Friday, 29 October 2010

Halloween 2010 - Filming 'Blair Witch' Style Teaser Trailers

Halloween - Filming 'Blair Witch' Style Teaser Trailers

"There's many things, dangerous things, out there, on the moor. Don't disrespect the land, and you should be alright" - Advice from a moorland farmer, at night, on Bodmin Moor.

"Something a bit different, maybe live action" was the request, from Shadow Tor Studios, when discussing ideas for the Bracken Tor teaser trailers. Hurrah! Different is exciting. So is taking part on a live action shoot. The usual gameplay videos and screenshots would promote the new adventure, upon release, but 'something a bit different' would break the mould a little, and certainly be exciting to make. Filming, after dark, out on the moor, Blair Witch style! Here's the story…

The Plan - To film three teaser trailers for the new supernatural thriller Bracken Tor - The Time of Tooth and Claw. Each teaser would follow a particular character, on the night of the Winter Solstice -

The Hiker - A un-named man has lost his way, while trying to cross the moor. The plan was to find the ancient burial chamber, hidden beneath Bracken Tor. He had been told, many times, by local people not to attempt such a foolhardy mission, but he chose to ignore the warnings. The Hiker is not all he seems; he knows more about the Tor than he has let on. He believes he can gain access to the tomb, to rob the place of its treasures. Something he will soon regret.

Even the trusty compass can't help us on Bodmin Moor

The DJ - DJ Emma Harry is a kooky kind of girl. Living and broadcasting from the swamps of Barrow Moor, Emma has a deep fascination (obsession!) with the supernatural and strange. Something happened to Emma, back in '06. She experienced something bizarre…something ancient and powerful. The event changed her. She knows that the landscape hides all manner of strange phenomena, writing about much of it in her magazine, the Freaky Times. But, will Emma's fascination be her undoing?

The Archaeologist - Agatha Dunn-Harker was the only person to attempt an archaeological excavation at Bracken Tor, I say 'was' because she disappeared on the Winter Solstice, back in 1965. Broadcasting live on the BBC, Agatha was about to open the heavy stone door when the radio signal was lost, and she was never seen again. But, someone has never given up on Agatha, believing that her fate may still be learnt, if they dig deeper, and uncover the truth.

----- / /-----

The Shoot - A diary of spooky events.

21:00 - Lost, cold, and worried! The moor is up to its usual tricks again. No matter how much we'd planned, and no matter how many maps we've bought, the moor still manages to confuse the hell out of our driver, leaving us stranded in a tiny one-way lane, leading further and further into darkness. Driving slowly, very slowly, across the moor is an eerie experience. The land seems endless, desolate and moody. The minibus headlights occasionally pick out glowing eyes, in the darkness. There are wild ponies on the moor, as well as some hardy breeds of sheep. We have to take great care, orientating these ancient tracks, for fear of hitting something huge, heavy and wild.

21:15 - Something dashes across the road. Something big, and fast. A deer? The atmosphere on the bus has turned chilly. The cast, including myself, have stopped wittering on about the script, and the night ahead. We have all gone rather quiet. I am wondering if this nocturnal adventure is such a good idea? There really are abandoned old mines, scarring the moor. Some are hundreds of years old, from when Cornish Tin was in great demand. Even biblical characters, such as Jospeh of Arimathea, are said to have ventured onto the moor.

"According to legend, Joseph of Arimathea had a financial stake in the Cornish tin mines, and may even have taken his nephew Jesus there on his merchant travels during the boyhood of Jesus. However, after the crucifixion, Joseph of Arimathea traveled to Britain one last time, to preach and even settle." -

I wonder what Jesus made of the moor?

21:30 - Still lost! This is getting ridiculous. Lorna, our sound recordist, suggests we may be going round in circles. Great! Personally, I think she's mistaking one gorse bush for another…until…"Look! Even the road signs are lost!" she points out. We've stopped to take a photo of the bonkers looking sign, when we hear something call out, from across the landscape.

No wonder we are lost! The moorland people are messing with our heads, and nerves!

It sounds like an animal, something large like a horse; a sad baying cry, which seems to fill the air with dread. I am reminded of that scene, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, when Stapleton describes the Grimpen Mire -

-------- / From The Hound of the Baskervilles / --------

“That is the great Grimpen Mire,” said he. “A false step yonder means death to man or beast. Only yesterday I saw one of the moor ponies wander into it. He never came out. I saw his head for quite a long time craning out of the bog-hole, but it sucked him down at last."

Watson and Stapleton explore Dartmoor, taking in the Grimpen Mire

Something brown was rolling and tossing among the green sedges. Then a long, agonized, writhing neck shot upward and a dreadful cry echoed over the moor. It turned me cold with horror, but my companion’s nerves seemed to be stronger than mine. “It’s gone!” said he. “The mire has him.”

-------- / End / --------

21:45 - A man! A farmer, is standing in the middle of the lane. It's impossible to pass him, without forcing him from the road, so Steve (our driver, and lead member of the MBRG) leaves the vehicle and approaches the man. A short exchange of words follows, and then we are off again. The farmer seems to glare at us, as we pass. "He says we'll come out by Minions on this route" says Steve, "Which is perfect for parking and getting the scenes we want".

Hurrah! What a nice old farmer. He's not an evil, cannibalistic moor-beast.

