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 naïve, 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!

Jonathan

30 comments:

James Cooper Wilson said...

Nice to see you've found some good new locations for the next game, Joanthan. I remember seeing those places, on the map, and wondering why we couldn't get to them.

Off-topic, speaking of unused locations, I did wonder, having finished Lost Souls, what became of the barn? There was a plan, in a previous blog post, regarding a nasty owl, making his way in that building.

-James CW

Tom said...

Yep, Harbour Cottage is definitely the Tardis!

Jonathan Boakes said...

Yeah, the barn! There was a plan to have the barn back in the sequel, with a 'cross the wobbly joists' puzzle to get across; the resident owl clawed at you, from time to time (imagined and never seen).

It was going to be a homage to The Owl Service, one of my favourite books. But, with only one item to recover (the steering wheel from Gloria's car) I started to wonder if re-creating the barn was a bit indulgent. Plus, I felt some would want to go down into the caves (as they did in Dark Fall - The Journal), but there was no need.
So, the barn is still out there, waiting, but the water tower served the purpose instead. Plus, the owl is still there...unseen, but heard.

Also, yes! Harbour Cottage is a Tardis. The real version is so small that Nigel would never have needed CCTV cameras to observe the place; he'd just have to stand by the door and look around!

TJ said...

oh my God. This is awkward. This is one of the moments that I hate NOT being rich to buy such places. I liked that cottage by the looks in the game itself and now I can see it for real!
I know how does it feel when such beautiful, simple and humble place get deserted. We have in Kuwait 9 islands and one of them only was inhabited and had quite a history back before the time of Alexander The Great, and its name is Failaka. It was one camping site in the hellenistic era, and recently some archaeological missions discovered plans for a monastery in the middle of the island and some islamic fort dating back to the Abbasid era on the edges of the island. It was inhabited and active till the 1990 war when it was dipopulated, and now the whole island is like a ghost town. I paid 2 visits to this island and it looks just awkward.
Many ghosts stories go around that island as well, and we are waiting for a revival.
So, we are now cooked on calm and slow fire, waiting for the Last Crown... seaside ghosts stories seem to inflame my mind more than others!

Shawn said...

Glad to see your trip is going well and that you found some new locations! Really looking forward to this game!

And also sad to see that the town isn't doing so well and that "Harbor Cottage" is for sale. Wish I could afford to buy it and keep it as a "getaway place" when I want to escape the harsh reality of day to day life here in the states.

Keep up the great work, my friend!

Jonathan Boakes said...

Yeah, I have to admit that I was really tempted to try for the cottage myself, and rent it to holiday makers and game fans!

But, £150k (around $280k) is just stupid. Plus, the roof was looking very dodgy, last time I saw it. :(

But, good luck to the new owners (the auction was on the 29th of March), and I hope Christina lets them get on with the renovations, without terrorising them with ghostly moaning, and creeping black hair! If you remember, she pushed Morgan Mankle's brother down the stairs, poor thing. More on that in game 2.

Speaking of games, I have been having a proper adventure, these last few weeks, looking for new locations, and inspiration....and, I think I've struck gold with Buckfastleigh Church. You guys are gonna love it!

Monica Wyatt said...

Jonathan, perhaps the popularity of your Saxton games will help to revive Polperro. I know I'd love to visit (I'm in California, however, and my prospects for travel are not bright).

I will tell you that I think the Lost Crown in the best adventure game ever made. It even beats the old Gabriel Knight series, which used to hold the (a-hum) "crown."

I'm so glad you're setting the next game back in Saxton (and the third game too, I hope). I fell in love with the town and the characters and can't wait to visit and meet them all again.

Rock on!

Jonathan Boakes said...

Hi Monica,

You've made me blush. Thanks for the wonderful feedback. I hope games 2, and 3 live up to expectations.

I've played a few sequels, or series, of adventure games where the setting is completely different to the original. Sometimes different characters too! Usually this is because the original setting was exhausted in the first instalment. But, in the case of Saxton, and the surrounding area (Anglia), I felt that I'd only scratched the surface. So, Saxton remains, as a kind of 'hub', with other (new) locations being revealed, and then visited, as the story progresses.

