A pivotal milestone

Hello all, I had an odd moment last night and I wanted to share.  I reached the moment in the development for our point & click adventure game, Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars where I could see the finish line...albeit briefly:

Just three little words (well...two words and an acronym).  I had just wired up the three different endings and triggered the final (and temporary) dialogue call.  Then I played through the three different endings and IT WORKED.

Like...whoah, dude.

I realized that this has been a journey that started about five (!) years ago (a bit more if you count the initial short story idea that I had in 2003).  It was a little emotional/overwhelming/exciting/terrifying.

That's great!  So does that mean you're done?

Oh god!  OH GOD!!  No, not yet.  There's still a ton to do...but this is one of those *big* milestones in a project.

What's next then?

Alpha!!

What the F is Alpha?!

Good question!  Alpha basically means that the game is there.  All of the pieces and systems are in place, the full flow of the game is represented, and I can basically play the game from start to finish in a very rough fashion.

There are still placeholder/missing assets, some puzzles aren't finalized, cinematics are basically just text explanations or rough animatics, etc...Basically, all of the BIG stuff is done. Now it's about making it pretty.

Now...I am incredibly close to reaching Alpha.  All of the systems and scenes are there.  I basically need to do a huge consistency pass on the entire game to make sure everything is operating in a stable manner across the board, that all logic is in place to make sure that the game progresses in an expected manner, and that nothing critically breaks on me.  It's basically going to mean I will be playing the game even more than I already am.

Just in terms of visibility; the upcoming milestones for AA:THotSS (still the most ridiculous abbreviation ever) are as follows:

  • Hitting Alpha -- 1/31/2017!
  • Gameplay Trailer!
  • Setting up Steam Greenlight Page!
  • Finalize dialogue script!
  • Begin work on Cinematics!
  • Working with composer Chad Seiter on the musical score!
  • Finalize non-critical systems and puzzle design!

Sooooooo...still so much to do, but it seems as though we're getting closer and closer!  That's exciting!  I'm super pumped to be able to start sharing more progress with you all in the coming weeks/months.

Happy new year, everyone!

Winter Night Games: An Update

Wait...we haven't updated this page for almost A YEAR?!?! For shame, Quarles-Brothers...For shame.

--

The fact that we haven't updated this site shouldn't allude to the idea that things are going slowly or that we are resting on our laurels.  Quite the opposite!  We just tend to update our social media channels a bit more frequently than this page (so you should all follow us on Twitter and on Facebook).  We are making an effort to change that particular behavior as of RIGHT NOW!

OKAY!  Here's a quick update on all things WNG:

Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars - I (Zack) have been cranking away on systems, puzzle design, characters, animations, textures, 3d models, and everything else you might think of.  My friend Chad Seiter and I have been discussing what we are going to do with the musical score (Chad recently composed the score for ReCore...It's awesome) and we are geeking out about what we are going to do with the music for this game.

As a special treat, Chad has provided the isolated music track from our announce teaser from last year.  Here it is for your listening pleasure:

God, I love that theme.  Just wait.  He's got so many goodies waiting for you all.  :)

In terms of an all-up status for AA:HotSS (that's the most ridiculous abbreviation ever), we are getting *dangerously* close to a fully first playable game!  My goal is to get to that point by the new year and then spend 2017 polishing everything up, recording the music, and push forward with a hopeful release date in Q4 2017!  Now, it's always tricky to put a date on something that significant simply because this isn't my day job.  I don't always get a chance to sit down and work on this as much as I would like and real life can sometimes get in the way...but I'm trying to put this goal in front of myself, so you all can actually play this thing.

Arkhangel: The Great Nameless - Josh has been doing a ton of playtesting with AA:TGN (another amazing abbreviation) and made the trip to GenCon again this year!  We've been getting a ton of great feedback from all of these playtests and have been really encouraged by the warm reception that we get when people see the artwork, read the mythology, and play the game.  One thing that Josh has really been focusing on recently is making the rulebook very accessible to new players.  The thing about working on these games for so long is that we know them inside and out; so we need to make sure that everything makes perfect sense when someone sits down for the first time and doesn't get overwhelmed and/or frustrated.  I might try and con Josh into writing a full blog post about his adventures in writing the rulebook.

