It is a Christmas Ghost Story. Ebenezer and the Invisible World Dev interview.

Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Carlos Martin from Play On worlds about their upcoming game "Ebenezer and the Invisible W...

Recently, we had the opportunity to interview Carlos Martin from Play On worlds about their upcoming game "Ebenezer and the Invisible World"  In this story-rich 2D Metroidvania adventure with breathtaking hand-drawn art, Ebenezer is tasked to enlist the help of ghosts to save the people of London from a new foe, before it’s too late.

We were honored to be the first to ever conduct an interview with Carlos and he was very generous with his time talking about the exciting, expanded world of Charles Dicken's Christmas Story and the game. 

A Dickensian Journey Continues:
"Ebenezer and the Invisible World" catapults players back into the Victorian era, right after the iconic events of "A Christmas Carol." As Ebenezer Scrooge, gamers find themselves navigating a London teeming with ghosts and mysteries. Carlos Martin unveiled, "It's a continuation of Dickens' tale, where Ebenezer is compelled to collaborate with spirits to rescue the city from an imminent threat."

We have been in development for almost exactly two years. We announced it on June 11th this year, so we kept it kind of close, too close to the vest. And we did have a PC gaming show. So it's a 2D metroidvania. All of it is hand-drawn art. You play as Ebenezer Scrooge. It's actually based on a continuation of A Christmas Carol.

So the notion is, if you remember the story, there's a character called Jacob Marley. He comes to Ebenezer Scrooge and says, "Hey, if you don't change your ways, you're going to end up like me." In the game, we imagine a world where Victorian London is filled with ghosts, just like Jacob Marley, who had also been burdened by that, to the mortal world.

And now they're all over London, and this is actually part of the original story by Charles Dickens that these ghosts want to help people, but they can’t. That it their curse in the afterlife. Because Jacob Marley can talk with Ebenezer Scrooge, the idea is that he could talk with other ghosts. And these ghosts all ask Ebenezer "Can you help somebody in the world on our behalf?"  And when you do that, they join you as like an ability. Think of it like the summons Final Fantasy. Their powers assist you in the world and you can assign different ones to deal with different challenges.  

Crafting a Dickensian Universe:

Play on World and Orbit studios painstakingly developed a world where every detail is an homage to Dickensian England. Blending historical accuracy with fantastical elements, creating a truly immersive experience.

We really took a lot of effort to capture Victorian London, Dickensian, London, all that sort of stuff. and we are really proud of the face that we spent a lot of effort into creating a universe, a world that we can build on, a world that's really great. A lot of that has to do with that Dickensian feel we emulate from the book. For every single, object in the game we did our best to use a reference from the book and story ti make things feel authentic. 

One thing that's important in the design is that we made an effort to avoid the game feeling like it had a steampunk theme. There might be some elements that might have a steampunk feel but that is not necessarily what it is. The premise here is different. In Christmas Carol, it was that it was somewhat implied that Ebenezer Scrooge is the only person that's ever been visited by Ghost. However in our game the idea is that a lot of people are visited like this. One of these characters is named Caspar Malthus. The idea is that he's like this very wealthy industrialist. He owns a bunch of factories in London and he too was visited by the ghosts because of his bad deeds.  You see Cas and his family resent that they rely on the working class of poor to run their factories and he wants to replace them with machines. So he is visited by the ghosts who come and say, hey, you know, you have to change your ways. 

But it doesn't work, right? It doesn't work.
He actually uses his experience as the ghost of Christmas future, and he sees technology is going to invent 80 years in the future. He sees an fully automated factory and he takes that from his vision, brings it to the present, created this automated factory and lays off all his workers. So now there's strikes, there's riots going on. and one of the ghosts, Eric Fellowes, is a childhood friend of this evil guy but he says, this this is not the Cas that I remember he was not so bad. Right? We need to figure out a way to help him find his true self.

