Monday, 12 September 2011

The End of an Era - Pastures New

Escaping one Darkling Room to find another, 'cos it's moving time!

It is with some sadness that I say goodbye to the old Darkling Room, across the harbour in East Looe.

It's really odd seeing it so empty. It has seen some times, that place, including the production of Dark Fall - Lights Out, The Lost Crown (2 a half years!) and Dark Fall - Lost Souls. It's been a great base for operations, keeping me safe and sound for nearly a decade. I wonder if any of the games will haunt the place? I recorded Amy Haven's songs, myself, from inside a wardrobe in the bedroom. It would be nice and spooky to imagine future occupants hearing her humming that broken sing-song version of the Dark Fall theme. Ha ha!

Thinking back, a LOT of the sounds and dialogue were recording in the apartment, all those years ago. It took us 7 hours, non stop, to record Emma Harry, playing Lucy Reubans for The Lost Crown. Bloody seagulls. Every time we got half way through a line…


Which, after that long day, always sounds like a mocking laugh. Dratted things. But, we got there eventually. Sorry Emma, and Matt, who was on the headphones, hearing every squawk and scream. These days, we record in a studio (budget helps!), so have no such worries. But, I do miss those simpler times for various reasons. It was great to write, create and struggle in that place. It has a lovely view of the harbour to distract and inspire.

Living near water gives everything a rhythm, here in Looe. Outside the window was the working Harbour, which never bored me. Fishing trawlers line the east side of the Quay; battered, creaking and rustic. The west Quay, on the opposite side, has moored pleasure boats, yachts and catamarans worthy of Joan Collins. Really quite glamorous. Like two different worlds, facing off each other, across the water.

Two rivers feed the harbour, (East and West Looe Rivers), as well as the sea. Ahhh, the sea, eh? Once you've lived near the sea it is very hard to imagine being land-locked. The Spring and Autumn tides can cause minor flooding (usually a fun affair, but it can get scary!).The weather is all-important in places like Looe. It influences ALL. Winter saw the town lashed by sea storms, hidden in fog or just deathly empty, like Saxton. Summer was very different, with bright sunshine reflecting off the crisp, clear harbour water, to create swirling patterns across the ceiling and walls of the apartment. Bit like being in a Jacques Costeau film, a bit trippy, but very chillaxing.

East Looe is very different to West, which is where I currently rent a property (stuck deciding where to move). East has all the shops, pubs, beach, club (Boscarn! Yay!), train station, doctors, banks, etc etc etc. It's a small town, basically, with pretty much anything you would need. West Looe, on the otherhand, is smaller and set back from the Harbour. It exists around a village square (Princes Square) with shops, a dog hairdressers (!!) and, of course, the oldest pub in town. It's an atmospheric little spot, especially at night. The woods tower over this side of town, with hooting owls and pheasants.

It's more like living in a rural parish, if I'm honest. It makes a nice change after the resort lifestyle of East Looe. Basically, Looe has quite a lot to offer, in terms of variety. It's quite 'cut off' too, if you consider the nearest main town is Plymouth, in the neighbouring county of Devon. Yeah, I can't say I'll ever regret leaving London. Once you 'get out' you get out for good. My little apartment was a great investment, enabling me a change of lifestyle that I thought I'd only ever imagine. It's been cool.

View Larger Map

But, all things come to an end. They always do. So, goodbye Darkling Room Number One. I hope your successor is just as good, wherever it may be, as you're a hard act to follow. I also hope your next occupants treat you well. Just remember, if you need to, haunt them with a bit of Amy Haven humming, or maybe some zombie -like snarls, or just Nigel saying 'Hellloooo, is there anybody there…." over and over with no skip button.


P.s. I've just heard that someone from 'up country' is likely to make an offer on the place. That's the weird bit. When you know you'll have to hand over the keys, and never go back. Weird.

P.p.s. Obviously, if anyone else fancies a complete change of lifestyle and living, Darkling Room Number One is UP For Sale!!

Number 1 Buller House, The Quay, East Looe, Cornwall

It's a super apartment, for self, holidays or the like. It's sad to let it go, but I have to thnk about moving onwards, and upwards, as that is the nature of things. I just don't have a single bloody clue where it is going to be!! :)

Saturday, 10 September 2011

TLC2 - Building the stage, shaping the characters...


