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The development of an horror game from concept onwards

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Why a Game Writer is more important than the Programmer in a Team

Want to be a writer? Forget it mate! You are better off learning to program, now that's a useful skill.

I love these words. They remind me of the time I hit my head against the wall repeatedly as a small child. Don't ask me why I was doing that by the way, I suspect I may have knocked the reason for doing so right out of my head.

I am a writer.

Writing is a very simple skill. Anyone can do it. The reality is though most people do not, nor ever will write well. Yes, you can learn to write with every word grammatically correct in its place and without any flaw. That skill doesn't make you a good writer.

If you have been reading previous entries of mine in the Journal you will have realised I tend to have creative titles. This is deliberate. I want people to read the Journal, I want people exposed so to speak. For the record, I don't truly believe that any role in a team making a game stands above any other role, each member serves a function and the synthesis of those functions is why everyone is there . But for those who came in to rage at me for such a blatantly evil title I say the following: Welcome You have fallen prey to my deceitful devices and are now sitting down reading these words. Allow me to introduce myself.

I am a writer. A weaver of words to create realities out of falsehoods, a communicator of ideas, a spreader of disinformation and generally an annoying sod who is arrogant with his words but would like to occasionally inspire the imagination of others. My task is simple. I am writing the story to Project Veritas. Writing for a game is very different from writing a novel, short story or even this post right here in one major respect. You cannot write in a vacuum, every step of the way through the game's development you need to be around and involved. Rewrites happen constantly for many reasons: ideas evolve, maps get changed, the pacing of story bogs down or speeds up too fast, budgetary constraints cut entire levels, new enemies are produced, the list never ends...until the game is done. At which point someone then points out a glaring omission in the story and you have to rewrite a section for a patch implementation.

A good story can make banal game play transcend into an enjoyable gaming experience. A poorly crafted story can leave a bitter taste in the mouth. Not all games require or need a story though, for example Tetris. I suspect sometimes that this is why game writing is seen as less valuable to the gaming experience than other skill sets. It is not essential to making a game...except I don't really like the way that is phrased as it is in my opinion constrained inappropriately. What is a more honest statement to my way of thinking would be: some games require a story to enhance the gaming experience and some don't.

Edit: I have no idea why this wasn't posted earlier - so it is about 6 months old. I must have intended more wisdom to be added to this post only to come face to face with the fact that I am not wise.




All of my ideas are free for you to steal unless I work on one in which case STOP THIEF!

A brief glimpse into the minds of the Builders.

Why are there monsters?

They are small things that have crept and crawled through the cracks made
by the tower. They are nothing more than spiders in an abandoned house.

Why was the tower left incomplete?

Our families were not building a path to hell. They were building a path to
our realm which lies in a similar direction. Completing the tower was not
necessary but having all the pieces made to be a complete tower was. Everything
has purpose. When you keep something from its purpose you skew the direction it
takes. The tower is complete but not completed. Its purpose became skewed to
our needs.

Why was the tower not disassembled?

Our families worked to build the tower to rejoin us. Why would any stay

Why is the tower full of puzzles?

Each word is a purpose made manifest. Each purpose made manifest is. Each
word is a language. Each language is one purpose. The tower is only one word.
If you understood this then you would not ask this question.

Oh come on...that's just BS, it doesn't explain why the tower is full of
puzzles. So why is it full of puzzles?

Because the tower is only one word.

Okay, so basically you are
just going to avoid the question of why there are puzzles in the tower with
meaningless philosophies. Am I right?

One might wonder how you have
managed to survive for so long.

Why did God curse you?

We are not the only ones
with free will.

Why can't you go back through the tower?

How do you unsay a word you
have already begun speaking.


Hello all, sorry it has been so long but sometimes personal life gets in the way of the hobby life and the next thing you know it is six months later and you are wondering where the time went. Many things have happened during the last six months though perhaps the most significant was the moment the technical side that we had spent time hunting down and recruiting decided that they would create their own company and that myself and my partner should hand over all the documentation for the game design and related materials in return for....well nothing. In other words we should be grateful they would make the game as their first project.

