All posts by mark

FRUSTRATION!!! (Having your game idea stolen…)

NOTE: Im NOT SAYING ANYONE HERE NICKED ANYTHING… JUST A FIGURE OF SPEECH…
One of the annoying things about trying to develop games on your own and with a day job, is that it takes an unbelievably long time. I get about an hour an evening and less at weekends, and thats shared with my Modular Synth building obsession.
Over the course of the 4 years Ive been doing this, I have yet to release one game (whatever “release” is gonna mean if I actually finish one) Ive never been interested in the tiny “retro” style games that are churned out for mobile or on “Game Jams”. Im always for the BIG IDEAS, and the COMPLEX STORIES.
So when my game “Aunty- A metaphysical Mystery” failed to get funding (twice) from the film fund, and then a game, seemingly with the same idea was anounced, and was bing heralded as “the next big thing” and had millions positively flung at it… Well “sour Grapes” comes to mind.
Of course Im not suggesting for one moment that “Among the Sleep“was a nicked idea from me, my god no… And in the end of course, it turned out to be nothing like Aunty was ever going to be…
However, the annoyance was enough that I dumped the idea, for the moment, I will probably return to it when I have finished T.R.U.T.H.
But there, now I have been working on THAT NEW GAME now for two years, finally there comes along ANOTHER bunch of things that could be called similar! Again from “proper” Norwegian companies, who will no doubt finish their games and get on with their next one, way before Im done with mine.

So baring in mind that my game is…

Set in a remote Norwegian Valley and concerns mysterious strange activities that could be taken from Norsk folk lore, religion, superstitions and experimental science. A FIRST PERSON fragmented mystery, where the goal is to find out for yourself what you think is going on, but never ultimately really understand due to conflicting information and clues, and points of view… Including, A Strange old lady and her missing mentally challenged son, Biblical Prophecies, A secret scientific laboratory, and underground caves and tunnels, a newcomer to the village, where you get the feeling you are always being watched?

… AND
In an attempt to NOT get all uppity and pissed of, I instead will use this post to BIG UP my competitors and let them know that far from being annoyed I AM TOTALLY PROUD AND VERY IMPRESSED That Norway has so many cool and exiting games being made, (oh and if you wanna give a 51 year old wannabe a job.. then…)

I do wonder if this “spate” is infact a bit of a reflection of some of the criteria that the NFI use when dealing out money to projects, because during my failed attempt at getting anything from them for Aunty, I do remember a mention of Norwegian Culture and language bing favoured.

The first is “Through the Woods” from Antagonist Games

Through the Woods is a third-person psychological horror game set in a forest on the western shore of Norway about a mother and her missing son. Through dynamic narration, you play the mother’s re-telling of the events surrounding her son’s disappearance in a setting heavily influenced by Norse mythology and Norwegian folk tales.

This looks very cool, quite dark and scary, seems to be a bit more “supernatural” and possibly involving fighting monsters. I met one of the guys from Antagonist, he was very nice about what he had seen of TRUTH, and told me a few home truths about the cash situation they are developing under..
Ha! Kids! How they can live on almost nothing is very endearing..

The next game is from the new darlings of Norway Red Thread Games, who came into the scene with a blast for the latest instalment of The Longest Journey, Dreamfall Chapters. I havent played that one, I didnt like the originals, but their new piece is Draugen And is…

Draugen is a first-person psychological horror adventure, set amongst the deep fjords and towering mountains of Norway’s awe-inspiring west coast.
The game is a dark and disturbing journey into the pitch black heart of Norwegian national romanticism, as seen through the eyes of an American nature photographer, botanist and entomologist.
Inspired by Scandinavian literature, legends and fairytales, along with Norse mythology and the Icelandic sagas, Draugen is set in the early 1920s and delves into the deepest, darkest secrets of a remote fishing community where every single soul has mysteriously vanished.
As the player explores the tiny settlement, gathering clues and memories, and unearthing the truth behind a terrible tragedy, they will learn more about the history of the village and its inhabitants. And they will come to see that behind even the most innocent of facades lurks the potential for malice.

OK great… again looks fantastic, and remember these are the big boys, as they are all ex Funcom dudes, that know what they are doing, bastards! Heres the clip…

But really.. Norway.. mysteries… missing people… ghosts and legends… sigh…
I better pull my finger out…

Art College ramblings digressions and what not

I just read this interesting article about the Art College in Brighton during the 60’s
Brighton College of Art in the 60’s
And it reminded me alot of my experience at Portsmouth College of Art and then the Fine Art Dept of Portsmouth Polytechnic. I thought it would be nice to write down a few of my memories.