Not all Ghost are friendly and the game needs enemies to defeat, the concept here is this notion of unrepentant ghosts. These are ghosts that unlike these ghosts here, which are at some level kind of regretted their behaviors in a normal life. There are other ghosts that have no remorse whatsoever. Right. And that the universe that we built is the idea is that these ghosts separated themselves from humanity. So, they live in the forest. They live in an abandoned house; they live in tunnels. They're all these different places where they're literally separated from mankind. And because they're separated from mankind, they lose their humanity, right? They become more creatures, like more monster like and so forth. So, all of these ghosts were once people. But the idea is that they're, you know, they've changed and every one of them has a backstory.

Ghostly Allies and Abilities:

The main mechanic of Ebenzer and the invisible world comes from working with ghost and related items. The theme of the story and the world drips form every item in the game. 

As explained, in the game you have recruited these ghosts and on your screen UI, you see this mana meter, the meter fills up whenever you attack successfully creating more energy to summon the ghost allies.  Actually, I'm using an outdated term. The term is SPIRIT!  You don't have to actually defeat an enemy to collect spirit, you just have to attack and each time you collect a little bit. This is a way to encourage players to constantly be interacting with the enemy. 

We didn't want to get stuck on gimmicks, we didn't want to do this sort of thing. We wanted a game that's going to last forever. We really wanted a game that you're going to play these ten years. We have a lot of a lot of secret areas. We have characters that can kind of break walls or break floors so you can find the secret items and so forth. If you remember the original story, when you meet the Ghosts of Christmas presents at the very end, there's two children I don’t know if you, remember? Want and ignorance, right? Want and ignorance. Right. And in the book that the significance is wants represents the poor, the poor and wants of things that are, you know, the basic need and ignorance is a kind of wealthy class that are willfully ignorant of the needs of the poor. They are two, problems that humanity is dealing with. We kind of play with that concept and we have so we have spirit kids we have in the game. Much like the concept of a familiar.  One is an attack; one is a defend one helps find secrets. So you're going to see these kind of like up floating kind of kids that kind of help out. All right. So that's an interesting way to do it. Yeah. Yeah. What we really every detail, we really tried to capture elements of the of the of the Christmas Carol book. Right. 

We knew that our one of our unique thematic elements is ghosts. So we didn't want to be a game. We're like, we have ghosts. And, you know, I don't know, like a technology thing. We wanted to really hone in on Ghost at every element. All these abilities are carried out by ghosts. So instead of like a double jump in our game, what happens is you press the jump button, you're in the air, you press it again at the apex of the jump and a ghost, comes out, grabs you, throws you up to the air.

We don't want to say that there's kind of crafting because I feel like that's overstating it, but there is kind of light -crafting in the sense that in the world there's a bunch of rare kind of like, not collectible rare items. So things like like Mugwort, glass, sand, things like that. And in order to either acquire or purchase certain things, you need a combination, right? So you might need, you know, two mugwort, for example, plus X, Y, Z, something else. So to get something and in order and you could choose. So you might decide to use one item or item B. So as far as like kind of economy type stuff, store type stuff, there's a few things to talk about. First of all, we have something called the Jasper's Wandering Bazaar. So it's like a carts, right? We don't have it here, but it's a cart where he sells a bunch of stuff. So basically two major categories. One is consumables. So you buy like health items and mana items, and the other are kind of rare items that go into a little bit about what those things are. Right. And then we also have we also have other characters that are more mysterious and we have a of what they are, but they are more mysterious and they show up in different parts. 

We don't want to imply extensive crafting, as I believe that might be overstating it. However, there is a light crafting element in the game. In this world, you'll find various rare items, like Mugwort, glass, and sand. To acquire or purchase specific items, you'll need particular combinations. For instance, you might require two Mugworts and a few other items like X, Y, Z. This allows players to choose between different items for crafting.