So being the completely sad individual that I am I gave them everything then downed a bottle of scotch and started watching "The Crying Game" on repeat.

Well okay perhaps I didn't go that far...but really ffs. Is it that blatant a divide that the technical side somehow thinks that what they bring to the table abrogates the rights of others who contribute...or as in this case had done no technical work as yet but expected the ownership of the creation to be handed over?

Maybe..if it was a triple A company and I would still be demanding some form of payment on the product you can be sure of that.

Many people suggest that having the ideas are in of themselves useless. To a degree they are right. But if you take those ideas, flesh them out into a game design, design the play, design the encounters, design the story, create the concept art etc what value do you then begin to place on what has so far been created? So suddenly what had begun as a solid team turned out to be an icecastle on a hot summer's day. Ah well back to recruiting I guess.




This is where your fear begins (aka Oh crap, I wet myself...)

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]...Again [/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]It turns out that we, the human species cannot help but try to stick a label on anything and everything. So when I first started researching horror in order to gain an insight into what people find scary, the first place I hit was Wikipedia. The below box is an edited set of quotes from Wiki.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Splatterpunk is distinguished by its graphic, often gory, depiction of violence and "hyperintensive horror with no limits." It is regarded as a revolt against the "traditional, meekly suggestive horror story".[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Monster horror combines good and evil and intends to evoke a sensation of horror and terror in its audience by presenting the evil side in the form of a monster.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Psychological horror relies on characters' fears and emotional instability to build tension. It typically plays on archetypal shadow characteristics embodied by the threat. Psychological horror aims to create discomfort by exposing common or universal psychological vulnerabilities and fears, such as the shadowy parts of the human psyche which most people repress or deny, whereas splatter fiction focuses on bizarre, alien evil to which the average viewer cannot easily relate.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Body horror, biological horror, organic horror or venereal horror in which the horror is principally derived from the graphic destruction or degeneration of the body. Such works may deal with disease, decay, parasitism, mutilation, or mutation. Other types of body horror include unnatural movements, or the anatomically incorrect placement of limbs to create 'monsters' out of human body parts.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Erotic horror in which sensual or sexual imagery (or even descriptions of the physical act of sexual intercourse) are blended with horrific overtones or story elements.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Gothic horror is a genre that combines elements of both horror and romance.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Lovecraftian horror emphasizes the cosmic horror of the unknown (in some cases, unknowable) over gore or other elements of shock, though these may still be present[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Survival horror is a subgenre of action-adventure video games. Although combat can be a part of the gameplay, the player is made to feel less powerful than in typical action games, because of limited ammunition, health, speed, or other limitations. The player is also challenged to find items that unlock the path to new areas, and solve puzzles at certain locations. Games make use of strong horror themes, and the player is often challenged to navigate dark maze-like environments, and react to unexpected attacks from enemies.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]This is by no means an exhaustive or even near exhaustive list of the sub-genres in horror that can be found.