Friday, 22 April 2016

RAF Davidstow Moor -Texture Harvesting

I really enjoyed my afternoon in North Cornwall, yesterday. The mission was to gather some new textures for Dark Fall 4. To build a pier, I need a lot of rusting metals, rotting wood and... well, anything, as long as it's decaying. The mission was a successful one, I'm pleased to say.

The abandoned WWII airbase at Davidstow Moor was a perfect place to go, especially on a dull day (shadows are the enemy of any budding texture artist).

The area is huge; a massive expanse of open pasture, with views out to Rough Tor, Brown Willy and... not much else. It's a place that reminded me of Denge Marsh, at Dungerness. That barren place has a nuclear power station, breaking the sky line, where as Davidstow has, you may have guessed, has the 'Davidstow Cheese Factory' at it's centre.

The other place that sprang to mind, while meandering the rancid old bunkers, was The Zone, from the Stalker games. I liked that world a lot; a fetish for rust, rot and abandoned buildings certainly helped, so the air field was a quite cool to explore. Like a real-world version, without the radiation (I hope!), and no Snorks.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Blackenrock Trailer and Steam Listing go live!

"...the Crown was only the beginning…"

I took inspiration, for the trailer, from a Pathe News clip featuring real-world Polperro (in-game Saxton). It's a crackling, fuzzy old film, from a bygone time, with that curious vocal delivery and script that seems to define an era. It's fun to browse those old clips, especially those featuring village life or a haunting! I did, initially, think about splicing the old Pathe clip with Nigel's message, but decided to film a new one, in-game! It makes the trailer a very curious thing; a period film for a town that doesn't exist. Or does it?

Pathe News feature: Polperro 

The new theme is something special too. A folky update of the original drifting soundscape (vocals by Jonathan Geer), with guitar by Ben Gammons. There's a pace, a mood, to the new theme. If the first game was a dense mystery, the new one is more like an old TV thriller. Quite a few of the existing characters appear, in the video, lost in the fog, like Nanny Noah, Bob Tawny, Lucy Reubans... et all.

But, there are also new faces, characters you have yet to meet. It's a long story, Blackenrock, with all the characters having individual stories, motivations and development. In many ways, it's more like a paranormal Soap Opera, or Supernatural serial, with all the dramatic twists I could muster.


Friday, 5 February 2016

January Blues... and lots of grey.

Mid January, it was a pleasure to contribute to an article for The Telegraph, especially an article about games, rather than trying to sell them or promote directly. The article is about how personal experience manifests itself in games, whether it be part autobiography, tone or, in my case, inspired by my adventures in Cornwall.

The Telegraph


Meanwhile, in the darkest cell of HM Sedgemarsh Prison, the Catnapper is planning to wake the dead...

Jemima's version of the Turin Shroud, will she be back? From the 'dead?!

Finishing up work, at last. January work swelled by my desire to include H.M.Sedgemarsh. I wanted Gruel and Jemima back in Business. It's been fun to build a whole prison, based on the old jails at Lancaster and Bodmin, with a whiff of neglect.

Nigel Danvers wonders what life would be like, banged up in Sedgemarsh Prison.

Not long now Ghost-Hunters!


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Laptop and Widescreen 'Midnight Horror' now available. Goodbye black bars!

Midnight Horror has been updated (again!) to include a new 16:9 monitor ratio option.

Laptop and Widescreen Version available from me, here. 

What does that mean?

Laptops, wide-screen monitors and big screens can now display the game FULL SCREEN with no black bars left and right. Also, laptop owners, with a maximum height resolution of 720 can also now play the game. 

Sorry it took a bit longer than expected, but we decided to 'kill two birds with one stone'. It also means Blackenrock is now being converted to the new system, which suits all, saving complications later on.

This new version is available from me, DRM-Free + Soundtrack, with a STEAM update planned for next weekend.

Why the sudden change?