"He says the pub is still open too" continues Steve, "if anyone needs a bit of actors courage". I do actually fancy a gin, to get ready for the shoot, but we all agree it could be a bit like that pub in An American Werewolf in London. You know the one, the two hikers enter The Slaughtered Lamb. The 'locals' all go quiet, and stare. Eventually the two hiking buddies leave… to get ravaged on the moor, by a werebeast. Cripes! I am playing the character called The Hiker. Is this trip such a good idea? When does excitement turn into tension?

The all-important script...try reading it in the dark!

22:00 - Filming, at last! We have split into two units. My group, Unit A, will be filming The Hiker, and recording the vocals for that film, and The DJ. The other team (Unit B) is setting up a very Blair-Witchy scene in a nearby pine woods. I don't envy them. Matt has made some seriously cool looking twig effigies, to hang in the braches and look pretty damn spooky. The props looked quite harmless, even comical, back at base…but now…? They seem pagan, powerful and full of meaning. I begin to suspect our activities may stir up some genuine chills.

22:15 -
I've fallen down a hole. Just as I realised that my foot was not meeting the expected turf (like missing that last step on the stairs) I thought about the mine shafts. A fall down one of those dark pits would mean certain death. Thankfully, my pit is only half a metre deep, so no broken bones…just a muddy, and sore bottom! The event has left me shaken, so my film footage should be genuinely wobbly. Just what we need!

Getting direction from Matt Clark, writer and creator of Bracken Tor.

22:30 - It's time to film the sequence. The plan is to leave the open moor, and enter a small copse, or woodland. We can see one, not too far away from the standing stones, known as The Hurlers. It's not as dark, or as dense as we would have liked, but the twisted branches should look cool, in the glow of the night-vision. I'll be doing this on my own, so that none of the crew gets in shot. A rough path leads through the copse, which I'll try to follow as best as possible. I don't really want to get lost on the moor. The crew hang back, as I prepare to venture in.

Bizarre woodland shapes in Nite-Vision

Silence. Ok. Lens cap off. Power on. Film is running. Let's go.
Suddenly the world is green tinted, and uncanny. Shapes loom up out of the darkness, twisted and covered in lichen. It looks more like a swamp! It's actually surprisingly weird. Night-vision is supposed to aid nocturnal sight, but I think it does the opposite. You can only see a small square in front of you, bright and green. It's quite blinding. It also means my natural night sight, which had adjusted in the gloom, has been ruined. I can't see a bloody thing!

The script

22:40 Approx - I do genuinely feel quite lost. I call out, quietly, to the others to make sure they are still there. Knowing that others are around you, close but out of sight, is quite unnerving. There's no reply, so I carry on my journey. I seem to be approaching a water source, like a stream or spring. That means the land could be quite boggy. My mind returns to the Grimpen Mire, and that poor moorland pony. The agonized, dreadful cry….

…what the hell am I doing? I am really quite spooked. That's when I heard the scream!

Dozmary Pool

23:00 - Whadda girl! Unit B have just recoded our scream queen, in her last dying moments. It's a really strange thing to hear. The sound echoes across the landscape, for miles, and miles, and miles. I wonder if the moorland farmer heard it? He could call the police! We could get into trouble. Imagine explaining what we are up to; making a film about the Beast of Barrow Moor, a fictitious (I hope!) creature that stalks lonely walkers, and rips cattle to shreds. I think we would be asked to leave, go home, and stop playing silly games. Silly?! It's downright frightening. So, maybe the presence of the police may not be such a bad thing. A bit of security. Oh shush, Jonathan! This was your idea. Just get the footage you need, and get out of this god forsaken place.

23:15 -
It's time for the monster. Yup, we have a monster. All claws, teeth and feral eyes. During the day these things look quite…errr…daft, if I am honest. You're painting away, sticking on bits of gunk and ragged hair, chatting away and not really giving the night shoot that much thought. Silly us. In the dark, the mask and other props feel really horrible. The long hair is especially weird. Lank, dark and a bit Samara-like (The Ring movies). I won't say who is playing The Monster, as it might destroy the illusion. But, let me say that it's only right HE should don this costume, given that its HIS game. Ha! Once finished, we'll be filming the monster amongst the trees. I am hoping for some scenes like those from the Warning to the Curious movie, from the 1970's. The ghost of William Ager is glimpsed, briefly, in certain woodland scenes, his white face barely visible in the gloom. If I capture some footage as good as those old BBC scenes, I will be a very happy man!

The Beast of Barrow Moor?

23:30 - The Teeth. It's close-up time for The Monster, as we prepare to film the fangs of our feral creature. The moor is still adding a wonderful hushed atmosphere to the proceedings, as Unit B rejoin us. They are more than pleased with the twig sculptures, filmed in the pine woods. Lorna tells me that she felt quite spiritual, in a wiccan kind of way, whilst hanging the effigies on the twigs. I never had Lorna down as a wiccan, but perhaps this night on the moor will change us all, in some specific way. I, for one, am having a brilliant time.

Good'ol Nite-Vision cameras - famous for ghost-hunting.

The nerves have subsided a little, and things feel really fun, and genuinely interesting.

Midnight - We're all done. Matt pops the cork on a bottle of cheep, but cheerful, Cava, and we all get a bit tiddly. All except Steve, who's driving. Much is said about how the 'real' moorland setting has influenced tonight's work. It's been great to really utilise this fabulous place. You could say it's the biggest star…sorry Monster!...acting like some sort of muse. I just hope our hard work comes across, and feels fun to those watching the films, whenever they are published.

Matt Clark at The Hurlers Stone Circle.

