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

8 comments:

Queenie said...

Oh man, we are SO looking forward to this! We've loved all of your games so far, even to the point of walking around quoting Nigel. Jeeze, are we pathetic or WHAT?
And man, to see THE Emma Harry of BHR fame...how cool is THAT?!
Okay, so here's the 6 million dollar question...is there really a Wincey?

---Cheers

Michael Wombat said...

So its NOT just us that use Danverspeak in our everyday lives! (e.g. "I can't see... the salt... with my own eyes" - actually, whenever Nigel said "with my own eyes" I fantasized that he was about to rush off and extract somebody else's eyes to use, probably with a spoon).
I read a review somewhere that criticised the voice-acting, but for me Jonathan, Matt and Emma's voices and delivery are perfect for the atmosphere and pace of Lost Crown. Keep up the good work, you guys.
Before reading Jonathan's latest blog, we compared the game to those lovely old films where lighting and atmosphere (and maybe the odd scratching sound) were all that were needed to scare the willies out of you, if used with skill. Nice to know that Jonathan is also a fan of such cinema.

Jonathan Boakes said...

Hi Queenie and Michael, you are not the only people! There's a fan-vid on YouTube, in which the Haber family of USA attempt to utilise Danverspeak™ in their everday lives. It is well worth looking up!

I can't say I am too bothered about the reviews which state ALL the voice-acting was poor, in The Lost Crown. I know it isn't true, so taking the comments seriously would be pointless. Some reviewers, and (more importantly) players, have said that Mr.Russet and Nanny Noah were brilliantly performed, and enriched the English-ness of the game. Also, some have emailed to say that Nancy's departure, from Ulcombe Church, reduced them to tears! So, it's mostly lazy journalism to blame for the overly negative comments. One reviewer states something, and the rest follow. For example, there was a review which stated the game only had one save slot, which was hilariously wrong, only to re-read the same comment in two further reviews. Oh dear, that's rather shoddy research. Perhaps the reviewers didn't actually play the game. Given that most reviews are paid for, I find that rather insulting.

Anyway. As for Nigel...he is popping up in the new games, complete with Danverspeak™. I based Nigel's voice on the old, black and white horrors, of the 30's and 40's, where everyone spoke in a very specific way...kind of stunted, and over actor-ish. The performances in Sapphire & Steel (a TV fave from the 80's) are also very similar (doubters should re-check Adventure 2's Tully, or Adventure 5's Dinner Party. Cripes!). I guess it's a style, and as a style it has successes and failings.

I like to think of The Lost Crown as a homage, and an exploration of English Ghost-Stories, both written and broadcast. It would have been sad to exclude some of the trappings, and style, of those old works, for the sake of fashion, or trying to sound gamey. So, thanks Queenie, and Michael, for letting me know you enjoyed Nigel's presence! I'll pass the news on.

Jonathan

P.s. No 6 Million Dollars for us...Wincey was invented. Given the poor dogs fate, I guess it was for the best. Matt Clark, who wrote and created Barrow Hill (with me, a mere slave), is helping with DF3. He keeps trying to sneak Wincey into the screenplay, to suggest the dog survived the events of the equinox...it's tempting, very tempting. Or, how about a ghost dog?!

Dave said...

You just keep doing what you're doing and you'll become a Cornish legend!!! I was playing the Ager piece on our very cheap keyboard the other day in full pipe organ mode and it gave Suzie the creeps. Sorry it's taken me 6 years to stumble apon your work and now I just want to play more and more. Just glad my other half likes the games too else I could end up with a very annoyed girlfriend.

Mirabilis said...

Thank you for that 'r'.

Apart from 'Danverspeak' I think other elements escape from your games - I find myself picking up old pictures in second hand shops and thinking "hmmm very Darkfall" - especially etchings of churches and natural history sketches. My house seems to be accumulating drawings and plans of lighthouses too. It's like channelling the anti-Martha Stewart. :)

Jonathan Boakes said...

My pleasure Mirabilis, the missing 'r' was found and returned to where it belonged.

I know exactly what you mean about the secondhand shops. I love hunting around Car Boot Sales, Charity Shops and Old Book Stores, partly for inspiration, but mainly because they ooze adventure game charm. Churches have a similar effect too; I've often found myself wanting to 'double-click' certain tomb stones and stained glass windows, or imagine what secret passages hide behind the wooden paneling.

I guess a lot of adventure game fans had a sense of adventure, long before they installed their first game, through a love of mystery fiction (from Sherlock Holmes to Indiana Jones). Adventure fans see the world through different eyes; there is a want, or expectation, that there are mysteries to solve, or secrets to find, even in the most bland of locations. The Lost Crown was set, filmed and based upon where I live, so barely a day goes by without me passing a puzzle location, a haunted building or a ghost itself. I keep telling myself that 'it's all in my head', but it can be jolly difficult to believe sometimes! Jonathan.

Katie Hazen said...

Hey Jonathan, it's Katie, your rabid fan from Facebook. :P Anyway, I can't BELIEVE that "The Lost Crown" was going to get a Mature rating...for saying "piss off"!! There were many dark elements of the game that I wouldn't be surpried could have upped the rating, but for that bad word, rediculous!! lol And my over-active imagination was coming up with more dark things that were happening off screen that I could see it having a Mature rating. I love the adult seriousness of the game, and it's fine with me if it's teen, because I can always feel a menacing feel to the game that's deeper. Although some of the pauses Nigel does was a bit off, I thought most of the voice-acting was wonderful, like Bob Tawny and of course Mr. Russet. Now that I know where Nigel's pauses came from, I appreciate them, and I think all of your voice acting was good. Danverspeak is amazing!! It would be funny to do that in real life; I may have to try. ;) It must have been magical to have sat in the church the Ulcombe church was based on and play Nathaniel's chords...spooky. Emma's my buddy, which amazes me every time I say it. That I can be more than just a rabid fan, and maybe actually be a *friend*. lol Anyway, I'm sorry for going on, I really hope you don't mind my messages. I'll be keeping an eye on your blog!! Good luck on Dark Fall 3, again. :D

Jonathan Boakes said...

DanversSpeak is one thing, but, I even walk differently through Ulcombe Church! I'm usually have a clumsy, arms-all-over-the-place walk, but I seem to glide along the aisle at Ulcombe (Talland Church).

Seriously though, re-visiting the Lost Crown locations, this Winter, has been a strange experience. There are so many things I expect to see...and hear, but they are strangely absent. I keep meaning to get some of the 'before and after' comparisons online, so people can see how they were changed, but I'm deep in the woods of Dark Fall III...which can never be a bad thing.

Jonathan