Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas ‘Lost Souls’ Round Up

Christmas ‘Lost Souls’ Round Up

T'was the night before Christmas, and all through the hotel, the creatures were stirring, to bring forth Hell...



Those haunting, ghostly figures have been busy, the last couple of weeks, as they drift across the Atlantic and English Channel, to a shelf near you! The ‘Lost Souls’ finally materialised, a bit later than planned, on December 4th, 2009. At last! Here’s a round up of what’s been happening, for anyone interested, or needing some extra info:

Trailer: The Station Hotel
"The teaser offers a taste of what to expect, or dread!, in Lost Souls. The old Station Hotel is an uncertain, fluctuating place, almost unable to decide what time it should be based in. Is it the neglected, forgotten place of our time, standing alone on the dges of town? Or is it a warm, inviting hotel; glowing with nostalgia, but hiding the true horrors of the 1940's? Beyond the long hallway, the hotel rooms hide all sorts of secrets..." - Jonathan Boakes December 4th, 2009



Teaser: Have you seen this girl?
The young girl disappeared on her 11th Birthday, after being expelled from school. The Head Mistress of Saint Swithin's School for Girls thought her a bad influence on the other girls, and she frightened her teachers with macabre drawings and an unhealthy interest in the dead! Amy then vanished, never to be seen again...until Bonfire Night, when The Inspector goes looking for her.



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Interviews

There’s a nice’n’spikey interview over at ‘Join The Adventure’. It was unusual, and interesting to be asked about my choices for TLC’s design and execution (by someone who had actually played it!), and also get asked what I think about ‘Casual Games’, you know, those HOG things. I’ve looked at a few of them, but can’t say it’s the sort of thing that would hook me me…but, maybe I am too quick to judge. The fact that some devs have stated they will now make HOGS, rather than full games, and still make as much money is very telling. A ‘Dark Fall’ HOG game isn’t out of the question, I just think I’d try to put more effort into it, than just making the player collect bits of melon…to move onto the next slider puzzle. Well, I hope I’d put more effort in. The Ravenshurst games, (think that’s the right spelling), have been highly recommended to me, so I’ll give them a look! I could be missing out on the new wave of adventure games.

Full ‘Join the Adventure’ Interview is here, In English and Italian:

Quote: “If I have enough free time to play a game I usually want something with a good story, logical puzzles and a reason for using a big name like ‘Dracula’. I am sorry to say that I am not one of the gamers who enjoys collecting bits of melon, hidden in a 2D scene, that has no basis in reality, and no real sense of gameplay.”

http://www.jointheadventures.com/viewtopic.php?f=21&p=84235#p84235

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Just Adventure +: Developer Diary

Furthermore, I had a chat with Matt Clark, and Philip Philippou, (both involved in Lost Souls to some degree), about the game. I was interested to know what they made of the thing; was it different then they'd expected, and...well...was it any good?

The full chat, text only (the Jolly Sailor in West Looe was too loud for a PodCast), is available on the Just Adventure Website: Here

Quote: "That’s nonsense. The visuals can add to, but can't replace enjoyment, or story. I enjoyed the first Dark Fall because I was able to explore, poke around, and learn about the history of the place. You can do that in Lost Souls."

http://www.justadventure.com/articles/The12DaysOfDarkFall/12DaysDarkFall.shtm

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Podcast: With Tom Baynham, Jonathan Boakes & Matt Clark

And even furthermore! There's an audio interview, with myself and Matt Clark, available from Tom Baynham's Website: Here

The interview/chat is LONG! An hour and a half, so make yourself a nice cuppa, or do the dishes, or watch the snow fall...and have a listen. There's lots of clues to what's happening next, with the games, and a few naughty spoilers for Bracken Tor, the second game from Shadow Tor Studios. Looking forward to that!

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Reviews

Very quiet, so far. I don’t tend to stick around for reviews, having become addicted to feedback regarding Dark Fall: The Journal, back in 2001. I remember staying up, half the night, on a regular basis, just waiting for forum posts and opinions. I guess anyone would do that, given that it was a first, and unusual experience. This time round things are a lot more relaxed. I am very pleased with Lost Souls, believing (knowing! if I'm honest) that it has come together as planned, and has the tone and atmosphere I was after. It’s probably one of the most miserable adventure games, ever made, and has urban, modern elements that I’ve never seen before in the genre. So, I am mightily proud, and hope gamers like doing something a bit different; Stabbing oozing, squealing Life Leeches with rusty scissors is not your regular adventure puzzle! ‘Bring back the slider puzzle’ I hear the purists cry! But, all in all, I think the job is done, and I’m ready to move onto the next game!

Game Debate Review: 85%

Quote: “Not just good, but usually scary enough to warrant an emergency pair of rubber pants on constant standby.”

Full review: Here

Player Feedback

Player feedback has been ACE! One guy compared the story structure and tone to Mulholland Drive, which gave me a total fangasm! It’s my favourite Lynch movie, so I was mightily chuffed!

Quote from Argyle1968: “...In this respect it reminds me a lot of the film Mulholland Drive. In sum, I have a new favourite game. No other horror gaming experience comes close to this one IMHO.”

Quote from Pathfinder: “This is not your mother's Station Hotel.”

Quote from OldLady (who lives in Looe too!): “I loved all of the previous of his games but this is the best ever. Atmospheric, creepy, puzzling and challenging.”

All from: www.gameboomers.com, but do look out for others.