A few 'behind the scenes' images from The Last Crown, if only to show that I DO work. Honest! Very hard, especially this year. I did think about out-sourcing alot of the tasks, but I'm not sure I would have felt the same about the game, given that it's a very personal project, which I make and fund myself. So, there's been a lot of new things to learn (especially 3D software). I was bound by ability (lack of!) when making the first game, but I'm a bit more clued in this time round, which can only ever help the game be more enjoyable.

Working on Nigel, specially smaller details, like his safety pins, flat cap and beard. He's not exactly an action hero, no no no, but he is a lot more 'active' in the sequel and part three. He just moves better, and looks more 'alive'. Bit skinnier too. Perhaps Mrs.Slaughter has stopped serving those greasy slices of pizza. Mind you, Nigel never actually ate anything in-game. He fed it all to Cairan, the pig! So, with a pinch of a vertex here, the addition of a polygon there, the new Nigel is ready for action. In several outfits.

A new phone box has appeared too, on the Quayside. It was buried under lobsterpots for decades, but it's been 're-discovered' by Nigel and Lucy. As with all things in Saxton, the cover-up may have been for a reason. A good reason. Something connects the dwellings and businesses of town, with threads stretching out across the harbour, in all directions. In the centre of the the web is a building, which Saxton fans will know quite well. The letters G.P.O. may be a clue.

One of the things that pleased me the most, in the Lost Crown, was all the movement. Fog, pollen, birds, rain, etc etc etc. It was cool. My previous games, Dark Fall 1 and 2, had been set with technical limitations in mind (and budget limitations). So, I created very quiet, still places. But, Saxton is set mostly outdoors, with all the lively trimmings of a Harbour Town! Argh! It just HAD to move.

So, I've been working on ways to get even more going on, and push the game engine a bit more. Some think I'm mad taking the Wintermute Engine, and making it do things it wasn't designed for (1st person panorama game for example!), but I'm familiar with the software, so feel very comfortable. That's why I can experiment a bit, in confidence. Plus, it's more fun. I like seeing how far you can push things. It's also a good way of learning, without getting bogged down or distracted. I think I'd fiddle and play for far too many hours, if I was working in Unity, for example. So no full-3D for me just yet. That's another learning curve altogether. So, I'll save that for the next series. ;)

Lastly, the first person to correctly identify Nigel's badge gets a free personalised copy of Last Crown, posted from Saxton itself, along with some contraband fudge! There's no clues, and the picture is quite pixelated... but let's see what happens.

Tip: All pics go to bigger versions, when clicked.


Monday, 29 August 2011

'The Last Crown ' Debut Screens

Debut screenshots! It had to happen eventually, so the end of the long August Bank Holiday Weekend seems a good a time as any. I've been keeping things very close to my chest, of late, so it's great to finally let a bit of Saxton leak out, into the world. It's a bit painful, as I can't help sense there are spoilers (the bane of many producers these days) soaked into every scene. But, I can't be overly protective, 'cos that would be silly. So, here's the first set of screens from 'The Last Crown - Haunting of Hallowed Isle'. Hurrah!

This shot is new, as you can see. I wanted to freshen the place up, after The Lost Crown,meaning an extensive re-shoot of ALL locations was required. I wanted a higher resolution too, to get more detail on screen. So, it gave me a chance to seek out some lesser known corners, while also begging for new angles. The only way to photograph Polperro (Saxton's real-life double), is to get very high or very low. So, talking people into letting me into their bedrooms and attics has been an experience and a half. Well worth it though.

I really like this new Saxton Harbour shot as the place now feels 'right'. It is geographically more accurate, and easier to place in the game world. In other words, you can see more places and how they connect to the harbour. It was a tricky shot to get, leaning out of the upper window of The Blue Peter pub. But, it's the only way to get less familiar views of somewhere that has been painted and photographed thousands of times.

Map: The map is also going to be handy. As an adventure gamer I have a fondness for in-game maps. They are jolly useful, both to the gamer, and the creator. Lots of the gameplay in The Last Crown is non-linear and Quest based, so the map will act as a handy record of what you are doing, why you are doing it and what effect it will have on the gameplay.

The GhostGadget: This is also new. Instead of lumbering around with an E.M.F Meter, Nite-Vision Camcorder, Dictaphone and Digital Camera… phew… we now need only the Hadden GhostGadget. It's an 'all-in-wonder' device, which covers all the basics, as well as offering customisation and upgrading.

