Pre-vision: Blackmore

Blackmore London

Blackmore concept art

Before Metal Gear Solid ascended to eminence, one game quantified Hideo Kojima’s design philosophy. Like MGS it was heavily interspersed with film and manga references, from; Blade Runner to The Terminator, from Wicked city to Akira.

Snatcher; for devotees is the highlight in Kojima’s extensive body of work; a graphic novel that created an omnipotent sense of place through a simplistic yet engaging interface. A different kind of storytelling was introduced to the genre, one that personified an outsiders view of Japan, its traditions, its nuances and of course; Japan’s inherent quality to resemble a cyberpunk future.

To localise an English version of Snatcher would be futile; a mind just as meticulous as Kojima’s would be needed. Direct translation of the dialogue word for word would have left a chasm of ambiguity in the story. The subtleties of tonal pronunciation in the Japanese language would be lost; where emphasis is placed on ‘how’ something is said as much as ‘what’ is said. To convey sentiments accurately would be almost impossible, but I did in fact sample those details that Kojima obsessed over. Miraculously, the western release of Snatcher somehow communicates all of those intricacies, carefully and painstakingly ruminated by one man…Jeremy Blaustein.

Blackmore London

Blackmore concept art

Translator, writer, voice director and magician amongst other things, his portfolio has included seminal works such as; Shenmue, Silent Hill 2, Castlevania; symphony of the night, Phoenix Wright, Dark Cloud 2, Suikoden 2 and Valkyrie profile. If that list of games were loved because of a man demanding perfection in himself for somebody else’s work, imagine if that was channelled into his own game. That vision will be realised through his first game; Blackmore; currently seeking Kickstarter funding. Blaustein’s name is enough to warrant backing alone but amalgamated with the team he has assembled, transcends into something even more prodigious.

·         Satoshi Yoshioka; Character design for Snatcher and its spiritual successor; Policenauts

·         Motoaki Furukawa; Composer for Snatcher, Policenauts, Gradius, Super smash Bros

·         David Hayter; Voice of Snake in MGS, screenwriter for Watchmen and X-men

·         Donna Burke; Voice actor for Silent Hill and singer for MGS and Final Fantasy

The graphic adventure is about a woman named Emma Blackmore who inhabits a technologically advanced 1888 London. The time of the Whitechapel murders when the streets were bloodied by the Leather Apron, more commonly known as…Jack the Ripper. She becomes involved in the investigation of the murders with the help of her robot assistant Descartes, all presented in an intricate 2.5D.

Below is an interview with Jeremy about the concept of his vision. Speculation regarding the details of the Blackmore family and the murders are firmly coveted. The only way to uncover the Rippers identity will be to help fund the project and discover for ourselves.

Please back the kickstarter here.

Blackmore character design

Blackmore character design

What design choices are you making by using an isometric view in regards to narrative and puzzle mechanics? Will the scenes be static backgrounds or will they use 3D elements similar to Westwood’s ’97 Blade Runner graphic adventure?

The scenes will not be static backgrounds. I am not familiar with the Blade Runner graphic adventure, but the game will be made in 3D, so you can expect a degree of freedom to zoom and rotate in certain areas. The isometric view will really be used for the main game view but when the player interacts with the environment or with other characters, it will be a much closer view.

Will the ‘Ripper’s’ motivations for murder be historically accurate or refreshed for this new vision of London? If so will the murderer/murders implement the same technology that Emma uses?

 Ha, nice try, but you’re not going to trick me into revealing ANY details of the Ripper murders! I applaud you for your clever investigation tactics though!

Blackmore Prototype

Blackmore Prototype

Are Emma’s family tensions integral to story development or do they just serve as a back story?

Wow, you are good. Emma’s family tensions are an important part of her story and the player will see them played out in the game. That’s all I really want to say at this time.

Is Descartes programmed independent, to be loyal to Emma only or to the Blackmore family as a whole?

You have a real talent for asking tough questions that, unfortunately, I have to duck in order to not reveal things that I think would be more interesting to discover while playing the game. Sorry again.

Blackmore Prototype

Blackmore Prototype

1888 was a year of great innovations; will the atmosphere of Blackmore hint at greater technological advances and how would you execute that when a cyberpunk London would feel new anyway?

Yes, this is an alternative universe London and the technological advances are a bit more impressive than we actually saw in our own 1888. You can expect to see a lot of interesting applications of technology that was theorized at the time. Technology really makes possible anything that can be imagined and in the steampunk world of Blackmore, there was an earlier wave of “internationalization” that sparked a lot of creative technology.

How linear will Blackmore be? Both Snatcher and Policenauts gave the impression of a much larger world outside of the objects you clicked on, Snatchers computer database for instance created this illusion.

