Monday, 30 June 2014


(Picture of the seaside town of Whitby, in North Yorkshire)

As stated in my previous post, I have chosen to create something in CryEngine based on the Whitby asset pack provided by The British Library.  Ideally I would like to visit the town to conduct some primary research of my own; however I don't have the funds available to make this possible.  As a result I have been conducting extensive research online to make up for it.

All of the research had to be quite specific to my needs to make sure I didn't spend too much time researching rather than actually making the final piece.  This means that future blog entries will contain some of the research related to it's topic, making this entry a general overview.  My sources will include:

  • The library asset packs.
  • Photos taken during the visit to The British Library.
  • Online searches for types of stone and vegetation in the area.
  • Online image searches for reference materials.
  • Google Maps and Street View to aid with world scale and to act as a substitute for visiting the town.
  • Other source materials (e.g. The book, Bram Stoker's Dracula).

Saturday, 28 June 2014

The Maps

So the first thing I needed to do was to pick which set of resources I wanted to work with.  The British Library provided us with some wonderful maps that made it very difficult to decide between them.  The library trip, which I thought would help my decision, actually made it harder because it turned out to be quite inspirational.  I was able to eliminate The Masque of the Red Death while I was at the library but the other two themes had plenty of arguments for picking one over the other.

So as I mentioned in my previous post, there were a selection of asset packs that we could download, which we needed to use as our inspiration; one for Fonthill Abbey, one for The Masque of the Red Death and one for Whitby.  I originally downloaded all three (together with the sounds that have been made available) so I could decide which to use.

I have come to a decision as to which one I'll be working with and the choice I've made is Whitby (quite obvious given the name of this blog).  As you may have guessed from the previous post, I'm looking to create something that includes gameplay, as games development is my chosen field.  Though Fonthill Abbey would have given me a better opportunity to concentrate on modelling a small area in great detail, the restriction in size made designing fun or interesting game elements very difficult.  Whitby on the other hand, despite being a whole town, will provide me with a better opportunity to re-use art assets more often, thus reducing the workload and subsequently allowing me to make something in the short time I have left.

Another inspiration was this video by The British Library that provided information about Whitby and some of the aspects they might like to see in one of the entries.  I particularly like the idea of Bram Stoker's Dracula, given the horror theme of this year's competition.

The British Library Visit

(Gothic architecture example across the road from The British Library)

On 2nd April The British Library hosted a workshop for the Off the Map participants so that we could view the source materials, some of which we had been able to download from the competition page previously.

The first section was a set of presentations by the library and GameCity, about the competition and the forthcoming 'Terror and Wonder: the Gothic Imagination' exhibition.  We were then able to ask questions based on the information to get a better idea of what we are required to do.  There is no set brief or direction that we're expected to take our creations in, only that they are clearly inspired by and relatable to the source material.

Afterwards we were able to view the maps themselves, as well as some supporting pieces from the library's archives.  Seeing the actual artifacts was quite inspirational and started giving me some ideas for each of the themes.  I took lots of photos of everything, as I hadn't yet decided which of the themes to choose.  The decision would go to whichever of my concepts I liked the most after I'd had time to think about them.

The Whitby materials had additional maps of Transylvania, due to the town's part in Bram Stoker's Dracula.  This increased the scope for which a full game could be made using multiple locations, or even try to be a bit different and set the entire thing in Transylvania.

(Map example of Transylvania)

I was quite fond of the idea of creating a virtual Whitby on the hill up towards the abbey, which gave me more ideas for a Dracula based hide & seek game, where players would be chasing the shadow of a beast.  A particular map I liked showed a panoramic view of the Whitby coastline together with images of important landmarks (see below).

(Panoramic style map of Whitby's coastline)

(Detail drawing from the panoramic map)

The Masque of the Red Death was the next set of resources I looked at, which were probably the most horror orientated assets on show.  When I looked through the asset pack online beforehand, I saw some great potential, especially with how strong (sometimes abstract) some of imagery was.  I also believed that this may be the hardest to create a game with, given the potential number of characters required, as well as the specific structure and length of the story itself.

(One of my favourite images on show for Masque of the Red Death)

Given that I have less time than most I decided against working on The Masque of the Red Death quite quickly, as all of the ideas I had for it would have taken too long for one person to do.

The last set of artifacts I looked at were for Fonthill Abbey.  I really wanted to have a shot at this one as there are a number of things the final creation could become.  It could be a portfolio piece to show off art assets (which would allow me to dedicate my time to 3D modelling and texturing, something I have not yet had a chance to do outside of my team managing and engine work during university projects).  It could be a recreation of the building and / or the surrounding grounds.  It could potentially be a number of different game types including horror, puzzle or exploratory.

(Map of the area around Fonthill Abbey)

My initial idea for a game for Fonthill Abbey was an ambitious one that would definitely require a team to complete, but I liked it so much that I held on to the idea for a while.  Without going into too much detail, players would explore the building and come across a creature that would chase them, breaking through doors etc.  The game would inevitably end with the destruction of the building.

Of the materials on show, my favourite was a book called 'The Delineations of Fonthill and its Abbey'.  Anyone wanting to recreate  the building could do so with an immense amount of detail because of the descriptions given in this book.  I found myself wanting to take photos of every page just so I be as accurate as possible.  At this point I had an idea of maybe picking an area within the abbey to concentrate on, making it possible for a single person to realistically create a finished playable piece.

 (Colourful interior view of St. Michael's Gallery in Fonthill Abbey)

(Decoration designs used on the ceilings of the building)

After the session I took the time to look at another exhibition where they were displaying the Magna Carta.  I thoroughly enjoyed this visit, it was well worth the journey to London to see it (all the way from Newport in Wales).  The next entry will be about the map I have chosen.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Off the Map 2014

This is the development blog for my entry into this year's Off the Map competition run collaboratively by GameCity, The British Library and Crytek, the theme of which is Gothic Horror.  Though the competition started much earlier in the year and many teams are working on the finishing touches to their creations, I only started working on this three days ago (7th June) due to other commitments.

I entered last year's competition as the team leader for Faery Fire on the Mystical Wings project (runners up).  I'm entering again because it was a wonderful experience and I'm very interested in this year's chosen theme.

Rather than just use my name for the entry, I've decided to use KaosKitsune Productions as a team name.  This is in case there are any additions to the team roster at a future point.  You can also visit the CryDev project page, which will be updated with news, images and videos as I produce work.