Friday the 13th and the Seventh Window.

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

Hurrah! The job is done.

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

A Global Release

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

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

A Ghost Story For Christmas

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

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

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

Something old, something borrowed and something blue.

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

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

Birthday Blues.

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

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

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

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



Katie H. said…
Wonderful news, Jonathan!! I'm so excited for "Lost Souls", and even more excited about "The Last Crown"!! I'm glad a lot of the characters from the first one will be in the 2nd game.

Lost Souls pushed back till December? Sadness. I still can't wait. And I love the cover art for the "Adventure in Terror". Emma had sent me a copy of the original Russian art of her like that. It was funny. :P

Joe Freeman said…
Ah your back JB! Great to hear that that the new dark fall is finished cant wait and good to hear you the last crown all planned too. hopefully we will get our mits on that and the maybe even Matt's forthcoming Bracken Tor. Hope that your not taking too much of a battering in the storms just saw Looe on the BBC news.
mirabilis said…
Fantastic! I'm so excited about this game coming out. The Amazon pre-order delivery date has been moving around a lot and I've been praying to the god of small furry animals that it wasn't going to be put back too far. You must have been working like a hero behind the scenes to get it all ready in time for release.

Anyway, congrats and I'm off to do my happy dance and look forward to the postman calling soon.
Joe Freeman said…
Great news cant wait to get my mits on the new dark fall looking forward to some scres on the long winter nights. Also sounds like you have the Last crown all planned out, what with that and shadow tor studios bracken tor 2010will be quite the year. Hope the storms didnt hit you too hard i saw Looe on the BBC news last night!
James CW said…
Good news! Dark Fall: Lost Souls will be out in the world very soon, and I can't wait...
The Nigel/Lucy switching element sounds even cooler then I thought.
The first gam I played with switchable chars. was Shizem: Mysterious Journey. A good game, but terrible plot..
You must be dreadful tired after all those 3 sleep hour nights(I assume), putting together DF:LS. I imagine that if you carried on for much longer, you'd have rabies!
Please get some shuteye, with all our compliments!

James CW
Unknown said…
Congratulations! Can't wait to play lost souls. I always find your games of very high quality. As a side-note I'd like you to allow me to add one more piece of information that will be useful to the fans of your games. The usage of the wintermute engine which surely helps with the advanced features and the modern OS compatibility.
Anonymous said…
I am SOOO looking forward to playing Lost Souls and on top of that we have follow-ups to Barrow Hill and Lost Crown to look forward to! Fantastic news! I´ll be buying all your games and hope that with a bigger budget they will get better and bolder and showcase your fantastic stories at their best! Hugs from your fan Valentina
Jonathan Boakes said…
Hi Tyler, Yes, Wintermute does work on Windows 7, if that's what you mean.

I am unsure how 'fans' would find the mention of game software useful, unless they are planning on making their own games. But, is the best place to head for...and don't be put off by the 'dead code' stuff...the engine is alive and well, rather than deceased.

In fact, the author is about to upgrade the engine to a V2 (as far as I know), which could add lots of new features...such as dynamic lighting, placing and moving bulbs in the Scene Editor, pre-load more than just ONE sound, 3d particles rather than 2d, programmable cameras (to move, tilt, fov, zoom, etc etc), ability to query actor position in 3D space, rather than 2d (x,y), some DX effects would be great (see Darkness Within for what 9.0c was capable of, long before DX10...and 11), sending actors to walkpoints (wpt's) rather than entering manual co-ordinates all the time, actor collision....etc etc etc. The list could go on, and I'm very hopeful of seeing some new features. The Lost Crown really pushed the engine, I think, with some very kinetic scenes, and great particles, so perhaps TLC2 will be using the new engine! That's something to look forward to.

James CW said…
I agree that showcasing WME is a good option, because most games made by it are free, and include the WME logo. So, many gamers who play freeware games will be familiar with the software's abilities and quirks. Plus, as you said, Jonathan, it premotes reactions amoung want-to-be developers like myself(despite the fact that I use Pipmak, I'm hardly prejeduced against WME, it's a great engine), such as "This game was great, loved the UI. I wonder if I can make something like it?"
LSama said…
This has got to be some of the best news I've heard in a long time. I have fond(if frightened!)memories of playing the original Dark Fall, sitting in an office with the lights out and a large monitor. Even now, I can close my eyes and imagine the hallway on the second floor where the lights steadily go out as something horrendous creeps moderately, slowly, agonizingly closer. The news that there is going to be a sequel to Lost Crown is veritable icing on the horrific cake. And the fact that Dark Souls is going to be available for Direct Download is wondrous news; as I'm in the US, I was a bit worried that I would have to wait until you managed to find a distributor here. As always, you have delighted, Jonathan. I look forward to many sleepless nights in the near future.
Janice Hunter said…
Where in the USA will I be able to get Dark Fall Lost Souls?

I played the first two games and really enjoyed them and have been looking forward to this one.

Thank you,

Janice Hunter
Jonathan Boakes said…
Yes! I am always hopeful that my experience will encourage others to give game creation 'a go'. It can be quite lonely, creating indie titles, as you are on your own a lot of the time, so it's good to know there are others out there. Plus, it means more games. Triple A titles don't tend to take risks, or experiment with story telling, based on the absolute need to have a big HIT (development still costs a LOT). But, indies don't have such pressures, so we can play around a bit more (working nights, weekends).