The Future

I guess that’s it, once again! Another game finished, and out-there for all to play! I’m going to pack up a few things, rent a cottage, and get writing TLC2. I have an absolute sack full of ideas, which are all exciting, so will have to be careful to use them effectively, and not create another 30 hour + monster!! Then again, what’s wrong with epic? Nothing! If it’s massive, and sprawling, then so be it!

Jonathan

P.s. And a very Happy Christmas to all of you! Wherever you may be!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Friday the 13th and the Seventh Window.

Winter is upon us. The light fades so fast, at this time of year. Night descends with the fog, as something crawls from a damp, dark cave....

Hurrah! The job is done.

An extraordinary amount of time has been spent finishing off Dark Fall - Lost Souls and testing it on Windows 7. I seem to pick release dates at the worst possible time! Last time, it was finishing The Lost Crown, and getting it to work on (the dreaded) Windows Vista. But, I am pleased to report there are no issues with Windows 7 and Lost Souls. It looks and sounds great, in fact, I just wish I'd pick better timing.



A Global Release

The plan, with the release of Lost Souls, is to make it as available as possible, to as many people as possible (wherever in the world they may be). Coordinating something like this is extremely tricky...but fun. The last thing I would ever want was for anyone to think I was ignoring them!

So, a new plan was needed. It came about after giving up on my hunt for a good, honest, US publisher. I'm still looking, but in the mean time, both myself and Iceberg Interactive are ready for a challenge, so plan to stock as many outlets as we can, while providing Digital Downloads, boxed version s and re-releases of older games. I'm a big fan of online shopping, and believe it is the way forward for indies and adventures, so I'm always happy to go down this route. There are a surprising number of independent game stores in the USA, so it will be interesting to deal with them directly, and send over plenty of copies! It's all rather exciting!

A Ghost Story For Christmas

This next week is bound to see a whole flurry of new screenshots, the trailer and other promotional goodies. But, alongside the official stuff, I plan to chat about the game on the forums and in interviews. I'll try to keep spoilers to a minimum. After that, the game is shipping towards the end of the month (as far as I know), so I've inadvertently created a 'Ghost Story For Christmas'. For those unfamiliar with the title, I shall explain...



...back, back through the mists of time, the BBC began to broadcast dramatic versions of classic ghost stories by the likes of M.R.James, Dickens and Fanu. More often than now, the films were broadcast on Christmas Eve.
They were great little films, and very underrated, both then and now. It was the BBC version of A Warning to the Curious that sparked my interest in the paranormal. Later, 'Warning' became the heart of my story, for The Lost Crown, referencing many locations and ideas suggested by the story. Definitely one to read, if you like either a good ghost story or The Lost Crown. Other films, always shown at Christmas, include The Signalman, Room 13 and, most recently, Crooked House...a modern continuation of the 'Ghost Story for Christmas' series. So, I'm quite pleased that Lost Souls will become part of that tradition.

Halloween, and Friday the 13th, are super times to release a spooky game, but I did need to make sure it would work, and be as good as I want it to be. I am more than happy with this third Dark Fall tale, and believe fans are in for a bit of a treat! It may not have made the halloween frightfest that many wanted, but I can promise that the 'Lost Souls' will help provide some genuine chills this Winter time. It's the darkest, most strange, thing that I have ever written, so I can't wait for the feedback. It's a vibrant example of the old fashioned ghost story, but told in a modern style and references very real, and very unpleasant, urban truths and trends.

Something old, something borrowed and something blue.

There are several re-releases happening, in the next season. The original Dark Fall games are being re-packaged by Iceberg Interactive. The 'Adventures in Terror' package will be appearing shortly. It's great to see those older games getting another official release, after hiding away for a couple of years. The pack includes 'Barrow Hill', by Shadow Tor Studios, which makes very nice, and very appropriate, company. The cover, designed by myself, Shadow Tor and Iceberg is absolutely brilliant! It's a kind of 1950's film poster meets comic book concept, that is sure to grab attention and raise a few eye-brows.



Barrow Hill's 'Emma Harry' is transformed into a buxom, woman in peril, in tiny denim shorts. Where as yours truly gets to sport a handbag, and fight off giant slug monsters, with a kitchen knife! It's all a bit mad, and sex-ploitation, but I hope most see the funny side (including YOU Emma). I love all those old film posters, where the art was often more interesting than the film, so hope/know I am continuing that trend. All our games have their moments, but the dark Russian art of the 'Adventures in Terror' pack really does flatter us! Keep your eyes peeled for previews of the box, as it is definitely worth seeing!

Birthday Blues.

Another year, another age. 36! What happened? I was looking forward to my early 30's, as a time to work, be successful and enjoy life. Well, I guess I'm doing ok, so can't grumble. But, my goodness, the year seems to have flown by. I wanted the TLC sequel in full production by now, but I haven't even started. Thankfully, the story was planned back in 2006, and takes up right from where you left off...but maybe not on the beach! Lots of characters are returning; like Nanny Noah, Bob Tawny, Lucy Reubans and...of course...man of the moment... Nigel Danvers. Danvers has his own range of clothing coming out, next year, to take the Danvers Style to the world (body warmers, flat caps, 'turned up' jeans, and plenty of pockets for your ghost-hunting gear). A 'Teach Yourself DanversSpeak™' book and CD will also follow shortly afterwards...he's a busy guy. Only joking. Nigel has, in reality, been attending speech therapy classes, to bring him up to scratch with the rest of humanity. Rest assured knowing that Nigel is now fully aware of his odd speech patterns, and also promises to allow 'Dialogue Skipping'. Whether he keeps to his promise is anyone's guess.

