Monday, 3 November 2008

Halloween Horrors, Time Travel Phones, Fire and Pigeon Famine.

Crikey, what a month! It's been a while since I jotted down any blog entries, so I'll dig through the murky cupboard, that I call my memories, and dig out some news from Gorgeous Cornwall and the Darkling Room.


Blaze Rips Through Harbour Town

Arsonists destroyed some of Looe's (rather ugly) fishing huts, a few days ago. I was playing a shooter on the PS2, at the time, and only noticed the whizzes, bangs and explosions during a level load. Ha ha! I had been impressed by the game soundtrack, up until that point! So, taking a look outside, it was alarming to see a huge blaze making its way down the Quay Side. I grabbed the camera, and rushed out to get some pics and video.

Click to read Article.

It was a nasty blaze too; several propane gas cylinders went up, creating (what I can only describe as) a huge Bunsen Burner in the sky! The heat was rather intense, and the flames threatened to spread to the nearby restaurants, pubs and homes. (I was very worried. I'd booked my Christmas Day lunch in one of them!) Anyway. The fire crew from Looe were soon on the scene, and the flames were extinguished. Watching the gas-masked figures wander among the smoke shrouded buildings was incredibly atmospheric. Like something out of the Blitz. Some of my photos made in into the morning papers, which was nice. Click the image above for the article, and I've uploaded a video to YouTube, for pyro-fans. Actually, I can't joke too much, as there's been another fire...just outside, perhaps Looe has a resident arsonist?

Dark Fall III Ideas

Game news; Dark Fall III progresses in ways which surprise even me. There's a real creepy feeling to many of the locations, which comes from a subtle, and specific use of sound and lighting (or lack of lighting). Dig out those torches, flash lights and matches, as the next game is as black as a November night. The games are called Dark Fall, after all. Lots of time travel elements too, which I love. Although, the inspiration can come from surprising places, and events...

...I dropped my mobile, the other day, while sneaking through the back streets of town. Blasted thing now has a fatally cracked LCD screen. I've got a picture of Talland Bay Church, as a 'wallpaper', for some strange reason. Some will know the place from The Lost Crown. It was Ulcombe Church. Weird thing is, each facet of the LCD has turned a different colour , or tone. There's a sepia section, a black and white section and a garish, full-colour section. The effect is pretty strange, and illustrates something that I've always been interested in; fractured time. Locations which have no fixed time period. An obvious example, from the game fiction, would be somewhere like Dowerton Hotel, from Dark Fall 1. Is the place firmly based in the 2000's, (when the fiction was set), or do certain rooms remain operational from the 1940's? Not so much a haunted location, more of a time-slip, in which the player may appear ghost-like to the long dead game characters.

Some paranormal enthusiasts have theorised that haunted locations do not have ghosts; instead, we see through cracks in time, and catch glimpses of people going about their everyday business, oblivious to our observations. It would explain why some ghosts appear to walk through doors, or walls, and ignore the shrieks of those who see them, or the persistent questions of the celebratory psychic. Do we also appear to those in the past? As gods, angels or demons? We must look as strange to the people of the past, as they do to us. Maybe even more so... for an interest in ghosts and the paranormal is fashionable, right now, whereas you could be burnt alive for such visions during the nastier periods of history.

As a theory it is an exciting one, and fits the Dark Fall mould. The first character you meet, in that train tunnel in Dark Fall 1, is unsure which one of the two of you should be there! It works particularly well in old locations, which haven't 'moved on' for some time. The old personalities of the place have yet to be replaced by newer, modern personalities. It might explain why old locations seem to boast more impressive paranormal events, rather than the local supermarket, or bus stop. But, we should always keep in mind what once stood on that location, long before the supermarket. Great Britain is a great place to explore those themes, given how tiny the place is, in comparison to the landmass of mainland Europe or the US. Virtually the whole landscape of Britain has been moulded and changed by human behaviour. Even vast, wild areas like the moors, or the Lake District are, essentially, unnatural.
People have been there. Lived there and died there. That means, to some extent, that the whole Island could be haunted by those who went before. Which brings me to Halloween...