If you can travel to the moor, whether it be Dartmoor, Bodmin or Yorkshire, I highly recommend the experience. You get a sense of smallness and frailty in places like these. The timeless quality is uncanny, unnerving and humbling. Like a few months ago, doing the Beast Hunt Night, I found myself wondering what sort of energies, or spirits, could wander these places? Could unexplainable creatures, or beasts, really be out there, in the darkness?

As Bracken Tor finally gears up for its big release, I must thank the moor for being such a cool setting. Matt Clark has always had a fascination with this place, visiting it many times since childhood. I love The Hound of the Baskervilles, and other gothic tales, but have never really ventured out to discover a more personal experience. Bracken Tor has provided an opportunity to 'get out there', with a purpose, and soak up some of the atmosphere. And, what an atmosphere it is!

Click to enlarge The Freaky Times.

Just in time for Halloween, I thought I'd share this magazine cover with you all.

Click to enlarge the picture.

It's something I put together a few days ago. It's The Freaky Times (a little nod to The Fortean Times), which features in the game. DJ Emma Harry is the editor, inviting strange stories from all over the world. In December, The Beast of Barrow Moor is the cover star, hinting at what sort of 'creature' lurks on the Barrow Moor. But, check out some of the side stories too, for clues about the up-coming game. The Legend of the Green Man? Bracken Tor Cult? The Dark Path? Hmm, that all sound very interesting.

Moor (sic) soon.


P.s. If any of this blog entry has got you interested in the moor, check out this website for some cool pics of standing stones, old farmhouses and ancient burial sites.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Beasts, bugs and Bracken Tor…


It seems like an age since I last scribbled a blog, so without further ado…

Beasts - The Mysterious Beasts Research Group (based on Bodmin Moor!), invited some of us disbelievers and sceptics along to a 'tracking night', two evenings ago. The idea was to camp out, in the woods near Golitha Falls, to experience what the group get up to in an evening. The woods flank one edge, the wilder side, of the famous Bodmin Moor (Jamaica Inn, 'Beast of Bodmin Moor' and of course, Matilda Fly's very own 'Two Faced-Bride of Bodmin Moor'). For more pics, try this Google search: Bodmin Moor.

The ancient and mysterious Bodmin Moor.

The Moor - It's an ancient place, of whispering reeds and weather beaten trees, all shaped by the weather, history and personality of the place. But, it wasn't always like that. The moor is actually a man-made environment, shaped over thousands of years; there was once a wild, dense and dark forest, where old mine buildings now stand, naked to the elements. Think 'Fangorn Forest' from The Lord of the Rings, and you'll get a decent picture of what it must have looked like. The ancient people cut down the trees, to build the many villages and towns which still haunt the moorland world, as ghosts on aerial photography.

The Bronze Age people were late arrivals to the moor.

Their way of life, and knowledge of the ancient natural world, is as mysterious as the moor itself. Those unknown times were a turning point, in history, when man decided to utilise the forest, rather than revere it. Obviously, this is one of the themes explored in Barrow Hill, and it's sequel 'Bracken Tor', so the 'Beast Night' would prove to be great research for that particular project.

A massive Ent of a tree, with creeping vines and several canopies.

The Experiment - As most of you know, I am more of a 'ghosts' person myself, so haven't really delved into the legends of mysterious beasts, crypto-zoology and unexplained animal sightings. For every 'Black Dog of the Moor', there's a Nessie (Loch Ness Monster) sighting. I'll be honest, they never seem to impress me, or prove anything, apart from our desire to believe in such wonders. So, a chance to hang out, in the landscape, with those that state, without doubt, that such creatures exist was a chance not to be missed. Matt Clark, writer and creator of Barrow Hill provided my invite, so I expected to be set-up, and hoaxed…just a little. But, fact is, it was spooky enough, without the pranks and teasing. The ancient forest may be gone, but the earth itself is still rich with the rotting matter, roots and fossilised remains of that once leafy world. I found it strange, to think that I would be sleeping on the graves of such natural antiquity; basically, could the moor be haunted by a landscape long since gone? Could the animals, that once roamed that forest (lions, tigers, bears…oh my!), still enter our world, like spirit animals, unaware that their habitat is no more. A spooky, and melancholy, notion.

Notice this map is dotted with Hut Circles, Stone monoliths, ancient stone rings, etc's a Lord of the Rings world all of its own.

The Night - Steve, leader of the pack, is a huge beast of a man himself, and knows pretty much all there is to know about animal tracks, fur, gnawed bones and…of course, everyone's favourite…poo! He is one of those experts, like you see on natural history shows, that tracks animals by scent, snapped twigs and the occasional bit of disturbed leafage. It's a very impressive talent, which reminded me of that uncanny sense the aboriginal tribes of Australia share, where they seem spititually attached to the world they inhabit. I am envious of that kind of skill, to be honest. Spending time with those folks, in the wild, reminds you how domesticated and uninvolved you are, in the natural world. (Note: But, I also love my PS3 and microwave oven, so I'm not going native anytime soon!). But, tonight was the night to get back to nature, stare into the darkness, and see if anything was staring back. Would those eyes be physical or supernatural?

As well as Steve, we were joined by Cath and three members of the MBRG. Cath is a woman after my own heart - a technical whiz, with a love of gadgets, a brave heart and some seriously impressive walking boots (ex-Army clompers). She came armed with laser trip wires, camera traps, night-vision and all sorts of monitoring equipment. Both she and I would be based in the lower woods, well away from the moorland edge, so our human smells would not disturb any wild beasts prowling the open landscape. Exciting! Steve, Matt, and the other members, were taking the upper ridge, closer to the moor, and closer to the action. There are reports of animal carcasses, stripped trees and dung heaps in that area. So, if these beasts really exist, THIS area is likely to be the feeding ground.

