Friday, 17 July 2015

Digest - Witches, Blackenrock, Polperro, Ghosts, Pirates and Dark Fall

Witches -

There's a lot of witch-lore and history, good and bad, in Blackenrock. Saxton has a dark past, when it comes to persecution, much like any English town. There were barbaric trials and executions, normally around the area now called 'Maiden Square'.

There are some, in Saxton, who are less keen to go digging up details about who the witches were, and what happened to them. Unlike much of England, some Saxton folk continued to persecute wiccans long after the 17th century witch-hunting heyday. In fact, there are some (boo, hiss) that still think we 'shouldn't suffer a witch to live'. Troubling times for those who practise 'the art'.

A Polperro Voyage -

Jun 19 Crumplehorn, England
Departing Looe in search of new lands. Hopefully I won't be needing the tiny noose.
Jun 19 Crumplehorn, England
Land ahoy!
Polperro, (the nearby Cornish village utilised as a backdrop for the Crown games), is no stranger to talk of witches and weird goings on. Joan the Wad is a piskie wood sprite, whose image is depicted on ornaments and art, from door knockers to coat hooks. Also, quite famous, is the ghost of Willy Wilcox, who reputedly haunts the cave on the beach (Saxton Caverns, in the games).

Matt Clark and Julie Gerber, Willy Wilcox Cave

I made a visit to Polperro, recently, to show a Crown fan around the locations and take in a bit of sunshine. It was a glorious day, arriving by boat, in full hot sun. The atmosphere couldn't be any different to the fog shrouded streets that Nigel Danvers is used to. But, even so, Polperro is always up for a bit of spooky fun. Just days earlier, a major newspaper had carried a story about Willy, accompanied by (a not very convincing) photo of the ghostly pirate. Cool.

Mirror Newspaper Article -

The light patches, that appear to create a humanoid shapes, are, in fact, mostly bits of old polystyrene (ice packing boxes for fresh fish). They get trapped in the crevice, to a height of 8 feet or more. So, as exciting as ghost-snaps are, there's always the disappointing reality.

Jun 20 Looe, England
Weird light quality in the caves, at beach. I took a few snaps, but there was no sign of Willy. Sadly.

Camera rigs -

Something I am determined to do more of, in Blackenrock, is dedicated conversation scenes. There were a lot of conversations in The Lost Crown, which could have been a lot more interesting if we had seen a few camera cuts and expressions. Time, budget, experience was the problem. None of those problems have gone away, but I'm certainly trying to make it look more dynamic. 

Jun 23 Looe, England
Working with 'conversation cameras' today, trying not to break the 180 degree rule, unless the scene calls for it.
I approached the issue as if it were a film, or better still, a bit of old television (studio based stuff). I created a rig, several cameras, that can 'cut' during the chats. For example, there are some over-the-shoulder shots, big-close-ups for expressions and long shots for scene setting. It's a lot more interesting to watch, even if the lip-sync reminds me of old foreign telly like Heidi! That's always going to be an issue, until I change game engine, which I'm not keen to do until I'm ready. But, most of the time, it's a definite improvement.

Old Dark Fall -

My first game, Dark Fall, had a brief splash of media, which is always a surprise. I'm really proud of it, so it's gratifying to see it's capable of finding a new audience. It's a bit of an 'evergreen' really. It's a pity it always gets dumped in the horror section, 'cos it's not a horror. I'd prefer 'Chiller' or 'Mystery', but I don't create the boxes all things get plonked in.

It's true to state that I made Dark Fall because I missed the point'n'click games I'd enjoyed, which seem to stop, or disappear from shelves in the UK. A few franchises continued, like Atlantis, and Journeyman, but most games had to be imported from Dreamcatcher, in Canada. Shipping was expensive, the games were expensive, and come 2004, pretty much nonexistent. A shame.

Jun 29 Looe, England
An old notepad, from 15 years ago. Plans were scribbled on my waiters pad, thanks to indecisive customers. 

Always surprised to see Dark Fall popping up. It's 15 years old! I made it for family and mates, originally, while working in a sushi bar.
Dark Fall 4 -

I'm making another Dark Fall, next year. It's going to be full 3d, rather than static, point and click. It's also NOT going to be about aliens or Rendlesham Forest. I've gone off the idea. There didn't seem to be much interest, compared to ghosts, and the 'ideas' have been covered in fiction and non-fiction(unknown to me at the time). Visitors from the future was the general idea, with a huge craft hidden under the North Sea, near the weird 'Nuclear Pagodas'. But, like I said, it's not going to happen.