Arrival
I remember that I was literally the first interviewee in a bunch for my place at Portsmouth College of Art. I was interviewed by Mark Harrington, who was to be one of my first year, foundation lecturers. I still remember him saying ” Well this is good stuff, less of the Roger Dean shit and you´ll be fine… welcome!” And that was it! After a nerve wracking 5 minutes where he just perused my folder of school Art class stuff, I was in!
I relaxed a little at school for the remainder of the year, maybe a little too much?
I arrived, a long haired hippy type, with patched up jumpers and holy (as in with holes) jeans, to be confronted with a bunch of the scariest and most way out looking punks and goths and new romantics. It took a year before my hair became black, and it has stayed dyed ever since… Im 51 now! It was frightening, but totally inspiring! I had NO IDEA (I still dont) what “kind” of Art I should do, and the foundation year was designed for me to find out. A bit of everything, drawing, painting nudes, graphics, printing, plastic, metalwork and photography. I LOVED IT! The only hinderance for me at the time was that I was “commuting” from Petersfield everyday.
By the second year I had moved to Pompey and really took advantage of life as an Art Student. Going to shows, staying till we were thrown out of the video suite or darkrooms (look them up you youngsters).
Im not sure how much talent I ever had (or have actually) but I must say that at Portsmouth I did get the interest to try many things, and that has stayed with me to this day. Not really a good thing really, but maybe. I don’t think Ive ever become really outstanding at anything really, technology always seems to whizz past before I really feel I have done all.. For fuck sake I was experimenting with hand dying film, when video came in, I was faffing with making quicktime VR circular poems, when I should have learned programming… Ja.. Programming thats the one thing I really regret never to have mastered. I mean I cant play guitar, but Ive toured the world in a famous band, I don’t know much about film, but Ive probably directed more actors than anyone in Norway… I don’t understand electronics but I have a pretty huge modular synth that I soldered myself… see a pattern here?
Anyway… I followed a girlfriend into a jewellery course, and loved it… but gave it up after a year, it just wasn’t… arty enough… silly really… I made some lovely rings, by a technique known as fusing, where you don’t really use solder, you just wait till the silver melts, and JUST before it goes BLOB into a runny mess you pull away… twas cool as hell. and to be honest.. I wish I still did that. If I hadn’t twatted about with video feedback, and got hooked on experimental video I would never have had to sit through 6 hour meetings about HSE or HR or…fucking CSR. I wouldn’t know what a company design profile was and I wouldn’t give two hoots about visions and values…
Scratch
Where was I? Video… yep lots of re-filming off screens, recording buzzing noises, burying TVs in the beach, draping apartments with white sheets and, projecting on houses. Then zippady doo dah, over I pop to the Polytechnic and join the real arty mob in the…
Fine Art department
“Your stuff is too… er slick… Mark”
they wailed…
“It must be all that time doing graphics…!”
while at the same time handing rolls of film to students who came back with black totally underexposed films (“I filmed myself masterbating at four in the morning… I left the lens cap on as a statement about pornography”)
I was stuck between two poles, I was all design-y and pop video-y and yet when I was at the Art College it was all craft, and technique…and there they said I was too weird, didnt stick to the brief…too mess… ahh well…
But it was OK at the Poly, I made a fun film, with lots of holes punched in it, I filmed some melodramatic goths poncing about on a freezing winter West Wittering, and set it all to backwards distorted guitars and techno beats. Ace! Also met James my on and off collaborator for… well… we still dabble now…
Then it was over..
I was out…
The World
not so much as a ” Well there this grant…”
or
“Heres some place that might show you films if you sent them”
or
“Have you thought about pop videos”
oh no.
It was… “Dole Office is down there on the left… let us know when you have a retrospective of your earlier work at Aspex Gallery in Southsea, and we´ll come and drink your wine…”
Bastards…
So it was Bread Pudding and coffee in a cafe in Albert Rd for 2 years discussing “scripts” with James… occasionally rehearsing with this new band I got asked to join… a one off trip to Thailand on a documentary film, taught a bit in a video course of my own devising,
and then…
well..
good old John Peel.. may he rest in peace…

SLIT SCAN (Back in vogue?)

