Saturday, 23 June 2018

Blackenrock Breakfast, Glastonbury for Lunch and Dinner on the Pier.

It's been a good week of work; finishing off some missing gfx for Blackenrock, building new ones and taking a walk on Solstice afternoon. 

The Bear is Saxton's pub and Bed & Breakfast, but I'd forgotten to make the breakfast gfx. So, before any Saxtonian's fire up TripAdvisor I thought I'd better get in the virtual kitchen and make some greasy fry ups. Fruit and vegetarian options are available, all Low in Polys. Lucy does the washing up.

Blackenrock - Fry ups and dirty dishes. Lucy does the washing up.

Solstice was a great opportunity to get outside, the sun was shining and the birds and the bees were plentiful. We captured a short video, using the phone, to sum up our feelings. The soundtrack features NASA data, as wave forms, to suggest the landscape bombarded by photons. 

This weekend, I'm adding some signage and props to the Wick Hollow Hall level of 'Glastonbury'. It's certainly starting to take shape, with a lot of detail. Matt remodelled the box hedging, which looks great now. It's supposed to be unkempt; the Wick Hollow Hall tourist attraction has been shut, for several weeks. The grass has grown and the privet hedge has gone mad. Learning to use the Tree Creator and making Detail Meshes has been cool, and it means we can make pretty much any plant we want/need for potions, alchemy and witchcraft.

Monuments: We added quite a few new 3D scanned objects too, as well as some grammetry. We are very keen to feature large stone carvings, from various eras. They look lovely in dappled light. Monuments will be important for alignment puzzles, later on, so they are likely to become kinetic in some way, I.e. Turn to face the full moon etc, the house, the sun, the Tor, etc. 

One of the nice things about presenting the game in 3D is exploration. The world we are building is about a square mile, so it's easy to hide things. Stone plaques, rock cairns and secret stashes are a lot easier to hide in a live, realistic looking world. Deciphering old maps will be a definite bonus, as well as decoding any ciphered messages.

We also updated the Glasto pages on our websites. I got to use the nocturnal screen grabs. ;-)

Natural day/night cycles will be used during Alignment Puzzles.

NOTE: All the Glasto screen grabs are works-in-progress.

There are actually a few jobs on the go, as Matt untangles the scripts and anti-structure of Blackenrock. I won't be tackling a game that big again, unless I've got 100% time and attention. Delegating is not an easy thing for me, so it makes sense to stick to what comes easier, and that's art and stories, so I've got a few things ticking over in the background. 

Dark Fall 4 is one of the background projects; I'm building that one bit by bit, when time allows. A seaside Pier needs a lot of 'stuff', pretty much everything has to be created from scratch, so it's a lot of work. Fun work. The last area, built about two weeks ago, belongs to the ghost-hunters, Nigel Danvers and Polly White. This will be their first adventure together since DF1, back in 2000. It's likely the Pier game will act as an anniversary game, if I work at it this Winter. 

WIP: DF4 - Storm Warning - The HQ of Nigel Danvers and Polly White

My aim with DF4: Storm Warning is to make a game just like the first one; abandoned location, quiet atmosphere, nostalgic ghosts and series of puzzles which add information to the main, overall puzzle. It was a nice idea, back then, and made the game very non-linear. The funny thing, I didn't know how to write a File I/O function for Director (save/load), so Dark Fall was built with few changeable parameters and a limited inventory. 

The Bazelgette Pier survived many eras, from the faded Edwardian arcades to the garish 80's burger bar.

Things are different now, but I'm still going to keep the non-linear feel. Exploring the creaking old pier will be ace, especially if you can take it at your own pace, and let your big detective nose lead you, rather than a constant barrage of Objectives. I do like a bit of 'hand holding' during big games, but often there's no point actually 'searching' the search area, when a big icon tells you where the objective/object is. So, a balance between the two would be ideal. 

Old Time Activities: DF4 - Storm Warning

I'd like some repeatable puzzles/activities too. If any of the puzzles seem fun enough to repeat, I'll include a replay function. This will be especially useful for the arcade machines. There's no point setting a story on a pier and not having plenty of amusements. There are two arcades in Looe, with a fine selection of machines, from the latest craze to the 2p slot-n-roll machines. Yes, the 2p slot machines are still hugely popular. What is it with those old things? What will happen if our nasty overlords ban the copper coins?! Sniff. Anyway, they always prove entertaining, and my visitors always love them. A genuine physics approach is best, for the game version, so it feels real. 

Obviously, I won't be hanging the entire plot on an old 2p slot machine, as it's silly and trivial (and the psychics might go wrong!), but it can certainly be one of those repeatable activities, alongside Fairground fun like 'balls in buckets' and the shooting range, ElectroDart and Bingo. The only problem will be the ghosts, they don't want you to win, so use the ever dependable ghost-hunting gadgets to see through the supernatural shenanigans. There's also a Mirror Maze, harder to orientate than you'd think, and of course, a Ghost Train. 