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Okay so we have this idea what game is about. It is going to contain some elements of Splatterpunk, Monster horror, Psychological, Body horror, Lovecraftian horror, Survival horror the list goes on and on and on...there is no all inclusive tag to describe our game that I have found so far except the following label: Horror.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]You may have noted that we did not include erotic horror or gothic horror, the reason for this is somewhat complicated but goes something like this: SEX=DEATH. Now every team member claims to not be a virgin which means of course the team is in for terrifying chase scenes by various troubled monster in our game only to end in ignominious deaths usually with a farm implement involved. However in the time honoured tradition of stereotypes and computer geeks/nerds/really fat guys, I suspect every member of our team will still be alive at the end of this horror...except myself of course - I aint no virgin! (as my pallid hand flails in the air to emphasize...ah whatever I aint Okay!).[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Seriously though, I remember George Lucas talking around the time of The Phantom Menace being released about how he got his artist to draw the scariest monster they could come up with that would be modelled for the sith apprentice.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]From Angelfire.com:[/font]
[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]"George Lucas had described Darth Maul as a figure from your worst nightmare. So... I drew George my worst nightmare."/episode-i/features/maul/94310.html
"At the time, my worst nightmare was this," McCaig confides. "I'm inside a room during a thunderstorm. The hours pass by and I suddenly become aware that there's a lifeless face pressed against the window. It's dead, but it's alive, staring at me through the rain. I drew something like that for George--adding metal teeth...and blood red ribbons falling over the face instead of rain. When George saw it, he quickly turned the drawing over. "Okay," he said, "Now draw me your second worst nightmare...'"[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]That happened to be clowns[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Clowns! Our game doesn't have clowns and now it looks like any hope of a successful horror game has just gone out the window. Except....and this is me thinking out loud to myself right now...we WILL have a clown (I will take a short break now to pitch the idea over Skype).[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]And Back again. I insert here the transcript of my pitch.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif][color=#B22222]check dropbox - Horrific - read then ring me[/color]
[color=#B22222]brb - grabbing quick coffee
so have you read it?[/color]
Still reading
So anyway....This Games needs Clowns!
Start of Verbal Transcript
What do you mean clowns?
[color=#B22222]Clowns are scary. George Lucas's artist is scared of them![/color]
[color=#B22222]Look at this link[/color]
(posts http://en.wikipedia....ki/Coulrophobia)
We are not having clowns
[color=#B22222]But we need clowns. Clowns equals scare equals successful game.[/color]
We are not having clowns.
[color=#B22222]But what if we make one of the monsters like a clown?[/color]
We are not having clowns.
[color=#B22222]Are you sure I mean we are trying to make a horror game and clowns are scary.[/color]
(deep sigh heard)
What the f*** is it with you and clowns?
[color=#B22222]They are scary I mean look at this[/color]
(posts http://www.google.nl...29,r:0,s:0,i:70 )
Dude have you been drinking?
We are not having that f***ing clown in the game.
[color=#B22222]Are you sure? I mean a clown will really put this game over the top![/color]
Okay. How about this. We put a clown poster in one of the houses...just not that clown.
[color=#B22222]So we can have a clown in the game?[/color]
A poster of a clown yes.
[color=#B22222]Okay cool beans thanks. Will get back to you with the draft for this new journal post in a bit btw.[/color]
Np. Am going to take a break so will talk to you later. Oh and I am not a f'''ing virgin either!
End of Verbal Transcript[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]So the good news is this game will most definitely have a clown in it...which of course makes this the horror game to beat all other horror games.[/font]