The Last Crown - Haunting of Hallowed Isle is, in fact, the story of the Pendraed Crown, mentioned in the first game.

Pendraed was brother to Ganwulf, and son to Auldwulf; The story goes that Pendraed ruled the area once known as Ulcombe, which disappeared under the sea, in the Middle Ages. So, expect some of the new locations to be rather wet! And, quite a contrast the security and normality (!!) of Saxton. But, once you've dried off, it's off to Nanny Noah's for tea, crumpets and witchcraft!

Jonathan

Monica Wyatt said...

Sounds marvelous! I'm really looking forward to seeing ever more of Saxton and environs.

I think the reason I enjoyed Lost Crown even more than the Gabriel Knight games is that TLC is even more atmospheric and immersive. Much of that had to do with Saxton, your subtle and unnerving use of sound, and especially your amazing choice of black and white. It was a real risk, but it paid off.

Of course, Jane Jensen is hard at work on Grey Matter, so you'll have some competition this year!

However I have two favorite game developers and both are individuals working alone: you and a gentleman named Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software who produces "retro" RPGs. Both of you allow your imaginations full rein. Your games aren't done by committee. Books, after all, aren't written by committee. (I adored Barrow Hill too, so I should include Matt Clark!)

It's the individual imagination that makes the difference. Much more important than flashy bells and whistles.

Monica Wyatt said...

Sounds marvelous! I'm really looking forward to seeing ever more of Saxton and environs.

I think the reason I enjoyed Lost Crown even more than the Gabriel Knight games is that TLC is even more atmospheric and immersive. Much of that had to do with Saxton, your subtle and unnerving use of sound, and especially your amazing choice of black and white. It was a real risk, but it paid off.

Of course, Jane Jensen is hard at work on Grey Matter, so you'll have some competition this year!

However I have two favorite game developers and both are individuals working alone: you and a gentleman named Jeff Vogel of Spiderweb Software who produces "retro" RPGs. Both of you allow your imaginations full rein. Your games aren't done by committee. Books, after all, aren't written by committee. (I adored Barrow Hill too, so I should include Matt Clark!)

It's the individual imagination that makes the difference. Much more important than flashy bells and whistles.

Shawn said...

I think Monica really hit in on the head with the fact that you really did grow attached to the town and the people in TLC. It'll be awesome to revisit the old sites and characters as well as meet new ones and new locations along the way. Between the scenery, the people, and the music...you really got "lost" in the game to a degree. I couldn't stop playing it! SO looking forward to the new one!

Safe travels!

clydecash said...

Wow it's like crazy deja vu. I don't think I could even bring myself to go in to it! All though cofusing at times TLC is def one of my fav games of all time.

Stephanie Faith said...

Jonathan I am a new fan - still playing Director's Cut Lights Out...currently (still) stuck in a cave in front of a strange looking barrel :/
Anyway, I don't suppose you have any beginners' game creating tips? Is there a specific software you use, and is it possible to learn this without formal school?
Thank you :)
~ Stephanie Faith

Jonathan Boakes said...

The Last Crown is going to come with a quite meaty 'making of...', which will look at all the stages to making the game, and getting it published. The previous 'Crown' game had a light 'this is where the game came from' article, so the sequel needs something more detailed.

It will be a perfect time to do something like that, as I'll be able to use the new game as an example. Obviously, the 'Crown' games are quite unual, in tone and presentation, so I'll try to be quite generic.

But, for now, I'll say that both Lost Crown and Lost Souls were produced with the Wintermute Engine, from Dead-Code. It's a perfect platform to experiment with (most of the game construction is visual, rather than scripting), so you can produce a 'test scene' really quickly, and painlessly; which is exactly what a newbie developer needs; immediate proof that your game can work (hurrah!).