WNG - In terms of what we are up to as a company at large, both Josh and I have moved into new residences and have coordinated a lot more mythology/fiction writing over the last few months for both games (and for future project ideas).  We have been doing a lot of research when it comes to Kickstarter (stay tuned on that front for Arkhangel: The Great Nameless), and we just got an internal Perforce server setup.  It's like we are a real game developer!

Well...sort of.  Let's not go crazy.

BUT LOOK.  IT'S A BEAUTIFUL SERVER (well, it's a RAID modified desktop, but who's really counting):

Server of Dooooooooooom

OKAY.  That's it from me today.  Everyone have a great weekend.  Josh and I will try our damnedest to be better about updating this page!

Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars - an original point & click adventure

HotSS_Logo We are incredibly excited to announce our first point & click adventure game, Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars!

Teaser Trailer:

Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars Announce Trailer from Zachary Quarles on Vimeo.

About the Game:

Arkhangel: The House of the Seven Stars is a point & click adventure horror game told through the eyes of a family that has recently moved to an isolated town in the frozen lands to the north. Explore, research, uncover mysteries, solve puzzles, and interact with a large cast of characters in this rich and layered story.

Michael, Lily, and Gabrielle have recently moved to the frigid town of Haven under tragic circumstances. As they begin to rebuild their lives in this new home and meet the townsfolk of Haven, they quickly discover that not everything is what it appears to be. Michael struggles with dreams of dark waters and an unknown ancient evil resting beneath the cold waves. Are these simply dreams or are they a premonition of things to come?

Key Features:

  • Third-person 3D Point & Click-style adventure game
  • Play as two different characters throughout the game
  • Deep narrative with abundant lore to discover and absorb
  • Large cast of characters to speak and interact with
  • Cinematic musical score by Chad Seiter (chadseiter.com)
  • Direct tie-in to the tabletop game, Arkhangel: The Great Nameless - also by Winter Night Games (winternightgames.com)

Release Date:

TBD – Currently in production

Screenshots:

Below are some in-process screenshots taken from development builds

Arkhangel_ScreenShot_15 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_14 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_16 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_13 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_12 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_11 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_10 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_9 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_8 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_7 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_6 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_5 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_4 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_3 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_2 Arkhangel_ScreenShot_1

Z'Zhuul

At the Beginning of All Things there was Z'Zhuul.  The Ancient.  The Dark Terror.  The Great Nameless. Copyright © 2015 Winter Night Games LLC – Artist: Zachary Quarles

Once the supreme being of cosmic chaos, Z’Zhuul was imprisoned into a limbo-like dimension by Jehovah, Lilith, and the rest of The Excubiae in order to keep reality from shattering around us. Releasing Z’Zhuul back into any one of the greater realms would mean the end of that realm's reality. Not only would the realm be destroyed, but space & time would collapse and reform. Planets would disappear.  Stars would wink out of existence.  Memories would be erased. It would be as if our lives, our world, our universe, and time itself had never existed.

The religion of Z’Zhuul is a long and involved one but there are devout followers that have been collecting artifacts and information regarding the whereabouts of The Gates of The Ancient.  The Gates that open pathways to Z’Zhuul’s limbo dimension.  The Gates that connect all of our realms together.  Some of these Gates have been destroyed. Some have been opened.  Some are being protected. Some have yet to be discovered.

---

When I first started writing the short story that kicked all of this Winter Night business off, I realized I needed a centralized figure that the world would pivot around.  I was writing a story about loss and redemption.  It was a small tale about a family and of a community...but I needed something that slithered beneath the surface. Something greater.  Something darker and much more terrible than the main characters had ever conceived.  I kept coming back to the idea of this ancient religion and a supreme entity that a group of over-zealous followers worshipped and wanted to release.  I had always been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft, so the initial idea of Z'Zhuul (and the above piece of artwork) is my hat-tip to him, to Cthulhu, and to his writings that have been so influential to me throughout my life.

Z'Zhuul is an entity of pure chaos.  It's essentially a floating big-bang theory...It creates and destroys simply by existing.  Its appearance would never be the same twice.  There would certainly be similarities but that might be the only way that the human brain could actually process the terrible beauty that it was seeing.  If someone was unfortunate enough to actually see Z'Zhuul with their naked eyes, they might see a cluster of tentacles the size of Manhattan flying at them at one moment, and then a pile of eyeballs surrounded by undulating teeth of jagged obsidian the next.

