Friday, 1 August 2014

Civic Duties - Saxton's going up in the world!



I have been performing a few civic duties, around Saxton. Much of Blackenrock (the sequel to The Lost Crown) takes place in the small fog shrouded town (3 days, 2 nights), so it needs to be properly spick and span. Well, as spick and span as Saxton can get. The town is still a rambling, natural place, with cracks in the pavements and weeds here and there, but there must have been a cash injection from somewhere, 'cos it's about to gain some new plaques!



You see these type of things around 'historic' towns, conveniently pointing out places of interest, or famous towns folk. Saxton's new found status seems just, given the history of the place, but is there another agenda?



Refreshing the town has been fun. There are new angles, alternative views and trusty old scenes, and a few new additions too. The train station has been bullied into providing more than one service, as many local services are these days, so the Post Box has been relocated from its previous (unseen) location, to pride of place by the station. Like many things in Saxton, the Post Box has its own quirks and mysteries. It all starts with an impossible letter.



Elsewhere in Saxton, specific social groups are becoming obvious. There are the 'haves' and the 'have nots'; some are local, honest folk, others are out for all they can get. In some cases it is money, distinction or plain greed, but a few seem to have a much darker plan for the town. History was written by the victor, they grumble.



Of course, there are always the old faithful friends, like Nanny Noah. Isn't there? Why does she evade Nigel's questions concerning the name 'Whittle'? Old rumours concerning the Saxton witches have resurfaced, following a new exhibition at the museum - 'The Whittle Witches of Saxton'. The esoteric exhibits exude an atmosphere of darkness and evil, causing much worry and bad feeling around town.



Blackenrock takes part mostly in Saxton, and one other specific place (made up of several locations), but the game features the brand new map. The whole map! It's a much larger view than we have seen before, but it has given me a wonderful opportunity to expand the 'Crown' world. There are lots of places to look forward to, (and some not!), in the sequels. As the story progresses, more and more places will become available. Once the First Crown is discovered, you will know this land like the back of your hand.



Nigel's work, as a 'ghost hunter' is now a commercial venture. But why, oh why, are his recent cases going COLD. There's something, something paranormal, and then… nothing. The trail goes cold. Is it him? Are the gadgets to blame? Or, is something, or, someone keeping him from the truth?



As Nigel prepares for his big adventure, I have been out and about in the 'Saxton' world too. I took a day off to enjoy the WWI centenary peal of bells at Talland Church (aka Ulcombe) last weekend. It was bloody lovely, weather wise, so I slow roasted in the churchyard. It was quite trippy. You couldn't hear much, over the din of the bells, lovely as they were. So, there wasn't much in the way of birdsong. Instead, I saw a family of buzzards circling the hills, plenty of magpies and the swallows (much diminished in numbers). Loads of butterflies too!



It was lovely to get away from the LCD screen, and see the real world. My favourite bit, much later that day, came when walking home along the coast path. The gorse bushes were teeming with glowbugs! I thought they only existed in pirate movies, so was quietly thrilled. The path home seemed to be lit by fairies L.E.D.s, making it a perfect end to a perfect day. The cans of ready mixed G&T helped too!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Secrets of the Gravestones - Duloe


The Secrets of the Gravestones - Duloe, St.Cuby's Church


We made a recent return trip to Duloe Church (St.Cuby's), a few miles from Looe. We were photographing the back of gravestones, for a puzzle soon to be seen in Blackenrock. The yard was devoid of people, but the Jackdaws made their presence known, in their usual noisy fashion. Many appear to be nesting in the old Norman tower, the naughty things.


But, why the back of gravestones? Well, the reverse, unmarked side is perfect for digitally adding your own names, dates and decorations. It's hard to digitally mimic natural wearing, and the chaos of lichen. Plus, any excuse for a morning away from the LCD is fine by me!