Regarding the in-game economy and stores, there are a few aspects to discuss. First and foremost, we introduce 'Jasper's Wandering Bazaar.' It operates as a mobile cart, although it's not visible here, where Jasper sells a variety of items. These items fall into two main categories. One category includes consumables, such as health items and mana items. The other category comprises rare items. Let me delve a bit into what these rare items entail.

Furthermore, the game features enigmatic characters who appear in different parts of the game. While we have some idea about who they are, their mysterious nature adds intrigue to the storyline.

Lastly there are the Spirit weapons. Those are those are basically come in two types. One for example is your cane.  you get different like kind of cool toppers. There's like a snake one and many other variations and they all have different abilities. Usually something to the effect of either more damage or like mana/sprit etc. They're all a little bit different, right? Then there's actual ghostly weapons. So you get a ghost ax, you get a ghost sword, things like that.

A picture perfect London: 
When you look at the artwork of the game will notice the incredible details it offers for not only the characters but also the backgrounds bringing the world truly to life. 
The style has a feel of 80's and 90's Disney and Don Bluth. 

Yeah I could see that. Yeah. I mean it's the very, very first reference we had was Ducktales and this character was a little bit like bit like the Ducktales kind of the way. You know, our goal with it was to be family friendly.
We were targeting an E10 (rating) from the beginning, so there's no blood in it. There's no anything. It's, it's, it's, it's, you know, there is some light horror. But I mean, I literally ran through with parents, and I said, what do you think of this for your seven-year-old? And we had a dedicated couple of talented artists that did all the character art and stuff like that. 

The Ghost of Christmas beyond:
With a heavy Christmas connection, what could make Ebenezer and the invisible world stand out beyond the season of giving and force family gatherings? We asked what Play On Worlds what the take-away for gamers should be about this game in a crowded market of the genre it is in.


We think this is a game that's going to work year-round. Yes. You notice this isn’t heavily Christmas themed night. And yes, in other level are heavy Christmas themed and even though we are to a certain extent marketing it as Christmas game, we think it's actually in the year-round kind of opportunity right now.

Outside of that we've got some really, relevant themes right now because that's one of the themes of the game, the themes of the book. Fundamentally is the employer employee relationship, right? Fundamentally, Bob Cratchit, how he treats Bob Cratchit, and this is where this is the kind of the middle of the industrial era before that, it was like apprenticeship, lik
e master apprentice for stuff. 

 That was the era before you really started having larger employers. And it's really about the ethics of how you should treat people. As an employer or how you treat an employee. Right? And it was relatively a novel issue within of the culture at that point. And I think I right now we're kind of doing it again making it really relevant to what's going on in the world. The strikes right now in Hollywood and stuff like strikes and layoffs and kind of being teched out of your job has always been kind of a like you're working like a blue-collar thing, and you don't really see it with like programmers and more like that sort of stuff. Now with A.I. you're actually starting to see that as well. And we're seeing this kind of like these issues that happen at the turn of the century, kind of happen again for a different group. And that's kind of what happened here is they have automated the factory. You know, it's like the technology is taking its toll.

The Metrovania genre has been a very special genre. Like I think I think that type of consumer that plays these games and the type of games are being made, they're very artisanal. Like what I compare it to is like I grew up in the CD era right? Where like, If you bought Dr. Dre, you probably also bought Snoop Dogg. You probably also if you bought Nirvana, you probably also bought, you know, Pearl Jam or something like that. So, there's like a community, a culture around it, and we want to contribute to that culture in a way that's like, like the community's going to love it.
We think there's plenty room for, for a lot of different people, right? 

So yes, we have this kind of like more festive theme but remember, Christmas Carol is not really a Christmas story, it is a ghost story. A Christmas ghost story.

And with that we left the booth and gameplay demo of Ebenezer and the Invisible World eager to see more this holiday season. We would like to thank Carlos for his amazing enthusiasm and look forward to seeing more soon. The game is now up for Wishlist on steam, and you can check out some gameplay in entire interview recording on our YouTube channel: 


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