Instead, do get excited about the idea of character swapping, in The Last Crown (official title). I really like the idea of playing both Nigel and Lucy, as they will both approach the puzzles and locations differently. Nigel, if you remember, was all "it's too dark down here, lucy, please help me..." when entering the Old Net Hut. A bit of a wimp. Whereas kick-ass Lucy Reubans threw a rock through the window, and guided Nigel to safety via a Nite-Vision camera. What a girl! I blame growing up with three, very bossy, sisters on my complete lack of masculine pride, but happily celebrate the adventurous female in my story for Last Crown. I want Saxton to feel like a dynamic and unpredictable place. It would be great to give characters their own time scale, motivations and behavior. It's something I've seen done well in the big RPG's, like Oblivion, so would be honoured to include elements like that in my humble adventure.

For example, imagine you have to track down a particular character, at a certain time of the day. You would have had clues as to where and when, from other characters or sources of info, so it would simply be a case of being in the right place at the right time, for something important to happen. Not all these events have to be essential, either. Different gamers will find different things more interesting. Saxton could be a very busy place. Some may like to pick up 'tasks' from the dodgy looking fishermen, on the quay, or how about listening to the drunken rambling in The Bear (the pub), come closing time? It could be really exciting, and very non-linear! But, I would have to make sure gamers were provided with plenty of clues, and guide them to hint heavy locations, to avoid lots of aimless wandering. There's nothing worse than that. I played The Lost Crown recently, while making the Italian version, and noticed the first few scenes lack direction and purpose. That's a problem, as it's the beginning of the game! I should have hooked gamers straight into the plot, rather than sit enigmatically on the fence. The Last Crown can definitely address many of the short-comings, witnessed in the first game, as well as add plenty of new locations and a better gaming experience overall. I am very much looking forward to providing a 'build your own ghost-hunting gadgets' feature, that allows you to dismantle everyday electronics and domestic items, and build mad new gadgets, that increase in power as you progress through the game, and increase your skills as a ghost-hunter and...most excitingly...a mechanic! Again, I expect Lucy's gadgets to be far more impressive than Nigel's...then again, he has the mysterious Nanny Noah to guide him. Let battle commence!

Note: Just found out that TLC1 was made Number One Scary Game on Just Adventure. Excellent!! I tend to think of my games as 'creepy', rather than scary, so it's quite a surprise. Dark Fall 1 is also in the list, at number 7. So, 'scary' it'll have to be. Good thing is, Lost Souls is very scary. It's creepy to, in places (like the more nostalgic locations), but the scare factor has definitely been 'upped'. There's always something spooky about old, abandoned locations, and Lost Souls has plenty of those...but, this time round, the 'real' urban context of the game (a real town, with all too relevant 'issues') should pull gamers into the world, whether they like the place or not. I've spent some time in some lovely locations, when ghost-hunting, but I've also seen some vile places; old tower blocks, prisons, WWII bunkers, sewers...etc etc. Unsurprisingly, the horrible places are always the scariest. Removed of prettiness, and nostalgia, you are left with a miserable husk of a building...and that's not a place anyone would enjoy spending the night. Hopefully, you will all keep your wits about you, and take regular breaks during game play, as I do believe that Lost Souls is a genuinely scary game, with some shocking moments and gruesome discoveries. If The Lost Crown boasted 'the most realistic ghost-hunting experience', then I can confidently state that Dark Fall: Lost Souls will provide the most scary 'ghost-hunting experience'. Don't play it alone. Or at night.

Jonathan

Monday, 15 June 2009

A Lost Soul, BH Radio and Thunder!

Summer is here, and it's a hot one! Let's hope the rain holds off this year, so the sun can burn some memories into this muddled head of mine. It's been a busy time, these last couple of months. So, without further a do, here's some news from a humid and busy Cornwall.

Dark Fall: Lost Souls
A Returning Character

Pop open the mock-champagne, for Matilda Fly is back in town. Dark Fall fans will remember Matilda as the ghostly failed actress, holed up at The Station Hotel till the press had lost the scent. She was a rather tragic figure, and a little unpleasant, but people really do remember her quite fondly. I've always wanted to 'do' something with Matilda, anything really, as she seemed so strong, and dare I say it, very adventure game-like. She's one of those cool characters, who come across very easily, with minimum effort from me. So, you can imagine my surprise, the other day, when I found myself captured by her gaze....right here on Looe High Street.



It was morning, a midweek morning, and nothing seemed different about the town. I was making my way to the Coffee shop, to get the first latte of the day. I usually get a take-out, to have on the beach or pier...anyway!...there she was, in the window of the Pet Shop! How bizarre. How Matilda! You see, the thing is, Looe Pet Shop is also a dress hire company (don't ask why, it's a Cornish thing, I am told), but I've never really taken the place in. That's now changed, as I find myself purposely passing the Dress Hire place (and Pet Shop!) a few times a day...just to see if Matilda is still there. The likeness is uncanny, compared to the portraits seen in Dark Fall...and also the impression that I have in my mind. The hair cut is very severe, and the dress is quite vampy...but it is definitely Matilda. I took a couple of snaps this afternoon, which I'll post here. Does anyone remember Worzel Gummidge? It was a children's TV series, from the early 80's, about a scarecrow that came to life for two curious kids. Quite spooky, really. Worzel was in love with Aunt Sally, a sort of woman-sized doll, used at Fayre Grounds, she could also 'come to life'. She really was quite a tragic figure. I always felt there was something utterly depressing about beings that only live when others are present.