Yes, the JORDAN computer was something I was a very big fan of. Of course a game of this type can’t really have “freedom” but I don’t think that’s actually what people want in a game of this type. Rather I think they want to be lost and submerged within the narrative of the story. Having said that, you can expect that wrong turns in the game will lead to different ending and results so it will not be completely linear

 

Neo Kobe Pizza was a tiny detail that made Snatcher much more immersive. Do you plan to modify local nuances of Blackmore’s time period; the quartern loaf or staple meats such as Pheasant or Rabbit into a cyberpunk vision?

Please expect lots of juicy and fun details!

Kojima san stated that “The idea of an open world in 3D is very good, and I would love to do something like Snatcher, but I do not have the time or the means to do so. But if anyone else would like to develop it, I would love it.” Did you ever have ambitions to work on a sequel or a 3D remake like Ash 712 is building? 

Sure I would have loved to be involved with a sequel and for many years I hoped that Mr Kojima would make one. Yes, I am aware of the work that Ash 712 is doing and think it’s fantastic. It’s a testimony to just how deeply Snatcher got into people, isn’t it? That is real evidence for me about a game’s impact on people –how long it stays with them.

I see a similar thing with Silent Hill 2, the game that I was perhaps most closely and intimately involved in the making of. Starting from pre-discussions with R&D to the very thorough process of localization hand-in-hand with Mr Owaku and finally the directing of the actors in the mo-cap and recording studios. Now when I look at the continuing impact and fan devotion, I am blown away.

 

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Pre-vision: Secrets of Raetikon

Raetikon 1

Science Horizons Survival was a primitive ZX Spectrum game released in 1984. By assuming the role of a Fly, Mouse, Butterfly, Robin, Hawk or Lion, the principles of ecology could be sampled through the interdependence of their environment.

Diagrammatic images however failed to convey the hopelessness of scrambling in the lower echelons of the food chain. Chess-like square occupation was the only interaction; a blip signifying that your animal made a successful hunt or had in fact been hunted. This was in conflict with the instruction booklet that detailed greater ambitions. The software of course could not compute these nuances and like so many games of its time; your imagination had to generate the content missing from the context.

survival final  survival 3  survival 2

Natures scramble for existence has been explored by contemporary developers of course; Might & Delight with Shelter, Krillbite’s; The Plan and Tokyo Jungle developed by Sony’s Japan studio.

But here, the Vienna based Broken Rules delivers the principles of ecology through an astonishing triangular aesthetic; powered by their in-house Ginkgo engine. The Secrets of Raetikon captures the insurmountable struggle of a bird that is not only bullied by predators but oppressed by its environment. In many ways it is about finding resolve in the bird’s fragility.

Raetikon 4

Flight is the main allure and its playfulness accentuates the tranquillity of the Alpine setting. The amusement of darting through tree foliage and riding the wind radiates innocence through the forest. Danger however is prevalent; without warning you realise the birds place in the food chain is insubstantial; the fowl can be clawed out of the sky by marauding falcons, buzzards and crows. These can smash you into a nearby rock face or drag you into razor like thistles, attempting to break free is futile as you flap helplessly in the beak of a more formidable vertebrate. There are multiple ways of overcoming antagonists, many of which are faster, stronger and more resilient; malicious predators cannot be overpowered but can be distracted by luring another animal into its territory. Other ways are to instigate a chase, coercing them into thorn bushes or prompting landslides by tugging rocks away from ledges. A sense of empowerment comes from wielding nature itself; plant alga can be fished from waters. This barbed vine is lashed around like a medieval instrument and seeking refuge suddenly turns to incursion; visceral confrontations flow intuitively as you change tactics on the fly.

Raetikon 2

The sprawling Alps exclude a map, whether it is added later on or not will have ramifications that change the experience. The layout of the world at present is extensive but map-less exploration feels fresh and captures the purity of adventuring. Looking for an undiscovered area on a diagram forgoes the revelations of curiosity but obviously the benefit is not getting lost.

Raetikon’s ecology is rich enough to endure as a study of an organic nature cycle but Broken Rules mixes a fountain of imagination with their triangular palatte. Ancient mechanisms lay dormant waiting to be revived, solid rock contains flickering glitches; suggesting the impenetrable are facades for hidden caches. Many of the Secrets in Raetikon should be discovered without illumination but highlights include the anxiety inducing Lynx which prowls with an imposingly brutal demeanour and the stoic forest; which becomes magically animated and adds another dynamic to the journey. Raetikon delivers ecology with equal ferocity and sedateness which can (and must) be used against itself and with experimentation you realize what can help or hinder.

This is an Alpha build so polish and fine tuning will not doubt enhance everything to a greater level of immersion as well as introducing more inventive ways of utilizing nature. Until then this is an exceptional piece of unique work that should be watched very carefully.

Raetikon 3