One of many bones, scattered throughout the woodland - someone's dinner, perhaps? Something big, wild and exotic?

So, as you can imagine, I was feeling a bit weirded out by the idea of attending a 'Beast Hunt'. As a fearful fan of The Blair Witch Project, I couldn't help feel the night was going to be quite an experience. It was! Here's the event, as it happened…

21:00 - Just enough light to set up my tent. I've been 'told off' for not having a cammo-fabric version, army style. So, I have to set up in the bracken. It's itchy and full of bugs. I have a signal, yay, so have sent off a few messages to Facebook. I thought it would be reassuring, but instead, my so-called 'freinds' laughed about how they'll find my 'shredded body, and piece it back together' as some sort of gory adventure slider puzzle. Thanks!

21:30 - Mozzies. Damn critters. The woods are really buzzing with insects, and the heat is intense. A Cornish woodland can take on a really tropical feel, in these conditions. It's not exactly Borneo, I know!, but I'm finding the place very dark, hot and alive.

Hurrah! My home for the night. Bit bright, I am told.

22:00 - I got to see some (blurry or distant) images of beast sightings, from the MBRG scrapbook. Some may have seen this kind of thing, in your local press, where dog walkers, ramblers and other everyday folk, have seen large predators stalking through their neighbourhood. It's pointed out, that many of these sightings are made by those with no previous interest in the phenomena. Interesting.

22:45 - Monitors! I love a bit of surveillance activity, and this is great. I'm used to staring at domestic interiors, on screens throughout the night, as part of the ghost-hunting activities, so this natural world makes a lovely change. Plus, there's loads to see. The woods are alive with mice, rabbits, foxes and badgers, all using the well trodden animal paths. These paths look like nothing during the day (a muddy patch here, a few bits of fur on a bramble there), but operate as a wildlife superhighway by night.

A camera trap, and image feed. The 4 LEDs on the cam give off infared light, picked up by the cam, and sent to us, watching far away on a monitor. Cool.

23:00 - I've heard from Matt and Steve, who say that conditions were good for a sighting. The night is gloomy, with the moon hidden behind cloud, but the weather is good (hot!), and very still. The woods, too, are very still. The last of the birds have settled in, for the night, and the trees watch us silently, barely a branch moving. The sound, though, is bizarre; crickets, weevils, mosquitoes and marshflies fill the air. I've stopped thinking about the Blair Witch, and started thinking about Predator instead! Perhaps I am not as good a 'nature' person as I previously thought.

There are noises all around, but nothing to see. The forest creatures are good at playing 'hide and seek'.

00:30 - Crying! There is a baby crying, somewhere in the woods! A frightening, and bizarre experience. "Who, or why, would anyone have a baby out here, in the witching hour?"…damn, she's back! The Blair Witch is back in my head. Babies, witches, woodlands, druids, blood sacrifice…argh! Stop, stop, stop! Thankfully, Cath is on hand to give me a good slap a reassuring perspective. Young deer, I am told, make such noises. It's the right time of year for fawns to be calling to their parents, and 'yes', it does sound very human. I am not convinced, so my anxiety is increasing. What if Cath is wrong?! I still wonder if some of the 'beast sightings' are supernatural?

My mate, Mr.Antenna. Bless 'im.

00:35 - Matt and Steve have reported in. They can also hear the sounds, which they describe as 'mewing'. Hmm, sorry but 'mewing' does not sound like a baby crying. Hmmpff. But, the MBRG do this kind of thing, "all of the time", all over the country (weirdos!). I still regret leaving the ghost-hunting gadgets at home. Steve also thinks the deer may bring the 'beast' closer to our corner of the moor. Oh goody.

00:40 - The group have gathered together, away from the moorland edge. Everything is set up, and we're ready to go. Hopefully, one of our cams will capture something amazing. Atmosphere in the camp is brilliant. I've felt this sort of buzz, before, on the larger ghost-hunts, but the woodland setting feels really intense, and new. The owls are calling, across the landscape, and it really feels like something was about to happen…

01:00 - I hear about Matt's trip to the top, and what they saw on the ridge. There are a lot of deer mingling with the moorland ponies. It sounds like a lovely scene, but I can't help think it sounds like a safari. The wild plains of Cornwall, waiting for a bloody natural drama to begin. The hunt! Many farmers, in these parts, are insisting that a beast does indeed stalk the moors, killing many young lambs, for their dinner. Seriously! It dents their profits to such an extent that huge government offices, like DEFRA, have called upon folks like the MBRG, to investigate areas like the moor, to prove, one way or the other, whether this is a real, and serious, issue. Hmm, that could account for the MBRG's budget!

02:30 - Definitely deer! They are gorgeous. I've seen these lovelies many times, while I've been in Cornwall, but it's always a fleeting glimpse, caught in the car headlights…and then GONE. But, there they are, hopping over the woodland boundaries (a good metre and a half of bracken and gorse bushes), and into the woods…with us. They are so agile, and graceful, and…SPOOKED.

02:50 - The deer have legged it. They entered the woods, to get off the moor. We are now totally convinced that something is tracking their scent. I am still wondering what we'll see. Obviously, a massive black panther would be cool, but it would be so, damn physical! What if the deer were spooked by something unknown to us, but visible to these nocturnal creatures? Ghosts of the wild?