Do have a look at the site, especially the 'games' listing, as there are loads of titles, either in production or commercially released. Very reassuring. These titles reveal how adaptable and open the engine actually is.

For 3D construction, I use Strata3D. I was taught the software at community college, very briefly, but grew to like it...a lot! It's really quick, and easy to create a basic room, so again, you get an immediate positive result. If you compare locations from Dark Fall 1, to how they appear in Lost Souls, you will see they are much more detailed, and realistic; the software is pretty much the same as it was, so my skills in 3D (which were minimal back in 2000) must have improved. Strata was a good piece of software to experiment with, and learn the basics of 3D construction. I picked a manmade space, and a dark one too, to make my first scenes. Using shadow and darkness is a great way to suggest there is more to a scene than meets the eye. Tackling anything organic, or chaotic, is much more difficult, but can be done (like in Bracken Tor by Shadow Tor Studios).

Bigger devs would probably suggest using something like 3D Studio Max, but it's pricey, and is a big, industry level piece of kit (not so easy to tackle, if you are unfamilar with 3D).

For image manipulation (like adding flowers and fog to the Lost Crown scenes) I use Corel Photo-Paint. I've got an old version (8), which I've kind of stuck with, but there are new versions which combine PhotoPaints features with those of the better known Paint Shop Pro. Again, most devs would suggest something else, like Photoshop, which is industry standard...but, I've avoided, or missed out, on all the biggies, for budget and other reasons; like learning other packages first off, and getting comfortable.

Lastly, sound. Sony's 'Sound Forge' is super. I use both that, and the earlier version 5, as it has the best echo and reverb I've heard. I've been using those effects ever since making 'Timothy Pikes' voice sould all echoey, for that train tunnel, in Dark Fall 1. Again, once comfortable, I've stuck with the same software.

Using the same software, over and over, may seem unambitious, but making games is hard, and tricksy, enough already! It's good to depend on tried and tested resources, as plenty of other things with go wrong. I promise.

Jonathan

James Cooper Wilson said...

Interesting. Tell me, what's the advantage Soundforge has over open-source(not "Freeware"-those are often stripped-down programs) alternitives such as Audacity?

-James CW

Jonathan Boakes said...

Audacity is free, so that's definitely a good recommendation to newbies, and those unsure about whether game creation is for them. In my case, I've only mentioned software that I use to make the games. Having not used that software I can't comment on pros and cons. But, given it's freebie status, I'd suggest playing around for a while. I mentioned, above, that I've stuck with all the software that I started with. You just get to know the software, and stay loyal...so, Audacity may be 'the one' for many new devs giving it a trial. I just found this comment: "But nothing beats Audacity for 'Quick and easy' edit." That sounds ideal, as a piece of startup kit. Quick and Easy!

Jonathan Boakes said...

The other sound software I use is Magix Music Maker. It sounds a bit naff, and the presentation and features suggest it's directed at the club and dance side of things...but, I find it very easy to use, and it's great for creating large compositions. There are several sound layers, so you drag and drop all your sound effects, music and effects straight onto the 'Arranger'. You can listen to your composition in 'real time', and make changes whenever and wherever you want (or add effects). Once happy, you export the whole track (mix down) to a suitable format, like Wav or Ogg. I've created all of the DF and TLC soundtracks using this software. Thing is, I got the 'e' version, a few years back, and it was dirt cheap. The current version is £49, which may be too much for those unsure about their commitment.

TJ said...

Although not a sound professional, but for some time I used the Adone Audition, and it sounds like the description you've mentioned about Magix Music Maker.

Jonathan Boakes said...

I even looked at Cubase, at one point, while left alone in a friends recording studio. Cripes, it looked complicated. But, like I said before, I think I lack ambition, sometimes, when it comes to trying new software. Making the games can be more than enough work, so I tend to play safe. But, that also means I could be missing out on something brilliant and user friendly.

Shawn said...

Being an IT guy...I find that I agree with you, Jonathan. Everybody's software has a different GUI so once you find one that you enjoy using and know inside and out...the thought of using another and having to learn a whole new interface is nightmarish. To say the least. We tend to stick with what we know and are comfortable with. It is good to at least try some new stuff once in a while.

