Gothic Dunedin inspires spooky game

Lesser Key Studios team members  (from left) Jareth Elliott-Dodds, Cait Stewart, Seymour Reeves...
Lesser Key Studios team members (from left) Jareth Elliott-Dodds, Cait Stewart, Seymour Reeves-Boddy, Lewis Adamson, Emma Jackson and Will Adamson. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A game studio which takes inspiration from Dunedin’s Gothic architecture and port history has been awarded $40,000 to create a new mystery-adventure game.

Lesser Key Studios has been given the funding from the New Zealand Centre of Digital Excellence (Code) to develop their hand-drawn, 2-D potion-crafting game Apothecurse, with the intention of delivering a 10-minute demo by late 2024.

The spooky mystery-adventure game will follow protagonist Leon the Alchemist as his thirst for knowledge leads him to otherworldly discoveries.

A character from the game
A character from the game
Dunedin’s Gothic architecture and port history inspired visual aspects of the game, with themes of environmental degradation, over-fishing and eldritch horror underpinning the player’s journey.

The studio’s three directors, programmer Seymour Reeves-Boddy, artist Cait Stewart and community manager Will Adamson, have worked alongside narrative lead Jareth Elliott-Dodds, artist Emma Jackson and creative consultant Lewis Adamson to bring the game to life.

A tight-knit group of friends, they decided to create a studio after holiday at the Adamsons’ family crib.

Mr Reeves-Boddy realised they had the skills required but needed funding.

Ms Stewart was already working as a game artist for Tacturnal, another Code-funded studio at the time.

Her experience helped her write an application, which Code wholehearted got behind.

Ms Stewart said when the demo was ready they would apply for funding to take it to game expos such as PAX Aus, GamesCon Cologne and the Games Developers Conference in San Francisco.

"Drum up enough interest and people will ‘wish list’ the game on game platforms like Steam, which gets the attention of publishers."


s Stewart and Mr Reeves-Boddy are the first Te Pukenga — Otago Polytech graduates to get Code funding, allowing them to bring other students such as Ms Jackson into the game development process.

At present, all team members were either working or studying full-time on top of Apothecurse and the end goal was to get enough traction around the game so they could transition to game design full-time, Ms Jackson said.

The Lesser Key Studios team was focused on facilitating each other’s creativity and building a positive work environment.

As part of their funding they received free mentoring and workshops. The $40,000 Kickstart grant from Code was funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

 - By Rafael Clarke