So, back to work for me, thanks for reading.


Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Bold as brass - TLC2 - Vintage Ghost Hunting

Keeping busy, while Matt (Shadow Tor) unravels my crazy coding on Blackenrock and makes it fighting fit. I'm not a very good coder, so it's in better hands at this last stage. There's a lot of game parameters, and the game has a non-linear approach, which for me became a bit impossible to stay on top of. Good news is, Matt's got a good maths brain, and stays on track a lot more than me.

I haven't been too shabby over Winter and Spring, learning more about Unity (good and bad) and also learning Adventure Creator, which will make my life and work a lot quicker and easier. I've built a small 3D game already, which I'm lining up for XMas.

Also, in the meantime, I've been making assets for a rendered point-and-click game. Can't say much more, except there's an anniversary looming in a year and a bit.

Most of the props are vintage, based on real world versions. My models aren't perfect, but they'll do the job. The Magic Lantern is based on Philip's from 20 years ago, which he still has to this day. No surprise, it's a thing of beauty, and looks very cool in a Steam Punk way.

Quite a few of the props made for rendering will be recycled in other games. I know alchemy, esoteric and occult books pop up in pretty much all my stuff, so it was cool to track down some old volumes, with particular attention to covers. I always think of Karswell, from the Night of the Demon movie (Casting the Runes - M.R.James) when it comes to occult libraries, I'm sure someone says something like "his library of occult books is the largest in the country, if not the world!". So, I tend to make books Karswell would have. These are all real ones, turned into low poly books, for flinging about at gamers during poltergeist activity. They flap open.

Mutoscopes are nice items, it's likely I'll render out some textures from this one, for a low poly version, useful for my Pier game. That game needs A LOT of props, so it's logical to double up, especially when the artifact is aesthetically pleasing. 

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Blackenrock Late Summer + Updated Map + Gamescom

Good News (for a change)! Blackenrock (TLC2) is coming late Summer, after a lifetime of stop/starts.

Currently the game resides on Steam, but boxed copies will be available too, if we get our timings right. Other digital stores are likely too. Also, if you're a preview writer, or want to feature the game, do let me or Iceberg Interactive know. The latter is best, as they are the official publisher, so get in touch! ;-)

I'm looking to push for a few localisations for the game, because our last game release only had one! It was a good one though, thank goodness. It was only subtitles and the in-game gfx, but it looked nice and was made and tested very well. The 'half localisation' is much cheaper than a full vocal cast translation (obviously!). So, I believe there should be a few languages, at least. A good subtitle translation can go a long way. So, make some noise if you want an official translation in your language, as sometimes they just don't happen. Or worse, they do, and never get released.

Case Point: I heard from someone recently offering to translate TLC1 for me, in to Czech. A bit ironic, as a Czech version WAS made, but it seems to have disappeared without trace. It's a shame, 'cos it was finished. It just never saw the light of day.

I'm at the play end of Gamescon this year; but all play and no work makes me poor, so I'm looking to extend my dates backwards. So, if you see me (I'll be wearing Nigel's cap), do say hello and DEMAND some answers! Or, better still, come and have a play!

Also Lost Crown related, the (very) old interactive map was updated, using Google Maps, to include all the new locations. It's handy if you are doing the Crown Trail, or if you just fancy seeing what the places look like in 'real life'.

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Dark Fall - Storm Warning - A look at British Piers

Here's a couple screens from the next Dark Fall game, Storm Warning, as well as some shots from 'behind the scenes'.

Rusting and ruined, the pier still has a bit of charm.
Lots of memories of Hastings Pier are/will be evident in the new game, which has a certain level of nostalgia infused throughout. Pier fans may recognise the ironwork from Penarth Pier, in South Wales. I didn't nick them, honest!, but recreated the style after visiting the pier a couple of years ago.

Penarth Pier, South Wales

In the middle of nowhere.
There's also quite a lot of Brighton's old West Pier in Storm Warning. West Pier collapsed in the 00's, but there's loads of photos online, as well as a few YouTube video tours. It looked very cool, back then, feeling quite ghostly and decrepit. I'm trying to summon a similar feeling, especially during day time scenes. Romance rather than terror, during the day at least. Night time, when the storm sets in... that's when the horrors come out.

The scissors are back... they have some trimming to do.
We've been to a few piers, on the way to making this game. It makes sense to visit the source material, as I'm a bit lazy when it comes to reinventing the wheel. If it was good enough for the Victorians, then it's good enough for me. Unfortunately, West Pier and Hastings are no more, but Penarth and Paignton are good examples of what I was after. Both are quite a bit smaller than Bazalgette's, but they are perfectly formed. Paignton had a big facelift recently, leaning more towards a retro classic look, which was great. We had good fun during Storm Barbara, last month!