[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]This is the last post I will be doing for a week or two. When we talked about opening up the Developer's Journal and using it as an historical record for ourselves as well as a circumspect marketing / feedback tool, it was decided that we would do a three initial posts to kind of familiarise readers with the idea that something different was going to be created here and to basically have fun in doing this Journal i.e. not take ourselves so seriously that we lost ourselves to deeply in the hard work that really does go into the making of a game. There will be other team members posting here in this Journal here and there. What they will talk about I have no idea but I hope you find the time to visit this Journal over the time it grows.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]If you have any questions, comments, or clown pictures you might want to see on a poster, please don't hesitate to use the comments below. I make no promises on the clowns by the way but if you do link something make sure it is your own copyright or acknowledge the fair use of it.[/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Will be back in a couple of weeks [/font]

[font=verdana,geneva,sans-serif]Oh and if you haven't realised it, I am one of the two writers involved in this project. Which is why you will see a lot of the posts (if you keep reading the Journal that is) that will be somewhat unusual from many of the Journals on this site by being less technical in scope and more oriented to the creative elements. Not to say that we won't have technical posts as well mind you.[/font]




A Concept Artist and his Art (aka The fast food industry equivalent of supply and demand)

So I don't know about you but I am one of those people who can imagine amazingly artistic pictures in my head but the instant I pick up a pencil or a paintbrush I produce something like this:
This above image of my creation is so public domain gifted by the way . As anyone can see my creative visual endeavours, while spectacular in how much it reveals of my artistic talent, have no hope in hell of being helpful beyond introducing levity into the team (aka Critics who have no true appreciation of the heart that goes into the material ). It's probably a good thing I am not the concept artist. A concept artist for us was a vital need. A means by which many different ideas about the look, the shape, the feel of an idea, a puzzle, the architecture can be bought forth into pictures which then get scrutinised, criticised, amended and basically beaten into an image that works to showcase and provide a common reference point for all team members to work from.
How do you recruit a concept artist though? We are not a well established games company, nor have megabucks to spend and advertising a vacancy would most likely result in a number of applications from a variety of different levels of skilled individuals which might or might not have met our particular needs. Let me introduce you to MrDojo who began the idea for Project Veritas in the first place. MrDojo possesses an uncommon skill that I would almost associate with the talent of a paparazzi, he hunts people down. Utilising such websites as ConceptArt.org and Concept Root he began to trawl through the ridiculously large number of artistic works until he found pieces that he liked. From there he went to the individual artist portfolios and looked at their body of works. Then somewhere in his inscrutable mind he decided upon the following gentleman as being the concept artist he needed Wangrui. So the first thing this Netherland's native does to gain contact with this Chinese gentleman is to use Google Translate to produce "Ni zui jin mang ma" as his opening introduction. Fortunately to the utterly shocked chicken's relief, Wangrui turned out to possess basic English skills which made life so much easier. Now this happened in the days before I joined the team and initially began with MrDojo seeking to commission a one off piece of concept art...somewhere in the midst of all this, the idea for Project Veritas as a game was formed and we found ourselves with a concept artist who chose to become a part of the project. I would like to say that we pay him in English lessons, but the truth is, that is just the fun side of things.
Producing a usable piece of Concept Art An artist cannot read your mind (however to be on the safe side in case I am wrong I recommend tinfoil hats). What can make it even harder, is when you have an artist whose English language skills, whilst good enough for basic communication, does not extend to interpreting the nuances and idioms in the way we might like to have them understood. How do you bridge the gap? We found the most effective way was to collect a number of images for an idea / theme / location by sourcing from the vast pool of visual references existing on the Internet and supply this to the artist along with a basic description of the particular visual needed. I won't reference this first step into here as (despite probable fair use covering it) it doesn't fall under our copyright. The next step involves Wangrui then producing a quick page containing a four image variations mockup. Below you will see an example of this for a railyard/factory concept needed: Feedback utilising image number 4 (bottom right) which was preferred was then dispatched back to Wangrui. This stage can sometime require a complete redo as none of the four images might be suitable.
Resulting in (yes it is the same image as in the bottom right of the above -- picture got integrated for some slight tweaking): http://imagizer.imageshack.us/img96/6025/factoryconcept2.jpg Further adjustments were made:
http://imagizer.imageshack.us/img560/6007/factorydetail02.jpg Which finally led to this piece which for our needs served the purpose.
http://imagizer.imageshack.us/img38/6529/factoryconcept3.jpg Now no doubt this image will change again in the future as the level designers for this section step in and start creating their own variations within the concept. But having this image to work with is an extraordinarily helpful tool to provide them the basis upon which they can build. I hope you have enjoyed meeting our concept artist. Over the length of the project I will bring various people forward, introduce them in terms of their role, how they became a part of this project and give an insight into how their skills are being utilised. If you have any questions, comments, outrage at chicken abuse please feel free to comment http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png




A Beginning (also known as Why do I have to write the Damn Journal!)

This all begins with MrDojo a member of Gamedev who began the thread Write a story for this game concept.

Welcome to Project Veritas - Our working title and I completely blame someone else for coming up with this name instead of using "Project Can't that other guy do it instead?"

The ambition is to create a horror game that will profoundly disturb you to the core of your soul (or if you don't believe in souls - make you wet your pants).

Whilst I do intend to lie to you quite frequently about plot points and monsters and puzzles...yes I did say lie, I do promise that what shall be revealed will no doubt enthrall you into new levels of boredom and suicidal levels of ennui.

The reason this Journal is being created?

Well to be honest it is completely about actually knowing what the hell we have done. It is our historical record being written in the present so be warned I shall sometimes say things that may not make sense to the reader but may in of itself be of significance to the team.

As I hadn't really intended to go beyond a fluff marketing piece with this first journal entry I shall end with the concept art for the Tower - as mentioned in the above link. I hope you like it.



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