Archive for the ‘Game Development’ Category

Worldbuilding with words

Wednesday, December 21st, 2016

Helen was fortunate enough to be invited to take part in Wordplay London in November at the British Library: a festival of interactive fiction and writerly games organised by the Hand Eye Society.

For those of you who missed it and would like to get some insight from a host of experts about writing in games, the Hand Eye Society has put together a video of some of the panels from the day.

Helen was part of the panel called “Worldbuilding with words,” along with a lovely panel with varied backgrounds ranging from dystopian Twitter fiction (Nate Crowley) to choose-your-own-adventure style game books (Jon Green) with a bit of dating Twine fiction (Hannah Powell-Smith) along the way. Helen spoke about facilitating different levels of depth that work for a range of play styles in both Regency Solitaire and Shadowhand. She also talks about connecting with as many of the player’s senses as possible to build a game world; and how a limited plot scope and richly researched lore can help with effective writing. You can catch this panel at 5:00:00 (5 hours) into the video.

Shadowhand Dev Diary #9: RPG inspiration from an English castle

Friday, September 30th, 2016

Both Jake and I are very interested in history, and we like looking around ancient buildings and monuments. We’ve made a point of including elements of British history in our games, so we were open to inspiration for Shadowhand when we went to visit Dunster Castle in North Somerset, UK last summer.

There has been a castle on the site for over a thousand years – back in the early days supporters of Empress Matilda used it as a major stronghold against King Stephen in a civil war known as The Anarchy. So already this is a location that resounds with lore that any RPG fan would appreciate. Much of the castle still standing today was built or extended in the 17th and 18th centuries, making it ideal research fodder for our RPG card game, set in 1770.

Saddle up

The castle is extensive and we explored it all, but one area that we really loved and wanted to include in the game was the stables. A game with a highwaywoman set before motorised transport must feature horses. These stables, built shortly after (another) civil war in 1660, have horse stalls that are late 17th or early 18th century.

The light coming in from the old windows was very atmospheric, even though no horses are kept here now.

I knew that Shadowhand would have to come here at some point in her adventures, but perhaps by moonlight. Here’s the resulting level:

Every level needs to have a purpose. After battling her way across the Somerset Levels (Avalon Marsh in our game) Shadowhand gets some valuable information from the Ostler who works in the stables, looking after the horses.

Imagining our character travelling around a landscape loosely tied to real locations in South West England at a specific time in history helped to inform not just the story but also concrete details of the people she would meet, tools, weapons, and other story items that would be part of the game world.

Whips and guns
Being British, there are many items on display in stately homes and castles that we almost take for granted. Having game design in mind definitely makes us look more closely.

Weapons were presented in glass cases in a slightly more modern gun room or armoury.

We didn’t draw directly on images from Dunster, but we did end up including an armoury level with weapons on display in our game.

The format has changed slightly from a riding whip to a riding crop, but again, this historical item fed into game ideas that led to a whip being included as a weapon.

Living game design

We don’t do all our game design this way, of course we also do a lot of research from books and the internet. But visiting historical locations and museums in person definitely keeps it fresh and sometimes gives us original ideas. It’s also extremely valuable to take your own (copyright free) images for our artists to use as references.

The Shadowhand world, its story and characters definitely extend far beyond the scope of what will eventually be used in the game itself. We think the attention to detail and depth of research add something special, which players recognise and enjoy.

Shadowhand Dev Diary #7: Jewels and trinkets

Saturday, August 27th, 2016

Our RPG card game Shadowhand is set in the late 18th century. Then as now, jewellery was often symbolic, although tastes have changed in the last 250 years.

A lock of hair

Jewellery including woven hair from a loved one was very popular in the 18th century. In some cases these were memorial jewels with hair from someone who had died, but hair was not used exclusively in this way. Hair from a couple might be woven together, or sometimes a gift of hair jewellery was given with the giver’s initials included in the design, and a token of their hair inside.

Due to it’s unique properties, human hair can last hundreds or even thousands of years, which goes some way to explaining it’s use in jewellery as a lasting, sentimental material. In Shadowhand, this Heirloom Brooch is part of a deck of passive abilities, from which the player selects a mini-deck to suit their own playing strategy. It adds two zero cards to the draw pile, which gives a greater chance of getting a perfect score.

Secret compartment
Rings with a secret compartment are also known as “poison rings”. Rings in Shadowhand each give the player an extra “undo,” which they can use either to put right a mistake, or to get a sneaky look at the next card in the stock pile.

A sign of affection
Lady Cornelia receives the gift of an affection ring from her dear companion Mariah, as Mariah attempts to flee from a scandal and leaves Lady Cornelia behind. Mariah’s ring is set with garnets, which are symbolic of a quick return and separated love: In Greek mythology, Hades tricked Persephone into eating pomegranate seeds (the same colour as garnets) before she left him so that she would be compelled to return to him in the underworld for part of the year.

Eye see you
One of the most curious jewels of the Georgian era was the eye miniature. Admittedly this one is just a little ahead of it’s time since they became popular from the 1780s when the future George IV was known to own one. This part-portrait miniature was a secret gift for a lover, and was a private piece of jewellery.

In Shadowhand, the Eye Miniature power up confers a type of X-ray vision, which allows a player to plan ahead by seeing which card will be drawn next from the stock pile.