Instead, I'm going back to my roots, with plans to serve up an eerie tale, rather than a horror experience, which will offer exploration, experimentation and atmosphere. It's a period piece too, so expect Edwardian ghost-hunting gear to play with. You're on your own too, so it's an isolating experience… until, of course, the ghosts materialise.  

Recording -  

A couple of years ago, I recorded Emma Harry (Lucy Reubans) in my studio, on the hottest day of the year. It's was 38 degrees (or something), so we sweated our am-dram wigs off!! It was awful. We took breaks, every hour or so, but still! There was us, spouting lines like 'It's freezing in here!' while dripping all over our scripts. Yuck.

This year, it was my turn. There have been several days in the booth, chipping away at a mountain of dialogues, but the last day of June was a scorcher! The studio is in the attic of my house, which is lovely with the windows open, and intolerable when closed. It's like a tin can. SO… a quick dip, fully clothed, was needed, at the end of the day. Phew, it was lovely.

Jun 30
Phew! Boiling hot afternoon in the sound booth, time to cool off style.

No digging! No digging 'ere!

William Ager is back. He's a loose end, if you remember, from the first game. Nigel eventually appeared in the actual Ager portrait, too, if you strain your mind back. What's that all about?! All will become clear, in Blackenrock.

Jul 4 Looe, England
Creating a new face for William Ager. Heavy brow and sunken cheeks.
William has a new face, a better face, this time round. I blame the artist of the original portrait (me) for making him look too weasely. Instead, he needs the heavy brow and bleached white face, the nightmarish Mr.Punch that M.R.James talked about, when describing his ghostly creations. He's a figure of the landscape, a dark vertical, always visible, inescapable, and the new features should help make him more menacing. Oh, and be warned, he has a habit of suddenly dashing into scenes, especially along the coast, with that wicked scythe held high. Here comes a chopper, to chop off your head.

Welcome back William, I've missed you.

Pareidolia -
More weirdness, I'm afraid. I spent a good half hour cutting out a seaweed texture, for use in the caves and beachy areas. It was towards the end of the job that I noticed the nasty little skull face with the fangs. Seeing faces in 'things' has a lovely name - Pareidolia. The Fortean Times often features some of the stranger ones, and I seem to remember something about 'Cat Face in my Chicken Ball', in Barrow Hill. It's a fun phenomenon, and explored on this BBC page:

To bring things up-to-date, I'm currently polishing some scenes, and adding some cool supernatural elements. The ghosts in Blackenrock are a really mixed bunch.

3h3 hours ago
As for me, today is all about lines and lines and lines... and pirates.

There are smugglers, witches, animals, elementals, serial killers… and now some pirates too, in the form of the Krippen Gang! I've written a shanty, especially for the game, which is loaded with clues about Blackenrock. It's a raucous ditty, sung by yours truly, so be ready to wince when in full swing. Singing is not a strong point, but I doubt that ever stopped the pirates.


Saturday, 23 May 2015

From the past to the future…

Here's a new shot, from The Last Crown - Blackenrock, for #screenshotsaturday

Ulcombe Church, along the coast path from Saxton, where Nigel Danvers will face a dilemma. And a ghost.

An eclectic work-load at present. I always think this part of a game dev project is a little like moving house; most things, important things, are neatly packed and catalogued, but there's always a random collection of odds and ends, which defy categorisation. This is the moment the LISTS get deployed. Lists of everything. Missing sounds! Missing gfx! Missing cursors! Missing characters! Yes, there's quite a bit of wrapping up, but it's steady, satisfying work, with the finish line in sight.

Hello to new friends. Sorry for radio silence this last week. Got my head down, completing a lot of script to screen.

Looking towards the future, both the Crown and the Dark Fall games will benefit from some brand new, totally unique art objects. A new found fascination with 3D objects is partly inspired by the Ethan Carter blogs, but mostly from following Matt Clark [Shadow Tor Studios] around the moor scanning standing stones and barrows (thanks Matt!).

The image shows the remains of the Gold Mine, on Bodmin Moor, with Twelve Men's Tor in the far distance. A day on the moor is never disappointing, especially in dramatic weather. Drama that day was supplied by clouds and unbroken views for several miles.

The archaeology work is great, and very scientific, but I like fiction! So, it'll be interesting to photograph some well known, maybe even over familiar, sites and give them a new, dramatic setting in an adventure game. The Crown games will remain 2.5D till the (very) bitter end, but the next Dark Fall is 3D, with eyes on VR, so I need beautiful and creepy things to look at. As a one-man-band most of the time, it's really daunting to imagine creating a whole worlds worth of STUFF. So, let's see what the real world can offer…

Captured some lovely urns today, a lot of detail you don't notice with the eye.

