Herein lies the ghost of an adventure game that never was. Rather than let hard work stagnate alone in a folder on my PC I thought I’d give the assets some air and let them run free in the boundless back garden that is the Internet.
You play as ordinary dishevelled office chap Jack who wakes up in the City and has to find his way out. The City is a properly messed up place full of demons and monsters living out otherwise normal lives, running shops, hospitals, and their own twisted Parliament. Anyway, it subtly transpires that Jack is in his own bonkers subconscious. Spoiler alert.
A room escape puzzle breaks you out of imprisonment and you’re let loose into the city, greeted by the shot above. There was some difficulty establishing depth with the colours in each row of buildings becoming darker and then lighter again as the scene moves away. Paintshop’s blur tool helps a lot. There was a lot of trial and error involved in getting the colours right overall as well. Moving from the building on the left to the station, through the tunnel on the right, I tried to apply some of Valve’s colour theory, subconsciously demonstrating a sense of hostility and menace by leading the player into the coldest part of the image. Does it work? Hard to say, it’s a subliminal cue which is impossible to test, but it’s worth throwing that stuff in there, just in case it does work.
Some characters. Mona on the left. She’s cool. How can you tell? Look, she has shades, a leather jacket AND a cigarette. A no-nonsense agent of a corrupt and incompetent government but with more sense than any of the morons who feed her orders. Sometimes a friend, sometimes working against you, it’s unclear whether she’s following orders or putting in place a complex plan to escape the city and go it alone.
On the right, our hero Jack with the small, green, sociopathic, psychopathic, cannibalistic mentalist companion known only as The Imp. He helps you out for food. Thing is, things go bad when you feed him. The plan was to have him growing larger and larger as the game progressed, his newfound size and strengh granting the player access to new areas to the point where he gets out of hand completely with pretty destructive consequences. Opposite is the birdman. All he wants, like any self respecting Demon, is the blood of an innocent. Extracting blood from a child or a virgin might be the obvious solution, but the answer lies in a cell, where the only man imprisoned in this crazy City is, in fact, innocent of his crime. Initially The Birdman had wings, but this meant sacrificing overall size and I wanted him to be big and threatening and just went with the vulture head, corpse like hue and snazzy pinstripe suit instead.
Animation. I had never done any animation before. It is really, really time consuming, but ultimately satisfying. Jack taught me that if you don’t fix your characters early, they will forever be lumbered with freakishly long arms. I wanted Jack to be nonchalant about his predicament, and he was supposed to wander the city with his hands in his pockets, revelling in the madness of his situation. Unfortunately Adventure Game Studio had other ideas. Getting his hands out of his pockets to do things required intermediate animations that aren’t really possible in the engine. Loss.
It’s not a sewer, I swear. It’s an underpass. It’s the tunnel to the station, cold dank and drippy. The best I could do for puddle reflections it seems is some pretty hopeful squiggles. With more time, it’s those little bits that’d get fixed up.
It was a good learning experience which taught me not to overstretch myself and be too overambitious. The one I’m working on now sees you playing as a hostage negotiator resolving a hostage situation. It can all take place in about 3 or 4 rooms, which gives more time for more detailed art and a lot more writing, which should hopefully create a short game with many possible outcomes. Hopefully that game will see a better fate than this one!