Touring England through FMV games

Video games have provided a much-needed escape for so many of us over the past year. While we’ve been stuck indoors during various lockdowns, we’ve been able to explore digital worlds both fictional and real from the comfort of our sofas.

Full-motion video (FMV) games have made a frequent appearance on my playlist and streams over the past few months and many of them were filmed here in the UK. D’Avekki Studios has created some of the best and I’ve followed them since completing The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker a few years ago. It was their next release, The Shapeshifting Detective, which introduced me to my favourite FMV actors: the awesome Rupert Booth and Anarosa Butler.

Titles like this gave me inspiration for celebrating English Tourism Week 2021. What better way to explore the country without travelling than through interactive movies? Unfortunately though, my research uncovered very little information about where filming took place. Titles such as ERICA by Flavorworks and Late Shift by CtrlMovie have either no Filming and Production section on their IMDb pages or one which isn’t particularly helpful. I did manage to track down some locations however, so let’s take a quick tour around England.

Great Budworth in Contradiction: Spot the Liar!

Billed as ‘the most picturesque village in Cheshire’, Great Budworth looks like a lovely place to visit for a quiet weekend (if you ignore the murder that Detective Jenks was sent there to investigate). The George & Dragon pub is a pretty Grade II listed building which we ended up visiting several times during our playthrough of Contradiction, although sadly didn’t stop for a drink at. Interesting fact: the telephone box our hero uses to call the police chief was transformed into a mini-library in 2011.

Sandwich in The Complex

I’ve not played The Complex yet myself so thank you to friend-of-the-blog Phil for letting me know about this one! It was filmed at Discovery Park in Sandwich, Kent, ‘a global leader for science and enterprise with world-class laboratories and exceptional office space’. It seems like the perfect place to film a game about the fallout after a bio-weapon attack on London and what the scientists do when they find themselves running out of both time and air in a locked-down lab… On second thought, do we really want to visit this place?

Shrewsbury in I Saw Black Clouds

I Saw Black Clouds isn’t the best FMV title I’ve ever played and I’d highly recommend that anyone thinking of playing it heeds the trigger warning included in its introduction. But the pub featured as one of the locations looks like a lot of fun! The ALB in Shrewsbury, Shropshire is a family-run cocktail bar and I wouldn’t mind trying their Bitch Juice or Bad Apple. For something completely different, check out the Shelton Hospital, the abandoned building where Kristina is stalked by something spooky.

Kelvedon Hatch in The Bunker

The Secret Nuclear Bunker in Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, is the setting for The Bunker. It was once a Regional Government HQ where a team was tasked to organise the survival of the population in the aftermath of a nuclear war but is now open to the public as a museum. I’ve visited this place several times in the past as my stepson was fascinated with it when he was younger; it has such a heavy atmosphere, just like the feeling you get when you play the game. Check out this post to see my photographs.

Monk Fryston in The Dark Side of the Moon

We had a lot of fun playing The Dark Side of the Moon in March and were surprised by the developer and his family when they joined us during our stream. Instead of immediately looking for the missing children in the most obvious places, our friends in Twitch chat demanded we always went ‘To The Crown!’ first. Monk Fryston looks like such a nice place for a weekend away – so much so that my other-half and I are planning a trip to Leeds later this year. Look out for another post at some point.

VisitEngland, the organisers of English Tourism Week, and developers seem to be missing a trick. FMV games are a great way to promote towns and villages around the country that many people might not otherwise have heard of, and encourage gamers to get outside and visit them now that lockdown is easing. Come on, creators: share the details on IMDb, Wikipedia or the official website for your project so we can check out these locations and start planning our weekends.

Do you know where other FMV releases were filmed? Or has a video game, FMV or otherwise, ever inspired you to visit a real-world location? Let us know in the comments below.

Sherlock zones: my love for detective games

While at Rezzed in 2018, my other-half and I noticed just how many detective games were on display at the expo. It’s a trend which seems to have continued in the following two years and more titles with similar themes have been making it onto my wishlist.

As I’ve mentioned occasionally in the past, there’s just something about a private-investigator-protagonist which draws me in. I’ve grown fond of storylines featuring hardboiled detectives, hidden clues and devious crooks, and enjoy gameplay mechanics where it’s up to the player to piece together the evidence and solve the case. If you’re looking for something new to play and fancy a title which is going to put your sleuthing skills to the test, why grab your flashlight and check out the following releases.