Local Interest

It looks like Halloween stirred up some local interest in The Lost Crown! Great stuff. It did seem a bit of shame that the county had ignored the games release, back in July. Especially given the obvious, and vital, role played by Cornwall, in the games inspiration and creation. So, it was great to answer a few questions, and see the game appear in the press. Simon Parker, of The Western Morning News was the most interested. He really had no idea that adventure games existed. Like many non-gamers, he presumed it was all knockers, cars, nazis and killing. (Well, ahem, we do play quite a few of those, don't we!) So, I was more than happy to witter on about adventure games for an hour or so, and put the record straight. The finished article is good fun, although I'm not sure all my quotes are my own! No matter, the result was several emails from local people, looking to purchase the game, or sell it in their stores. Excellent. There will now be a local stockist for The Lost Crown based in Polperro...the village which started it all. About time too!

Click to Read Article.

A second article appeared in, the wonderfully titled, The Cornish Guardian. Makes it sound like an old Celtic god, don't you think? It's a nice concise article (again, Click the image), written by a Looe-vian, the daughter of our local ferryman. Which was nice. A few people have stopped me in the street, to say 'well done', which I'm not too proud to say is a marvellous experience. It's great to know you are liked by your local community, especially when you rely on them for inspiration! I'm still hiding from the 'real' Mr.Gruel though...dreading the day when someone tells him about my game. He really is like him, you know. The other day, I watched him tell his little spanial dog that it was "far too cold and wet to play outside, no, won't change my mind, little one...far too wet and cold for you!". Problem was, the spanial dog was a ceramic statue! It's a genuine antique. And there's Mr.Gruel chatting away to it. Creepy!

Click to read Article.

Also, thanks to Richard Clark, for pointing out a genuine 'Missing Cats Mystery'. Over 50 moggies have vanished! No remains have been found, but some collars have been located. Exactly the same MO as Mr.Gruel.

Here's the news item:

The RSPCA is investigating the mysterious disappearance of a large number of cats in a town dubbed the Purr-muda Triangle.

More than 40 pet cats are reported to have vanished from homes in Stourbridge, West Midlands, over the last eight years.

The RSPCA has been investigating the disappearances but said to date, no cat remains had been found.


HALLOWEEN; A Sub-Urban Nightmare!

This Haunted Land were invited to investigate an unusual location, this year. By unusual I mean mundane; a suburban house, built in the 1980's. Obviously, it's not the most traditional of ghostly locations, and I was quite prepared for disappointment. How silly of me.

It was great to investigate something a bit different, to be honest. THL fans will know that I love haunted forests, Inns and castles...but, this was a bit quirky. A poltergeist case in Snores-ville. A small, pleasant cul-de-sac of houses, built in the early 80's, which looks immaculate (read: Boring) and totally safe; a haven for families, the elderly and first time buyers. So, you can image my surprise to hear from a young family, who were honestly claiming that their lives were being terrorised by a poltergeist.

Click to learn about GhostWatch 2.

Many of you will be familiar with films such as Urban Ghost Story, or Poltergeist itself, when it comes to cases such as this one. Paranormal activity is not unheard of, in fact and fiction, in the safe zone of suburbia. So, the opportunity to investigate the activity was a brilliant one, and will be written up for THL in the near future. I can't say what happened, just yet, but you will notice that we are still alive, and news of 'Ghosts Are Real' has yet to appear in the, there were no major revelations. But, there was enough to inspire, scare and shock, so watch this space. Much of the recorded material was uploaded directly from our mobile unit, which got me thinking...what would be needed to do a 'live broadcast'. I've always loved the idea of the live paranormal investigation, ever since being spooked by GhostWatch, back in the 90's.

Click to learn about GhostWatch 2.

