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Interview with Jonathan Boakes

Jonathan Boakes, author of almost everything in Dark Fall, tells us his views about the adventure game, horror and supernatural events in this enthusiastic interview

# By C. Jürschik y P. García |

Interview with Jonathan Boakes

Having a part-time job also helped. At 5pm every night, I had to leave the game project at home, and go do something completely different. Working on a game 24/7 is not constructive, especially if you are working from home.

Lastly, tackle all the jobs at once! Music, voices, art and programming. I know how suicidal that sounds, but it is a bonus. Promise. It means that you never feel bogged down with one aspect of the development. If a piece of script isn’t working, email it to a friend, and make some scary, loud music instead. It’ll keep you sane, and provide an output for your frustrations.

AyC: It seems that in indie projects, both buyers and sellers are quite in touch, sharing message boards and mail lists. What do you think are the pros/cons of this trend?

JB: The pros are more obvious than the cons. You get direct, and personal feedback from your gamers. More often than not, the feedback is great, and you feel all is great in the world. This increases your enthusiasm for the next project, and keeps you posting your current game to new customers.

The cons can be quite nasty. Some people believe that a plastic wrapping is more important than the actual game, and can get very aggressive when they believe they’ve paid for a ‘cheap’ product. Somehow, a game made by a single individual, who is visible on forums, is not as good as a faceless corporation with a conveyor belt churning out generic trash. I have no idea why some individuals think this way, and have no time (or desire) to find out why.

There’s currently an inclination to exaggerate sexist contents or violent scenes in videogames, while adventure games make use of more intellectual contents, like in your games. Don’t you think the term “adult game” is being completely distorted, as though games like yours were thought for children, just because they’re not violent or sexually explicit?<respuesta>It’s interesting that the industry claims that porn and swearing is ‘adult content’, when it is obviously included to attract a younger market. I think it is important to differentiate between ‘sexual content’ and porn. Porn is cheap, no frills trashy fluff dreamt up by a bored designers, whereas sexual content can be used to arouse, or disgust the player depending on its use. To use sex effectively in any media, you need a talent like David Cronenberg (for nasty), or David MacKenzie (for nice), as two examples.

I’ve only seen a few examples of sex in adventure games (like Phantasmagoria’s misogynistic rape scene, or Dracula: Resurrections nubile vamp ladies), but I have seen more in the RPG’s. My teenage nephew is currently playing, the much talked about, GTA: San Andreas game, with the porn style ‘Hot Coffee’ add-on. He thinks it’s hilarious, and so do his mates. Some of them are girls. I find it bizarre to think that some will find the image of two polygons ‘number crunching’ either erotic, or offensive. Like my nephew said, “why would be want to watch a cartoon, when he can download real porn for free”? This is, obviously, something that I cannot recommend. But it does highlight the fact that sex sells, and always has done, whether it is ‘good sex’ is another matter.

AyC: It was M.R. James in Dark Fall, William Hope Hodgson in Dark Fall 2… Who will be homaged in your next game?

JB: I’m less familiar with William Hope Hodgson. Perhaps you are thinking about William Gibson, who wrote ‘The Ballad of Flannan Isle’, in which 3 lighthouse keepers vanish from an island, at Christmas in 1900? It’s a lovely poem, and full of detail. It was a pleasure to reference the material throughout Dark Fall 2.

As for the next game; The Lost Crown is a homage to classic supernatural short stories. The style, and mechanics, of a ghost story (especially those written before 1930) are easier to pinpoint than today’s post-modern explorations of retribution. They were more about remembrance, and anniversary. Of the authors that spring to mind, and who have influenced the screenplay for The Lost Crown, I would say M.R.James is a figurehead, with E.H.Benson providing a slightly sarcastic tone to the script. I enjoy the voices Benson delivered in his stories, and find them far more realistic than the screaming beauties of today’s supernatural cinema.

Away from the short story, Anthony Shaffer’s screenplay for The Wicker Man is also quite prominent, when talking about homage, and influence. The Lost Crown is set around May Day 2006, so there are plenty of strange pagan delights, and earthy ancient horrors.

Wouldn’t you like to make some kind of on-line based Ghostwatch?<respuesta>That’s a wonderful idea. A live web broadcast from a haunted location! It sounds very exciting, and very hard to organise. It’s something I shall give some thought. You never know, you might be helping me to locate some ghosts at Halloween 2007.

AyC: Tell us about The Lost Crown. For what we’ve read, it seems like an improved revision of both Dark Fall games. Is it like that?

JB: The Lost Crown will have elements of both games. The actual ghosthunting will be neater, and more contained, like Dark Fall 1. Whereas the setting is larger, and more complex, like Dark Fall 2.

The big difference is the storytelling. The narrative revolves around Nigel Danvers, who has travelled to a quiet seaside town, on England’s east coast, to search for an ancient, and legendary, treasure: the lost Anlgo-Saxon crown of Anglia. No one knows the location of this artefact, and if they do, they are keeping it a secret. You see, there is a legend attached to the mystery, which says the crown guards Anglia (East England) from invasion. Such an important item has a guardian, who will stop at nothing to protect the crown for being discovered, and stolen.

Nigel, communicates with the ghosts of Anglia to discover the secret location, using ghosthunting gadgets. Unlike the gadgets of Dark Fall 1 & 2, these new gadgets are real tools, used by ghosthunters during investigations. Favourites include, motion detectors, which will record movement that the player cannot see. I mentioned earlier about the ‘invisible’ being scary, so these detectors will be great for pinpointing such frightening events.

AyC: Thanks Jonathan for your time. Is there anything else you would like to add?

JB :Just to say ‘thank you’ for the interview, and ‘thank you’ to the readers of Aventura Y Cia for taking the time to read it. I look forward to presenting The Lost Crown, to you all, in the New Year.

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