Games I’ve played

Full-motion video (FMV) adventures might not be to everyone’s taste due to their technical limitations and hammed-up acting. But if you’re a fan like me, or you think you can make it through ten hours of exaggerated reactions, then I’d highly recommend checking out Contradiction: Spot the Liar! by Baggy Cat. Join Inspector Jenks, played by the awesome Rupert Booth, as he questions the inhabitants of Edenton village to find out whether Kate Vine’s death was caused by suicide or something more sinister.

If you fancy something more pixelated, why not try Return of the Obra Dinn by Lucas Pope instead? This was recommended to me by Luke from Hundstrasse and I picked it up for myself after watching Athena from AmbiGaming play on stream. How long it takes to finish depends completely on the strength of your deduction skills as it’s a pretty tough game, but in a very enjoyable way: you’ll need to make observations based on visual and audio clues to figure out why a once-busy merchant ship is now completely deserted.

The most recent detective title I’ve played is The Painscreek Killings by EQ Studios and it’s one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Much more than a walking simulator, it’s up to you to piece together the clues found around the quiet village of Painscreek to find out who killed the respected Vivian Roberts. The story becomes tangled as the residents reveal their dark secrets and histories through diaries, letters and newspaper articles; will you be able to select the correct murderer, motive and weapon at the end of the game?

Games I’ve wishlisted

Trust me: if you’re a fan of visual novels and noir narratives, you need to go and add Chicken Police by The Wild Gentleman to your wishlist straight away. The premise is somewhat crazy and the animal characters don’t seem to entirely fit the mature storyline at first, but the experience really grew on me throughout the demo and I now can’t wait to get my hands on this game. Join Sonny Featherland and Marty McChicken in Clawville for a case which is stranger and more dangerous than anything they’ve ever encountered before.

At the start of this posted I mentioned Rezzed 2018 and it was at this event that I first came across The Peterson Case. Developer Quarter Circle Games since renamed the project to Once Upon a Time in Roswell and I’m looking forward to the release this year. As you can probably tell from the new title, this one is a psychological-horror which chronicles the Peterson family’s disappearance in Roswell in 1947 – and players will encounter ‘beings not of this earth’ who may want more than just the protagonist’s life…

Murder Mystery Machine by Blazing Griffin is an interactive mystery game which caught my eye when it popped up in my Steam suggestions one day. When local politician Frank Daniels is murdered in what looks like a botched robbery, it entwines Detective Cassandra Clark and her partner Nate in a complex, interconnected series of crimes that’s anything but an open-and-shut case. I really like the isometric visual design and the content shown in the trailer reminds me a little of Knee Deep, but without the theatrical setting.

Games I’ve backed on Kickstarter

Taking a brief break from straight-up video games for a moment, let’s first talk about Missing in Jericho by Crimibox. Here’s an experience which aims to bridge the gap between reality and the digital as it will have players trawling through social media accounts, calling suspicious numbers, and using physical objects such as notebooks and printouts to make sure they don’t get lost in their enquiries. I recently receive my backers’ key and will hopefully start my investigation by the time this post is published – I’ll let you know how it goes.

I also received a copy of the backers build for Gamedec a few weeks ago and was impressed by Anshar Studios’ work so far. This detective game seems as though it’s going to be the one which will give you the most freedom when it comes to deciding how you’d like to approach a situation – but that also means your actions could have consequences which may close down certain lines of questioning. The project feels like it has plenty of potential and I’m curious to find out how the whole thing is going to come together.

Want a kickass female private investigator? Then look no further than Amira Darma in Chinatown Detective Agency by General Interactive Co. I really enjoyed the demo back in April, and the developer will be re-releasing it along with further content in a free preview at the end of this month. As well as investigating cases and doing some real-world research for these, players will also have to make sure the protagonist gets enough rest so she doesn’t crash and gains enough contacts to build her network. Definitely one worth checking out.

These are just a handful of the detective releases I’ve come across this year so far. Are there any further titles I should add to my wishlist? Krikket from Nerd Girl Thoughts recently recommended the demo for Lucifer Within Us by Kitfox Games so I’ll be giving this one a go – and I look forward to hearing any other suggestions.

Twitch picks: choosing games to play on stream

One of the hardest parts of maintaining a Twitch channel is deciding on games to stream. There are so many factors to consider: the sort of titles your audience likes, the releases which are popular with viewers right now and what you actually want to play.