Customisation: This is something I wanted to do in the first game, but couldn't quite get my head around it. Not enough, anyway. But, I've now had plenty of time to think and plan, and create some interesting ideas.

For example, the basic lens on the GhostGadget is good for newbies. If you want to photograph a blurry grey figure, looking all ethereal and strange, the basic lens would be fine. But, Lucy is more practical than Nigel, so knows certain improvements could be made, or at least attempted. In his workshop, Bob Tawny is on hand, for the fiddly stuff, so it's up to you to find, install and use any upgrades you find or make.

My favourite is the Fire Lens. It is made from a shard of glass, taken from the burnt ruins of the School House. Placed on the GhostGadget, the Fire Lens allows the ghost-hunters to 'see' and hear the fire, from many years ago. With the inferno comes the 'voices'. Not ghosts as such, but 'echoes' of a past event. It's as if the event is burnt into the glass. Filming through the lens will reveal far more than you thought possible. After all these years, you may be about to solve another of Saxton's mysteries. That being, who burnt down the school?

Obviously, once acquired, the Fire Lens can be used elsewhere. There are quite a few different lenses, but trying them out is intuitive and rewarding. You are looking to get good scores for your ghost-hunting, and move on to bigger things. But, if you just want to dabble for a while, and capture some more creepy wispy shapes, that's fine too. You'll just take longer to get on to those 'bigger things'. It's all about pace, I suppose. I like the idea of gamers having their own experience, in their own time and style. It's tricky to write, but I'm quite happy with the technicalities. We're not talking a full-on RPG here, just the opportunity to bend the narrative while approaching situations in your own way. (As for the walkthroughs! It'll be a fun one to write, promise.)

Lastly… I am relieved to confirm that, after an agonising wait, there is a third 'Crown' game in production. Following the 'Lost Crown' is 'The Last Crown', then the final instalment, currently titled 'The First Crown'. Eccentric titling aside (!!), there is a logic to the series, which investigates the three Anglo-Saxon noblemen, who arrived on Saxton Shore, many, many centuries ago. Ganwulf, Pendraed and their father, Auldwulf. We met Ganwulf in game one, (we returned his Crown after stealing it!), next up we shall be meeting his brother, Pendraed. He's a darker character, much darker.

If Ganwulf was the spirit of the landscape, Pendraed is very much the spirit of the sea. This is why we are travelling over to Hallowed Isle, to seek out its ghosts, history and myths. The Last Crown definitely has a sea-faring queasy feel, as Nigel and Lucy attempt to steer a small fishing boat out to the island. It's fun, spooky, traditional fare, with plenty of Nigel's adored and hated 'DanversSpeak ™'. (Note, you will be able to skip lines this time!)

I'm really excited about making more games, as I feel it's what I've always wanted to do. Who knows, maybe after game three Nigel and Lucy will be taking assignments further afield? I'd love to trace the route of the Crowns, back through history, to the Saxons. Or, follow the Ager link out to the colonies, where the family line still continues (not good looking babies, that's for sure, and what's with the scythes!). Or, take a smuggling adventure with Spivey, Saxton's famous 'Seadog'. Plenty of ideas. Basically, there's plenty of flesh on the bone, given The Lost Crown was quite a lengthy game, so it'll be lovely to explore all the nooks and crannies that it presented.

The world of Saxton, with its folky atmosphere and ghost stories is really addictive to write! It's a pleasure to be able to create these little interactive films, continuing my love for adventure games, so expect plenty more from me. Maybe a bit faster too!


P.s. Large BitMap screenshots are available here, along with some text about the images:

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Last Crown - Explores Psychometry & The Detective.

A new year! Brand, spanking new. Hurrah!

With a New Year comes a few updates, changes and announcements. So, without further ado, here's the news, from me and Darkling Room.

I've launched a proper mini-site for The Last Crown - Haunting of Hallowed Isle, in anticipation of an Easter release, this year. Sorry for disappointing, in 2010. Pretty much everyone knows how release dates get moved around; put back, shunted about, abused, ignored, tortured, rubbished….but, the games do appear on store shelves. Sooner, rather than later…I hope.