GhostWatch was a TV show, a screenplay, created to fool the audience into thinking they were watching a genuine investigation, which goes horribly wrong (or horribly 'right', if the intention was to find ghosts), and broadcast to a gullible public on BBC1. At primetime! Great stuff. Anyway. It stayed with me, throughout my teens, and twenties, and was there, in the back of my mind, when creating the characters of Polly White and Nigel Danvers, for Dark Fall 1. I think they were supposed to do a 'Live' radio broadcast on the night of the event (April 27th), but fail to do so for reasons made clear in the fiction. It's a shame they didn't get to make that broadcast, as I would have loved to hear it. I think an audio-only GhostHunt could be quite chilling...far more effective than the pompous, studio excesses of MostHaunted, which are more about ego than supernature. Don't get me wrong, I do find MostHaunted entertaining, but I gave up hoping to see paranormal evidence a long time ago...right about the same time as their 'resident sceptic' started making money from the MostHaunted Ghost-Hunting Board Game, and other such merchandising. (Ooops, sounds like envy!...moving swiftly on). Anyway. Again. I do like the idea of doing a 'Live' broadcast, for next Halloween. It could be an audio Stream, via the internet, or even a full colour, cast of thousands, TV all depends on the interest, the case and practicality. If anyone wants to get involved, swap some ideas, or Star in a Halloween Haunted Broadcast for Darkling Room then please get writing. I'm really excited about it, so I'm hoping something happens. The Suburban investigation, which I'll call The Hill View Haunting' generated some great clips (both audio and visual) and features several members of the team, and the owners of the locations. It could have made really interesting, anything is possible.

Quite a few visitors

I finally got round to placing a 'Hit Counter' on the Darkling Room website. To do so meant looking up, via my domain server, how many unique visitors I've had so far. Over a million and a half! That's crazy. I had no idea it was that many. I thought it would be in the 10's of thousands, based on interest in the games, but never expected that kind of figure. It really blew my socks off...and made me feel guilty for not updating the pages more often. It's something I will be looking into. But, a million and a half...can't believe that!

Pigeon Friends

Lastly, just a quick shout to my pigeon buddies, here on the Quay Side in Looe. There's two of them, and I promised I'd say 'hello', in pigeon language, so here goes...

"Cooo, coo, coooooo"

They've been pecking at my window, and nibbling my sandwich crusts, for over three seasons. They arn't half plump now! Thing is, they now know when I'm indoors...even with the blind down! How to they know these things? Can they smell me? Hear me?

Whenever I creep into the room, there's this mad pecking and scraping at the window, like a small Gremlin trying to ravage an unsuspecting Mogwai. With me being Mogwai, thank you very much. It makes me feel like a Zoo animal...a bit...a tiny bit...'cos I sit here in the dark, with the blinds drawn, hoping that the creatures don't come to watch me all day...what happened? When did the tables turn? What am I to do? I think they even have chicks now, in the roof. They'll be more of them soon... many more. I'm gonna need a bigger boat....

See you again soon. JB.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Dark Fall III, Church Ghosts and The Ancient Cult of Lamanna.

Thought I'd drop by, with an update, about life down here in creepy Cornwall...

The Wasp, The Blogger and the Island

Dark Fall III:

It's been a busy early Autumn, with work on Dark Fall III coming together; the screenplay received a raking over, to concentrate the story, and create a spookier atmosphere. So far, tone-wise, the third game is remarkably similar to Dark Fall; a non-linear ghost story with a beginning, a middle and an end, which is something that's hard to pull off. I love hearing from gamers, with tales of how they progressed through the games, as it gets me thinking "hmm, I never thought they'd try that!". It's great. I can only create the setting, the stage as it were, and add a few pointers here and there, but it is the player who imagines all the ghastly ghouls, ghosts and phantoms hidden in the shadows.I guess that was the strength of Dark Fall 1, the lack of visible activity and film soundtrack...less is more, is the well used phrase that springs to mind. I love all those old Ghost Story for Christmas films, like The Signalman, or A Warning to the Curious, where it seems to take an age for anything to actually happen, but you feel, throughout the film, that something could happen at any moment. That's a brilliant way to hook the have them wondering what is about to happen, rather than have them constantly under threat, being chased, or slimed by the monsters....and, speaking of monsters, there is Dark Fall III...well, maybe not a monster, more of a creature. A supernatural creature.