03:00 - Badgers! Awww, bless 'em. They really know how to make you feel more comfortable. Bumbling, daft things. They are digging in amongst the roots and trees stumps, eating worms and bugs. They don't seem particularly spooked, so I am also feeling much more relaxed. A bit of fatigue is also creeping in, so I'm taking my weary self off to the tent, to have a nap.

05:00 - Damp, tired and aching. Boo hoo. The plan is to be on the ridge for the dawn, (now!), as it's a favourite hunting time, supposedly. The early morning light is enough to see by, so I'm shocked at the mess inside my tent. I live like a pig, in the dark!

What a mess - never invite me round for tea.

05:30 - I have been shown some of the oddments and weird things that Steve and Matt found last night. The bones are a bit creepy, and the poo pile is just wrong! Badgers have been marking their territory, against rival badger clans…and maybe something more. Hmm. Also, there's loads of evidence; scratched trees, claw marked earth and animal tracks. These are the best! Really big paw prints, in the mud. There's also some copperish coloured fur on the barbwire. I wonder if it's a fox, but the strands are very short, and thick. More like bristles...

Some badger poo. Nice. I went to bed after seeing this...I'd had enough!

06:00 - It's a lovely morning. Any thought's and fears about Blair Witches, Wererabbits and Predators have gone. Gone back to the dark corners of the imagination. I've survived the night, seen some brilliant things, and got a real buzz from the experience. But…any beasts? Not as yet. The MBRG have several hours worth of recordings to get through, so we will have to wait. For now, this is Jonathan Boakes, one of the last remaining crew of Alpha Camp, signing off…and going to sleep.



Afterthoughts - Certainly an interesting night, that really inspires some good adventure game scenes. Matt Clark and I are now busy putting finishing touches to Barrow Hill 2 (Bracken Tor), with gusto. It feels like the game has taken an age to reach this stage, but this is what happens when one has to spend half the year tracking down misbehaving publishers, and take them to court. It can really put you off making games altogether. Which is the sad thing. But, with the right attitude, and hope for the future, it is still possible to make adventures and not have a miserable time. It is the game itself that is important, and the experience you have making it.

One of the long abandoned Tin Mine shafts...spooky places.

That bizarre night on the moors was just the ticket to get that good attitude flowing again. Things feel positive. It's a blast making games, and entertaining people with our mad little stories, so no-one, no matter how bent or deluded, can dent that. Games may be late, and mine will be later yet again!, but we DO get there eventually. I'm now working on Barrow Hill 2 - Bracken Tor with Shadow Tor Studios (thanks Matt!), so expect to spot some of my usual bits and bobs, here and there. It's really cool to work on a non-ghost game, and focus on archaeology and the ancient landscape. It's a creepy interest, shared by all involved, which is bound to create a good ol'yarn and enjoyable puzzle-driven adventure game.

Dark rites and pagan offerings in Bracken Tor - Time of Tooth and Claw.

Bracken Tor & The Moor - The landscape of Bodmin really is a spooky place, deep in legend and rich with folklore. The idea of combining the ancient people, stone circles, druidism and our modern times is a delicious one. The game, like the first one, explores how we (the modern folk) approach these dark places and rituals, and how the sites appear to us today. Those eerie monoliths, out on the moor, weren't always jutting from the naked peat, like Stoneage gravestones…no, they were once surrounded by deep forests of rowan, oak and pine. The Bronze Age people conducted ceremonies and rites, at these locations, which Matt can only hint at in his screenplay.

What Bracken Tor provides, and this really is exciting, is time travel! Both you and I can travel back and forth between the two time lines. Ancient and modern, then and now. We will discover what the ancient stones signified; we will learn their real purpose, and the role they played in those olden times. What bizarre acts took place, amongst the stones and trees?

In a way, I am glad that I didn't dwell on these matters, too much, while camped out 'there' on the Tor. Big, fierce wild cats are one thing, but the habits and ceremonies of those early civilisations really chill me to the bone. TV archaeology likes to paint a rosy image of those times, to educate and inform, but there WAS blood, sacrifice and devout pagan belief. It was a period of fear, and reverence, and horror...

...It was the time of Tooth and Claw.


Saturday, 29 May 2010

Big Apple & Japanese Dumplings

Big Apple with a side of Japanese Dumplings

Phew! It's hot in the city, and absolutely brilliant. Like any big city, it is impossible to see everything, you'd need to, in one weekend...but I'm trying!

So far, the adventure has been a naughty mix of total food indulgence,and clubbing till dawn; 90's hard house, in the gloriously named 'Meat Packing District'. Oh, and I took a peek at Times Square, Broadway and hid from the sun in Greenwich Village. All super.

Broadway was quite a surpise, actually. It has managed to retain a noirish 30's feel that felt very timeless. Christopher Walken and Lucy Liu were getting huge cheers, as they left thier respective shows...(no sneaking out of the rear stage door in this town!)

The scene was also enhancedby the pressence of the service personel (army, navy), who were gearing up for the Memorial Day weekend. They looked very fine, in thier uniforms and bright White caps, and managed to look very dignified, even after a few beers in the nearby Irish pubs.

As for today, it was an early start again, with iced tea in Madison Square Gardens. Very pleasant, and very cool. It's been scorchio the whole time I have been here, so that foggy afternoon in Looe seems a million miles away, and an absolute age ago. But, deep down I know those ancient, barnacle encrusted rocks are waiting for me...