Re-layed gravestones in the Colshull Chapel
The church underwent extensive restoration and repair, recently, and some of the broken graves have been moved to the inside of the church, where they have been inlaid on the floor of the aisles and Colshull Chapel. Laid flat, the gravestones can be studied in their entirety, meaning the part that would normally be underground is now visible. Which is where things get interesting…



Many of the stones retain the original stonemason marks, which are quite common, but some have intriguing 'workings out' and test typefaces, a few of which appear to be preparation of other stones entirely. The stonemason also appears to be local, to Duloe, which is rather quaint. Seeing the mistakes, tryouts and experiments certainly brings you closer to the craftsmen who worked the stone, over 150 years ago.

Working on those tricky 'W's', back in the Victorian Era.


I felt, standing in the church, that there's a great adventure game puzzle waiting to be created. It's too late for Blackenrock, as I'm wrapping up work on that one. But, I'm certainly going to try squeezing it into the already hefty 'The Last Crown'. I love this kind of mystery, especially when it involves information that has been/is hidden. 



Many of the Duloe stones are getting on for two centuries, so it's information that's been successfully hidden for a long time; a secret taken to the grave, until the church underwent modern renovations. Could a centuries old mystery be solved by the discovery of hidden text? 



Lastly, in case you are wondering, my trip was successful. I photographed many gravestones, some of which you will be seeing in the new game. I rarely need any excuse to meander in a churchyard. I spent many an afternoon, in the rambling graveyards of Kent, back in my teens. I had a fascination for stone work and ecclesial buildings (especially Tudor era), eventually studying the subject at College.



I like to think of a Parish Church as a small museum. Some are more interesting than others, but St.Cuby's at Duloe is an absolute favourite. It has much to enjoy and puzzle over. There's the impressive effigy of Sir John Colshull (second richest man in Cornwall), the pyramid tower, the 15thC carved Rood Screen, the pre-Christian (pagan, decorated with griffons and dolphins), the choir stalls (donated by Balliol College, Oxford, 1937), the beastly gargoyles, the carved slate Elizabethan ladies… phew…

Duloe from the air, circa.1940. The Stone Circle, visible top right.
The list could go on. The church is perfect for inspiration, so I was pleased to find the place still has a few surprises. I know I'll be visiting St.Cuby's for some time to come. If you happen to pop by, do sign the Guestbook (I always look at the new entries) and make a donation if you fancy.

Gravestones produced for Blackenrock - By Matt Clark and Jonathan Boakes



Friday, 13 June 2014

The Ultimate Lost Crown Quiz - The Results and Answers!

It's Friday the 13th, day has turned to evening, so it's time to pick the winners of The Ultimate Lost Crown Quiz!!! Drum roll please....

Picking the winners from the TOP SCORERS! Well done folks!
 Winners will recieve an email, with your exclusive STEAM code. Thanks for playing!!

Here are the answers, in case anyone was wondering.



1 - Nigel arrives at Sedgemarsh on what?
The Express
The Sleepwalker
The Dreamer

2 - Nanny Noah's furry faithful friend is called?
Spivey
George
Bob

3 - The pub, on Saxton Harbour, is called?
The Hare
The Smugglers
The Bear

4 - The owner of Celtic Corner is?
Morgan Mankle
Rhys Branwen
Bob Tawny

5 - Which of the Ager brothers haunts Ulcombe?
Frederick Ager
William Ager
Nathanial Ager

6 - Who is the Saxton Skeleton?
Alister Farleigh.
Professor. Hardacre
Robert Karswell.

7 - Katherine Karswell adds how many pigeons to her broth?
Three
Five
Seven

8 - Where can you see, after adjusting the 'Mill Stones'?
Saxton
Sedgemarsh
Northfield

9 - What is often parked by Bob Tawny's workshop?
A quadbike.
A barrow.
A push bike.

10 - What is Lucy Reubans studying at Uni?
Parapsychology.
Psychology.
Psychiatry.

11 - Who haunts the old archive rooms of Saxton Museum?
Wendy.
Verity.
Amy.

