Thursday, 5 January 2017

Dark Fall - Storm Warning - A look at British Piers

Here's a couple screens from the next Dark Fall game, Storm Warning, as well as some shots from 'behind the scenes'.

Rusting and ruined, the pier still has a bit of charm.
Lots of memories of Hastings Pier are/will be evident in the new game, which has a certain level of nostalgia infused throughout. Pier fans may recognise the ironwork from Penarth Pier, in South Wales. I didn't nick them, honest!, but recreated the style after visiting the pier a couple of years ago.

Penarth Pier, South Wales

In the middle of nowhere.
There's also quite a lot of Brighton's old West Pier in Storm Warning. West Pier collapsed in the 00's, but there's loads of photos online, as well as a few YouTube video tours. It looked very cool, back then, feeling quite ghostly and decrepit. I'm trying to summon a similar feeling, especially during day time scenes. Romance rather than terror, during the day at least. Night time, when the storm sets in... that's when the horrors come out.

The scissors are back... they have some trimming to do.
We've been to a few piers, on the way to making this game. It makes sense to visit the source material, as I'm a bit lazy when it comes to reinventing the wheel. If it was good enough for the Victorians, then it's good enough for me. Unfortunately, West Pier and Hastings are no more, but Penarth and Paignton are good examples of what I was after. Both are quite a bit smaller than Bazalgette's, but they are perfectly formed. Paignton had a big facelift recently, leaning more towards a retro classic look, which was great. We had good fun during Storm Barbara, last month!

video

STORM WARNING - in this case, Storm Barbara 23rd December

There are a few arcades, here in Looe, one of which is quite a cavern of noise, lights and dodgy prizes, so nothing has really changed since the 80's. That is the last time the Bazalgette Pier was open, before being cosed for good. No-one wanted the responsibility, after what happened. Since then it's passed between several agents and council authorities, but to no avail. The pier will fall, lost forever, if an owner/descendant is not found. Perhaps that person is you?

Bingo! Bazalgette's last attempt to lure them in, back in 1988.
Be seeing you.

Jonathan

DF4 - Storm Warning - Take a stroll along the pier...



Dark Fall - Storm Warning

We have made great progress on Dark Fall 4 over the Christmas period. Now officially called Dark Fall - Storm Warning, the new ghost hunting adventure is looking and sounding super, in full 3D. The game is set on a faithful recreation of the Bazalgette Pier, on the Dorset coast, with an emphasis on the paranormal and lingering nostalgia. In terms of tone, it's most like Dark Fall 1, with a mystery to solve, while exploring the beautiful, but derelict ruins of an old Victorian setting.



Older readers (!!) will remember my interest in a Dark Fall pier game from a few years back. Hastings Pier had just been destroyed by fire, an arson attack, which was very miserable. I have very fond memories of the pier, from childhood, so the new game is infused with my own nostalgia, rose tinted by time and saddened by the truth of the piers demise. It's a perfect place to set a Dark Fall game. The ghosts are still out there, you see, waiting on the pier. An 'anniversary haunting' if ever there was one.

Ghost Hunt - Bazalgette Pier, 2005

http://www.darklingroom.co.uk/darkfallgames/darkfall4/ghosthunt/bazalgettepierghosthunt.htm


A group of (strangely familiar) ghost-hunters took part in a 'less than legal' experiment on the Bazalgette Pier, back in 2005. There are few documents or evidence files, but what does exist is pretty creepy: evps, poltergeist activity and an impressive time slip (my favourite).

Take a look.

2017 - Line up

Blackenrock is up first (sorry! I had kidney stone issues in December), then Shadow Tor's 'Bracken Tor' (now a more logical follow up to Barrow Hill, thanks to Matt's 'The Dark Path'). We really must get the older productions out, and done, before DF4 can have its big splash, but it's certainly something to look forward to. If you like ghost stories, old abandoned places and adventure games then you're in for a cool spooky experience. It's the sort of game that I wish there was more of, as a lot of the supernatural games fall back on demons, gore and weapons. 

Lost and now found: old contact sheets show paranormal phenomena
DF4 is all about experiments and time-slips, with a strong sense of dread rather than outright horror. But, it's still going to have plenty of spooky bits, very much like the first Dark Fall. You could see this new 3D instalment as a re-launch of the series, using new technology with an eye on PCs and consoles. It's time to face the future, by diving into the past. 

Jonathan

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.

Jonathan



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!

Jonathan



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.

https://shadow-tor-studios.dpdcart.com/cart/add?product_id=121648&method_id=129535 


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. 

Jonathan

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Halloween - Midnight Horror



Trick!

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…

Treat!

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!

Jonathan

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. ;-)