It became obvious, after launching Midnight Horror, that no-one (well, it seemed like no-one) uses 4:3 monitors or TV's anymore. I must be really old fashioned, because my eyes still see my work in 4:3. It's been quite liberating to ditch the old ratio, and go BIG full-screen. 

I played through the game with my parents, last weekend, on a widescreen, using the brand new STEAM Controller. This might sound silly, but it felt like I was playing a proper big game. The picture was huge, crisp and full of detail, and not using the mouse stopped the experience feeling like work. Sitting on the sofa is much nicer than sitting at a desk. 

So, my plan is to look into adding more controller functions. Quitting close-ups, puzzles and converse with a controller button is quicker than scrolling across screen, menu should come up when you press 'start' and so forth. Also, don't panic 'mouse' fans; the games won't be ditching the older control methods. It'll just be good to offer a more modern alternative.

And next…

The plan is to release Blackenrock ASAP, December or New Year, depending on how fast we work.
After that, I'd like to release GHOST/watch, as it's been lingering (hauntingly!) on my machine for over a year. It's probably one of the weirdest casual game experiences you'll play, with an emphasis on 'expect the unexpected' when spying on ghosts.

Also in the New Year, there's Shadow Tor's 'Bracken Tor' to release. If you're a fan of classic point'n'click games like 'Shivers', 'Myst' or, in fact, 'Barrow Hill', you are in for a treat. It's a puzzle driven, spooky experience, like the first game.

After that, I'm off down the old seaside pier for some creepy ghost-hunting fun. Dark Fall 4 will be in full 3D, using Unity 5 to present something both familiar but totally new; lots of nostalgia, plenty of exploring (quite UrbEx in places) and tons of puzzles. I love puzzles, they stop games being Walking Simulators. I've got nothing against virtual strolling, but with noting to actually 'do', I find it hard to justify the time wasted spent looking around a virtual space. Maybe if I had more time? Who knows, but DF4 is narrative and puzzle driven, with an emphasis on ghost-hunting, detective skills and physical exploration. I'm really looking forward to it.

Then, after that (!!!), I guess Hallowed Isle is still lingering in the mist. Two Crown games in a year sounds like a bit much, after years of nought, but they're quite different games, in terms of story and tone. I know this because I've got 5 years worth of voice-acting on my hard-drives! There's a lot to get through, and produce, so… without further ado, I'm going to get back to it!

Thanks for reading, and to those who enjoyed Midnight Horror a bigger thanks! It was great to finally beat the curse of Halloween and move on. 


Thursday, 29 October 2015

Halloween - Midnight Horror


Blackenrock is out the end of November, early December. 

No-one releases new games for Halloween, it seems, as it's the season of Sales and Bundles, especially anything ghostly or horror orientated. But…


I'm releasing a game anyway. It's a proper game, with all the Crown trappings you'd expect, and it's actually set on Halloween. There's a mystery to uncover, ghost-hunting gadgets, a séance, and lots of traditional Halloween games.

Midnight Horror a standalone ghost story, a celebration of Halloween, but also acts as a re-introduction to the Crown world, and the people of Saxton. Most of the harbour folk make an appearance, including Mr.Tibbs (still loving blue cheese, apparently), Nanny Noah, Lucy, Station Master, Bob, Rhys… etc etc! So, you could say it's a Prologue to the next big one, with a whiff of the Ealing Comedies and Hammer's smaller productions. There's lots of foreboding and suggestions of what's to come, as supernatural forces start to make themselves known to our ghost-hunting hero. 

The game will be available online, Steam, but also from me, directly, DRM free in the near future. I also want to make a lower res version for laptops and smaller desktop resolutions.

Production: It's been a frantic month, really productive. After deciding the big game would benefit from a Nov/Dec release, it became obvious that Halloween was available for something 'else'. So, burning the candle at both ends, and working furiously, has resulted in something quite special. I've received super help from Matt Clark (Barrow Hill) and Jan Kavan (Julia, Ghost in the Sheet, Destinies RIP), who program much better and faster than I do, and had enormous stressful fun organising actors and recording sessions. I haven't experienced anything so frantic since college! 

