Saturday, September 3, 2011

This blog is going to get a complete overhaul, with old news of the old builds of Worry of Newport being archived and instead I will use this as the launchpad for all my horror rants, technical rants, modding news and more. ETA for completion of new blog update: September 5th, 2011.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Worry of Newport - Part 1 has been re-released.

After, surprisingly, less than a month of development the Worry of Newport - Part 1 remake has been completed. I am happy to present this to you all after a rocky first landing in early November. Every complaint, every bug, every issue that you had for part 1 has been fixed or rebalanced in order to provide a better experience.

Blogspot notice: A developer Post-Mortem will be released in two weeks time.

Just blurbing what I have added would seem silly so I'll try to categorize it in importance:

The Newport 2.0 engine is an unofficial term for my adjustment and use of the Cryengine 2 and how I design levels.

  • Using dozens of reference pictures, articles, studying and papers I have created an entirely new atmosphere/lighting/graphics presentation for the Remake. The new visual quality is near photorealistic on very high with an enormous leap in performance as well due to the dozens of tweaks and adjustments to entities and brushes for optimizations sake. Depth of Field, Film Grain, SSAO, mapping techniques and an entirely new water model have been added.

  • Newport 2.0 is also built with five total time of days in it, each bringing a distinct atmosphere and emotion. There's the default, default at night, winter flashback, desert and jungle. Desert and jungle are NOT in the remake, but will be present in part 2. This is in advantage over the original release, which had one time of day, which was a very poor one to boot.
  • Level design has been dramatically improved through use of vegetation, particles, realistic environments, the aforementioned lighting engines and a more experienced eye for natural design. I really, really wanted players to feel immersed and not lost or afraid of making a wrong turn this time and as such open endedness has been replaced by careful balance and linear/nonlinear segments in blend.
Obviously the main key for this section is to tell you that the lagging, stuttering, muddy and purple hued original is a thing of the past and has been replaced by a carefully crafted, here-to-stay, time of day setup I am using for my mods. The most obvious improvement on the remake is aesthetic, the entire island from the graphics to the island itself, looks night-and-day different.

A narrative is the most important aspect when telling a story and because of that importance I have completely readjusted how it ties into the gameplay for the Remake. The narrative hasn't changed much, as this is a remake and not a sequel, but you will find many subtle improvements.

  • You can no longer fall off the port, for example, and get lost in the water.
  • All lanterns have been redesigned to guide you to where to go in a subtle fashion.
  • It autosaves very often and you can only get killed once now.
  • You won't fall off ledges, make impossible jumps, tear your hair out or anything due to level design mingling badly with narrative anymore.
  • Over a dozen new books have been added to flesh out the backstory.
The story is virtually the same but told through a more refined, precisely paced level. From start to finish the story is the same (except for the book reading system and flashbacks, more on that later.)

I struggled with the notion of adding new content to the remake or not and decided in the end to choose a middle ground. I have added more content, sure, but I have also readjusted every single scare or scene to play out more fairly and logically as well as adding an entire book reading system with the help of my graphics artist.

  • The Remake watches how you play and adjusts dozens of little factors accordingly. A scream or a scare in one area, or maybe not, if you didn't pick up the book leading to it. A cave or a creepy barn being unlocked for investigation if you read about them or played a gameplay sequence, or not, if you skipped by. There are 25 audio queues randomized and 3 key gameplay areas adjusted to your playing interest.
  • First is Hamlet. Hamlet is a small, tiny, quaint town in the middle of the pines where a sinister mystery is waiting to be unfolded. It is very short and log based, but sweet, and is akin to Sanitarium or a very mild Fallout 3 quest. You will search the buildings and surrounding small forest looking for clues or logs in a non linear fashion, allowing you to unlock a flashback shrine, a barn, and also just the sense of accomplishment by solving the seriously creepy story to Hamlet.
  • Secondly, the cave from the original is now optional and randomly generated. You'll be happy to know its more "cave like" and has a cool log inside.
  • Thirdly in the new content list is the new book reading system. If you pick up a book a page full of text, decals, etc will be in front of you allowing you to READ the books around Newport instead of watching a hud overlay scroll subtitles for hours on end.
  • Fourth and last is the optional short story, inspired by Amnesia's loading screens but still completely original to Newport's story. They are in non linear fashion, detailed by concept art (which is quite well done in the short notice I gave her to draw them), and are a nice treat if you like to find easter eggs.
And more, obviously, to be found in the game itself. A full blown changelog and maybe other goodies will be added in the coming days for those interested in the technicals, before and after screenshots, etc.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Experiment is over: Anthology of Horror is cancelled with good results.

The idea for this project was to see if the horror told through creepypasta like stories could translate well to "flesh and blood" experience. The answer, in short, is no. There are too many margins for error here including visuals, sound, depth and atmosphere all being dramatically different and harder to control than a simple text narrative is. But why?


People perceive what they see usually as fact, which is why it is hard to scare a lot of people with movies or games. When you rely on audio and visuals to guide your thinking process you get one of two reactions. The first is the negative or cynical one, where the person observing the events or structure you have created is analytical of a ton of flaws that draw them out of the immersion, ultimately lowering and eventually destroying the intended experience's scale of depth. The other reaction is one a branch of horror relies all too much on: The brains defensive mechanism. Making you jump, yell, sceam, feel ill, try to focus, etc. is what many, many creature flicks or "cat out of the bag" horrors need in order to get a reaction. This causes a certain thrill that many people seek, and which is why some people watch the same slosh over and over in theaters like Saw.
But when you're perceiving what is on text, you lose that anayltical value, you lose that cynical attitude, and you only have one companion: your imagination. It is true that the fear of the unknown is the oldest, greatest fear, and when you are describing events so uncanny or so shocking, you can directly manipulate--hell, you can control--someones imagination. This is done through grammar, narrative, linguistics, choice of words and the division of acts to slowly immerse the reader into your concise little nightmare.
Because when you describe something through text, or use minimalism in wording, it makes their imagination run wild. What is the monster? What does the castle look like? What is the protagonist seeing when he went insane? And so forth and so on. Direct control of imagination is literally impossible through something like Anthology of Horror, which is why it has been closed down completely as a project.