My other-half and I have been streaming together for around five years now and, if you disregard the audio issues which seem to plague every new streamer at the beginning of their journey, I’d say that choosing the right games has been the biggest difficulty for us. Participating in GameBlast marathon streams for SpecialEffect has given us the perfect opportunity to gain some experience though and our 50-day challenge for the event earlier this year was an interesting learning curve.

Our goal was to stream every day for at least an hour from 05 January to 23 February 2020, to raise funds and awareness for this awesome charity. That meant an awful lot of planning and having to decide which releases would be featured in our extended schedule. After 50 days, over 136 hours of streaming and more than 40 games, we met our objective and managed to raise £600 for SpecialEffect – and came to the realisation that some titles were far better for being played live on Twitch than others.

The most popular session during our challenge turned out to be the evening we spent with Detroit: Become Human. Some of the friends who joined us in chat had already completed it themselves and wanted to see how my story would differ from their own; while those who hadn’t tried it yet were eager to join in by giving their opinions when it came to making choices for the characters. It helped that the plot inspired some pretty strong emotions and those displayed on stream were all genuine reactions (sorry for the swearing).

The choice element could explain why Deathtrap Dungeon: The Interactive Video Adventure proved to be successful too. A tabletop-RPG title like this – which relies heavily imagination because it doesn’t show the action – really shouldn’t work but allowing the audience to get involved by making taking turns to make decisions enhanced their participation in the stream. The fact that this got our character killed several times during the session made it more hilarious and it was a fun, shared experience with friends.

These shared games result in some of the more memorable streams and Contradiction: Spot the Liar! provided one such session. Viewers joined in with this full-motion video (FMV) title by helping us figure out the location that should be investigated next, which non-player characters (NPCs) shouldn’t be trusted and ultimately who the murderer was. There was also plenty of discussion around the actors involved and how good their performances were; we all fell in love with protagonist Detective Jenks and his expressive eyebrows, played by Rupert Booth.

Moving away from narrative-based releases for a moment, we’ve found that games based around levels or quests also work well for us on Twitch. Taking a break between each section gives you the chance to talk to friends who have joined you in chat, stretch your legs or grab a cup of tea and sneaky biscuit. A good example is Neon Drive: it’s not the sort of thing we’d usually play but it was well-received during our 50-day challenge, with Pete and I swapping the controller between levels so we were both fully involved.

Diablo III is another title made for streaming because you can stop between battles without losing track of the gameplay – but be prepared to receive advice from viewers who are more experienced at it than you. It was a game we started just for fun but then stopped when we realised we were frustrating some of our audience by not playing it ‘seriously’ enough. We’ve had similar experiences with multiplayers such as The Elder Scrolls Online and Sea of Thieves, where people have popped up in chat to tell us how to play ‘properly’.

I love story-based games but, as much those mentioned above have been successful, they don’t always work well on Twitch. The final episode of Kentucky Route Zero was released during the 50-day challenge and I’d been waiting for a long time to play it but it was just far too slow for the stream. I also made the mistake of choosing to play Ether One at 04:00 in the morning during a previous GameBlast marathon: it’s a great game but there was a real danger of me falling asleep because there wasn’t enough action to keep me awake.

Perhaps the worst titles you can choose to play though are those you’re not enjoying. Streaming is meant to be fun and there’s nothing worse than having to sit game which makes it feel like a chore; it’s not fun for you and it certainly isn’t fun for your audience. My least favourite session during our charity streams this year was the evening with Felix the Reaper because the controls were horrible and I just couldn’t get to grips with them. So we made the best decision we could: turn it off and start playing Grand Theft Auto: V at our viewers’ request instead.

So you see, choosing games to feature on your Twitch channel can be a bit of a minefield, but there’s a bit of advice I can give you which will solve all your problems. Forget about playing releases which are popular or cool because chasing followers isn’t going to get you anywhere fast. Instead, focus on playing something you’re actually going to enjoy. Some of the best streams I’ve watched are those where the streamer is genuinely excited about a new game or are playing something older and are willing to share their experience with it.

This is definitely something Pete and I will keep in mind when we return to streaming later this month after taking a break. In the past, we’ve spent far too long stressing over which games are suitable for the Later Level channel and have even made the mistake of choosing things which seem like a good fit over our own enjoyment. From now on, we’re going to stream when we’re feeling motivated to do so – and we’re going to play titles which we’re truly looking forward to getting stuck into.

Hopefully, if we’re having fun, then our friends in chat will too.