We've been experimenting with 3d props a lot in recent weeks. It's great to be able to pick a suitable object, from landscape and buildings, and capture it for use in narrative. It sounds like a cliché, but you really do see more detail once an item is singled out, so dramatically, from the world.

I'm looking to travel a bit, next year, and capture some stuff. 3D scanning is really good now.
After some basic experiments, capturing urns and statues at Mount Edgcumbe, we've moved onto bigger things. Whole chunks of landscape, like the rocks at Hannafore (Pinnacles, TLC1), and detailed statues and memorials like Old Nick (Sir John Colshull, Duloe) are really impressive in 3D. It's also a bit creepy too, to know that they're real items and places. I don’t know why, but I find it quite eerie. 

3d scans allow me to present familar objects from any angle, both these views are impossible with a convential cam.

Beautiful day in Looe. Spot of gardening while Old Nick sorts out his 22 million pixels. Then, poly crunch time!

It goes without saying that you really can see things from a different perspective, with a 3D version. As the DOP, I suppose, on the TLC games I am always looking to photograph things to maximise impact, to create something picturesque. So, being able to jiggle things around, and transpose objects is a real plus.

Matthew, where is Charlotte, and wherefore has she flown? For you walked out together, and now are come alone.

Lastly, I've let this pic slip to the bottom, as I thought I'd include the poem/ballad that inspired it. It’s a dark tale of murder, on the Cornish Moors, beautifully written with a few dark twists. I know the Ager and Crown legends are Anglia based, and Cornwall has NOTHING to do with it, but I'm being honest when I say that Emily's unfortunate death, in the Saxton Caverns TLC1, was very much influenced by this sorry tale. It never fails to give me goosebumps.

The Ballad of Charlotte Dymond

It was a Sunday evening
And in the April rain
That Charlotte went from our house
And never came home again.

Her shawl of diamond redcloth,
She wore a yellow gown,
She carried the green gauze handkerchief
She bought in Bodmin town.

About her throat her necklace
And in her purse her pay:
The four silver shillings
She had at Lady Day.

In her purse four shillings
And in her purse her pride
As she walked out one evening
Her lover at her side.

Out beyond the marshes
Where the cattle stand,
With her crippled lover
Limping at her hand.

Charlotte walked with Matthew
Through the Sunday mist,
Never saw the razor
Waiting at his wrist.

Charlotte she was gentle
But they found her in the flood
Her Sunday beads among the reeds
Beaming with her blood.

Matthew, where is Charlotte,
And wherefore has she flown?
For you walked out together
And now are come alone.

Why do you not answer,
Stand silent as a tree,
Your Sunday worsted stockings
All muddied to the knee?

Why do you mend your breast-pleat
With a rusty needle’s thread
And fall with fears and silent tears
Upon your single bed?

Why do you sit so sadly
Your face the colour of clay
And with a green gauze handkerchief
Wipe the sour sweat away?

Has she gone to Blisland
To seek an easier place,
And is that why your eye won’t dry
And blinds your bleaching face?

Take me home! cried Charlotte,
‘I lie here in the pit!
A red rock rests upon my breasts
And my naked neck is split!’

Her skin was soft as sable,
Her eyes were wide as day,
Her hair was blacker than the bog
That licked her life away;

Her cheeks were made out of honey,
Her throat was made of flame
Where all around the razor
Had written its red name.

As Matthew turned at Plymouth
About the tilting Hoe,
The cold and cunning constable
Up to him did go:

‘I’ve come to take you, Matthew,
Unto the magistrate’s door.
Come quiet now, you pretty poor boy,
And you must know what for.’

‘She is as pure,’ cried Matthew,
‘As is the early dew,
Her only stain it is the pain
That round her neck I drew!

‘She is as guiltless as the day
She sprang forth from her mother.
The only sin upon her skin
Is that she loved another.’

They took him off to Bodmin,
They pulled the prison bell,
They sent him smartly up to heaven
And dropped him down to hell.

All through the granite kingdom
And on its travelling airs
Ask which of these two lovers
The most deserves your prayers.

And your steel heart search, Stranger,
That you may pause and pray
For lovers who come not to bed
Upon their wedding day,

But lie upon the moorland
Where stands the sacred snow
Above the breathing river,
And the salt sea-winds go.

Charles Causley


Looe Island, today (May 23rd)