Interviews: Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting Developer Daniel Lee Peach
Karla Munger sits down with developer of Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting Daniel Lee Peach as they discuss the game, favorite films and inspirations.
An interview with Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting developer Daniel Lee Peach
First, let me say that Just Adventure appreciates your taking time to talk to us about your new game, Corrosion: Cold Winter Waiting.
You're welcome. :-)
Would you please tell us a little about yourself and Viperante?
Well, single English male, 33 (almost), GSOH, likes walks in the park, lunch in country pubs, and horror films in that order. WLTM....oh right, not a dating profile, gotcha! ;-)
Seriously now, I'm from North Yokshire in England. I'm 32. I have a degree in Electronic Imaging and Media Communications. I love to write, watch films, read books, and watch telly. And my favourite food is spaghetti or lasagne, with garlic bread. Mmmmmm garlic bread. :-)
Viperante is just a name I came up with to give to my game creations. I work mostly alone, but do have help with the audio, since I've not yet learned how to do that myself. :-)
What made you decide to become an independent developer? Did any indie developer(s) in particular influence that decision?
Well, I've always loved to write, ever since I finished reading my first Famous Five book all those many many years ago. And I actually wrote my own children's adventure book when I was about 12 or 13, and attempted to get it published. Obviously I didn't succeed, but I did get some nice comments from publishers at the time, which motivated me to continue writing. I never submitted anything else to a publisher, but that was because I never actually finished anything else. I was too impatient. Whenever I had a new idea I just had to start writing about it. So, somewhere lying about, I've got about 5 or so novels in various stages of completion and quality. :-)
With regards to the game developing, I've always loved adventures, and had made a couple at university for certain assignments, but I didn't get into it seriously until I discovered Dark Fall, and learnt that Jonathan Boakes had made this game practically by himself, and had published it and sold it himself as well. I then discovered several other people were doing the very same thing, and I thought to myself, "Hmmm, it seems like it's actually possible to make a game, and sell it, and make some money from it. Could I do this? Could I? It's possible isn't it? Well, isn't it? Why y es it is, Daniel. Perhaps thou shouldst give it a wee go then hmmm?" Of course those were not my exact words to myself, but you get the idea. ;-)
Writing novels has always been my main ambition I think, but when I got into game-making, it was before the Kindle and the eBook revolution, so self-publishing novels, or so-called vanity publishing of novels, wasn't really a viable option at the time. But it was clear that you could self-publish a game, and people would definitely play it. And so since I really wanted to get some stories out there, and since I loved adventure games, I thought game-making could be for me, as I wouldn't have to worry about the whole publishing thing, because...I could self-publish. WOW!!! :-) It didn't start with Corrosion though -- there were many many stories and attempts at games before I decided to learn how to do everything myself. And of course, a publisher liked the game anyway, so I didn't even have to self-publish in the end, which is a shame as I was looking forward to strolling down to the local post office, with my arms full of envelopes. Maybe next time eh? ;-)
Have you played many adventure games? If so, which ones are your favorites? Did any of them inspire you to develop Corrosion?
I absolutely love adventure games, and have done since I played Dizzy on the ZX Spectrum. In my mind, Dizzy was the first adventure-like game that I ever played since you had total freedom to explore Dizzy's world, pick up objects, use them on other objects, and talk to characters. There was nothing trying to eat you or beat you up, you didn't have to run along jumping onto platforms, and you didn't have to shoot anything. You were just left alone to do what you wanted, and progressing through the game was entirely dependent on you and what you wanted to do. This is what I loved about adventures then, and it's still what I love about them today.
After Dizzy on the Speccy, I obtained a Commodore Amiga 600, and progressed to Monkey Island and several other games available at the time such as Hook, Operation Stealth and KGB.
Then....I got my first trusty PC, and would spend many hours in my local game store deciding between Tex Murphy, Ripper, or The Black Dahlia -- in the end I got them all -- well, I had to didn't I really? Would have been criminal not to. :-)
And now, here we are today, and I have a stack of adventures just waiting to be played. :-)
As to my favourites, well The Black Mirror is a particular favourite of mine, and contrary to popular opinion, I love Samuel's voice -- fits the character perfectly. Syberia is another favourite because I love the locations, and I find the whole idea of travelling long distances on a train quite fascinating -- something to do in the future methinks. And of course I love Dark Fall and Scratches, because they're creepy and spooky and isolated and paranormal -- all things I like.
I wouldn't say these games inspired me to make Corrosion exactly, but they all had a hand in inspiring me generally. The Black Mirror, for instance, inspired me because when I first found the Wintermute engine and had played around with it for a bit, I realised that The Black Mirror could easily have been made with Wintermute -- this was the first time I really realised I could make a game by myself -- it was the first time I realised I might just have what it takes, technically -- I just needed to be able to make graphics, which was the next thing to learn. :-) Both Dark Fall and Scratches inspired me because they were both top quality games, made by just a few people -- they really proved what was possible if you had the will, the ambition, the drive, and were not quite sane. ;-)
Do you enjoy other media, such as books or movies? Have these influenced you as well? Do you have any favorites?