In the meantime, I've created a mini-adventure to explore the world of…

It's a warm, dark night in Saxton...

But, what is Psychometry? How does it work? And…is it a load of old cobblers?

What is Psychometry? - Psychometry, also known as token-object reading, is a form of extra-sensory perception characterised by the claimed ability to make relevant associations from an object of unknown history by making physical contact with that object. Supporters assert that an object may have an energy field that transfers knowledge regarding that object's history. (Wikipedia)

Basically, you sense 'things' from objects.

Something is going on in Saxton...can Psychmetry help? Click to find out.

How does Psychometry work? - Well, like all funky psychic stuff, it's rather 'out there', in terms of scientific explanations, but bear with. Psychometry is the practise of 'reading' the energy fields, stored (or trapped) within an inanimate object. Some claim you can 'see' or feel the history of the object, aspects of previous owners and glimpses into the world in which it has travelled. Exciting stuff! Some of you have, no doubt, seen some Psychometry on the ghost-hunting and 'unsolved crime' shows. Usually, an object is handed to a medium, with no prior knowledge of the object.

Something is going on in Saxton...can Psychmetry help? Click to find out.

Their task is to pick up on any residual energy left over from previous owners. Weapons, photos, jewellery and personal items often make good objects; they carry more energy, or the medium can invent a better story. Either way, I find it all very interesting, as I've dabbled a bit in this field, allowing me to see some surprisingly good results. I'm not saying I am a 100% percent, paid-up member of the Psychometry Gang (they wouldn't have me!), but I do believe in the power of the mind, to decypher clues and make connections. I think of those skills as detective work, rather than anything supernatural… but, we should not ignore our instincts. Perhaps they tell us far more than we would think? Basically, take it seriously, and you may be surprised.

Psychometry and The Last Crown - Nigel and Lucy are a team, a good team, with Nanny Noah as ghost-hunting advisor (boss!). But, they do like to do things differently. Nigel thinks, and has been told, that he has 'The Gift'. He's psychic! Nanny Noah is helping Nigel reach his full potential, as she knows her powers alone will not be enough to stop the on-coming darkness.

We've seen, in the previous game, that Nigel can 'time-jump'; pass from one time to another, in the blink of an eye. He is a time sensitive, which means he sees things differently from everyone else. Peoples and places from the past merge with the world of 'now', which Nigel is able to 'see' and explore. Objects are no different. With a little effort and focus, Nigel can see many layers of activity and history which others may not.

Something is going on in Saxton...can Psychmetry help? Click to find out.

Lucy, on the otherhand, is more practically inclined. She's a detective. She likes rational, logical explanations as to 'why things happen'. It's not that she doesn't believe in strange forces, but she'd rather exhaust the obvious first, before jumping on the paranormal band-wagon (what a ride!). Instead, Lucy will spend her time, with the object, studying the details left behind by previous owners. Scuffs, wear and tear, dirt, blood, grime…etc etc. There are plenty of tell-tale signs and clues, if you look hard enough.

Together, Nigel and Lucy make a formidable force! But, will it be enough, for Nanny Noah? It seems not. She is planning on hosting many more Psychic Detection Evenings, at The Bear Inn, on Saxton Harbour. It's certainly a great setting for paranormal nights, when Morgan Mankle isn't fussing about the place (she's rather busy of late, with her book!). The first session has already come and gone, (you missed it!), but there are further sessions planned for the coming months. Nanny Noah is looking for new recruits, so you could stand a good chance, if you 'read' the objects correctly.

It's a warm, dark night in Saxton...

Tip: Some objects are employed as 'Testers'; Nanny Noah already knows a bit about those objects, so will be looking for you to help corroborate her findings. But, what she doesn't know is the fact that ALL objects have a story, no matter how old, new or obscure. Perhaps your powers, whether they are Psychic or Detective, will provide clues unknown to Saxton's much-loved wicca? Give it a go.

There's also the chance to get some hefty hints as to the nature of the next story!


P.s. Happy New Year! It's going to be a good one for Darkling Room, after a year of legal cases against previous publishers; Got Game Entertainment & Mamba Games, Lace Mamba and Lace Mamba Global, (plenty of different company names to keep the opposing lawyers going in circles). But, who cares about greedy men, in bad suits, when I create games for a living? Best job in the world. Time to make some adventures!

Here's to 2011...!!!