I think Matilda is a little like that. She lives to be adored...so, that terrible performance of hers, in The Two Faced Bride of Bodmin Moor, really put an end to Matilda's life. I can't imagine she would ever recover. So, I am hoping you are like me, and want to give the retched creature another go; to have a second chance; another stab at things. Look, what I am trying to say, is that you should expect quite a bit of Matilda in the next game. You might also be seeing a little of her world....the luvvie paradise that was 1930's Theatre Land! Hurrah! Let's pop open another bottle of 'mock champagne'.

Spring Watch

On a more serious note, I will ask; what on earth has happened to Spring Watch?! For those scratching their heads, I'll add, very quickly, that Spring Watch is a 'live' BBC TV show, which for three weeks has been following the progress of several birds and mammals, as they struggle to rear their young, at this, the most vital time of the year. It's always been a painful show to watch, sometimes. Who can forget the sorry tale of the Barn Owl chick that ate his tiny brothers and sisters, 'live' on TV? Ghastly! But, this year was even more unbearable in places. I was particularly moved by the little Plover chicks, desperate to survive, after being deserted by mother and father, and then brutally murdered by a newcomer, eager to have his way with their mother. None of the chicks survived.



It really was quite distressing, but...and this is the big thing...the whole sorry event felt horribly, but brilliantly, natural. New presenter, Chris Packham (no stranger to live nature shows), was great. His attitude remained fixed throughout the three weeks, and was always a comfort to fall back on. Packham, like many, knows that death, disaster and cruelty are always present in nature, yet it survives in so many forms. In the case of the Plovers, their death was brought about by a strong male, eager to make sure that his species survives. Whether the feathery brute was right to think the chicks were weak, in comparison to his future brood, is another matter. There's nothing we can do about it, so you can only watch...either fascinated, or as I was, in floods of tears. It was an emotional time, and the highlight of three spectacular weeks of live telly. When it comes to understanding nature, Darwin wins, every time. Survival of the fittest.

The British Indie Scene

Things are looking up for indie developers, this year. After a terrible 2008, (with publishers going bust, and some going bent), there is a light on the horizon. A few lights, actually! I think I'm about to sign some new contracts. The atmosphere is good, and the games radar is looking very healthy indeed. There's a new game from Shadow Tor Studios, the wonderfully named Bracken Tor. From the screens and website, it looks like it'll easily thrill Barrow Hill fans...of which there are a few!
There's also 'Coven' from Arberth Studios, and my humble effort, which is making great progress...with a little help from Matilda. So, the British are offering quite a bit, this year. Three UK titles in one year? That's got to be a record, no? 2009 is the 'big one', for us. I hope it goes well.

Barrow Hill Radio

Speaking of Barrow Hill...I see Emma Harry has been busy, re-launching herself as a 'live' internet DJ? Her radio station featured very prominently, in Matt's first game, and gave the whole thing a good sense of verisimilitude. The station was fun to listen, but a bit camp in places. I can't say that about the new website. It's really slick. There's a whole playlist, games to struggle with (Slider Puzzles? Matt? Honestly?) and a rather revealing Message Board. It seems people have been spotting odd creatures, beasts and monsters all across the country. I'm not too sure how genuine the cases are, (some of the photos look VERY dodgy) but they make fun reading. There's a nice contrast between 'I've seen a monster' and 'shoot these devils' at its core, which again, adds lots of verisimilitude.



If brackentor.com is the place for official screen shots, press stuff and official news, then barrowhillradio.co.uk is definitely the place for gossip, clues and fans to hang out. Please, please, please, will someone try the Slider Puzzle?! I don't want to be the only one on the Scoreboard. It looks sad. I don't play Slider Puzzles! Well, I say that, but it isn't true. There's always a slider hidden away in those Nancy Drew games. I'm about to finish Castle Malloy (not the best ND, sadly), and that had a slider. Yes, an utterly pointless slider puzzle as soon as you start the game. But, you kind of know where you are with a slider. Casual gamers love them, like those Hidden Object Games! I did think about making a hidden object game, set in the lighthouse from Lights Out, but changed my mind. Not too sure why. Perhaps I was being overly snotty, or perhaps I'm just too bogged down with the other projects...who kows. Perhaps I'll give it some more thought, later in the year. One little HOG can't be bad, can it?

Music to my ears.

I have a composer! A chap called Ben mailed me, completely out of the blue, with a delightful cover letter and demo CD. An actual CD! I think Ben has been producing music for some time now, based on the quality, so I was quite blown away. The CD contained tracks specially written for Dark Fall: Lost Souls, based on his impressions from Dark Fall 1. So, I quickly transferred the tracks to the iPod and took myself off to the Kilminorth Woods, for a serious listen. I was there for hours, hidden away by the stream.



I am man enough (read: daft enough) to admit that some of the tracks really spooked me. I was drifting away with Track 3, lost aurally somewhere between the Hotel and the Train Platforms, when I heard the loud snap of a twig. I thought, at first, that the sound may have been on the music, but realised that I'd not noticed it before. So, that meant that either a large animal was nearby (quick, where's that BHR Beast Sightings Message Board?!) or, someone was stalking me in the woods. I moved my hand to the iPod, and paused the track. I sat for a few moments, utterly still, listening for the slightest movement, until finally...a dog, followed by its man friend, came bounding out of the woods. What a Long Tailed Tit I had been! Spooked by a labrador. But, thing is, I walk those woods all the time, and don't normally get spooked (unless, it is dark, and then I scream like a queen! See www.thishauntedland.co.uk for evidence). So, I can only explain my nerves on Ben's spooky score. It's great stuff. We are busy chopping, changing and rearranging, right now, but I can say that the score will be very evocative, and eerie. Not classical, by any means, instead, it is more of a subliminal piece, full of deep reverbs, moans and ghostly sounds. It's going to be great. I just need to make a game as good as Ben's music.