I love anything creative that involves stories and characters, so I love books, TV shows, and movies. I'd say everything has influenced me in some respects, as I've been reading books and watching TV and films since I was a child, so once you discover what your creative appetites are, it's hard for those things not to influence and inform your own creativity in some way.
My favourite books have to be the Famous Five, The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boys overall, simply because these are the books that got me into reading, and which made me want to create stories and characters myself. These days I read a lot of crime novels Simon Kernick, Karin Slaughter, and a British writer called Kate Ellis who does a series of crime/archeology books AND a series of detective novels that are set in a town that's supposed to be York, which is in Yorkshire, where I am from (YAY!!!) -- they also have a supernatural element to them, which is very subtle, but gives them an interesting edge.
My favourite film of all time is The Big Lebowski -- I mean, come on, who doesn't love The Dude? The Dude abides. I reckon The Dude would love adventure games. If they were about bowling. :-) This film has an awesome mix of things -- drama, comedy, weirdness, randomness -- to me, it's just one of those films I can watch over and over again forever. :-)
Another favourite is Ed Wood -- poor Ed -- he tried so hard -- and he got stuff done -- maybe it wasn't brilliant stuff, but he still got it done -- this deserves a certain amount of respect and should serve as an inspiration to all aspiring creative people, I think -- your work doesn't have to be liked by everybody, and if you worry about that too much, you'll never get anything done -- as long as you're having fun, and doing what you want to do -- that's what's important.
Shawshank Redemption would be another favourite -- everyone loves Shawshank -- I'm not sure exactly why -- its just got something -- and a great ending of course, which I won't spoil for those who have yet to see it (come on guys, get a move on, its only been out since 1994, I think -- geeez!!!). Errr, oh yeah, You've Got Mail -- really love this film -- Tom and Meg finding each other on the internet, and hating each other in real life, then liking each other, and falling in love -- awwwww -- makes me happy. And then Training Day, V for Vendetta, and Pulp Fiction. AND...I just watched The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy in Swedish (I had the subtitles on of course -- I've yet to learn Swedish), which was very good. I had read the books already. Also good. Check 'em out. :-)
And finally, to conclude this section of my mammoth essay, fav TV shows include, but are not limited to, LOST, Alias, The Sopranos (probably my favourite overall), The Simpsons, Friends, Seinfeld, Ghost Whisperer, Medium, The X-Files, Coronation Street, Eggheads, Celebrity Big Brother, AND......Thundercats!!! :-)
Do you enjoy playing genres other than adventure? Can you tell us your top three favorite games?
I mostly play shooters when not playing adventure games, but I don't have any consoles so I'm limited to PC games. My favourites over the last few years have been Max Payne, because it's so stylish and gritty and character-driven; Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, surely the best GTA game just for the 80s nostalgia alone; Far Cry for the massive open area landscapes, and large monsters with guns for arms, which creeped me out no end; and probably one of my fav games ever, STALKER: Call of Pripyat, -- which I just love -- the bleakness of it, the wonderful concept, and the terrifying underground scenes. Actually, the first STALKER game was the scariest -- that scared me so much because of all the underground locations -- but I have to consider the 3rd one my favourite simply because there are more outdoor places, so it's not as scary, and because you can just run away and hide behind a tree or something. :-)
I understand that Corrosion is your first game and is exclusively your creation. This must have been an enormous undertaking. Did you find it difficult to be working on your own?
I didn't find it difficult to work on my own per se, since I rather enjoy working by myself, but it definitely is a large undertaking for any lone developer, which can't be underestimated. Unfortunately, there is a tendency to underestimate how much work is involved and so you constantly find yourself guessing how long things will take, and then wondering why they are taking three times longer than that, and then why they take three times longer again. It's a good lesson for the future though -- don't give anybody any dates. :-) Of course, it would be nice to work with other people in certain areas -- mainly graphics and engine programming -- that would give me more time to concentrate solely on the story and game design, and would also decrease the development time significantly. That'll be some point in the future, though, I would think. :-)
Can you give us an overview of the game?
I'm calling it a horror mystery game because the main focus of the game is to uncover a mystery, which is revealed in nice bite-sized chunks throughout. I can't really say too much more than that, except that its a 1st-person slideshow style game, and your character is a small town Sheriff who arrives at the farm because it's the only clue he has to the identity of a mysterious man he accidentally knocked down with his police car. Now he's trapped underneath the farm by a raging storm and a fallen tree, so has no choice but to poke around and see what the heck is going on!!! :-)
How did you decide which types of puzzles to include in Corrosion? How did you gauge their difficulty levels?