Ghost-Hunting -

Nigel's assorted, mish-mash of Ghost-Hunting Gadgets get a dusting down, in Halloween Horror. 

Electronic Voice Phenomena -  

An EVP is a voice recorded to otherwise blank cassette tape, or a mp3 voice recorder. There are E.V.P's. to locate, both indoors and out, using  the trusty old Dictaphone (or voice recorder if you are more up to date). How do the voices get recorded to the cassette tape? Is it interference? A glitch in production? Unlikely. So, instead we are left with a mystery. Who's voice is that? And what do they want?

This element of the ghost-hunting is a lot more interactive this time round, with a need for you to locate the spirit voice yourself. It's a lot more eerie and satisfying. 

Spirit Photography -

Nigel is much better at recording and storing evidence now. If he suspects supernatural phenomena he takes a photo of it. I'm not sure Nigel is expecting much from The Bear's Halloween Party, believing its all plastic spiders, cheap gimmicks and profiteering. But he's wrong. 

It's an important night in the old calendar, when the veil between the living world and the spirit world is at its weakest. In other words, if a ghost is trying to make contact, tonight's the night!

Electromagnetic Fluctuations - 

The E.M.F has always been Nigel's 'early warning system', when it comes to ghosts! It picks up on unusual, moving and impossible energy waves. Some have theorised that the energy is the first manifestations of a spirit form, or ghost, to you and me. 

The device works by picking up on 'artificial' energy waves, and began its life as an everyday tool. People worried about nearby power lines, transformers, leaking microwaves are able to measure the amount of energy being picked up by the unit. Basically, is it a dangerous amount? Something unhealthy?! But, beyond the everyday, the EMF Meter soon became the number one gadget for ghost-hunting. These days you can get multi-meters and all sorts of nifty kit, but Nigel still relies on 'the brick', his old fashioned EMF. It still works, as you will find out. 

Nite-Vision Camera -

To see in the dark is a strange thing, to this day. There's something about that greenish tint that instantly suggests 'trouble'. Found Footage movies have utilised spooky night shots to great effect, creating a film genre of their own. I love that kind of thing, so there are a few first-person night-vision sequences. Nigel has become quite good at conducting séances and vigils.

Halloween Games -

The Bear is hosting a big Halloween Party, with party games throughout the pub. It's known locally as the Halloween Triathlon: Guess the Ghost, Pin the Tail and Musical Statues. The games can be easily recreated at home, if you fancy trying the games on the 31st. Most will be familiar with the games, but just in case, here's a quick reminder.

Guess the Ghost

This works best with a group, so Morgan's Halloween Party in The Bear is perfect. If you try this at home, or at a party, it relies on a certain amount of mystery. One person is chosen to be the Ghost-Hunter, and another the Ghost. The Ghost hides their identity by draping a white sheet from head to toe, and the Ghost-Hunter must guess their identity by asking 3 questions. 

The question cannot be 'who are you', obviously. The game works best if the Ghost-Hunter is removed from the party, so they are unaware of who is missing from the group. Also, choose a good spooky spot to host the game, away from the others. In Midnight Horror, Morgan has set up a space in a disused room above the pub. There are lots of people at the party, so guessing the identity might be harder than you think. 

Pin the Tail

Blindfold the participant, spin them three times, and then ask them to Pin the Tail on the animal cut-out. This is usually a donkey, for some reason, but we've opted for a Black Cat. It's a simple game, a bit humiliating, which everyone else seems to enjoy more than the player. And, in Nigel's case, while he's dizzy and disorientated he gets more than he bargained for. 