I have always been fascinated by the slitscan technique, ever since I found out that its how they did the psychedelic bits in 2001. Douglas Trunbull had some “art” behind a slit in in a darkened room, then opened the lense and while it was open, tracked the camera towards the slit, so that the slit moved from center of the frame to the edge. Then closed the shutter.
Then he moved the art behind the slit a tiny bit, and repeated.
936full-2001-a-space-odyssey-screenshot
I did my own version in my Black and White film “humonculas”, unfortunately on 16mm, and therfore never seen on the small screen! (And no money to have it transferred neither) So none of my wide screen spectactulars have ever seen the light of day…One of these days Ill pay for Stwawberry Wast, Homonlulous and Terpsichore to be transfered.. but I digress)
In Hompnculous I did little more than use a zoom lense frame by frame, on a darkly lit “Life Machine”, that had a few highlights, and produces a kind of jerky and blury version.. Not helped by the fact that I developed and hand printed the film myself, in my own Russian dev tank, and home made contact printer (or old Bolex with a couple of cuts sawed in).
Anyway.. I downloaded as many “slit scan” camera I could get (for free) and tried them out… some with interesting results…

Simon Heartfield uses Electricity in mix

My old mate Simon is still making mixes, I remember when he was my lodger, and was just starting out on the DJing… oh yes I remember that…

A few more TRUTH pics

Just a post to show a few more things from the game.
Heres a overview of the Church (based on Nesodden, where I live) showing some rain, and the crow code. They hover around the graveyard, occasionally sitting on graves, but if you walk past, they all fly off… except one!
_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone-11

And heres a pic showing the Aunt in her rocking chair, so now she rocks, looks about, and twiddles her fingers.. unfortunately her middle finger twiddle a bit too much… i might fix it.. or not…
Unfortunately I thought I had some kind of accessable blendshape on her face, like I do on the scary girl, but I dont, so I dont know how she will speak… Im considering her having a fag in her mouth the whole time… would that be cheating? A mumbling smoking Aunt.. argh!
_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone

Mark Francombe albums now playable in the car!

Covers for sale
The previous decades CDs will not be sold in the physical dimension anymore, but you may continue to purchase ethereal versions via the International Web of woe.
If you wished to bring again the audio back from the dark side and into the real world, you can, by burning your own copy and wrapping it in real, warm, and strong cardboard, still ever so slightly smelling of ink.
Or, in other words.. I have hundreds of covers left… want one? Either think of it as buying a cover, with a free download album thrown in, Or as a download album where you get sent a cover…
Here are the albums that now offer this.




New Album! Sme Sngs

sme_sngs
Before the debut album by Electricity comes out I wanted to clear out the hard drive of some dust and cam across a few tracks that had never been put anywhere. Most are unique, most are old, but all of them were still pretty good.
Anyway.. seeing as you are here you can listen for free, but please go to bandcamp and buy it… hell you can buy some other stuff.. up to NINE albums of weird from your delectation there now…

Chickens and Crows!!!

Now my game has chickens and crows! The chicken AI is nearly working, needs a little tweaking when they meet the fence, for some reason they cast their rays thru the geometry’s holes even though there is in fact a hidden collider… I thought it should hit that… but they do turn and walk away after a bit…_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone-7
_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone-6

Then the Crows: IM using Bird Flock for this, but with Play Maker addition so that they fly off when you walk into the middle of them and then all start landing again when you leave…
_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone-8

_MAIN.unity - TRUTH_UNITY - PC, Mac & Linux Standalone-9

Modular Madness

For a few months now I have been soldering and building like crazy to add to my modular synth. It all started when my friend David sent me links to some module DIY site, and I ordered a few. I have been less interested in buying finished modules for a while due to the price, but suddenly, I found out that there are literally THOUSANDS of kit manufacturers out there, since I last built stuff (the Blacet modules).
And its not really all that expensive. most kits come with a faceplate an a PCB and any interesting chips, but you have to get all the other components yourself. Of course you dont just buy 1x 100k resistor you buy 50, and soon you have a little repository of components so you dont have to even order that much.

Somewhere in the dark forest…

Somewhere in the dark forest lives a little old lady, she never leaves her old wooden cottage, but someone brings her food. She doesn’t know who, but she does know other things. She might tell you some secrets, if you are nice to her.
Unity
Why is all her stuff outside?
Because Im in the process of putting it inside of course! Ive used a few things from Asset Store to furnish her house, as per usual, everything is a placeholder, until Im so used to seeing it there that it becomes the thing.

