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