The idea came about after reading a local science report, on deformations and evolutionary jumps in intensively farmed cattle. Really disturbing. I'm just glad there's enough organic meat on offer. Anyway. There's going to be some gore, in DFIII. Not a lot, and certainly nothing that will disgust people, but the story warrants a splash of the red stuff here and there. (Spoiler Warning) I'm sailing close to a Mature rating, but hope to keep things the previous games. The Lost Crown nearly had an 18 certificate stamped all over it, In Britain. Cause? Not for the cat deaths, corpses or was the phrase "piss off". How bizarre is that. I seem to remember Ron Weasely uttering the same phrase in the last two Harry Potters...and they didn't get an 18 certificate. It's barmy! I'm all for game developers monitoring their own content, and being responsible, but why should games be treated any differently to films?! It's all those stupid "Games Make Kids Kill Each Other" headlines, touted by the rubbish tabloid media. So, I'll have to watch it, with DFIII, as I like my TEEN rating. I don't want to exclude my favorite audience. I like to think I would have played my games, back in the late 70's, while watching those old Children's Film Foundation features about old mine shafts, haunted church yards, castles and strange goings on. I do honestly believe that my games are very similar in tone to those old kids films, which were much more unusual and creepy than the wet efforts of today...Haunted Mansion anyone? Pah!


There are a few more quirky films, scattered about online; A Return to Ulcombe is a short film exploring some of Talland Bay's highlights, once again. This film is notable for the presence of none other than Emma Harry! Some of you will already know Emma, from her role in Matt Clark's 'Barrow Hill' horror game. But, Emma also performed three roles for The Lost Crown; Lucy Reubans, The Cave Siren and young Nancy Brewer. The latter was the ghost girl evacuee, trapped in Ulcombe Church. I chose to call the location Ulcombe, in reference to my birth place, which is the village of Ulcombe, in Kent. YouTube only has two videos with that reference (at present), one of mine, and the other is a prog-rock folk version of Greensleeves!

It was great to take Emma to the location, as seen in game, and get her to sit in 'Nancy's Pew'. Kind of spooky actually. Matt Clark joined us for the adventure, and tinkled a few tunes on the church was all rather 30's, darling! But, strangest thing, an uncanny atmosphere seemed to fill the church when he played that horrible organ tune, by Nathanial Ager. Matt invented that tune, for The Lost Crown, so thought it would be fun to hear it in the 'real' location. Bad idea. After a few bars, he stopped playing, convinced that he'd seen the piano keys all shift sideways, by half an inch. Which is, or should be, impossible! But, Emma saw it too. I was filming at the time, down the nave of the church...well, I should say 'trying to film'...the focus on the camera was playing up. It just wouldn't sharpen up, on anything! Talland Bay is a lovely church, with a great atmosphere...but, just on that afternoon, it suddenly felt horribly isolated and dark. It's an ancient place, built upon on an existing pagan shrine, and boasts horrible tales about a Demon Hunting Priest (Reverend Richard Doidge, try Googling him). I'm sorry to say that we quit our interior filming, at that point, and made our way outside, to bask in the sun, and drink some bubbly. After a few sips we forgot about our strange encounter and enjoyed the late Summer atmosphere.

Emma Harry and Matt Clark explore the Looe Time Team Dig on St.George's Island

Later the same week, the three of us travelled over to St.George's Island, just off the coast from Looe. Matt had recently taken part in the Time Team dig on the Island, for Channel 4 television, and documented many aspects of the Dig. So, he was excited to point out where bodies, chapel walls and old relics were found by the hairy experts of Wessex Archaeology. It was fascinating stuff. There are theories that an ancient cult may have inhabited the island, worshipping the lamb, and guarded some spectacular artifact. The Island, at the time, was called Lamanna, believed to be a reference to the sacred Lamb. Head's were removed from bodies, before burial, and replaced with sheep's skulls...seriously. How bizarre is that! Mind you, Matt could have just made that up, for effect...there's no way of telling what goes on in a game developers head sometimes! Someone will have to remind me, sooner or later, to tell the story about the Looe Island Treasure Map. It's fascinating, as is the tale of the long fingered Island ghost and the spooky atmosphere exhibited by the Island's Victorian-era House. Anyway. I hope you enjoy the film. It was a pleasure to pick out some clips and pics, and orchestrate the soundtrack. I hope it captures some of the Island's unique atmosphere.

Speaking of soundtracks...I've already created several pieces for DFIII. I usually create the scenes first, and let them dictate what the place should sound like, but I'm trying something a little different, this time round. I listen to the soundtrack while building the rooms. It's great! The locations come together very quickly, and have a consistent look and feel. I must admit that it can get quite spooky, working alone, after dark. Speaking of which, the sun has just set over in West Looe, as I finish off this entry. The dusk has plunged the harbour into magenta hued twilight. It's gorgeous! The tide is in, the gulls are silent, and there's not a soul to be seen. I love living, and working here, at times like this. Cornwall has been a great source of inspiration and looked after me well, so far. So, it's a pleasure to feature the place in my games...which, I hope to do some some years to come.