TJ said...

Hi again,
I've made here my first 360 spherical panorama, and thought you might want to see it. You'll need QuickTime installed to see it. It might be, inspirational, so to say...

http://ayvarith.blogspot.com/2010/04/alexander-6-v41.html

The first window in the post should show an image. Click on the image and drag in any direction you like to see. I've made a trick to complete the image here actually, but well, it's left for people to decide :)
The "space" is taken from Failaka island.
Have a nice day!

Jonathan Boakes said...

Hey TJ,

The QTVR is great, really atmospheric. I'd love to visit those ruins with my camera! :)

Shawn, we had Emma Harry in the recording studio yesterday afternoon, and the technicians said pretty much the same thing - "find a tool that suits you, and stick with it". One of the perks, I forgot to mention, was 'free upgrades' for certain packages. In otherwords, you buy once, and get the new versions of the software free, or low cost. It's a perk to staying loyal, and legal(!!), which cannot be underestimated by a newbie dev.

Lastly. To all. Lost Souls is on STEAM! Yes! Yes! YES! I am totally thrilled by this.

I'll be quiet now. :)

Shawn said...

Very good point about the free upgrades! A great perk, indeed! And tell Emma Harry I said hello! :o) I'm a fan of her work too! And very glad to hear the great news about Lost Souls! The game really is fantastic. You deserve to pat yourself on the back, my friend.

TJ said...

Glad that you liked it :)
It's my first 360 panorama.
The building that shows in the beginning, the one full of bullets holes, was my target in the beginning, but "undesired" visitors who kept on roaming around and having fun around the place kept away from getting inside. Didn't want to get them to see me inside and start asking me questions lol

Stephanie Faith said...

Thank you Jonathan for all your tips on creating games. I will look into those links you provided. I did have a look at a free software called Playground sdk and took out a couple of books on C++ programming from the library. I downloaded some time ago Cubase but didn't get far with it...I miss my old fashioned Teac 12 Track! :D

Stephanie Faith said...

Jonathan, I'm now downloading the Wintermute engine but wasn't sure *which* Strata 3D you are referring to...?

No, I'm not familiar with 3D software, only Photoshop, some Flash, and a little Illustrator.

Yes, the games listing on the Wintermute site is interesting, with the different styles of games.

I'm serious about this, the only thing that will stop me is if the programming is too complicated for me to understand! I've a storyline, some research and have begun designing some graphics in a 800 x 600 format - is this size ok with Wintermute / Strata 3D?

Can Flash animation be incorporated?

I hope I haven't asked too many questions, I don't want to be rude...I just want to get certain things straight from the outset. I do have a cousin who teaches computer science (at Kent university) but he's too busy at the moment to help more.

Thank you Jonathan and anyone else who is *in the know* :)

Likewise, if I can help with illustrating or graphic work...

Jonathan Boakes said...

Hi again Stephanie,

I've used several different versions of Strata, now. The original package was perfect for my first 3D experiments, as it was very basic (and was FREE from a magazine cover disk). The first game, Dark Fall, looked quite amateur, so I tried to use shadow and coloured lighting to make the locations look more atmospheric, and less like 'my first renders'. I ended up building some locations over, and over, as I learnt new things. 

That's why it's important to start with small, managable 'sets', as you'll be hitting the 'render' button several times a minute, while you experiment. Strata is good with quick renders, as long as you don't want soft shadows and full detail. The full detailed render will be done once you're happy with everything. That usually means you'll have time to take a long walk, mow the lawn, or bake a cake. :-)
 
These days, I've moved on a bit, from that free version of Strata. I am now on CX, which is version 5 of the software.  It allows me to experiment a lot more, but any version would suit a newbie dev, and the all important newbie-dev budget!

