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 player...to 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 one...in 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 TEEN...like 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 scares...it 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!

Films:

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 piano...it 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.

Jonathan