...and Nigel.

So, thank you NY! And thank you USA, for making my time here so interesting, unforgetable, and gloriously different. I am ready to get to work now, the past is the past, and I am ready to look forward to the future. My trip here may have been for stressful reasons, but the outcome was good, and things look much brighter. Get me to a cab, I have a sequel to make!


P.s. Apologies for the quality of the photos, iPhone as 'camera' not so good!

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Lost in the Fog; Where has everybody gone…?

I am off to the USA THIS weekend!

This is something I have been looking forward to my entire life, so it’s making me feel dizzy and thrilled all at the same time. It’s a shame my trip is to settle a legal case, but I will get to look around New York for a while, so I’m ready for anything.

JB is coming to the USA!

If there’s anybody out there, in New York or Connecticut, that fancies hooking up and having a beer, please DO write and let me know. Right here, on the blog is the best place to contact me, as I won’t have email access as such. Quite honestly, I would really like to meet some people, so spread the word to those who don’t dig through the blogs! There must be someone who fancies a natter?

Without some local knowledge it’s likely I’ll just sit in the Holiday Inn, and stare out of the window in absolute terror at the bustling world outside. I’ve seen so many corners and sights of the USA, on TV and in film, it will be a truly mind-blowing experience; I’ll probably think I’m playing some sort of Big Apple adventure game, and refuse the evidence of my own eyes. (It’s Real, it’s real!! I wonder if there really is a ziggurat under Central Park?). What a sad case. But, it does make me realise how many of the US fans feel about good ‘ol blighty, sometimes. I imagine it must be a similar, if smaller, thrill seeing old, well known British landmarks, and visiting locales often imagined from books, music and games. A special relationship, indeed!

So, if you are nearby on Tuesday May 25th to Monday the 31st, please do let me know, as I would love to meet some genuine Americans! Oh yes!

The Pinnacles, with Jonathan Boakes and ghost...

Cornwall is a strange place to be, these days, with scarily schizophrenic weather; I was out with the camera, earlier this afternoon, to photograph The Pinnacles, at one end of Looe beach. It’s foggy, eerie, quiet and deserted around these parts. Yet, I still have bright red sunburn from yesterday’s sunny scorcher! What’s going on? I suspect something supernatural is afoot. The tourists must still be here, somewhere, yet I saw no evidence of them. Perhaps they are holed up in the B&B’s, watching re-runs of Murder She Wrote…

Friend or Foe? The gulls plan their assault on the 'No Wings'.

I have been struggling with some of the characters, for The Last Crown, these last few weeks. I’ve been distracted by legal paperwork, most of the time, so it’s not too surprising that my fisherfolk struggled to make it onto paper in a satisfying, and naturalistic way. Everything else is fine, but the locals just felt, and sounded really odd. As I reach the end of the screenplay (yay!) I worried that Saxton was becoming too dark, too surreal and…dare I say it…too Monty Python. So, today’s weather, and the unsettling atmosphere have been wonderful. I am too stupid, sometimes, to realise that I have the best source of inspiration right on my doorstep. So, with camera in hand, I took to the beach and streets to capture some moody, melancholy scenes. This page is dotted with a few of them, but do click one of the images to see more of Looe’s Moody Blues.

Crustation in The Pinnacles, East looe.

Where has everybody gone…

The beach was packed, yesterday afternoon. I had a black cherry ice cream from the seafront, and watched as tourists and locals splashed around in the crystal clear waters, and created sand castles that put my humble home to shame! (“Hey, that sand castle has a second bedroom!”) But today, there’s no sign, nor sound, of anyone… at all. It’s a perfect time to go and wander around one of my favourite TLC locations, The Pinnacles. They are back in game 2, but not quite as you’d expect them. The tide comes in, drowning that crustated world, hiding it from us. Lucy and Nigel will have to do a few quests for Old Moby, the fisherman, before they can navigate those treacherous waters. Moby is a lobster pot man, so he knows those old rocks like the back of his hand. I’ll add that Old Moby’s hand may also have a few barnacles, and limpets, living between his fingers and on the back of his wrinkly old palms.

Dave The Ferryman...foggy May in Looe.

He’s going to be quite a character, and is based, in some ways, on ‘Dave the Looe Ferryman’; who I watched disappearing out into the fog earlier today. I should add that Dave is not covered in crustations, nor is he wrinkly, and makes quite a dashing ferry and fisherman! But, watching the small boat drift silently out to sea, alongside the Banjo Pier, was really quite eerie. Fog has a way of messing with your senses, so everything takes on a slightly dreamy, no time/no place, kind of atmosphere.

Nothing to see, nothing to hear...Looe Beach.

I did see several figures while out wandering, but for the most part I was alone in the ‘real’ Saxton, with only my thoughts and plans. I have to admit to feeling rather melancholy these days, as the pressures of my US trip creep nearer and nearer. (Isn’t melancholy a lovely word?! It sounds so much nicer than ‘bloody miserable’). Ghosts of the past seem to approach, with distant, echoing voices, to offer advice and good will, but they only seemed to linger for a moment, before becoming faint, and then disappeared completely.

Footstep in the sand...

The moodiness left me with an increasing feeling of helpful loneliness, and isolation. Fog does that. You are alone in the few meters that surround you, where no-one can see or hear you. It was perfect time to contemplate the fisherfolk of Saxton…whose lives are dictated by the weather, water and wildlife. Old Moby kind of wrote himself, into the story, where there was once a bland fisherman stereotype, with no humanity, soul or purpose. So, I thank Looe for helping me out, once again, and providing as much food for thought as any amateur writer could ever want!

