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Development Diary Part IV – November ’23

by | Dec 1, 2023 | News | 0 comments

Hello all,

As we break for holidays soon, we’re leaving behind a massive year – a year of finalising a title that we’re so proud of and that just oozes that TCR DNA. In that year, we’ve been also lucky enough to announce the title to a brilliant response. EDGE Magazine cover, articles on all major press, the excitement is real. Well, let’s wrap up the year with a few impressions / anecdotes as to what the team has been mulling over.

Art / Animation / Lighting

Part I in the previous Dev Diary.

→ Inspiration – Scotland

The place itself. Our creative Director, John McCormack, along with others in the company originate from Scotland, so they know this weather well. I myself have spent a long time in Scotland and experienced it first hand, it’s not something you forget! Between us, we’ve felt enough rain and wind for a lifetime.

Other inspirations come from films with similar settings. For example, Local Hero (1983), which is also set in Scotland, has a few shots within the film that serve as a time capsule of the early 1980s during those foggy and bleak days. Moving further out of the United Kingdom we have a film called The Return (2003), a Russian coming-of-age film, which is another great example of that dreich feeling.

Both films have a grainy and 1980s style toning to them, which lends itself to the feelings we want to portray. Nothing is bright, or sunny.

Local Hero

 (1983) – Set in Scotland


The Return

 (2003) – Andrey Zyagintsev


– Luke Norman, Senior Lighting Artist

→ Composer Announcement

As we’re working towards completing Still Wakes the Deep, I would like to take the opportunity to lift the veil on what we’ve been up to for this game’s music. The Chinese Room has a history of releasing games featuring magnificent scores and of course we wanted to do that heritage proud for this title.
While a horror game, Still Wakes the Deep’s premise aims to instil more than just fear and terror, with its story deeply rooted in the complexities of family and relationships. It was important for us to work with a world-class composer who can navigate this fine line of emotional intricacies.
So I am very pleased to announce that for this game we are working with the excellent Jason Graves. He is well known for his groundbreaking, terrifying work on the Dead Space franchise, his beautiful, melodic and sweet scores on both Moss titles, as well as a mighty impressive list of other projects. It’s that wide range of aptitudes that drew us to him.
His approach has brought us a unique blend, merging emotional depth with an appropriately industrial sound. He has combined unconventional, hand-built sound sources with traditional instruments to create a haunting atmosphere that we feel complements this game’s narrative perfectly.
We are very excited about the result and greatly looking forward for you to experience it yourself when the game comes out. In the meantime, we have created a minidoc that goes a little bit into the process behind the creation of this score. You can watch it below:

– Daan Hendriks, Audio Director

Code / Programming
→ Shout-out to Inkle

How do we tell a story from a technical point of view?
We developed a way of describing the story as a sequence of events that the game engine can interpret, we call this Mission Scripting.
Mission Scripting is a high-level way of representing a sequence of events that the player needs to solve in order for the story to progress., it looks a little like a flow chart.
As an example, you may need to find a key to open a door. Here, our state is that of a locked door, the rest of the story (flowchart) lies behind the door. To progress the story we wait until the player has found the key, & when that happens we raise the ‘i found the key’ event to the system so that we can progress to the next state in the story, and face whatever is in the room.
Here’s a screenshot of how this might look in Mission Scripting.

In a proper game story, there will be hundreds of states, on many story paths. Some of them will involve actions, some of them narrative script, driven by Ink. Combining mission scripting and Ink has given us a very flexible and powerful system in which we can tell stories. We are using these systems on all the titles we are creating. As we got such a step up from open-source of Ink, it only seemed right that we give something back to the community. So we’ve wrapped our C++ port in a Blueprint-friendly and easy-to-use plugin.
If you’re interested in seeing this working, clone the InkpotDemo project from our GitHub and have a play!”

– Nick Slaven, Technical Director
Community / Comms

→ Unwrapping the Candy

A certain feeling kicks in a few months after revealing a project… A post-viral contemplation, of sorts. I’m working through my feelings about it – something that we’ve been diligently hiding for years and years, now it’s the property of the whole world! Our little secret, the mystique of sorts – It’s with everybody now. We can only control how the creation is perceived to an extent, but so much of it now depends on how the dear players experience it. We know all the nooks and crannies of the game, all the minutiae of research and execution, but none of this matters unless we communicate correctly as to what this jewel of ours is. So bit by bit we’re introducing more – you’ve seen some gameplay, you’ve heard some of the inspirations, you’re finding out who are some of the key people putting this thing together. Is it ever enough? Should we tease more, or should we keep that sweet sweet mystery wrapped? It’s a question I ask myself daily as a Comms person. For a while, I thought keeping the mystique was most crucial, but then we accidentally went viral on TikTok for the silliest of reasons and admittedly it’s bloody fun. So perhaps more naked content like that? It’s the balance that’s probably key, but certainly at this point in the campaign – where there are still so many questions unanswered, but we’re miles away from six months ago as to how much info we’ve put out there, or maybe it’s just the Holidays season, I’m feeling very reflective…

– Marijam Didžgalvytė, Senior Marketing Executive
→ The Trouble with Fire Extinguishers

One of the more painful duties of the SWTD design team is to go into our beautiful environments and tell our art team to remove things. Why are we so cruel?
Let’s illustrate with this very nice Fire Extinguisher asset:

And this other Fire Extinguisher asset:

This issue arose because we have one fire extinguisher that you can pick up. We agreed the asset, made the system, made the animations and the audio, and the effects. All going well.
Then playing through noticed there was ANOTHER type of extinguisher, a really chunky good good-looking one. But this one has not been animated. It’s not got effects (this type sprays water, not foam). It’s not got bits you can move. In short, it is a real red herring for players.
So as with some other miscellaneous items and configurations of items we had to break the bad news to our environment artists that we needed them to make their environments worse. They’d made things look so good that a phone, a piece of equipment, the way something was put next to something else, looked TOO good, too inviting to pick up and use in a way we could not make work under the design.

So that’s the story of why we sometimes take the beautiful stuff out.

– Rob McLachlan, Lead Designer


→ Near the finishing line – Tom’s Perspective

Seb’s Perspective in last month’s Dev Diary. We got two awesome QAs on this project. ????

As the game becomes more stable at this stage in development a lot more polished features are getting added. Things like different languages and accessibility features. These features (like all) cause bugs initially, but it’s so worth it to allow more and more people to have access to the settings they need to play the game in a manner that works for them.
Testing all the different combinations of features can be a challenge as you never know what setting might cause issues with the game mechanics. Luckily, we know the game systems extremely well at this point so very few things get past us.
We do our best here on QA, to make sure the game is as high quality as it can be. Trying to cause issues and playing the game in unique ways to cover as many different playstyles as possible. Prioritising the largest bugs to the more minute issues so that as many people as possible see this amazing game in its best light.

– Tom Grant, QA Tester

→ Dear Santa,

As Christmas approaches, production wanted to tell you that they worked very hard on the schedule to make sure we allow the artist to deploy their full potential during the polishing of Still Wakes The Deep. We are a bit tired, and the climatisation still randomly triggers in winter, so please make sure to send us some comfy mittens, heavy-duty winter socks, and plaids to warm us during the cold season. We will raise the PO, you can send the invoice to the marketing service.

Respectfully yours,

The Production team.

P.S.: The music is really starting to shape up in the game, and it is super cool.

– