The Adventure Game and Interactive Novel

The Adventure Game and Interactive Novel

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  • Panem nostrum cotidianum da nobis hodie


  • Ora et labora



  • Stratifications

  • Eymerich’s body and bits

  • Eymerich’s Latin


    Did we already tell you that Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague will have Latin dialogues? Yes, I’m pretty sure we told you. And what about the Latin used is philologically flawless, and its pronunciation the most accurate as possible? Yes, we probably already told you this too.


    Alessandro Magrini - Latin localization

    It goes without saying that, due to the lack of tools for voice taping, the exact reconstruction of the pronunciation of a language of the past, with all its nuances, accents and tones, is not possible. Furthermore Latin is a language that has been written and spoken for more than 2000 years on a vast territory: it’s hard to establish then an accuracy criterion that is universally valid.


    But the pronunciation of a certain period and zone can be approximately reconstructed by using different kinds of information. There are authors describing the sounds of Latin, often in order to correct their coevals: but the pronunciation that is correct for a medieval author surely is not the one of a grammarian of the classical age. There is plenty of inscriptions and texts in which the engraver or his customer, instead of observing the grammar, for ignorance or inattention, let the Latin pronunciation of his age leak into the writing.


    We can obtain useful information also from word puns, onomatopoeic expressions, assonances and rhymes: in other words, every time that sound can prevail of spelling. Latin words’ transcriptions in other languages and alphabets are important too, and vice versa. Last, but not least, we can make a comparison with the languages that derived from Latin (the so-called Romanic languages: Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French etc.) especially to recreate the Latin pronunciation of the most recent times, including the Middle Ages.


    Gian Paolo Castelli - Latin Localization

    The most used and known Latin pronunciations today are the “classical” and the “ecclesiastical”. The first is the reconstruction of the pronunciation of the first century B. C. (Cicero’s and Caesar’s Latin, to make things clear), but somewhat used also in the previous century and until the first-second century A. C.. The second is the pronunciation of the Roman Church, mostly dating back to the Early Middle Ages and handed down to us with little to no modifications.


    For Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague we chose the ecclesiastical pronunciation – but with some nuances by which differentiate the various the characters’ social ranks and origins – because it’s more chronologically adequate and appropriate to the context in which Nicolas Eymerich operates. His Directorium Inquisitorum proved very useful to us, not only to give our character a store of appropriate phrases and words, but also and especially to be true to the formularity of some expressions.


    Directorium Inquisitorum


    Sure, the game takes place in the fourteenth century, in an area where back then they spoke Occitan and the common language was the local vulgar. Nonetheless, especially in ecclesiastical circles, Latin was not only the language used for writing and rituals, but also the spoken language for cultured people. But this is not the point at issue. In every fiction work, characters usually speak the same language. What we call today western literature starts with Homer’s Iliad, in which Greeks and Trojans – against all logic – both speak Greek. Fiction is fiction. So, if all the game characters can speak Italian or English, why not Latin? Indeed, Occitan aside, Latin is surely the language that suits the most the environment and atmosphere of the game.


    As much as possible we also tried to lend the most humble characters’ lines a more colloquial tone, though staying onto the limits of an understandable Latin. The guideline was to use a Latin that was understandable to most people who have some familiarity with the language. We tried nonetheless to characterize this standard language, whenever possible, with medieval nuances, especially regarding the lexicon and – obviously – all the references to Christian culture.



  • The importance of sounds


    When starting a game for the first time, the first elements that catch our attention are mostly related to the visual impact. Sight is the sense on which the human being relies the most. Our society is dominated by the so-called “image culture”.


    But eyes can be shut. Sight is a sense we can control with a bat of an eye. Our visual field is limited to a mere cone.


    Hearing is, on the other hand, omnipresent. It functions while we sleep, while eyes are resting, and it a sense that operates at 360°. It goes without saying, then, that sound, in a videogame as in real life, is of prime importance. We can be charmed by perfect graphics or an effective gameplay, but if our character makes the same noise when walking on grass and when walking on a pavement, we turn up our nose just like we would when seeing a botched polygonal model or an untidy texture.


    Giancarlo Petroni - Sound Designer

    These are things that Giancarlo Petroni, sound designer for Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague, knows pretty well. His duty was to provide players with a sound experience matching up the quality of the game. Sound environments in line with the rarefied, almost suspended in time, game atmospheres; realistic atmospheres, but with a shade of mystery. After all this is just the way one would imagine the Middle Ages: an era during which everything seemed to stay still, but during which everything was changing.


    A given sound effect or noise can be picked from a sound library or synthesized by using a software, but it often happens that a sound designer have to “go hunting” for sounds, recording them live to capture their true essence. This activity is vital in order to produce an audio that doesn’t seem like a déjà vu – or better, “déjà senti”: it often happens, in fact, that some sound effects recur in videogames and movies.


    [For example, while I was playing Folklore some months ago, I happened to notice that the howls you hear in the village are exactly the same ones of the wolf-dogs in Metal Gear Solid, and the noise made by some of the creature of the Netherworld are the same sound effect you can hear in Silent Hill 4: The Room when you hit a mothbat.]


    In Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague, audio is even more important than in an average videogame. In order to grant the maximum accessibility it’s a priority that the audio is extra polished, giving the opportunity to audiogame mode users to enjoy a high quality sensorial experience. An experience that reaches the maximum level while using a home theatre 5.1, to fully appreciate the 3D audio of the game.


  • Eymerich’s graphics (part 2)


    Since the beginning, the artistic direction of Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague, supervised by Manuel Labbate, has been projected towards a graphic outcome that wasn’t limited to a simple representation of realistic environments, but that also created an harmonic image.