My favourite types of "puzzles" have always been of the inventory-based variety. So there's a lot of items to pick up and use on other items and in certain places to get the job done. Figuring out what that "job" is is also part of the process since, whilst there are clues scattered throughout, there isn't any direct prompting. For example, there are no "right click" comments and the Sheriff character does not speak, so really its up to the player to decide what needs to be done -- to look at their surroundings, absorb the information, see what's available to them, and work out what to do with the information they have in order to find a way to proceed, and uncover more of the mystery.
I hope it's not too difficult, but I definitely wanted to make it somewhat of a challenge, because I think if it's too easy, what's the point in playing? If the answer to any challenge is obvious then really there is no challenge, and to me, adventure games should exercise the old gray cells a bit.
Will you be publishing a walkthrough?
I don't think I will personally write and publish a walkthrough. I have nothing against them though -- they have saved me many countless hours of mindless wandering through games -- I'd have been lost without them -- literally, sometimes, if I was looking for help with a maze, for example. :-) Anyway, maybe someone else will write one. That would be cool I think. And if you need help, that's what forums are for. YAY!!! Don't email me for answers though because I will reply with fortune cookie style cryptic sayings, such as, "The 3rd door on the left shall provide the answers you seek, but beware the tearful dog, for he is only sometimes your friend," just to confuse you further. Ok, I won't really. :-)
I've always loved horror and I love a good scare. What made you choose horror for your initial project?
Horror is my favourite genre simply because you can do what you want and push boundaries. If you're exploring the paranormal then rules of science and reality can be ignored completely if you wish, and if you're doing a more realistic and human horror that doesn't involve the paranormal, you can really explore the evils of mankind. So, it was a no-brainer really -- horror was always going to be the type of story and game I would create. I may explore other things in the future, since I'm a fan of all genres really, but horror is always the one that excites me the most.
How in the world did you come up with the idea for Corrosion's bizarre story? What did you draw on for inspiration? Please don't tell me it's based on personal experience.
Well, basically, yes, I came up with the idea this one time when I became trapped beneath this old farmhouse that I just happened to be visiting whilst trying to find out the identity of this guy. At the farm, I discovered a secret underground complex, but became trapped due to the raging storms that were raging stormily at the time. Nobody could rescue me till the next day because of the aforementioned storm, so I had to explore. Simple as that. What I discovered shocked me to my very core. So shocking was what I discovered, that I just had to make a game about it. :-)
Noooo, of course not!!! That is not true at all :-) The truth is, I don't know how I came up with it really. It just grew organically over time. Since I was a lone developer with limited skills and budget, I knew I didn't want to have any outdoor scenes in my game, or any onscreen characters, so that defined what I could and couldn't do with the story in a lot of ways because I knew I had to come up with something set underground, and which didn't need any other characters. So once I got to thinking of possible things that could happen underground, I formed the idea of a secret complex, and since it was a horror, something horrific had to happen there, and so then it was just a case of thinking about the type of story and themes I wanted to explore, and moulding them to fit those parameters. I really wanted a story that was a bit unique and might make you think a bit about certain things, and which would push and pull you in different directions, so it was quite difficult to come up with something that had to be underground. But also, that was part of the fun, as it was a creative challenge, and I really like to have to think things through and make sure everything can work the way you want it to, within the limits of what you can do.
In terms of inspiration, I think mainly it was just that I've always had a fascination with stories about people who end up in a place, and everything's stopped, or everyone's disappeared, and you just wonder, "Where did everyone go? What happened to them?" -- this basic idea provides a simple setup that allows you really to create any type of mystery you want.
Unfortunately, I've found a majority of the horror adventures I've played to be disappointing. Not so with Corrosion. I don't mind telling you that it frightened me, grossed me out and turned me into a nervous wreck (oh, yeah). One thing I love about the game is that it slowly builds feelings of anxiety and dread without showing anything that's overtly scary. Instead, it provides elements a player can use to construct all sorts of ghastly things in his/her imagination. For me, the only other game to have done this is Scratches, which also happens to be the only other game that's genuinely scared me. Did using this approach present any difficulties?
This is exactly how I feel about Scratches. I think, if I remember correctly, there are only a few well-placed "jump" moments in the game, but the game creeps you out simply because of its atmosphere and the story you uncover. I find this the best way to create fear in a 1st-person slideshow style game, and that's because unlike a real-time 3D game, you can't have any actual danger element as such. Nothing can really chase you, and you can't really fight with anything. And even though you CAN run and hide from scary things with the slideshow style, it's not exactly the same as a real-time game, and so the effect is almost lost completely, though it can have its place -- we saw this in the first Delaware St. John, I think, where some malevolent beast was chasing you. But, I think really, the best tools you have available to create fear are the atmosphere and the story.