12 - The local 'delicacy' is what?
Pigeon.
Mackeral.
Lobster.

13 - Who are the 'Track Ghosts'?
Plague victims.
Apple sorters.
Night mail workers.

14 - Who kills Professor Hardacre?
Nigel.
Mr.Gruel.
An Ager brother.

15 - What happened to Christina Molina?
She was murdered by her husband.
She died from slow toxic poisoning.
She committed suicide in Harbour Cottage.

16 - Which of these is native to The Fens?
Brown Hare.
Natterjack Toad
Wood Pigeon.

17 - Tasseography is the art of 'reading' what?
Tea leaves.
Palms.
Tarot cards.

18 - Jemima is guarding an old journal, belonging to who?
William Ager.
Walter Spivey.
Edward Molina.

19 - The 'Crown' landscape is divided into three areas.
Sedgemarsh, Saxton and Northfield.
Saxton, Ulcombe and Northfield.
Saxton, Ulcombe and Sedgemarsh.

20 - Who haunts the tidal pool in the Saxton Caverns?
Emily Travers.
Katherine Karswell.
Nancy Brewer.

21 - Jasper is/was a…?
Cat.
Lobster.
Mockingbird.

Image round -


The 'Carved Slate Ladies' at Northfield.



Robert Karswell's Geology Lab.


Silver spoon from the May Day Lucky Dip!


Nancy Brewer, the evacuee ghost at Ulcombe Church.


Monday, 9 June 2014

WIN the new 'Enhanced' edition of The Lost Crown.

WIN! WIN! WIN!

Here's a fun chance to win one of 5 STEAM keys, for The Lost Crown. It's a tricksy QUIZ. I've created the questions myself. Some are easy, some are less so. You don't have to get them all right, but the top scorers will be entered into a hat....

http://www.thelostcrown.co.uk/steamquiz.htm


... and drawn on Friday evening, the 13th! Last entry will be Friday, at six o'clock, GMT.

Answer the questions, add an email adress and I'll mark your score sheets. Good luck!

Click to start the QUIZ!


Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Re-discovering the Lost Crown


The Lost Crown - A Ghost-Hunting Adventure is getting an official re-release this week, launching on the popular game downloads service 'STEAM'. I'm a big STEAM user, I have been for years, so I am quietly thrilled that the game is finally making its way to that hallowed portal. To make the re-release special, I went back to the game files, and tweaked a few things…

*not really


Don't worry, Crown fans, there's no over the top 'Lucas' style rehashing. The game is almost exactly the same, except for some minor but significant changes. So, without further a do, I shall list the alterations as comprehensively as possible. I know there are some serious Crown completionists out there, so I'm hoping to cover everything… no matter how small.

New cover art for The Lost Crown


Artwork - The Lost Crown has had three different covers to date, none of which have really captured the feel of the game. So, this time round, both myself and Iceberg [Interactive] felt we could create something new. We all wanted to see Nigel, the protagonist (hero!) on the cover, as well as bring across the atmosphere and haunting quality. 

Above is my mock up, from a month ago, which was a quick montage of elements I wanted to see. Next to it is the final artwork, ready to be broken up into various mini-graphics for use on STEAM, promotional materials and (maybe) the next box version.

Original mock up by Jonathan Boakes.

The artwork captures a 'spooky moment' in the landscape around Saxton. The birds are startled from the reeds, as Nigel swings round to see what is causing the disturbance. The ghostly pines of the Carrion Woods can be seen, through the mists. Inside the miasma, a broken doll face glares at us, with one intense 'nite-vision' eye. Who is watching who? Crown and Dark Fall fans will know that I've got a bit of a 'creepy doll' fixation. Goodness knows where that comes from, as my sister was never really a fan either! We subjected poor Cindy to all sorts of terrible experiments, as kids. She never recovered from the fire… but, I digress…


Artwork for the new The Lost Crown release.


A new title/logo has also been created, which will help gel the Crown series together. This is particularly useful, as the Crown games are looking to have a strong presence this year. After a few stops and starts, it's full Steam ahead.