In closing, it was a fun experiment. People liked the atmosphere and likened the minimalism of level design to the half life 1 days, which I appreciated, as that was the intended goal. However some people--like on here--were negative about that. I was amused when people had troubles reading the directions, misinterpreting the ending, flying off a purposefully left in cliff edge instead of ignoring it, etc. Shelter was a good experiment though, all things considered, even if the facts I learned disappointed me. I was able to beta test my book reading system which has been refined for the Newport series, as well as introduce myself to modern settings, which I will no doubt use in the future when making mods not set in the 1930's of all things.
Seeing your criticisms and reactions to Shelter was fun. I learned a lot as a game designer and through intentional manipulation of incorrect minimalism and narrative, have learned both what kind of bugs people notice most, and also how creepypasta does *not* work in a game.

Monday, January 10, 2011

62 Days: A look at niche modding, and the future of Newport

 Of Modding

Almost six months ago I embarked on the task of creating my first mod, choosing Crysis as the platform, choosing horror as the genre, and choosing my own writing, lovecraft, and a mixture of others as the inspiration for the then unnamed project. I took to learning the Crysis level editor, relearning ropes I had long forgotten, and looking at ways on how to best put my own ideas into gameplay form.

That is how any modding project is born. Inspiration, dedication, then sticking with a cycle of design. But there is a rapid anomaly I have noticed as I've been around this scene for these 62 days, and it's that modding is quite simply an oversaturated business. I was curious to see the release of Call of the Fireflies impact Crysis modding like few other projects have, and for it to even win an x category mod of the year award, and it still has an extremely dwindling download and view record. Another project, winning a multitude of online awards, Mechwarrior: Living Legends, went on to garner almost zero real life recognition.

But the biggest surprise for me had nothing to do with my own creation or it's tools. It was learning the mod community. How reserved, how quiet, how bizarre and how almost random it is. How isolated a lot of modding teams are from the millions of others, and how there is almost no coherency between any two projects.

But something like Nightmare House 2, for example, has actually gotten the developers real life recognition and awards, presentations in festivals, and so on. I find it really strange that Cryengine 2 is so down in the dumps compared to all other forms of modding that exist, perhaps with only unreal 3 being the most esoteric until very recently, with the recent update and also The Ball and other titles getting business fame.

I think a very large problem is that projects such as Mechwarrior and Nightmare House 2 garner higher publicity and even awards due to the team approach whereas Call of the Fireflies developer' and I have one thing in common: We're alone in what we do, and we don't do it for that.

Or maybe that isn't it? Maybe the engine has something to do with it. Between Source, Cryengine 2 and Unreal 3, there is no question when you ask which is the most popular or which garners the most fame. Now we're coming to the point I've been wanting to make:

To me a mod is best off as a niche project. I believe in the power of small numbers and of projecting your own work to people who actually care about it, rather than throwing it into orbit. I will do nothing in my own power in order to achieve traffic for this blog, for moddb, for crymod or for anything I do modding wise besides talking to my friends about it or making a forum topic here or there. Why is that, though? It's because I feel there is a higher connection in silence then there is rampant feedback or award nonsense. These things give the modders delusions of grandoire, when we do nothing more than create mods for a small community of people.

Even while I am working on three projects at once, I keep them on the down low, under the radar, to the point of them barely appearing on anyone's. And that is where I want them to be. To illustrate a terrible metaphor, there is a difference in experience and quality of getting a pie off grandma's windowsill, or running down to TastyKake and buying six dozen chemical filled preservative pie's.

Of Newport

The flagship of my modding still roots itself within the Worry of Newport series. A fragile, almost theoretical game which combines story telling narrative with sheer boredom and glitches. A series which, currently, hangs at the skin of it's teeth so to speak, as far as people's interest and actual publicity is concerned. It is interesting to think that while my enthusiasm for developing this series has almost tripled since November 9th, actual input and criticsm from the audience I broadcasted it to has shrunk three times, or more, to the point where I'm getting less than one bit of feedback a month.

Newport is a niche if there ever was one. Interestingly enough, even now that an entirely new lighting and level design engine is being worked with and the moddb page is literally being flooded with news and feature updates and screenshots of part 2 and part 1's remakes in an attempt to electrify interest, nothing has been happening. And while I appreciate this silence, I also fear it, because I know if I rerelease Part 1 as polished and consistent as it is even now at 80% done, and no one says anything or bothers to illustrate feedback again, I will lose hope against all odds.

So I find myself, as a new modder, caught in an interesting bind. I appreciate being in a niche and very, very small circle of horror fans. I also appreciate silence and know that award or publicty only drags down a project. But I also know that when the Newport saga is all said and done, and if barely anyone bothers themselves to talk to me about it, it will drive down my enthusiasm to ever mod again quite substantially.

I will undoubtedly throw all of my effort as a modder into finishing the remake and designing part 2 to the extent of my knowledge of cryengine 2, but as for future projects on this platform? I cannot say for sure. Or even maybe as a modder. I will know for sure when Part 1's remake is done and out. Until then, I can only speculate how the tides will turn. Part 1's first release has been cold, at best, reception wise, with the only few people giving feedback negatively eying it or impossibly comparing it to full fledged developed games unfairly like Amnesia.

So we shall see. Until next time, readers.