Till I arrive in new York, that is! :-)


Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Saxton: Up for sale!


After several months of mystery, the fate of Saxton’s ‘Harbour Cottage’, (home to ghost-hunter Nigel Danvers in The Lost Crown) has been revealed.

Studio Cottage, Polperro, is up for sale. For anyone that may be interested in viewing the place, I’ll mention that the interior of the cottage bears no resemblance to the fictional ‘Harbour Cottage’, (which is probably a very good thing!). Instead, it’s actually a rather tiny holiday cottage, with frilly florals and orange pine furniture; so it really couldn’t be more different to the dank, dark and rather miserable cottage, experienced by Nigel, during his adventures.

Click to see the Sales Listing.

Click the image too see the 'sales' listing and interior photos.
Warning: Floral fabric and pine furniture may be seen.

I’m unsure how long the cottage will be available for, or whether the auction has come and gone, but if you’re in the area, and have a soft spot for Polperro’s most painted and photographed house, now is the time to make your move.

While wandering the streets, and photographing new scenes, for the next game (The Last Crown - Haunting of Hallowed Isle) I did notice that a LOT of Polperro is currently ‘For Sale’, which makes me fear for the future of the little harbour town. A series of wet summers, and decreased Winter visitors has seen the place suffer, both financially and spiritually. Polperro really is a ghost town, from November through to Easter, with over 50% of the houses empty, unlit and unloved.

Click to see the Sales Listing.

Obviously, you have to expect this for a holiday town, but it can be rather sad, and spooky, to approach the town from the coast path (past the little lighthouse), and see barely a light on in the cottages, during those long Winter nights. Perhaps I am na├»ve, but there is something very sad about a town being devoid of people and life, when it was once home to hundreds of people, busily going about their lives, and tending to one of Cornwall’s most famous working harbours. Modernity sees Polperro as the quietest it has ever been.

But, on a more cheery note, I have located new places for the game; if you refer to your handy ‘Pull Out Map’, you’ll see locations such as The School House, and The Hotel, listed. They never appeared in The Lost Crown, so will be making their debut in the sequel. The site for the School House was an easy find, as somewhere quite literal sprung to mind, and will work wonders to give this new location some atmosphere and period style.

Click to see the 'making of'...

The Hotel was harder to locate. I wanted to avoid Victorian style buildings, after the horrors seen in Lost Souls. The Station Hotel is a very distinctive place, and quite hard to ‘get out of the head’ after spending a year re-creating it for the last game. So, a radical re-think was needed, and Polperro provided a suitable candidate. It’s actually a building you’ve seen before, several times, but I’ll be re-vamping the place to reflect it’s new ‘explorable’ status. Unlike The Station Hotel, this will be no ‘urban exploration’ through dank, nasty hallways; instead, it’ll all feel rather pleasant...until another murder occurs!


Friday, 26 February 2010

The Lost Souls - Find Awards!

There have been two awards for Lost Souls, which is wonderful news! I am especially pleased to receive the ‘Best Sound Design’ this year, as I feel a lot of work, by both myself and Ben Gammons, went into making Lost Souls as detailed and disturbing as possible.

Adventure Gamers Aggie Awards 2009 - 2010

The other award was for Best First Person Adventure! An amazing accolade, given how stiff the competition was this year. A quick glance around the forums reveals how many new adventure games were released last year, (including official boxed versions in the USA, something that has so-far eluded Lost Souls). It’s wonderful to see so many big games appearing, as some factions within the press STILL state the genre is dead. Same old, same old. But, with so many new, top notch productions titles in the pipeline, I hope the genre finally proves it is far from dead.

There seem to be quite a few ‘ghost-hunting adventures’ on the horizon, which is interesting to see. It is not hard to imagine the success of The Lost Crown has generated lots of interest in paranormal games, so I will be looking out for something spooky to play over the weekend. It’ll be really fun to see what others have done with the ‘traditional’ ghost-huinting gadgets, and whether they have bought anything new to the paranormal adventure scene. I’ll play with the lights ‘on’! ;)

Dark Fall - Lost Souls - Coming to Italy

Also, I wanted to mention the forthcoming EU versions of Lost Souls, which are about to be announced, or appear on shelves. First up is a fully translated Italian version of the game, published by the chaps at Adventures Planet! It’s a super translation, full of character and detail, which has been checked and double-checked. Call me daft, but the Italian version sounds so much MORE creepy than the original. Perhaps it has something to do with the latin accents, or intensity of the performances, but I felt goosebumps several times when building this new version. So, Italian fans will want to look out for this one, as I think it’s going to be my best Italian game yet!

Actually, that reminds me, I had a really good ‘telling off’ this week, by an Italian adventure fan, who found the opening scenes of Lost Souls far too nasty, and ‘Silent Hill’ like. I explained that the game was written to reflect some of the recent news items, appearing down here in Cornwall, but realised there’s little or no ‘making of’ material, for the game. I hope to correct that, quite soon, as there are loads of ‘real world’ stories to post, and illustrate how ‘usual’ some of the game content actually is.

Dark Fall - Lost Souls - Coming to Italy

For example, Mr.Bones’ revolting eating habits are based on the ‘Bodmin Badger Eater’ (seen in a BBC doco last year), and a strange, unsolved, case that shocked the good people of Callington, also last year; otters and local pets were found, nailed to trees in the woods, where satanic imagery was also to be seen, sprayed onto trees. I will add that Callington is also the home of ‘Ginsters’, the famous pasty production company…that doesn’t bear thinking about!