WME has proven to be a good engine for trying new things. Built in Save/Load and Settings are a godsend to new devs, I promise. Scripting that kind of code took me an age, back when I was using Macromedia, and it never looked pretty! (Hell No). I love game menus, so it is kind of daft that I nver managed to make a save/load menu that I could be proud of. So, given the oppertunity, the tarot/landscape menu of TLC changed that.

I'd not tackled 3D before, so it was a steep learning curve (especially given how loooooong the game is!), but 'steep' doesn't mean 'impossible', so I DO recommend it to anyone trying to make their own game. No matter how small. Just take things one step at a time, and focus on the basics.

Perhaps I should start a new blog entry, (after December 4th!!), where the new indie devs could chat about their projects. I'd be happy to talk about tech stuff, regarding TLC2, and would love to hear what others are up to. Devs are notoriously secretive, so we could stay off 'story', 'look' and other 'secret' aspects, but chatting about limitations, and hopes, might be a good idea.

Plus, I could share some of the tricks I've learnt this last year. Some are simple, script based tips, but I'd also happily share some ideas and techniques for cut-scenes, particles and video.

You never know, if enough people are interested, we could bang out a nice little game, from our experiments, and get it online!

Jonathan Boakes said…
Hi Janice,

Lost Souls will be available, world wide, from December the 4th. That means you should be able to order it from the normal stockists, such as Amazon, Play, Interact and other online stores, based in the USA. As for store copies, I believe the publishers (Iceberg) are working on that. It would be ideal to get the game on shelves, even if most people buy online. All my other games have appeared in stores, so it would be a shame for Lost Souls to miss out. Watch this space. As soon as I have news, I am more than happy to shout it out. Jonathan.
James CW said…
That blog post sounds like a lovely idea, Jonathan! Count me in.

-James CW
Unknown said…
Hi Jonathan!

I just wanted to pop in and say thank you for all your hard work and sleepless nights you put in to entertain us crazy people! =) As a long time adventure game player I can definitely say your games are both amazing and my favorites I've played in the genre (especially The Lost Crown).

I also wanted to say that I would be very interested in a developer-type post. I've always been interested in trying my hand at game development, but often get so lost in where to begin that I never quite get started. Reading about the processes and tools other developers use would be a great help, and hopefully my beginner-self would be able to follow along. =)I've booked marked some of the sites you mentioned, so hopefully I can make heads or tales of those. =)

Thanks again, and congrats on the new release (can't wait)!!
Jessica said…
How exciting! I cannot wait to play through more of your games. They really are just like reading a chilling tale. Better yet, like going through a dream that is both fascinating and terrifying at the same time. Keep up the amazing work!
Jonathan Boakes said…
Yeah, I think I'll make the next production a bit more 'openly'... talking about actual programs, techniques etc etc. I am moving onto TLC2 next, so there's less to 'give away', seen as you've all seen what the game will be like. I'm not looking to change the style, or setting, particularly, as I think direct sequels need that. I'm always a bit disappointed by 'add-ons', as they start a whole new quest, when what I really wanted was 'more of the same'. Syberia 2 is a nice example of a direct continuation.

So, like I said, I'll try to keep as much of TLC intact, for the sequel. Instead, I'll focus on better gameplay. I do like the first one, but that's not to say there isn't plenty to improve upon. I guess that's why I am still making games. I like to think they get better, with each attempt. Plus, you find better tools, that suit the project, with time. I'm more than happy to share info about that. It can take ages to find a good software toolset, to suit all needs, so perhaps my info could help.
Chiara said…
Hello Jonathan! Glad to read all these good news from you! I really wish you the best luck with your games as I think that you have 2 great qualities: imagination and the will to improve your work.
I'm italian and yesterday I finished The Lost Crown...I'm amazed by this game! Can't wait for The Last Crown :D
Look, i'm also an admin of an italian website and we wrote a review of TLC1...enjoy it (if you don't understand italian, just look the grade at the end of the review)

P.S. I like your idea to allow dialogue skipping, although, for once in my life, I didn't want to skip dialogues in TLC. Also, I liked Nigel's speech ;)

Mirabilis said…
Wow! I've started playing Lost Souls and it is so much scarier than last time we visited Dowerton (and that was pretty nerve shredding) - brilliant! I just hope my heart can hold out until the end :) Thanks Jonathan, excellent work again.
Stu said…
Just saw this on the BBC website and thought of this blog post:

It's M.R. James Ghost Stories for Christmas,being played on BBC Radio 7 over the next 5 days.

I'm going to make a point of listening :-)


I still haven't got around to buying Lost Souls... I'm skint, and have exams around the corner, but as soon as they are over, and my when my next chunk of loan comes in, that will be my first purchase.
Nike Athena said…
I'm terribly excited about the new Last Crown game coming out! Each of your games has such atmosphere (though I admit I am partial to your very first release!), and Lost Crown certainly did not disappoint. In fact, I am in the process of replaying it!

Nigel undergoing speech therapy? I really liked his dialogue, though. I felt it was really part of his character- made him who he was.