    Manuel Labbate - Art director, visualizer & 2D graphic designer


    Like it has already been stated in a previous post, the main graphic innovation in Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague it’s the 2.75D graphics, a technique that made possible for the developers to give the game a pictorial and illustrative look, applied to 3D environments.


    Traditional real time 3D graphics would have allowed a better environment exploration, though sacrificing the pictoriality of the final image, while the classical 2.5D would have led us to obtain ad interesting look, though flattened.


    Our 2.75D graphics allows instead to treat the environments like they were real artistic illustrations, dynamic paintings that become animated thanks to perspective movements.


    While creating and visualizing the environments, the organization of the game elements in the game space or the choice for a specific perspective thus become a process that definitely is more artistic that functional; even the image finalization starts from the rendering of 3D models of environments and backgrounds, that are subsequently enhanced by a pictorial coating.


    However, in order to give the game some variety, some very large environments required real time 3D graphics. They are complex and vast areas that yield better with wide camera movements, thanks to which it is possible to follow the protagonist during the exploration. Stylistically speaking these areas were created with the same artistic philosophy at the base of the 2.75D environments, given that our main challenge was to avoid a visual mismatch between 2.75D and real time 3D environments.


    The problem was solved by generating directly through textures the lighting effect. The textures have been in turn coated in order to enhance and detail them, but also to make their visual style look like the one chosen for the 2.75D environments.


    Other than thanks to the textures, the artistic feel surfaces during the game events that take place in the real time 3D environments, which retain a high spectacularity thanks to their pictorial elements. This way no stylistic shift is noticed by switching from 2.75D to real time 3D environments, giving the player to freedom to explore that some parts of the game require without giving away the artistic style that is peculiar to the final look of Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague.


  • Unity, editors and text parser


    Technology evolves quickly. It develops like it was an everlasting teenager, getting higher, bigger, and stronger day by day. And, sometimes, it evolves so quickly it forces software developers to start again from scratch the developing process.


    The programming of Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague, lead by Fabrizio Zagaglia, was a long process.


    Fabrizio "Zago" Zagaglia - Lead Programmer


    The developers had, out of necessity, to deal with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets. In the beginning, a prototype of the game was developed using Wintermute, but it was put aside exactly because it was not compatible with the growing request for mobile devices support.


    Scumbag iPhone


    Then we switched to Unity3D that, aside from being crossplatform (PC, Mac, iOS, Android, now Linux too, and someone says it works even on displays of washing machines), granted the introduction of real time 3D, which we used for some of the game environments.


    Unity is an outstanding tool that is gaining a lot of users, and so the community and the information are growing, new features are being implemented… which translates in solutions for every possible bug.


    Aside from the aforementioned possibility to develop the game for different platforms, Unity has the merit of having good visual tools (for example the scene editor, the animation editor etc.), that make the level editing process easier, and the possibility of using a stable and versatile language such as C# with little to no limitations. But probably one of the most appreciated features resides in the possibility of creating ad hoc editors for taking care of specific matters concerning the developing of a specific video game typology, editors that are already integrated in the Unity3D environment. For Nicolas Eymerich, Inquisitor: The Plague we developed several editors: one for characters and face expressions animations, one for the dialogues, one for the localization database, one for the game logic…


    Character Editor

    Logic Debugger

    Game Logic Editor


    Unity made it possible to create a text parser, that adds a vintage touch to the game. Mainly it’s a homage to MUDs and Sierra On-line-style adventures of the old times; but it is also an additional tool to support the accessible version of the game, given that a text parser is necessary to a potential voice recognition.


    Every single element of the game, from environments to items to characters, is operated in the same way, and it’s identified among the other things by an univocal element (a name) and by a series of action linked to it depending on its current status. For every featured language synonyms of the names are stored in the localization database. This way, the parser can associate the various synonyms to the elements composing the shown scene, recognizing in the typed sentence the verb and the direct object and executing the requested command.


    The following video shows how the text parser works.



  • Eymerich’s graphics


    Eymerich had a long development during which it evolved from a classical 2D adventure game to something able to grant to players a better experience.


    In order to use what our artists already produced and keep in budget we decided to go for 2.75D graphics. Starting from 2D images and simple 3D volumes we were able to obtain a visually prospectively correct third dimension.


    Being non full 3D this approach has some limitations, such as projecting shadows or perspective deformations in some extreme situations, all avoided during development. On the other hand it gave us a way to achieve visually 3D scenes in which close shots, a correct illumination system with realtime lights and shadows, particles systems and all we needed to make scenes alive and suggestive can take place.


    The 2.75D solution also has the great advantage of being computationally fast and good for running on many different devices. It is possible to add advanced features as glows, light shafts and other post processing effects with small effort, making the game visually more rewarding on high profile machines as PC and Mac.


    The level design, by Ulisse Cammino, required different steps and the development of appropriate tool to switch from 2D images and simple 3D models to the actual in-game environment.


    Ulisse Cammino - Level editor & Programmer


    First the scenes, made of an illustration (Img01) and 3D models used as reference points for the framing (Img02), are imported into Unity3d, exactly reflecting the camera shot of the illustration.





    Using an in house developed software a retropology process is then made on these informations to create a single highly optimized model of the scene from many pieces and to which detailed 3D objects are added where needed (Img03) (for example chairs or a desk). This is a fundamental step during which the illustrated environment is transformed in a true 3D volume on which we can further work on to make it playable.




    All those elements able to make the scene alive, just as lights, environment sounds, particle systems for fire and smoke (Img05) and other effects, are then added to the current processing (Img04), eventually writing additional codes for particular effects as light flickering, trying to keep them reusable in other situations. The environment is then almost ready to be played in the game.





    The last step, the most important for the game experience, requires to add to the scene the actors, being them characters or active objects, animating and making them interactive using scripts that define possible interactions, depending on the situation (Img06).



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