STORM WARNING - in this case, Storm Barbara 23rd December

There are a few arcades, here in Looe, one of which is quite a cavern of noise, lights and dodgy prizes, so nothing has really changed since the 80's. That is the last time the Bazalgette Pier was open, before being cosed for good. No-one wanted the responsibility, after what happened. Since then it's passed between several agents and council authorities, but to no avail. The pier will fall, lost forever, if an owner/descendant is not found. Perhaps that person is you?

Bingo! Bazalgette's last attempt to lure them in, back in 1988.
Be seeing you.


DF4 - Storm Warning - Take a stroll along the pier...

Dark Fall - Storm Warning

We have made great progress on Dark Fall 4 over the Christmas period. Now officially called Dark Fall - Storm Warning, the new ghost hunting adventure is looking and sounding super, in full 3D. The game is set on a faithful recreation of the Bazalgette Pier, on the Dorset coast, with an emphasis on the paranormal and lingering nostalgia. In terms of tone, it's most like Dark Fall 1, with a mystery to solve, while exploring the beautiful, but derelict ruins of an old Victorian setting.

Older readers (!!) will remember my interest in a Dark Fall pier game from a few years back. Hastings Pier had just been destroyed by fire, an arson attack, which was very miserable. I have very fond memories of the pier, from childhood, so the new game is infused with my own nostalgia, rose tinted by time and saddened by the truth of the piers demise. It's a perfect place to set a Dark Fall game. The ghosts are still out there, you see, waiting on the pier. An 'anniversary haunting' if ever there was one.

Ghost Hunt - Bazalgette Pier, 2005

A group of (strangely familiar) ghost-hunters took part in a 'less than legal' experiment on the Bazalgette Pier, back in 2005. There are few documents or evidence files, but what does exist is pretty creepy: evps, poltergeist activity and an impressive time slip (my favourite).

Take a look.

2017 - Line up

Blackenrock is up first (sorry! I had kidney stone issues in December), then Shadow Tor's 'Bracken Tor' (now a more logical follow up to Barrow Hill, thanks to Matt's 'The Dark Path'). We really must get the older productions out, and done, before DF4 can have its big splash, but it's certainly something to look forward to. If you like ghost stories, old abandoned places and adventure games then you're in for a cool spooky experience. It's the sort of game that I wish there was more of, as a lot of the supernatural games fall back on demons, gore and weapons. 

Lost and now found: old contact sheets show paranormal phenomena
DF4 is all about experiments and time-slips, with a strong sense of dread rather than outright horror. But, it's still going to have plenty of spooky bits, very much like the first Dark Fall. You could see this new 3D instalment as a re-launch of the series, using new technology with an eye on PCs and consoles. It's time to face the future, by diving into the past. 


Friday, 22 April 2016

RAF Davidstow Moor -Texture Harvesting

I really enjoyed my afternoon in North Cornwall, yesterday. The mission was to gather some new textures for Dark Fall 4. To build a pier, I need a lot of rusting metals, rotting wood and... well, anything, as long as it's decaying. The mission was a successful one, I'm pleased to say.

The abandoned WWII airbase at Davidstow Moor was a perfect place to go, especially on a dull day (shadows are the enemy of any budding texture artist).

The area is huge; a massive expanse of open pasture, with views out to Rough Tor, Brown Willy and... not much else. It's a place that reminded me of Denge Marsh, at Dungerness. That barren place has a nuclear power station, breaking the sky line, where as Davidstow has, you may have guessed, has the 'Davidstow Cheese Factory' at it's centre.

The other place that sprang to mind, while meandering the rancid old bunkers, was The Zone, from the Stalker games. I liked that world a lot; a fetish for rust, rot and abandoned buildings certainly helped, so the air field was a quite cool to explore. Like a real-world version, without the radiation (I hope!), and no Snorks.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Blackenrock Trailer and Steam Listing go live!

"...the Crown was only the beginning…"

I took inspiration, for the trailer, from a Pathe News clip featuring real-world Polperro (in-game Saxton). It's a crackling, fuzzy old film, from a bygone time, with that curious vocal delivery and script that seems to define an era. It's fun to browse those old clips, especially those featuring village life or a haunting! I did, initially, think about splicing the old Pathe clip with Nigel's message, but decided to film a new one, in-game! It makes the trailer a very curious thing; a period film for a town that doesn't exist. Or does it?

Pathe News feature: Polperro 

The new theme is something special too. A folky update of the original drifting soundscape (vocals by Jonathan Geer), with guitar by Ben Gammons. There's a pace, a mood, to the new theme. If the first game was a dense mystery, the new one is more like an old TV thriller. Quite a few of the existing characters appear, in the video, lost in the fog, like Nanny Noah, Bob Tawny, Lucy Reubans... et all.

But, there are also new faces, characters you have yet to meet. It's a long story, Blackenrock, with all the characters having individual stories, motivations and development. In many ways, it's more like a paranormal Soap Opera, or Supernatural serial, with all the dramatic twists I could muster.