Z'Zhuul is a playground for the imagination.

Since Josh and I are literally doing everything for the projects here at Winter Night Games, I thought it would also be fun to run through my process of how I did the above digital painting.  Now, it should be known that I do not classify myself as an artist.  I had aspirations of going to art school when I was younger, but life took me a different direction.  I have always enjoyed sketching, photography, puttering around in Photoshop, getting lost in 3d modeling, futzing with lighting, texture painting, etc...but it was never anything that I took incredibly seriously  When I started working on the Point & Click Adventure, I also started diving into Blender pretty deeply.  As I started going further down that rabbit hole, I started puttering around with allegorithmic's Substance Painter.  After I went down THAT Alice in Wonderland Path of Amazingness, I started experimenting with placing the models that I created in Blender and then textured in Substance Painter into Unity.  At that point, I started building "sets" that I would dress up and light and then compose different scenes.  After I got what I was looking for, I would output a high res render that I could edit further in Photoshop.

That's basically what the entire process was for the above All Will Pay piece.  I built all of the tentacles in Blender.  I unwrapped the UVs (very clumsily...I'm still trying to get better at that), imported it into Substance Painter, painted everything up all fancy like, brought that into Unity, built a set around it, lit it, added some cool effects/lighting, composed the scene, and then rendered out a high res screenshot.  I brought that into Photoshop to do final composite.  I also took a version of the screenshot and brought it into an iPad application called "Brushstroke".  I then took both screenshots, brought them BACK into Photoshop, took elements of each and did a final paint-over of the whole thing and called it a day.  Pretty cool stuff!  I enjoy working in 3d quite a bit and I've always had a decent eye for photography (thanks, Dad), so this seems to blend those two disciplines together really nicely.

Here's a quick breakdown of the major steps involved:

ZQ's weird art process

Whew.  This became a massive update.  ARE YOU STILL AWAKE??  Aw nuts.  You fell asleep.  :(

More to come...Stay tuned!

An Update about WNG's Point & Click Adventure!

So, it's been a little while since I've posted an update and thought I'd let everyone know that I wasn't MIA.  These last few months have been somewhat tempestuous.  As Josh posted awhile ago, we lost our Dad back in October and I've sort of buried myself in work in order to deal with that...whether that be my day job or with WNG; I've been plowing ahead with blinders on...just focusing on what's in front of me. What have I been focused on, you might ask?  Many, many things.

I've recently updated our Unity project over to the latest 4.6 codebase and have been overhauling our point & click UI interface to make our game a bit more "contemporary" when it comes to adventure games these days.  Originally, everything was based around a ray-cast from the mouse pointer that would basically just look for a "hotspot" within the world whenever the user would move the mouse around and would let you know if an interaction was available.  This was all fine and good, but I didn't really like the whole issue of "pixel hunting" that could plague some of the older Sierra On-Line point and clicks of the 90s.  I decided to switch the system over to be based on the player vicinity instead.  I created an invisible "sphere" around the player that basically "pings" the world around it to see what hotspots are available.  This means that you can explore the world and discover hotspots based off of the player location rather than simply passing your mouse around the screen to find things that the player may not be able to realistically see in the world.  It seems to be working pretty well.

In addition to that, I've been cranking out a lot of 3d model creation, geometry layout, texturing, character design, animation, lighting, and scripting.  Basically...everything under the sun.  I just finished a system that lets the player turn lights on in the world based off of items that they have in their inventory...so lighting candles, torches, fires in fireplaces, lanterns, etc...is now possible.  It's allowing for some pretty atmospheric/moody exploration.

Besides all of that, I also created a 3d avatar for our Dad in the game.  During our last visit, he and I sat down and wrote some lines of dialogue and I recorded his voice.  Now, we might not be able to afford a full VO budget for this project, but I do have several lines of dialogue that are very much "Dad" that I will be holding dear for the rest of my life.  If we're able to get budget together, I'd love to be able to let you all hear his smart-ass self and sort of "immortalize" him in my own way.

In the meantime, here's a screengrab of his 3d avatar: James

I guess that means I just posted the first screenshot from our first game.  It's appropriate that it's of our father.   :)

Love you, Dad!