Thursday, 31 July 2008

Big British Lost Crown Launch! Game in Stores!

The Ghost-Hunting Adventure finally arrived on the 18th, when The Lost Crown finally made its way to stores in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is wonderful to finally have it in Britain, given that the game is, without doubt, the most 'English' game ever made; crumpets, miserable vicars, pasties and a none existent train service help cement that fact.

The box art looks great, (thanks Akella!), and Lighthouse have done a super job getting the game recognised outside of the USA. The advertising is super, bold and eye catching; like this Ad in the front cover of The Fortean Times. It was weird opening the mag to find the game staring back at me! I just hope the game pleases those that have been waiting...patiently. Price-wise, the game is a bargain at around £15! 36+ hours of gameplay! Amazon, Play and Game have stock (I've heard its sold out on Amazon 3 times over) so what are you waiting for?

Don't forget to post a review, post play, on Amazon, Play or Game; if you enjoy the game DO say so, as for every "I liked this game" there's some idiot who states that the game will "ruin your life, burn down your house, and eat your cat". I suspect someone like my mother is behind those reviews! :-) ...

It's been a while since I posted a blog. I would love to say I've been busy with the next game (more on that in a bit), but I can't. I went on a cruise! The Carnival Splendor, a huge US 'Fun Ship', on its inaugural voyage. Some of the press are saying its the biggest cruise ship in the world, which I can believe, having travelled on the beast, and got lost in its endless corridors, bars, casinos, restaurants, discos, decks...etc get the picture. But. First voyage, massive ship, elegant staterooms...hmmm...anyone else thinking Titanic?! They even played the film theme in the Piano bars! There's nothing like asking for trouble, is there?! Good news is, it didn't sink. Phew. There are few Icebergs in Dover, so i think we were safe. Mind you, it didn't stop me wandering the ship, after midnight, looking for Penny Pringle and Vlad. (Titanic: Adventure out of Time characters). There are photos in my 'pics' area, if anyone is interested...some are nice, some are horrid. Be warned, there's a nasty pic of me with a mouth full of hot dog. Not good. Or lady-like.

Lastly, I am working on a new game. Yes. And, it's going to be super. I love the setting (new), the established characters and the threat. It's not as quirky as The Lost Crown, but will use some of the elements created for that game. Those who know my previous games will recognise many plot threads, with some loose strands being tied up. As far as titles go, the game will be called Dark Fall III, which is continue the series. The subtitle gives LOADS away, so I'll hang on to that for a bit. In the mean time, rest assured in the knowledge that I am working, very hard, and making the best game I possibly can. It will be point and click, mouse only, with loads of puzzles (of every kind), made for XP and Vista, with adventure fans in mind.

The setting is horribly spooky (I'm surprised the location hasn't been used before), and really does provide a perfect stage on which to tell a ghost story; with lots of stony passages, dark pinewoods and long forgotten hallways. Horror-wise, this game will scare people; I'm constantly leafing through the game document (which is a bit like a walkthrough, for me to keep on top of the story) and adding "more creepiness here" and "needs a jolt here". If you found the crypt ghost or Ager Brothers spooky you may wish to start on breathing techniques now. In all honesty, I love spooky games, and want to make the next Dark Fall as weird and wonderful as possible. Fingers crossed, you should be playing the game by this time next year. I'm aiming for dark nights, as always, but we'll see how it goes. Deadlines have a way of flying past, at an alarming rate. But, one thing is for sure, I will be continuing the series (as its called) with this next game, with more to follow. The Dark Fall is coming...again...and it will know your name...

Get out in the sun!


Lucky Thirteen! The Lost Crown in the top 20.

Great news, sent to me via Lighthouse Interactive; The Lost Crown has entered the UK PC Games chart at number 13! With medieval II on one side, and the massive Crysis on the other. I am thrilled by the news. I hoped the game would get some recognition in Britain, but I didn't expect it to be a smash hit.

The chart can be viewed at
Chart Track.