Not too sure about 'Flash Videos' in Wintermute, but I doubt they are supported. Capturing the flash as video, in .ogg format, is probably your best option, if it's an anim. But, if it's script based events, you'd have to re-code into WME code. Of the scripting languages, and engines, I've used so far, I would say the scripting is an odd, but familiar mix of java, C++. Many key events can be set using the project interface, meaning less scripting. But, you will have to script puzzles, events and inventory.  The examples that ship with the engine are a good place to start poking around, and also check out the tutorials on the wiki. That's where we started! But, be brave, and be determined, as it can get heavy going. Just tell yourself 'it'll be worth it in the end'.

Lastly, screen ratio is entirelly up to you. DF1 was 640 x 480 back in 2001, and was old fashioned even then! Personally, I wouldn't produce in anything less than 1024x768 now. Annoyingly, WME doesn't allow the end gamer to pick the size manually, which has frustrated some. But, overall, the engine has been brill! The few complaints I have could never outweigh the plus sides. WME is an industry quality engine, with virtually no costs involved. Donations for completed projects are welcomed.

Jonathan

Stephanie Faith said...

Hi Jonathan

I was afraid I had bugged you to death! :o

Thanks again for taking the time to reply.

Before I write further I must tell you about the Teac mixer I've got hold of this week. I am still an analogue girl at heart having had the Tascam Teac 144 as a teen and I had tried to get excited about Cubase and another freebie mixer Free! off the net...but I really wanted something more *hands on*. So go for the Great British Compromise I thought...and you get Digital!! Here is my Baby: http://www.stephaniefaith.net/tascam01.jpg
http://www.stephaniefaith.net/tascam02.jpg
From the manual I notice that OGG is used.

As to how you got started, it's amazing how something free off a mag can trigger all these games, sounds like you were quite driven to create that first one.

Renders: Now that's something I can look up and learn about further. I'll take another look at the various goodies Strata has on offer.

I had a look at whether Flash would be accepted and no, you're right, it isn't...so if I've understood correctly, they can be saved as OGG files... (I'm trying not to bombard you with more questions). Theora is also mentioned http://www.theora.org/faq/#13

I had a look at the tutorial and read and made some more notes. The help downloaded with WME is very good.

Think I'll stick with the 800x600 size as I've started with it.

I cannot believe that the really good engines such as WME and Playground are available free (I was impressed too with the beautiful graphics and adventure in Return to Ravenhearst - had a peek at the credits and saw they use Playground). I'll definately be donating to WME when I'm finished...yes, I'm being quite positive...*when*!

I must admit I was a little apprehensive playing Lost Souls, it scared me like a horror film! That black thing coming out from
the floor scared the life out of me, hahaha :D

Thank you so much for your help and encouragement. I'm looking much forward to the next game The Last Crown!!

Jonathan Boakes said...

The mixer looks cool. It's the sort of thing I'd start to play with, and then lose a few days!

Also, you only have to use theora ogg videos if you want them compiled into the game files (invisible to those looking around the installed game files), otherwise you can just use avi's, which are very common. Ogg are a bit more unusual, and not that popular. There can be sound sync issues too. Many games do leave the videos outside the 'compile', so it's not so unusual. The most obvious files are often company splash screens and idents.

Lastly, keep in mind, with this first game project, that you are making it fir yourself. I think that's really important, as too many newbie devs panic after the first few experiments, when fear of expectation creeps in. Have fun with it! If you enjoy making the game, and playing it, you are on the right track!

Jonathan

Stephanie Faith said...

Thanks Jonathan, the mixer *is* cool:p I spent a few hours reading the manual and trying out things and got it to record a simple track using a mic and my keyboard (music...I play piano and keyboard).

To be truthful the more I explore into the world of game making the more daunting it appears! But I plod on, doing a little bit every day...picking up tips and support (like from you, thank you again!). And, it is a project close to my heart...theraputic maybe?

When I came across your games I liked being taken to another world. My dad had just passed away and it was welcome relief not to think about the realities of my life.

Sommnia, my own story - and game in progress - was and is inspired by my dreams (the ones in sleep). I'm hoping it will turn into a good game.