Thunderous World

I've just got back in from a long walk; down through Stocks Lane (Karswell House and Carrion Wood from TLC), and saw some fantastic sights. The afternoon was thundery with occasional heavy downpours, so there were allsorts of birds, beasts and mini-beasts snatching a moment, to feed and flee, in between the showers.



My favourite was a huge Buzzard, perched on a fence post, out in the fields trying to dry out. The huge wings were draped down, either side of the bird, shaken occasionally, by the big bird of prey, completely happy to have me watch his private moment. Then, with a piercing cry, it took to the sky, did a circle around my position, and disappeared into the pines. Utter magic. But, I forgot to take a photo! I know, I know, what a dumbo. But, funny thing is, whenever I hear that bird cry I want to say "Shoot straight while the wind blows...". If anyone can guess where that quote is from, I will send you a prezzie...maybe Matt's next game or something! (Ha ha!!) No clues. You'll either know what I refer to, or not. Good luck.

Here's some other pics from the walk. The foliage is all quite fresh - it's early in the Summer, and very wet - so there's a fluorescent quality to the world. I hope some of my adventure comes across in the snaps. I didn't want to turn the PC on, due to the storm, so this was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Jonathan

P.s. I'm going to miss Matilda...when she vanishes from that window...never to be seen again. I'll let you know when it happens, so we can have a moments Blog silence.





Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Bracken Tor: The Time of Tooth and Claw. New game!

Just a quick post to say how excited I am by Shadow Tor Studios new game, Bracken Tor: The Time Of Tooth And Claw. It looks to be quite a chilly, creepy experience. Graphics-wise, the thing looks the biz! Well done Matt.



Here's some details:

Explore the desolate moorland, searching for evidence.
Travel back in time, to The Bronze Age, to learn its secrets.
A complete interactive world; brought to life on your PC.
Environmental sounds and weather to heighten the experience.
An unnerving and eerie soundtrack, to chill the blood.
Experience virtual archaeology, and uncover the past.
Survive beast attacks using items close at hand. Defend yourself!
Glean clues from newspaper articles and local radio broadcasts.
Solve a bloody murder through investigation and detection.

I had better get back to working on Dark Fall: Lost Souls. Looks like I have stiff competition in Cornwall, when it comes to spooky adventure games. That can never be a bad thing.

See you at Bracken Tor. Bring a thermos of tea, and a sharp tool...looks like we will be digging in the dirt, and possibly defending ourselves from something nasty...with claws...and teeth...and greasy black hair...oh, that's the average Cornish Landowner, isn't it?!

Jonathan

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

A treasure arrives in Athens; Sadly not the Elgin Marbles.

I love this bit of news, regarding the recently released Pins & Needles Limited Edition. It's where number 0001 ended up. I was thrilled, when the first order came in...obviously,...but was even more surprised to see 'where' it was going. Athens no less. Who says self-publishing can't be glam! Take a look at these shots of the Erechtheum:



Gorgeous Models with fabulous poses: I must thank Aya of Just Adventure and his girlfriend for modelling Dark Fall is such an attractive fashion...and, what's that I spy...a T-Shirt sporting the artwork from The Lost Crown. Crumbs. This all makes rainy Cornwall look a bit drab in comparison. Athens is the place to be.




Lastly, here's the second photo, just to finish off this short blog. It's been a real pleasure, to send out all the game packs. Part of the fun of self-publishing a title is NOT having any expectations of where the packages will end up. So, these photos have been a real treat.



Thanks for reading, and taking a look.

Jonathan

P.s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acropolis_of_Athens

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Dark Fall News & GhostWatch 2

Oiling the wheels of the (cottage) Industry.

I’m glad to say all the pre-ordered Pins & Needles have made their way out into the big wide world. Packaged with care, carried to the Looe Post Office and taken away by the man in the red van. Goodbye all you pins; goodbye all you needles!




It’s been a fun process, putting the units together and sending them on their way. I debated, with myself, whether it was necessary to include a shrink-wrap...around the box...but then thought about how wasteful it was. You know about shrink-wrap, it’s that annoying cellophane that you struggle with on DVD boxes. It’s horrible stuff. But, I do remember, back in 2001, a man on a well-known Adventure Forum complaining that his game had arrived but “it isn’t shrink-wrapped, I want a NEW copy”. I thought it was odd at the time, but have grown to realise that Shrink-Wrap = New. It’s not actually true...it’s actually just shrink-wrap...but, who can fight just strongly held opinions. Plus...

I’m trying, with some success, to keep packaging down to a minimum, and use ‘recycled’ wherever possible...but it is hard. My initial plan to have the game ship in a chunky, rough recycled sleeve went out the window, when the only place to get them turned out to be Oregon! (http://www.stumptownprinters.com/)
It would have been ironic to have them shipped over, place the DVD and CD inside, and then ship them back to the US again. Imagine that Carbon Footprint. It would be huge. Even Big Foot would quake at the size. So, instead, I hand stamped the CD’s and CD sleeves for soundtracks, and designed a new piece of artwork for the DVD sleeve.


Why Scissors? Why broken scissors?!