Menu - A few changes here, all for the better. A silhouette outline of Saxton has been added to the view. It was a rather dull, flat landscape before, in keeping with the Anglian landscape, but it looked wrong.

Saxton makes an appearance...

Also making an early appearance is the frightful figure of an Ager brother. I always intended for a figure to come and go from the piney hillside, so it's good to see him finally get his scythe out. He's a random event, so you never know where he'll be, if at all.

A dark figure, hides within the Carrion Woods.


SAVES SAVES SAVES!!!!!!

The Lost Crown is a LONG game, certainly by adventure standards, so I was an idiot to only include 8 save slots. Idiotic!! When I replayed the game, last year, I resorted to backing up the save folder, so I'd have access to all the areas, presented over the fictional four days I'd spent in Saxton. But, it was a nerdy way to solve the issue, and not everyone would know how to do it. So, unlimited saves have been implemented.

Unlimited save slots! Whoo hoo!

Titles - I like the Lost Crown titles, there's something peculiar about them. But, the crow sequence was always a problem for me. Too static, not enough interest. Originally, I had intended to film my hands forming the shape of a bird, like the shadow puppeteers. But, again, time ran out, so I used static crow cut outs. The new sequence shows the same old crows, but they're in a flap about something. Esoteric art, which centres the image, pre-echoes the tasks that lay ahead, especially the Wiccan lore and nocturnal puzzles at Northfield Church.

The crows of Carrion Woods.

The other changes, to the titles, are:

The word 'Evidence' has been added to the cassette tape. It helps bring across that the game is about harvesting paranormal data.

The steam train was also tweaked. The steam now follows the train, much more closely. A minor thing, yes, but it's something a few people pointed out.

After the train arrives, Lucy Reubans is seen briefly, making her way into the Fens. We do follow her, after all, so her presence is a good one.

Tutorial - The game begins with a brief tutorial. It does not drag on, as tutorials can pull you out of the fiction, sometimes, especially if they continue to appear hours after starting play. So, instead, the basic are covered here, in the first scene.

HURRY UP!!!!

 

Double Clicking - This is something I believe some may have missed, up until now. Pretty much all locations can be traversed by double clicking, rather than single clicking to leave a scene. Basically, the scene changes straight away, rather than having to wait for Nigel to walk the distance. He walks quite slowly, so the double-click is very useful.

Learning how to walk.... FAST!

There are occasional moments when the double-click is in-active. This is usually because something important happens on the transition, or Nigel has some useful information to share, but by and large, the double click is there to speed your progress.

SHUT UP!!!!!

 

The other BIG significant change to gameplay is the ability to skip dialogs. Yup, at last, you can interrupt the characters mid-flow. I always wanted avoid repetitious dialogs, by showing what had been selected, and what hadn't. But, sadly, the game engine did not support that feature, or I didn't know how to implement it. So, instead of being sensible, I chose to imagine most adventure gamers were savvy enough to remember what had been asked. When I came to re-play the game I realised that it was a mistake. Unless you're really fastidious and click ALL questions, top to bottom, there was always the chance you'd miss a question, or worse, ask the same questions over and over. I can imagine that it was very frustrating (and annoying) to hear the same lines, especially when some conversations are very long. So, that was something we were very keen to fix. And it is done.

Puzzles -

There have been changes to a couple of the puzzles, too. Nothing destructive, just tweaks to make the game more fluid and enjoyable.

DANGER!!

You no longer have to fix the Undercurrents sign upon arrival. The pieces are there to find over the course of the game. Once complete, there is a suggestion (atmospherically) that deeper forces are at work in Saxton.

 
Impossible Evidence.

