Announcing The Last Voyage Of The Orlova

Today I’d like you to meet my next game, The Last Voyage Of The Orlova.

Orlova, for short, is a 2D sidescrolling exploration game about an Irish lighthouse keeper that comes across the ghost ship Lyubov Orlova. The MV Lyubov Orlova is a real (decommissioned) cruiseship that was lost in a storm in 2013, when it was being towed to a scrap yard. Since then, nobody has succesfully rediscovered the ship. In 2014 its radio blipped off the coast of the UK/Ireland, and later disappeared again. This game is an exploration of what could have happened if someone on the coast encountered the ship during that time.

In the game you control the lighthouse keeper as he discovers the ship off the coast of his island, and goes to explore it. Ultimately, he wants to get the ship away from the coast and from the shipping lanes he oversees with his lighthouse. Armed with a map and an axe, you can walk up and down all the decks of the ship in search of clues about the history of this ship. On the way you will encounter obstacles that need to be overcome, such as barricades to be chopped down, flooded compartments, and droves of rats blocking your progress.

The game will come out for PC/Mac/Linux somewhere this year. More info coming soon.

From the vault: The Majestic Conspiracy

One morning in 2004 or so, I got up and decided I wanted to make a video game.

I was about 15 or 16, I had just finished Broken Sword, and went in search of a program that could let me make an adventure game myself. I tried a few different ones, and eventually settled on Adventure Game Studio. With it I started my first game, based on a 44-page comic I had drawn the years before. It was called The Majestic Conspiracy.

It even had a dvd case sleeve ready to go.

For the next ten years I worked on it off and on, through several iterations of the script and the art style, through multiple versions of AGS, four years of game design college and an internship. It was the classic too-ambitious-to-finish first project. So today I thought I’d write about it, to honor its demise.

TMC was a celebration of all the 90s cop stories I loved – Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Rush Hour, Turner & Hooch, 48 hrs, Max Payne, and even some special agent fiction like Mission Impossible and Metal Gear Solid. The protagonist was the default wavy-haired, leather-jacketed badass detective, with the double-crossing partner and the gorgeous female colleague. It told of a grand conspiracy by a shadow organisation, led by a white-haired man with a scar over his eye, trying to take over New York. Why and how exactly changed many times over the years. It was basically every trope ever.

Cutscenes based on the original comic, an idea borrowed from Max Payne

an early dialogue tree in-engine

The big bad was based on Majestic 12, a secret government agency I had learned about in Deus Ex. After I was working on it for a while I saw that there was another game about a shadowy organisation called Majestic. I cursed a little under my breath. But back then I wasn’t too serious in thinking about marketing and things like that. The game was going to be free anyway, so I kept going. I was mainly making it for myself.

old and new versions of the three main characters

When I started out, I used a mix of photo paintovers for the backgrounds with pixel art characters at a resolution of 640×480. Over the years I started to understand how spaces and geometry worked and so the art became more and more hand-crafted. When a new version of AGS came out that supported widescreen I decided to completely change the look to my signature comic-like style I had grown into by then. It definitely looked better, but by that time I was almost graduated and I had so much other stuff to do. There was no way I was going to rebuild an entire full-length adventure game AGAIN. And so the folder has been collecting dust in my dropbox ever since.

all those walkcycles...

Maybe someday I will revisit this universe, see how things are going with Adam, Jennifer and Frank.

old and new versions of Adam and Frank's office

The evolution of the NYPD bullpen

lights off, lights on

But as big failed projects usually go, I learned a lot from it. About puzzle design, compositioning, game assets and resolution, writing, dialogue trees, and mostly about programming. When I started I knew nothing of game development or coding in C#. By the end I was writing my own editor extentions, and pushing the boundaries of the engine with my graduation project. Even today that knowledge enables me to make the games I want to make in Unity.

So whatever you’re working on, if it doesn’t pan out, don’t fret; you probably learned something that will make your next game much better.

You can still visit the old TMC website here, including a handful of screenshots from its pixel art days.

Week 49

This is a weekly recap of the goings-on in my professional life – to keep track of what I’m doing and to give you a peek at what it’s like being an independent creative.

Amidst calling plumbers and garages and landlords, I returned to porting my Fawlty Towers game to Unity. An update in the Adventure Creator package made it much easier to work with the built-in Unity 2D stuff – especially the Polygonal navmesh feature, which allows me to map out where the characters can walk by drawing a shape, a galactic improvement over using a bunch of rectangular to map out the area.

Navmesh rectangles vs a polygonal navmesh:

The sensible thing to do would be perhaps to work more on Black Feather Forest (which I did do some GUI design for), but seeing the Monty Python Ministry of Silly Walks game appear in the App Store, with narration by John Cleese (meaning he condones it) made me hopeful he might look kindly upon my Fawlty Towers game aswell, so I felt the breeze of my attention go in that direction presently. Also because the scope of that game is so compact that it could realistically be finished in a sprint or two.

I also completed Wolfenstein The New Order which is rad.