Musical Statues

Keep dancing while the music plays, freeze when it stops. Anyone 'moving' is disqualified, until there is only one left. In Nigel's case, we know he's a bit of a stiff, so you'll have to try to match the tempo of the music too, to make him at least look as if he's enjoying it. Also, keep your eyes peeled during the Musical Statues, as something else can be glimpsed during the 'freeze!'
Finally, there's an old Halloween Favourite, in the form of…

Apple Bobbing

Try to pluck as many apples as possible from the barrel of water, with your mouth. Hands should be behind your back, or tied. In Halloween Horror, Nigel is expected to get a score of six, or more, to win a prize. Apple Bobbing is an old game, from pagan times, which makes it a little bit creepy. A sliced apple reveals the pips form a pentagram shape, which led superstitious folk to believe the apple (their apple, fished out from the water) was a form of divination. 

Bad apple = death! (not very cheery)

Perfect pentagram = long life or a marriage

Worm = prosperity (believe it or not)

So, good luck! Enjoy the game! It's been a blast to make, in so short a time, and it acts as a super Prologue for Blackenrock, as well as a seasonal title in its own right. The publishers are using the word intermezzo, which is nice. Not sure what it means, beyond a tasty treat inbetween the main  dramas, but that's exactly what Midnight Horror is. A bit of a drama!


P.s. Sorry Matt! Sorry Jan!! But also huge thanks. The system that is now in place for future projects is so much better than the cave I was working in. It's been a blast to make this game with you, and I hope it hasn't put you off. ;-)

Friday, 25 September 2015

Keeper's Cottage - A Haunting - Blackenrock Teaser

Ghosts! Who is watching who?

The teaser explores an idea I've been experimenting with for years (ever since DF1 really); what if ghosts know we are watching? What if the very gadgets we use to 'hunt' ghosts provide a conduit, a portal, to their world, the ghost world?! Imagine an existence that sits alongside ours, invisible, like dark matter, but it occasionally 'seeps' into our world, creating ghost sightings and apparitions.

Do we, in turn, appear in their world, the past? Perhaps our appearance generates the very story that we are investigating? Or, we cause some sort of chronological damage? A rip in time, that leaks and distorts the here and now, a connection with all times? Basically, rather than think of ghost sightings as one-off, or occasionally recurring events, think instead that the ghosts are there the entire time, all around us. You just need the right tech, the right place, the right questions, and those connections become stronger.

The School Room of Keeper's Cottage

I've been dabbling with ghost-hunting gadgets for over a decade, with varying success. The best 'hit' was with a basic EMF, just like the one featured in The Lost Crown. It had two settings, the first a kind of 'default' setting, where the unit only reacts in the presence of strong electromagnetic forces. Which is exactly what happened, except I was in a stony old church at the time, which you will know as 'Northfield'. It's typical of country churches, with little or no sources of artificial energy (Microwaves, LCDs, chargers). 

A puzzling message on the blackboard.

So, I was quite surprised to suddenly notice the EMF going off, even though I was not using it at the time. It was on the default setting, mentioned above. Second, the 'energy' actually moved down the aisle of the nave, for a good few metres before dissipating, near the Rood Screen. I tried to replicate the effect, walking up and down the aisle (Da Dum Da Da), but there was nothing. Not a single squeak from the EMF. 

Usually, when ghost-hunting, patience is key, but Keeper's Cottage is shockingly active.

To conclude, I have no way of explaining the energy source, why or how it moved and, of course, where it went?! Spooky stuff. After I've launched Blackenrock upon the world, I think I'll continue my ghost-hunting. After all these years, I am no closer to explaining supernatural phenomena than I was, say, 20 odd years ago, and I'm fine with that!


P.s. Full trailer soon! It's a Pathe News style clip, as T.V.E. News arrive in Saxton to interview ghost-hunter, Nigel Danvers. It's a three and half minute long epic and strained my PC to breaking point. Edited over the space of a weekend it was a blast to film, put together and orchestrate.