Or, how about the news item that greeted my arrival in Cornwall; ‘Warlock Beheaded by Cult’. Seriously. This guy had a small coven, who turned on him after he ‘placed hexes upon certain cult members’. They hacked off his head! Whatever next? Thinking about this makes me want to expand the ‘Horror in Cornwall’ page to include some of these 'real' stories. It could be a bit like Mulder's scrapbooks, but an online version. That way I’d have somewhere to refer to, and also send angry parents, whose teenage kids have been playing Lost Souls...and wetting the bed.


P.s. I found this teaser very interesting: Face The Horror


Saturday, 6 February 2010

Spring in Cornwall: Tis bright and luverly.

Early Spring for Cornwall.

Taking a walk down through Duloe, and Stocks Lane, this afternoon revealed Spring has come early to Cornwall. We managed to avoid the blizzards and snow fall this last Winter, which may explain why everything is sprouting into life, and the bird life is as lively as a bright May afternoon. The sun was warm, leaving long shadows across the landscape, with some hillsides still in total shadow; the sun has yet to touch those dark, damp places, where bracken is stirring into life, and snowdrops speckle the leaf mulch beneath the foot.

A Snow Drop on Stocks Lane

The loggers have thinned the Stocks Wood, so it is no longer the dark, thick pine forest it once was. Some will know these woods as ‘Carrion Woods’, from The Lost Crown, but may not recognise them at all. The trucks and diggers have made a terrible mess of the woods, and lane, carving away old stone walls to make paths for their diesel guzzling monsters.

The 'thinning' pines of Stocks Wood, near Causeland, Cornwall

I was reminded, while passing through, of those early scenes in Watership Down, where JCB’s appear as demonic beasts to the timid bunnies losing their home. But, you can’t be too negative, given that the woods have only been thinned, and not destroyed, so I hope the churned mud, broken walls and ugly plastic water pipes are hidden, in time, by the bracken, birches and reeds. Those plants may be sleeping, but today’s bright sun is bound to have warmed them into action.

A wonderful old post at Causeland Station, Cornwall

Further down the lane, the little train station at Causeland provided a welcome rest, and sit down (and a quick KitKat!). It’s a really pleasant spot, by the stream, and provides a good place to observe the hill, directly opposite. This is a place where Buzzards hunt, fox cubs play and the occasional young deer strays to nibble the fertile flora. We seem to have hundreds of Buzzards! I remember when they were a surprising, and unexpected sight, but not anymore! Pairs of birds swoop low over the fields, or soar above the treetops, no longer fearful of man, and quite happy to perch for a while, and let out one of those wonderful cries. It sounds a bit like an eagle, of the Nevada desert, and provides an eerie sound in the landscape. I can’t remember what the Cornish landscape sounded like, without that shrill cry. Quite haunting.

A knot in a gate post, Duloe, Cornwall

I also got to find some new locations, for The Last Crown. My plan, for the next few months, is to hunt around, and locate some cracking new places for Nigel, Lucy, (and Mr.Tibbs) to explore! I’ve found two great little locations, but feel I am only scratching the surface of what Cornwall has to offer. The plan, as of next week, is to write to the local papers, and request some suggestions from readers. It is likely, given the nature of the game, to interest those with haunted homes and businesses. There are quite a few…including old mills, bakeries and fallen farmsteads, so I think we can all look forward to seeing some lesser known locales, represented in-game, for all to enjoy, no matter what corner of the world you live in. I’ve always liked the idea of ‘virtual tourism’, dating back all the way to Myst, or even Mystery of Arkham Manor!, so the ‘Crown’ games are continuing a tradition, of sorts.

A ladybird emerges from a long winter sleep

I’d also like to get a lot more wildlife into the next game; birds, bugs and beasts! My aim would be to create some wildlife puzzles, as I’ve always appreciated a little education with my gaming, as long as it isn’t too obscure or academic. Identifying creatures in Riven was a great way of introducing the world, and marvel at how much detail and effort went into those early Myst games. There were animals in ‘Lost Crown’, but they were never part of any specific puzzles, or contributed much to the plot, so the aim would be to include more animal mythology and folklore, via Nanny Noah, Bob Tawny (with his Owlish name), and good ‘ol Mr.Russet. There was a lot of animal chatter from Russet, back in the first game, but it didn’t feed the story, and distracted away from the ‘big, black birds’ of Northfield Church. So, alot of stuff got snipped. Russet’s favourite animal is the badger…so loved, and so loathed…by the people of this countryside, in equel measure.

A tiny seedling stretches towards the sun, Stocks Lane, Cornwall

I think he felt some affinity with the old brocks and badgers, so it’s something to develop. Perhaps old Russet lives beneath ground, in his own little set. That’s a nice idea, and would make a lovely location for the game. Hmm, perhaps all the characters should have an animal with which they are associated? Cole Tawny, the dead son of Rose Noah and Bob Tawny, appeared throughout TLC1, in the form of a Grenanback Dragonfly, so it’s not such a jump to imagine all the characters having some form of animal spirit, hidden away inside them, but allowed to wander when no-one is looking, or night has fallen. A kind of ‘double life’. So, what creature would Professor Oogle be, I wonder? A mole? A bookworm? Or an old, wise owl. Ha! It’s going to be great fun thinking some of this stuff up, for use in-game. So, without further ado, I should get back to it.

Thanks for reading,