Many have asked “why the scissors?” but I am reluctant to say, exactly. The scissors play a big part in the next game, so I’m a bit tight lipped right now. But, memory masters will remember a pair of dangerous looking scissors in Dark Fall: The Journal. They were stabbed into the wall of Hotel Room 2A. They looked cool at the time, and a little unnerving, but now they have their own purpose. They, along with light, will be you main allies in Lost Souls. I’m not saying you stab anyone, or anything, but they are used throughout the game. A knife is a knife; a nasty weapon in the right/wrong hands, but there is something domestic, and familiar, about a pair of scissors. To use them, in the wrong way, or to protect yourself, suggests panic. If you expected trouble, or expected to cause trouble, you’d take a better weapon...but no, you’ll have to pull those scissors out of the wall, on Hotel Room 2A. Great stuff!

Production Line, from Workshop to Post Box.

It’s been a funny week. I haven’t actually got that much work done of Lost Souls. Instead, it’s been a repetitive, but relaxing, process of signing and numbering artwork, slipping the artwork into sleeves (in white gloves!), duplicating CD’s and DVD’s (thanks Rick, at http://www.beehivesounds.com/), packing them into the postal packs and then standing in the Post office for over an hour each day (or Matt did). I love it! It’s so real. So personal. So realistic. It’s been a real pleasure to watch the orders come in, and think about who, where and why people are buying my games. I guess a few years of official ‘publishing’ has meant I get less contact with actual gamers, but I did miss it.


It’s almost impossible to get correct (read: honest) figures from publishers, so I never get to know which countries buy the games, and who my demographic are. I guess that information should be forthcoming, but it never has been. So, this last week has been an eye-opener. There are gamers all over the place! And Dark Fall Gamers at that! From Korea, to Australia. From Olso to Athen’s and back to Yorkshire. Then on to Italy and Germany, via France and South Africa. And, of course, the USA, where 99.9% make their way. Amazing! The Darkling Room Shop is such a tiny little enterprise it is truly amazing to see how far the interest goes. It’s very humbling, and encourages me to make the next game extra special...and totally horrible, at the same time.

Lost Souls are forming.



I’ve got loads to look forward to, this next two weeks. I am re-building some of my favourite places from Dark Fall. They include the Train Platforms, The Public Bar and that old Barn, hidden out in the woods. It’s a real delight to return to the locations, and visualise how they might have decayed, even further. The barn, as it happens, has also acquired a rather carnivorous Owl. He’s a nasty blighter. You will be dealing with him, come release, in an unusual way. And ‘no’, don’t worry, you won’t be using the scissors. He’s a bit of character, from the time when the woods were lovely, dark and deep. Now the woods are tatty, ramshackle and filled with the detritus of modern life. The woods hide Dowerton’s biggest secret...the hotel and train station itself. Something happened there, just recently, which has darkened the place more than ever.



A 'missing persons' case can upset a community, and Dowerton’s disappearances are no different. Everyone likes to think the Missing will return, show up or be found, miles away in some unknown place, but the town of Dowerton knows different. People go to that old Hotel and never come back. No-one enters that uninviting wood, for they know what lies on the otherside. It’s a great place to set a ghost story (or 5!), and I think you’re going to love it. Just make sure you find those scissors!

GhostWatch 2 IS happening this Halloween!

There are developments. Thank you to ‘Javier’ in Spain, for reminding me about the plans to do a ‘live’ Ghost Hunt this Halloween. Well, things have moved on. It IS going to happen. The place has been scouted, the permissions have been granted, the presenters are getting their teeth whitened and the ghosts are rehearsing their best wails....but....it’s going to be a 'radio show'. Images are nice, I know. But, radio could be a much better medium. Much spookier. I have no idea what will happen, if anything, but I do believe that the audio medium could be an effective way of drawing you all into the show. At this moment, I am chatting with Emma Harry (yes, THE Emma Harry of Barrow Hill fame) to re-prise her role and host the show...my intrepid investigator, alone on the woods, with only a mic and a soundman for company. (Actually, she’d probably quite like that.)





Also, I might try to host the ‘Hub’ sections myself (you know, like the 'links' and stuff), but I promise not to talk as s...l...o...w...e...l...y... as Nigel. That’s not possible. (I’m still getting flaming hate mail for not allowing subtitle skipping in TLC. My bad). Anyway. Live Ghost Hunt. Halloween. 2009. In the woods with Emma Harry. A ‘live’ website with pics and ghost-cams. Me doing a shocking job of presenting. And, best of all, a genuine Haunted House in Cornwall to explore with us. The place (which I’ll keep secret for now) has a horrible history. Torrid love affairs, murder, cannibalisation and execution. Nasty stuff. We are going to conduct our experiment on the night, with a small crew, and broadcast ‘live’ via the internet, a little like a PodCast or Internet Radio. I’m hoping a few people will listen in, and have nightmares afterwards, but I guess we are doing it for fun. I’ve never been involved in anything like this, so wish me luck.

Jonathan

P.s. I must apologies to Matt Clark, of Barrow Hill fame. I accidentally (ha ha ha!), mentioned that he is working on a second game, currently going by its working title of Barrow Hill 2. I, Jonathan Boakes, apologise for mentioning it. I just couldn’t help myself! Please can you be in the crew for GhostWatch 2?! Pleeeaaasee.

P.p.s. Does anyone know of a good PodCast service, or site that allows ‘live’ streaming. I’m looking into it right now, so any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Lost Souls are waiting...

Dark Fall: Lost Souls is coming...