The difference though between Corrosion and a game like Scratches is that the main character in Corrosion, the Sheriff, does not speak. He is only there as a container character for the player. The player is supposed to be the Sheriff at that particular time, and experience everything the way he would have done, to create a feeling that it could actually be the players themselves who were down there beneath the farm, and everything was happening to them personally. Originally the Sheriff did speak -- he would make comments when you right-clicked, and he would speak to people on the phone, and at various points he would summarise the story for you, and make observations along the lines of "Sooo, it seems like so-and-so was doing this" etc, or if something creepy happened he would say "Ohmygod, what was THAT???" etc etc. But I fell out with this approach because I thought it's a 1st-person game, and even though the player experiences it through the eyes of the Sheriff, the player is supposed to feel like it's them down there, and so if the Sheriff character is telling us what to think about everything, this really takes away the players' ability to think for themselves. So I took all that out, and left it completely up to the players to think what they want to think about things. You receive the information, and it's up to you to draw whatever conclusions you can from it. Obviously, there are things in the game which tell you explicitly what was going on with various things, as that is necessary to advance the story at certain points, but the reaction you have to that information is completely your own. You can be shocked, you can be astounded, you can not be bothered, or whatever -- it's completely up to your instinct. This is something you can't have if the main character is giving you HIS reaction, because then it informs your reaction, and you lose that feeling that its actually YOU who is down there discovering all this stuff.
What made you decide to use the Wintermute engine to create Corrosion? What other software was involved?
I discovered Wintermute years ago when I was making a demo for Restless, a previous game I was making. The engine is designed for 3rd-person games, which Restless was, and I simply found it easy to use and very customisable, which is something a lot of other engines didn't seem to offer, or didn't offer in the same way. I spent a lot of time using it when I was making the demo for Restless, and so once I decided to do a 1st-person game, and because Wintermute can easily be used to also create 1st-person games, there wasn't really any point or need to think about using anything else. Plus the support and help on the forums has been second to none, which made learning the scripting so much easier for someone like me, who is not an actual technical guy or a programmer. So, if you want to create games, I suggest giving Wintermute a go. :-)
The graphics were made with TrueSpace 6.6, from Caligari. The company no longer exists really -- I think Microsoft bought it -- and so TrueSpace is no longer produced. You can however obtain TrueSpace 7.6 for free still I think, but I prefer 6.6.
And of course Photoshop plays a big part in creating textures for the 3D objects, and in all other aspects of the graphic design.
Do you have plans to develop other scary games that allow much of the horror to take place in the player's imagination? Are any plans in place for your next project?
I think in most 1st-person games, the player's imagination has to play a large part, and so in that sense then yes my future games will make good use of players' imaginations. Whether they will be exactly like Corrosion or not, I'm not sure -- probably not at first -- I'd like to explore some new ideas, as its always nice to try new things, and be a bit adventurous. :-)
Plans are afoot for a new game, but this will not be announced until its practically finished -- announcing games too soon is bad for everybody, I think.
Have you thought about making a sequel to or possibly a continuation of Corrosion?
I think that would depend on how well-received Corrosion is, first and foremost. If nobody wants to find out what could possibly happen next, then it would be pointless. However, there are several places the story could go, and so its a definite possibility. Either way, it wouldn't be for a while since I've been stuck beneath Cold Winter Farm for several years, and wish to move on to pastures new for a bit now. :-)
Where would you say adventure gaming is headed? Do you envision a bright future or something else?
I think the future probably rests with smaller teams making smaller more focused games, and embracing the mobile platforms in a bigger way. PC gaming has taken a hit in recent years, and I'm not sure the money is there anymore for large scale productions that require large budgets. I think we'll see much more indie work, and this will probably become the mainstream adventure industry, which isn't a bad thing. As long as there are creative people out there who love adventure games, then there will always be adventure games. So the future is neither bright nor dark. I think it's the same as it ever was, just different. Everything evolves, and the adventure game and genre are no exception.
Do you have any advice for aspiring indie developers?
Yes -- don't underestimate the work involved, or the time things take. And you must stick at it, because it wont be easy, and the temptation to throw in the towel will be overwhelming at times. But you must not give in. You must soldier on. If you can do that then eventually, through the natural course of time, you'll finish. Think that's about it really. :-)
Is there anything you'd like to say that hasn't been covered here?
Just that I hope people enjoy the game, and that all feedback is welcome, positive and negative. Oh, and beware the tearful dog -- he is only sometimes your friend. ;-)
With Corrosion, you've demonstrated exceptional skill in creating a subtle atmosphere of terror. I for one, hope you'll be developing more such games.
I shall certainly see what can be done. :-)
Both JA and I thank you for your time and wish you much success with Corrosion!
Thanks JA -- keep up the good work.