Thursday, 20 September 2018

TLC - Silent Night - Game Play Modes

A quick look at Silent Night, and the various game play modes. Full exploration on controller or Keyboard/Mouse, or a classic adventure Point and Click style.

Silent Night - A Ghost Story For Christmas (TLC2.5)

There is a 'presence' haunting the long forgotten church at 'Northfield'. Angry spirits seek revenge for an ancient crime, from the terrible time of The Black Death. Ghost-hunter, Nigel Danvers, has been sent to investigate the case, using his kitbag of ghost-hunting gadgets, on the loneliest night of the year.

A new 'Lost Crown' Winter Special is coming this December!

It is more than likely that Nigel will make his way to Blackenrock* before the first snow fall, but just in case, the moment has been prepared for, with a brand new, sparkly instalment of the popular 'ghost hunting' adventure games.

Do you believe in ghosts?
You know, the old fashioned kind, like the Gray Lady, the hooded monk or the disappearing child?

Silent Night is a classic ghost story, involving ghost hunting tech and detective work. The old Parish Records hold a thousand years of history, from births, deaths and marriages to... secrets best forgotten.

Time loops? Time slips? What era awaits beyond the ghost door?

The Setting -

It's Christmas Eve, in rural Anglia. A bitter snow storm has driven the country folk to the warmth and safety of their household fires, as a bleak midwinter drowns the world in white. The storm has disturbed the spirits, the ghosts of Northfield from ages past,  they wander the Carrion Woods and long forgotten graveyards.

Nigel Danvers has returned to the old church at Northfield.

Some are lost souls, damned by actions long ago, whereas others seek revenge and retribution. The landscape was once ravaged by a great pestilence, The Black Death, when the simple folk of Northfield were decimated by a plague of biblical proportions.

A bit of E.M.F action, in the churchyard at Northfield.

The church turned its back on the 'people of the woods', left alone to die on cold and misery. Tonight, Christmas Eve, they have risen to seek retribution. Can Nigel Danvers, local ghost-hunter, solve the case? Using ghost-hunting gadgets and detective skills, the secrets of Northfield are about to be revealed, for the first time in 700 years.

The choir stalls are empty... or are they?

About -

'Silent Night - A Ghost Story for Christmas' is created by Jonathan Boakes (that'll be me), as a new Festive installment of the 'Lost Crown' ghost-hunting series. The locations featured in the Crown games are always based on real places, hidden away in the Cornish landscape. The Lost Crown (2006) was set in the fictional town of Saxton, which in real life receives many 'Crown fans' each year, looking to retrace the footsteps of the ghost-hunting protagonist 'Nigel Danvers'. So, using real locations in essential for the series, and Silent Night is no exception.

Eyes. Eyes watching. That's key to solving this case.

Church Building -

Building a whole church, inside and out, was quite a daunting task. It's not just columns and gothic windows to recreate in 3D, there are several impressive monuments, like the 15thC slate carvings and a Tudor Era 'Rood Screen', or the famous statue that resides in the Chapel. Utilising a mix of low poly and high poly photo-grammetry, the church started to take shape during the Summer, bit by bit.
Ancient monuments and priceless Tudor Carvings.

I have visited the 'real' church at Duloe, (St.Cuby's in Cornwall), hundreds of times, in different seasons, including three times with snow! And I also know a lot of Crown fans have been up there, to re-live some of the game moments (always making a donation, thanks Vicar). It's an unusally large church, for these parts, which always intrigued me, with lots of genuinely antique items and an old Druid Stone Circle a, umm, stones throw away. It was also the centre of big legal controversy, back in the 1830's, but I'll save that for another blog.

Exploring St.Cuby's, Duloe Parish Church

So, it was important to capture the place and represent the location in 3D as well as possible. Basically, it HAD to look the same, and continue the vibe so beloved of the original game.

The Darkling Thrush

The Carrion Woods are another location, well remembered by Crown fans (that's you, probably), so I've made sure to keep plenty of the twiggy pines, while opening up previously unseen areas.

There are ruins in the wood, of old stones and long forgotten homes.

Exploring a ruined house in the woods, what could possibly go wrong?

If you've played The Lost Crown you will know that the pine trees have grown out of a very significant site, of huge archaeological value. Silent Night re-explores the history of the place, in greater depth and offers a chance for a bit of India Jones action, later in the story. ;-)

Lastly - Controls!

A bit of a dry subject for an announcement blog, but I know some of you may be concerned about how you interact with the game.

Win XBox 360 Controller Layout

I favour the Windows XBox Controller for pretty much every game that supports it. I used to be a keyboard/mouse gamer, until I realised all the games I wanted to play were on Playstation, with PS exclusives like Condemned 2, Clock Tower, Siren, Fatal Frame etc etc etc... there were a LOT. There are less exclusives these days, usually most games get a PC release (even Arkham Knight, in the end) so I drifted back to the PC for gaming, but kept my new found love of the GAME CONTROLLER.

The Church Vestry, and a tapping at the window...

Also, there's Point and Click Old Style!

But, not everyone wants to interact in the same way, so I went to the lab and created a hybrid! You can play, survival horror style, in free movement, or play the point-and-click version instead. There are NO scenes that rely of dexterity or quick movement (no more than The Lost Crown) so there was no point alienating the old school.

Point and Click Option - Older Style

I like to play a point and click now and then, the feel is different, the pace is different, so it'll be interesting to provide both. Plus, it means I get to dictate some of the camera shots again! I don't lose Directorial control over what people look at, so I can frame some shots, do some wicked high angles from the church rafters and include some excellent camera sweeps and movements for dramatic moments (cutscenes).

Nite-Vision Camera in action

So, just to wrap up:

Silent Night is a new, ghost-hunting adventure game from Darkling Room, for Winter 2018. It is a hybrid adventure offering free movement on the Win XBox Controller or keyboard/mouse, as well as a traditional point-and-click mode for old school gaming. The story is a Wintry tale, with references to classic supernatural fiction and lore, including M.R.James, Thomas Hardy and of course, Charles Dickens. Dust the frost from the ghost-hunting gadgets, and head off to Northfield for a chilly festive fright!


* We are still working to get Blackenrock released ASAP, but this gave me an opportunity to make something cool and creepy for Winter, while we finish off. And, if I'm honest, it's the best thing I've ever made. I'm genuinely thrilled with the new freedom and technology, wishing I'd done it sooner. But, this doesn't mean Blackenrock has been forgotten. The opposite, it's just being managed much better, which is what it needed. And, I'm hoping it appears before December!

I spent a very long time writing TLC2 and 3, and recorded hours of dialog, it's no mean feat to create something so big, so I will see it through. It's good too. Much better than before. So, sorry as always for the delay, but trust me when I say it's coming ASAP.
But, for now, rest assured knowing that the Crown games are alive! So, please try to get behind me on this one, you don't have to be super nice to me (and some are really not that nice, you know who you are), but please get behind this new game, as it's been a lot of hard work and effort. Plus, it's quite cool. ;-)

Friday, 7 September 2018

Green Children of Woolpit

Animating this fellow over the w/e, for a TLC story based on the Green Children of Woolpit. Worth checking out, if you like weird rural stories.

It'll be a fun Quest, I hope, with good sound and music to back it up (my anims need that! Ha ha) It won't be perfect, they never are, but hey ho, the wind and the rain, 'cos the rain it raineth everyday.


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.