At last! I have some news about 'Lost Souls'. The game, which is a third installment of the Dark Fall series, is going to be a chilling treat! I am returning to the old train station and hotel, at Dowerton, and I will be taking you with me. Let's see if any ghosts were able to hide from us the first time round, It looks and sounds like the place is still very haunted; the rot has set in, and the place will soon fall. The location is so familiar to me, from my efforts back in 2001, but looks quite a bit more detailed and dark than I remember. Check the recent snaps, on the forums, or the website to see what I mean. If you are joining me at the hotel, make sure you bring a trusty flashlight, a thermos of tea and a good, sturdy weapon. We are going to be facing the Dark Fall itself, come late summer, so you had better be ready for anything!


About Lost Souls: You have unfinished business with the dead. Return to the Train Station and Hotel at Dowerton for a second time, there is a new mystery to solve, and new horrors to face. The old buildings have deteriorated since your last perilous adventure, so you must watch your step, and never turn your back on the darkness....for something hides there; Something evil, unknowable and hungry.


  • A brand new Dark Fall horror adventure.

  • From the pen of Jonathan Boakes, author of The Lost Crown.

  • Explore a derelict train station and hotel, abandoned since World War 2.

  • A new game engine allows full exploration and movement.

  • Physically interact with the eerie setting, to really ‘feel’ the place.

  • Use light as your weapon and ally, to fight the darkness.

  • A hauntingly creepy stereo score, to chill, alarm and horrify.

  • Explore the memories of the dead, in their own ‘nightmares’.

  • Discover the true identity, and power behind, the Dark Fall itself.



The dead of Dowerton are the least of your problems, as you are stalked from one derelict room to the next, by the Dark Fall itself. It wants your soul; to feed upon, devour and torture. You must make the ghosts of the hotel your ally, through any means you can. For it is only through successful exorcisms that you will gain the strength to battle the darkness that lurks in that long forgotten, abandoned place.

Coming very soon, to a cobwebbed shelf near you.


New website, new screens, new everything!

www.DarkFallGames.Com

The website is all new. New location, new pics, new text, new look, new everything! It's been hard work. There are also new versions of the previous Dark Fall games. I haven't 'done a Lucas' and changed any content to be flashier or out of place...no no...instead I fixed some old issues, built some Vista and XP friendly installers...and gave Dark Fall a bit of a Spring clean. There's a couple of new screens, (very minor) and some new sounds. Failed actress, Matilda Fly gets a theme tune! Which is quite apt, haunting and sad. Poor Matilda, she got boo'ed off stage, after messing up all her lines on that opening night, back in 1947. She said, at the time, it was a "fit of nerves"', but the stage hand could smell gin on her breath. I reckon she might still be lingering, at The Station Hotel. We'll have to keep our eyes peeled, while we wander Lost Souls. Oh, and George Crabtree also gets a theme. That blasted Journal of his went on, and on, and on forever (he won't be joining us!). I can't trim it, but I have added a George Crabtree theme, to make the reading experience bearable. Both the new tracks are available on the Music CD which ships with my new 'Pins & Needles' Limited Edition of both original games. It's a nice Music CD.

Lights Out is all at sea.

The big change is Lights Out!

It's been heftily re-vamped up to a new 'Directors Cut'. There were so many elements that got the chop, first time round, that I've always had an itch to fix. My Alienware machine broke down, a couple of weeks ago, so work on Lost Souls ground to a halt. So, I used the unexpected break to tweak Lights Out and get the new website together, with some essential Flash help from Matt Clark. It looks lovely, in a dark, disturbing way. The website accurately captures the tone of the next game, which is nice. But! Back to Lights Out. There's lots of new things to see and do. The Harbour Town, seen briefly at the beginning of play, has been made more lively, and interesting. There's a town drunk, to sing a sea shanty (clues!). Fog rolls in off the sea, and curls around the town. Naughty dockside 'ladies' clatter away on heels, from your approach... and your memories of the previous day now play an important role. Once on the Island, known as Fetch Rock, you will find the old Lighthouse a much more foreboding place, echoing with the ghosts of the missing Lighthouse Keepers. They make a proper impact this time round.


The Directors Cut allows you to 'talk' to the ghosts of the missing men, and get clues as to what happened, that foggy night in 1912. Later on, in the game play, seasoned Lights Out gamers will notice new, or revamped puzzles; like that blasted Boiler puzzle which really put a spanner in the works. I came to play/solve the puzzle, and found it, to my shame, completely confusing and unsolvable. Not quite sure what happened there...but, it's been replaced with a new, less taxing puzzle. Other 'changed' puzzles have been integrated into the world, a little better. There was far too much reliance on reading, in the original, to get past obstacles or get clues. The plot now reveals lots of those clues, in a more lively fashion.
There are still books, throughout the game, but the stories have been replaced, to include tales about the actual lighthouse. They have a much better tone, and add to the atmosphere. So, basically, there's lots of changes here and there, so do grab a copy off of me, if you want to see/play them. There's a new Direct Download version on The Adventure Shop, as well as the Darkling Room Store (that's me), and a highly personalised 'Pins & Needles' Limited Edition, if you want something a bit more touchy feely. It's a lovely item. Signed, numbered and home made. It also comes with the Dark Fall Soundtrack CD, which is a surprisingly good listen...and not all jumps, crashes and haunted house sound effects. There's the lovely Harp track, from the Dark Fall menu, as well as the new Matilda Fly Theme. But, best of all, you'll get to hear the Lights Out theme, in full, which is wonderful. Jan Kavan composed that track, for me, back in 2004. It was lovely to re-hear the piece, and include more of it in Lights Out. All in all, I am dead pleased with the new versions...and feel their re-release is highly appropriate, as the days drift past towards Lost Souls.