Also, I did hear that my blog has been posted on some of the game forums, following my news of the next game. I hope people are excited, as I know the DF games have quite a following. It'll be great to get back to the series, as I have big plans for it. It is always waiting...

Lastly, the weather is amazing this week! The sun has finally remembered what season it is, so I've been out making plans in the church yard at Talland, and from deep within the Kilminorth Woods. It's so nice to get away from the glare of the LCD, and make some notes on paper. It reminds me of the old days, scribbling notes, for Dark Fall, on my waiters note pad. I pretty much thought up the whole game while serving sushi in Central London. How things have changed!

The nice thing about making/keeping paper notes is the chance to rediscover them, years from now. A bit like that feeling you get when you open an old game box, stuffed full of old gameplay notes and odd doodles. They can be priceless! I found an A4 the other day, waffling on about "Seven Sacrifices for the soul"...I have no idea which game it refers to, but it made interesting reading. Any strangers finding those scraps would think me utterly insane!


P.s. If anyone is reading my blog; do post a comment, as I'd love to get feedback, now and then.

July 08: Treasure Hunt, Lost Fawn, Saxton is real!

The treasure hunt is up and running! The clues are devious, the prizes are great and the sun is shining. So, if you are in the Looe area, before Thursday, get yourself an entry form from the Tourist Information Centre, The Salutation, The Jolly Sailor or the Looe Lifeboat Station. All proceeds go to charity.

Matt and I had a fun old time getting the treasure hunt to work, while sneaking about town to put posters up. There should be a pic of one, above or below this text. If the event is a success – more than 10 people play! - we will think about doing another one, for next summer. So, anyone looking to help out, drop me a line.

Escaping town, (which is packed full of chip scoffing tourists right now), we took a stroll up to Waylands Fayre, yesterday afternoon. The event consisted of the same old Cornish weirdness (displays of old tractors, period motorbikes and homemade steam engines), but the trip was made worthwhile by the excellent 'Boot Fair' which runs alongside. Boot Fairs are a little like mobile Garage Sales. People pile there car boot (trunk) with tatty wonders, and try and flog them to people on hot summer days. They did quite well out of me…in all honesty…I came away with two new (shrink wrapped) Doctor Who dvds (Edge of Destruction and The Aztecs, should anyone be wondering), a collection of ghost-stories (my favourite) and four Beatrix Potter books, (always handy as gifts). That was the normal items…here come the strange ones!

Matt managed to find two bright blue Kolorkins, which he tells me are highly collectable teddies. I also bought, for 50p, a strange old Bakelite record (from the 30's I think), called English Country Dance. It's got one track, the spookily titled 'Black Nag'. I half expect, upon play, to hear the sounds of the Wayland Fayre from decades past…interrupted by the sound of the Black Nag, as it swoops from the skies to terrorise the Fayre. Much screaming and horror would follow.

On a similar note, I also spotted this rather spooky looking doll. Well, I think it's a doll. It appears to be a fawn, with a sad, glacial expression, and broken ankles. I really felt quite sorry for the poor little thing.

It was just lying there, with his piggybank friend, waiting for someone to rescue him. I feel a bit guilty now. But, where on earth would you put such a thing. Upon eying the creature, Matt mentioned that it looked like something that should be walled up in an old house. He is referring to the old custom of bricking up small holes with dolls, effigies and trinkets as protection against evil forces. Utter nonsense of course, but I could certainly see his point. I just hope someone takes pity on the poor fellow, and he goes to a good home. There's something rather tragic about a lame fawn with broken hooves.

Lastly, I'll make a quick mention of the excellent 'promotional postcards' sent out to magazines and websites, for The Lost Crown. Lighthouse have a done a super job of creating 'fake' Saxton postcards, with a note from Nigel on the reverse. The first mentions Nigel's first impressions of Harbour Cottage.

The second is more intriguing, and is distressed to suggest the postcard has travelled through time, or been in the system for decades. Of course, to those who have finished the game, all those ideas tie in with the gameplay, which is great. Large images of the postcards are in my pics area (Work Folder on MySpace), and the reverse image is also available...with Nigel's cryptic messages.

It's good to see a publisher getting the promotions right, for once, with some snappy ideas. It was a strange experience to receive the postcard through the post…from somewhere dreamt up by my own imagination! Surreal.