A Crown fan recently informed me that it is impossible to gather ALL of the ghost-hunting photos, which came as a big surprise (Thanks Pete!). Originally, there were three photos of Nigel's bed, captured by the digicam as he slept. This was because, originally, Nigel had the camera from day one. Later, I changed the plot to have gadgets arrive after Nigel had settled (Day 2). This meant you could never get the third pic! Annoying the completionists no end! I'm the sort of gamer that loves to collect all the extras and find all the secret areas in games (I got 100% in the recent Tombraider, no easy task), and often prefer those gameplay elements to the actual 'action'. So, I would have been gutted to be left with a glaring empty space where an important paranormal find should have been. So, I am pleased that 'something' now fills that space. It's a piece of evidence from somewhere in Harbour Cottage… something that helps illustrate the buildings past life.

Win or lose, it's up to you.

This photo does not affect Saxton Snappers. I recently asked Facebook TLC friends whether they won or lost the Rhys Branwen photo competition, which presented some interesting feedback. There are some that say that it was impossible to win the competition, while others swore that it was impossible NOT to. The fact is, any photo that is not paranormal evidence can be submitted to the competition, if you have taken it. There are a few low scorers, and some high scorers. Off the top of my head, I know that the once only opportunity to photograph Mr.Tibbs in the graveyard is a big winner. It's the judges cat, after all! Also, the Natterjack Toad and the heron are good scorers.


A prize winning snap for sure!

Nigel - The star of this very peculiar show has also had a few tweaks. He no longer stares fully ahead when walking. It sounds like a little thing, but I was surprised how silly it looked, when I replayed the game. He looked like he'd had a few too many coffees, if I'm honest. So, his eye lids have been relaxed and he now blinks when he walks! A tiny change, but all for the good. Other tweaks include timing his turns better (he juddered on 180's) and allowing him to continue his actions while secondary events play out, such as the dragonfly appearances.

Full STEAM Ahead

 

Re-releasing the game on STEAM presented a new opportunity, in the form of Trading Cards, Achievements and Community Badges. I had a lot of fun creating the assets, which are plentiful and comprehensive.

Achievements - A pleasantly 'mixed bag' of rewards has been created for STEAM users. Most are rewards for collecting non-essential items and performing less obvious actions. Here are a few examples -

From the obvious to the bonkers.

  • Hedge Wych
  • Swot
  • My Porcine Friend
  • Bookworm
  • Catwatcher
  • Retro Horror
  • Paparazzi
  • and more...

Trading Cards - I've only recently got into Trading Cards, after total ignorance of what they are. You collect them as you progress through the game, (as well as any other game on Steam with Trading Cards). You can either work to complete the set, which includes rare Silver Cards, or swap/trade with other STEAM users. I recently sold a silver card for a surprising amount, the money being added to my STEAM account. Not bad! A Silver 'Rusty Scissors' Trading card for Dark Fall - Lost Souls was up for sale, recently, for £15!!
Collect them all.

Community Avatars - Users can pick one of the Lost Crown characters as their community 'face'. They include the obvious, such as Nigel or Nanny Noah, but there are also a few weirdy, surreal ones, such as the lobster, Mr.Tibbs, or…. shiver… Jemima!!

She's back for more.

WRAP IT UP!!!!

 

So, overall, the new version of The Lost Crown is a better beast than it was. It was never perfect, and probably never will be, but it's been good to get in there and fix a few issues. Skipping dialogs, F1 to quit and unlimited saves are the most significant. The others are cosmetic, but also worthwhile.

Blackenrock is coming next, now that TLC1 has a shiny new presence in the world, so there's plenty to look forward to. Releasing the gameplay video and new screens has been very positive. It was hard to get back in the right mindset, for the Crown games, after a few experiments. At the end of the day, the games have a very distinctive feel, so it's good to be back in the right zone. Re-releasing The Lost Crown could not come at a better time.
Jonathan

P.s. While digging around in the old files, I found some bloopers that were quite amusing. I'll just leave them here…

I don't know what Nanny Noah feeds 'em, but they sure have grown big!



A little fuller of face than we are used to.


Scaling mistakes up at the little Lighthouse.

An unused scene with bizarro eyes!