A Faithful Companion.


I've also put together game 'Companions' for Dark Fall: Classic Edition and Lights Out: Directors Cut. The companion files include a full walkthrough, which is detailed and includes all the new puzzles and clue changes, as well as quirky chapters that will enhance your experience. The Dark Fall Companion, in particular, has some super additions. The best is Tim's Hints; which is the full list of Tim's Dark Fall clues, and his actual voice to go with them. Lots of gamers missed Tim's Hints, the first time round. Not too sure why. The idea was that Tim would give you a clue as to the last puzzle to played with, if you returned to him on the train footbridge. But, somehow, very few people got to hear him. So, all his lines have been included in the Companion. Also, in there, is a list of all the Ghost-Hunting views you can catch in Dark Fall. There's quite a few, and some are in really obscure locations. So, they are all listed. Get hunting! Lastly, the Conversations with the Dead chapter gives a list of all the questions, and topics you can ask the chattier ghosts (bankrobber, SlyFox, and dying Civil War Hero, Tom Oliver). It's amazing what those ghosts will tell you, once you know what to ask. The same goes for the Ouija Board. A quick glance at the new Lost Souls screenshots will reveal the presence of a new Ouija Board, for the haunted hotel. So, brush up on your seance skills....you are going to need them!


And Finally...

Spring is here! It's great to be making some progress, after all those dark months. March is such a bright time of the year. The last few months got pretty ghastly, sometimes. Crooked Publishers (keeping ALL the cash, and disappearing), Useless Publishers (going bust just after sending out all the TLC stock) and Old Publishers (who just never stop spoiling things, and lying). All in all, I don't know why I bother with them. I haven't had a good experience yet, and (this is very sad) I am not the only one. There are loads of indies going unpaid, unappreciated and abused. For some, it is their first experience of game development, and they could well give up, after the experience. I had no idea quite how bad things had got until I came to the release of The Lost Crown. But, there is light at the end of the tunnel. More indies are considering Self-Publishing, which I love! And others are seeking better ways to get their games 'out there'. Direct Downloads are a great new way to buy games, but, I imagine you are a bit like me....that boxed copy is always more appealing, if ecologically questionable. So, I'm going to be printing, packing and posting like the old days. Thankfully, I've got a new Post Office now. The original Dark Fall days were hysterical. I'd be queuing in the shop, along with people getting benefits, paying bills and ordering new passports with my arms packed full of postage bags! I was sending over 100 packets, some days. The Post Office hated me. Absolutely hated me. I think I must have been the only person who actually 'posted' things in that shop. How mad is that?! But, this time round, the lovely ladies at Looe Post Office will be helping me.



They loved sending that first run of Barrow Hill, a couple of years back, so are all set for my new venture. Just, please, please, don't get too annoyed if there's a fingerprint on the game box, or the post takes a day or two more than expected. Think of me, with straining arms, standing in the little ol'Looe Post Office...in the heat of summer, posting out the new versions. Perhaps I called it 'Pins & Needles' for that reason! Ha ha!

Back again soon....

Jonathan

P.s. Spread the news....a third Dark Fall game IS coming....I'm dead excited about this one, it's going to be ghoulish and ghastly!

P.p.s. I won an award at AdventureGamers.Com. An 'Aggie', they are called. For Best Setting, in TLC. Great news!

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Treasure Island

Thank you to June for reminding me that I haven't told the Looe Island treasure map story. So, here goes...

There's an old story, about the island, that suggests a genuine 'treasure' map popped up in America, several decades ago. It was sold at auction, to a collector, who correctly presumed that the map must be of a 'real' island, so made efforts to find it. He eventually made his way to Cornwall, and found St.George's Island (Looe Island to locals). There was a definite X on the map, so he brought in a team to dig that area...near where Island House stands now (as seen in my Island video). Digging down, they found a huge stone, on its side. Lifting the stone, which took some effort, revealed a small hollow underneath, as if something was once stored there! But, sadly, the contents had long since gone...


...or so people thought, for many decades thereafter. But. It turns out that the stone IS the likely treasure of St.George's Island. It is an ancient stone, which was purposely buried by the ancient inhabitants of a small settlement, which once crowned the hill. Obviously, a stone is stone, no matter how many archaeologists and New Age Druids try to convince otherwise...but, there is the tantalising theory that the stone may have special properties (radioactive, Radon or magnetic etc etc) which would have drawn pagan pilgrims to the Island to marvel or worship the stone. The earth underneath the stone was in-situ, according to Time Team...which means it was an undisturbed layer. In other words, the stone was supposed to be there, and had definitely been placed there by mankind.

Looe Island There is a similar stone, (in scale and material), on the opposite side of the Island, which is also seen in the video (Emma Harry is looking at it, bemused). Is the Island some long forgotten, and ignored, ancient site of archaeological wonders? If so, how many other 'megalithic' wonders may lurk beneath the surface. And if that doesn't pique your interest, consider the fact that a large cavern exists on the west side of the island...which is large enough to fit a small galleon, and extends into the hillside...via a series of passages and tunnels. The Island has a genuine history of smuggling, pirates and nautical naughtiness. Treasure Island, The Goonies and Pirates of the Caribbean have nothing on Looe Island! So, if you are ever down this way, I highly recommend a visit.

Jonathan

P.s. I have big news to announce this next week. I've been rather quiet of late, but it's almost time to start shouting news from the rooftops!