PS:Anyone got a little old lady model?
Actually Im starting to make all the characters in FUSE now. I don’t like the payment model that Mixamo does, almost like a free to play game.. Ohhh Its FREE.. now pay for this… now this… now this… Like Ryan Air! However the Substance method of coloring the clothing makes for millions of options, Im probablty going to have to make a custom Vicar outfit, but thats about it…
But hopefully I can get away with using the free rigging they offer, then use my own animations. Who needs generic animations anyway? we all need to be able to make specific stuff.

Roland D2 (Vintage) Review

I saw this box for sale cheap a few months ago and snapped it up. I had been looking for some kind of master clock sequencer, actually to replace my Mobius CV sequencer. Nothing wrong with that, except its only 1 voice, and take up 3 U. Would have like a Sequentix Circlon.. but.. way out of my price range Im afraid!

The Roland D2 came out over 10 years ago, and almost immediately died. I suspect because of it biggest flaw.
Its orange… ORANGE I TELL YA! What were they thinking?
d2
It being a low end Roland, they have gone with an annoying segment display, and therefore you have to get used to the fact that h is 4 and s is 5 etc.. and everything is shortened to 3 letters so ntr means metronome, and Ocr is Octave Range.

But.. the good side… its sounds great! masses of patches (256 user) and many many sounds, haven’t counted but maybe 1024?
Most (ok all) of the pre made patterns are horrible, as this is definitely meant as a dance oriented machine, and (again, being Roland) you must scroll thru them to get to the user editable patches… so you end up hearing the 1st, horrible patch many time.. YIKES!
Plus it has a Pre conceieved but useful External Midi config. In that the 7 tracks all send out midi on midi channels 1-7, and the rhythm track send out on channel 10 (as per the GM standard) Per track you can use sound from the internal G2 voice, the External sound module or both! The only stupid thing is that in order to program a part on an external sound module, you wil hear the internal sound, too WHILE you play. On playback, if you have the internal sound muted only the external will sound. This if obviously a bug.

Programming is a tad funky, they expect you to input notes by using the “D-field”, which is their attempt at a kaos pad type controller. Its not however, no feel at all and very unresponsive, often doesn’t trigger at all. However you can plug in a midi keyboard and suddenly it all becomes easy.

You have 2 ways, Real time and Step Time.
Realtime works for me, as you can play in from your external keyboard and delete by pressing the erase combo when you want to remove mistakes. Its fine.. There is quantise that you can apply on the way in, forcing your playing to 8th 16 32s etc.. or apply afterwards… Careful though.. NO UNDO!!!
The problem with this method is that its impossible to edit one note, say you hit a G instead of an F. Only way I have found is to delete that one note and try to drop it in again.
Step recording however, is a right old palaver, but probably no worse than most drum-machines. You know, you scan to the beat you want to add, press a button to audition the note you will add, change it till its correct and hit enter… more to new location for next note. Slow, but precise. The good thing is that all notes are shown on the LED display, so you can go back and edit them after they have been edited. No such luck with the notes you added via Real Time mode… no way to see them buggers.
So its strange that the 2 input methods are not really mix and match…

However, its in performance that this thing has so many amazing options. Things Ive never even thought of, and have NEVER seen on other sequencers, hardware OR software.
On the D2 you can: Drop the track to half speed or up to double speed. Instantly, you can drop the pitch of all instruments an octave, or up an octave, you can play it backwards.. Did you hear that? You can instantly mute all parts apart from the bass drum and bass instrument, You can use the D field to remove notes from a track, Just randomly… You can perform improv snare rolls, with kinda good control, and apply 3 levels of effects. Delay, Reverb and a multi effect (that is mostly distortion and modulation effects, but also has a cool reverse reverb and some ok filters.. These effects can be tweaked live,

There are some other things that I haven’t really gotten to the bottom of yet, more DJ style things, particularly the so called and DJ named “MEGAMIX” function.. Cant see myself using this, but still. Its where you can grab a track from other patterns and try them on the current pattern. I guess if you have lots of variations, you can switch between them. But I haven’t tried this yet.

I am using it to send clock to my analog sequencers (the Doepfer and the Mobius) Im using to sequence my ancient Proteus Orchestral and and my Korg MS2000. My parts on the upcoming Electricity Album are all being done from this.
Incidentally… We have a special PRE-ORDER offer on the new Album.
The album is going to be called PLANT, and as such we have an album on Bandcamp called SEED: This is Pre-mixes and experiments or the Plant album, and Purchase of this album will entitle you to the Plant Album absolutely free, when it is released on CD. (A vinyl version is also in the pipeline, but maybe subjected to a different deal for now)
Head over and get it from https://electricityplant.bandcamp.com/