, The Blair Witch Project was envisioned as a multimedia universe, comprised of films, fake documentaries, video games, and more. After being revived with 2016's Blair Witch film, the franchise is expanding once more into the realm of video games with the new title from Bloober Team.
At a New York City event for the game, Screen Rant spoke to Narrative Designer Barbara Kciuk about the goals of the game, from building upon the classic Blair Witch mythology to telling their own unique tale within the wider universe. She discusses working closely with Lionsgate, whether or not the saga has an official "lore bible," and the team's desire to stay realistic within the realm of the supernatural universe of Blair Witch.
Without spoiling anything, is the cabin the final act of the game?
I can't spoil too much, but I will say, it's Blair Witch. That house is the high point. You are always going to go there. You always know the house is waiting somewhere in the forest. I won't spoil what happens, but the house is very exciting. I can say no more.
Is there a process you have to go through with Lionsgate when designing that location? Are they ever like, "That table doesn't go there," and you have to change it?
I wouldn't call it a "process." We are constantly swapping opinions, and we are constantly chatting with each other. Lionsgate is giving us a lot of creative freedom. And we want to make it as Blair Witchy as possible. We want to give this feeling of sticking to the original, but we also wanted to tell our own story, making our unique take on the house. We wanted it to be unpredictable, so you never know what's coming next. It's a little different than the house from the movie, but we want to keep this feeling of how the house was in the movies.
For a lot of people, a big part of Blair Witch is just how deep the lore is. Three movies... I mean, part two does still count! And all those mockumentaries, even the old video games. I mean, they did episodic gaming back in 2000!
Yeah, three games, by three different studios, it was amazing.
Do you consider all of that art to be sacrosanct, canon to your story?
Well, not everything is still canon. There are nine books. There's so much. Not every part is still canon, but we want to keep as much as possible from the official canon, and integrate it into our game. But we are not repeating what already was. We want to make our own story, and we want this canon to be the basis of what we are creating.
Yeah, I think repeating what worked was probably seen as a problem with the 2016 movie...
I mean, it depends on what you wanted from that. Everybody wants something different from the movie. Some people wanted to have the same thing as the original because it was so cool, but... It depends. I would say this is a problem with video games based on movies. Some people don't understand those mediums don't necessarily translate to each other so well. We think the key to making a good game based on movie lore is to give it your own spin. You can't just repeat the movie, because it won't work in the other medium. We want to base on the lore, but be original. It's our game.
That's why I'm so excited for this particular game, because it's not adapting an event from the universe, but the universe itself.
It's so rich. There's so much we can draw from. But we want to do something that is just our own. We are not basing it on what we did before, but we want to incorporate elements of what we are good at, and what our players love about games, to make a perfect mix of something new, something well-known, and this particular universe.
When you got started with this project, was there a lore Bible, a key to the kingdom, with all the answers to all the mysteries?
Yes and no. There is some inside knowledge of what the Witch can do and what she can't. But it's not like, "Okay, she can do this and this, and that's it." We have a lot of freedom. But we also don't want to go overboard. We really want to keep it as realistic – for this lore – as possible. We don't want to give something that would break the immersion because it's too weird. We want to keep it consistent and we want to keep it as real to the existing Blair Witch lore as possible.
Was there anything you wanted to include in the forest that you couldn't because it might break the setting?
I wouldn't say so. Like, for example, the shacks in the demo, they are part of a lumber yard. Everything we put in the game are either known locations or plausible in this universe. So the lumber yard, if you watch the movie, they talk about old lumber work, so it is somewhere in this universe. Of course, there were crazy ideas of what we could do, but we didn't want to break the immersion. We wanted to keep things plausible for the universe.
Did you have any interaction with the original filmmakers?
We worked with Lionsgate and their staff, and we got a lot of help from them. For example, they gave us the plans for the house. A lot of what we do is based on things that were from the set, but we wanted to create our own thing, so we really didn't want to base our work on what other people could tell us about they did or wanted to do. We just collect all this information and process it to make something that would be exciting for our players.
That's so great. A mythology like Blair Witch can have these intimate little pockets with stories. Kind of like Alien, where there's a whole universe of lore, but you only ever see a tiny corner of it at a time.
Exactly. There is such a rich story behind all of it.
Blair Witch releases August 30 on Xbox One and PC.