May 23, 2011

Next Big Thing for Salem: An Online Video Game about Puritans? [Update: BETA Signups Have Started!]

[Update 3/23/12: After being put off a few times BETA signups are finally open! Sign up here: ]

A small game developing company named Seatribe is developing a game for Paradox Interactive which seems to be full of revolutionary ideas and has a lot of gamers buzzing.

Their new browser-based MMO Salem is to be set in a fantastical and mythical version of the harsh wilderness of colonial New England that the early settlers faced, the biggest difference being that in this case the magic and witchcraft is real and not just the product of ignorant fanatical religious fundamentalism.

The look of the game is right on the line between morbid and cutesy. The developer has stated his stylistic influences specifically include artists such as Herman Melville, H.P. Lovecraft, Tim Burton, and Edgar Allan Poe. This is most apparent in the design of the characters:

Aw, what a cute little zealot.

The one thing I am not a huge fan of, but many people are, is the fact that Salem is going to rely heavily on crafting. In other words, building, hunting, farming, cooking, pottery, blacksmithing, etc. - this is going to be the core of the game. According to developers there will be "no quests", so this gets some people worrying, does that mean that this is going to just be another one of those Farmville type games?

This is where the revolutionary part comes in. First, Salem will offer fully terraformable persistent and changing environments, which means when you change something it stays that way - forever. Secondly, the death system is full PVP (player vs player) and features perma-death - so once you die, you are dead forever. A good chunk of the hard work and wealth you've accumulated is gone for good, too, excepting a small amount passed on to your "heir" which is how you can continue to progress.

As to how they are going to balance out these two aspects of the game, which seem extreme and in opposition to each other is beyond me. No successful game to date has been crafting dependent and had open PVP with perma-death, it just seems too easy to exploit.

As this is an MMO time progresses at a normal pace whether you are playing or not, but day and night are being handled in a unique way that gives homage to the Puritan's actual historic beliefs. You see, the Puritans literally believed that darkness was evil. That which they could not understand or comprehend was therefore evil by default. Much in the same way, the virtual Puritans in Salem will be surrounded in darkness at the beginning of the game, but as they progress and gain more Civilization Points they will begin to be able to see and understand the forests, and the world around them.

So, where does witchcraft work it's way into the game? This is The Witch City of course.

Details seem sketchy so far, but it seems players will be able to choose one of two magical paths, one of which being witchcraft. I am assuming that the use of light or dark magic is what will divide the population into two opposing factions, because I couldn't imagine Puritans and witches working together towards a common goal, even if in just a video game.

Also, by the looks of the pictures the Puritans might be the evil ones. Just look at this little bastard:

Release date is set for Q4, which in non-video game person language means the fourth quarter of this year. Oh yes, and one last important thing. IT'S FREE. [Update 3/23/12: After being put off a few times BETA signups are finally open! Sign up here: ]

May 16, 2011

Clues in Leaked "Lords of Salem" Photos with a Better Synopsis, and a Bit on Celebrity Witches in Salem

 [11/21/11: Most recent article here.]

Rob Zombie's Lords of Salem is taking shape as he slowly leaks more and more information. In the past month we have learned via his film blog ( that shooting for the movie is now going to be "after the summer" instead of throughout this spring as was earlier reported. He has also posted some pictures taken by Wayne Toth in his fx studio. If you look reeeally close you can see they might give away a bit more than it first seems. This picture in particular is very interesting to me.

Back of Head

First, in the background you can see a chair covered in spikes that we can deduce is probably one of the torture devices used in the film, also you can see a second spiked iron mask on the counter which could be either a stage in the fx development of the one we've already seen or maybe a second one, which might imply that the masks are a theme we will see throughout the movie. BUT most strange about this picture is the back of the neck on the piece we see the artist working on... Are those some sort of tentacles?? What the holy hell is going on here?

Calamari Anyone?
Calamari anyone?

Let us assume that this is a beginning process in creating locks of hair or something until we know for sure what it is.

Also, I am curious to know what is hanging on the walls in the background of this one.

body parts?
Something significant or just the usual random body parts you'd find in Mr. Toth's studio?

Well luckily Mr. Zombie has released a fleshed-out synopsis and, although it doesn't say anything about Davey Jones emerging from his locker to make an appearance, it does show us how cheesy the plot is going to be:

" Heidi, a blonde rock chick, DJs at a local radio station, and together with the two Hermans (Whitey and Munster) forms part of the "Big H Radio Team".

A mysterious wooden box containing a vinyl record arrives for Heidi, "a gift from the Lords". She assumes it's a rock band on a mission to spread their word. As Heidi and Whitey play the Lords' record, it starts to play backwards, and Heidi experiences a flashback to a past trauma.

Later Whitey plays the Lords' record, dubbing them the Lords of Salem, and to his surprise, the record plays normally and is a massive hit with listeners.

The arrival of another wooden box from the Lords presents the Big H Team with free tickets, posters and records to host a gig in Salem. Soon Heidi and her cohorts find that the gig is far from the rock spectacle they're expecting: the original Lords of Salem are returning, and they're out for BLOOD. "
(from IMGlobal)

Sounds pretty typical. I have a feeling that this film is going to rely less on the story and more on disturbing and gory special effects and imagery, which is not a bad thing when you think about it. I mean, without seeing House of 1000 Corpses the synopsis sounds like garbage, and that turned out fantastic.

In more personal news, I thought not working for Spellbound Tours anymore would be very depressing, but really the only thing I miss about the company is the owner, my old boss Mollie, who had become a friend of mine throughout the years, but in reality switching to a new company is working out great for me.

The tour I am doing now, The Salem Witch Walk, is fantastic. I get to help tourists understand what real witchcraft is, and it's not one of those crappy fifteen minute tours through a renovated haunted house like some other sites in town, but an entire 90 minute walk around downtown. I basically have time to get into just about everything Salem/witch related, from the simple stuff like pagan holidays and associations to the hysteria of 1692, to quantum theory's relation to spellworking, commercialization and capitalization of witchcraft in Salem, and the complicated debate about the roll of cursing and hexing within the confines of the balance found in nature and in the context of the craft.

Haha, well the way I explain it makes it sound complicated but it's not.

Some people have voiced concern over my taking a position working for/with such fiery local celebrity witches as Christian Day and Lorelei after always being outspoken about my feelings towards "selling out" and such. I find that the people who say this type of thing are most often the people who actually know the LEAST about witchcraft, tourism, and what it even means to sell out.

With all the hype many people forget that these wily witches are just normal people, including such hugely famous people like Laurie Cabot (who clearly needs a website revamp). Of course working in a tourist town where your religion is a commodity is walking a fine line, but with all the cute and cheesy stuff that they do, for every time they do something that makes some pagans cringe, they also open up hearts and minds to the craft every single day. Like, LOTS of people. Every. Single. Day.

They also value our differences and encourage me to express myself and make the tour my own because they care about the business being successful and know I am great at what I do. They trust that I wont make them look bad even if we do differ in opinions on certain subjects because it's pretty clear I go out of my way to be politically correct - and on the tours it's the same. I give people an objective view devoid of personal opinion peppered with my usual satirical humanism and anti-nihilist quips. If someone has a problem with something, I offer the other side of the argument. People really appreciate when I play devil's advocate on the tours, because it makes it clear that I am not trying to make them think what I think, but help them understand for themselves.