Shadowhand is a story driven solitaire style card game set in the 1770s. Incorporating RPG elements into a collectable card game sounds like quite a task, but Grey Alien Games have managed to do it.
We spoke to husband and wife team, Jake Birkett and Helen Carmichael about Shadowhand, Regency Solitaire and lawless eighteenth century England.
GameWatcher: Could you tell us a bit about your game?
Helen Carmichael: Sure, well, it’s a game based on solitaire card play but added a whole RPG battling system to it and it’s also set in the 1770s. You get to play a highway woman who is an aristocrat by day and a criminal by night, basically.
GameWatcher: You also created Regency Solitaire, which was also a card game that was released back in May 2015. What did you learn from making Regency Solitaire and how did that shape your decisions in Shadowhand’s development?
Jake Birkett: Well, Regency Solitaire had a really good fan base because anyone that likes Jane Austen sort of style novels really got into it and that was great. We also did a lot of research for the game, to make it accurate and make it feel really authentic and we wanted to carry that across to the next game, but we did realise that Regency Solitaire didn’t reach the widest audience because of its very sort of niche theme. We wanted to expand that audience, that’s why Helen came up with the idea for Shadowhand and I came up with the battling system idea. We knew that we could reach more people with that sort of idea and it has been really fun to sort of create this game.
Helen Carmichael: Yeah, we’ve basically travelled back in time by forty years. We’ve got a character who appeared in Regency Solitaire, fairly briefly (an older lady, basically) and I just thought well, what if she has a misspent youth? We travelled back in time to the 1770s and we took it out of the more urban locations as we had done a lot of travelling around Bath, London and going to balls with Regency Solitaire. With this game we went a lot more for wild, more outdoor locations.
It has a much darker theme - a lot more to do with criminals; people being held up; highway man and smugglers and wreckers on the beaches and things like that. It was actually quite a lawless time in British history, we didn’t have a police force at that time, there were local magistrates but they were basically self-appointed and you had to be quite wealthy to have something taken to court if they did something wrong to you. It seemed like a really good setting for a rougher story and more ambiguous characters.
GameWatcher: That sounds very interesting, for sure. It seems like the majority of people that played Regency Solitaire enjoyed it. It’s very difficult to find any negative feedback about it. That game is very different to some of the really popular card games like Hearthstone, for example. When you made Regency Solitaire, did you make the game exactly how you wanted or were you influenced by the pre-existing successful card games that were doing well at the time?
Jake Birkett: I did actually make it exactly how I and Helen envisioned it. The theme for the story was how Helen wanted it and the gameplay was as I wanted.
Helen Carmichael: We had a clear vision of what we wanted to accomplish and we just went for it really and tried to put in as much detail as we could.
Jake Birkett: But we have been influenced by the prevalence of collectible card games and how popular they are and that’s why this game, Shadowhand, has more of a collectible card game aspect but not the same as Hearthstone and those kind of things – it’s got a different theme and idea for how it works. It’s more like the cards are inventory items in an RPG rather than a deck of attacking enemies.
GameWatcher: So, both Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand are grounded in this historical sort of theme. Why did you choose this theme in particular?
Jake Birkett: We spent four years living in Canada, I worked there making games and when we came back to England we really wanted to reconnect with our English heritage and get back into history and so, we live in Dorset, we’re surrounded by all kinds of amazing things there and we kept visiting Bath and sort of, looking at the Georgian architecture and going to museums and all of that stuff. We’re just really interested in it so it was sort of a no brainer for us to make a game about something that we’re passionate about, you know, and Shadowhand was a natural extension to go backwards – we could have gone forwards to the Victorian times, there’s quite a lot of Victorian Steampunk games but there aren’t so many in this era, it is pretty interesting.
GameWatcher: When will Shadowhand be released and which platforms will it be available on?
Jake Birkett: It’s being released on PC and Mac. Initially, actually, our publisher, Positech Games, who made Democracy 3 hopefully will put it on their site first and then Steam in May. So that’s probably when most people will be hearing about it. Steam in May is what we’re aiming for at the moment. What we’ve got here is a three level demo but we actually have twenty chapters in the game with all kinds of different backgrounds, enemies one hundred and twenty collectible cards, loads of different mechanics to keep the game fresh and interesting all the way through, so yeah, we’ve just got to keep testing that.
Check out our preview for more information on Shadowhand.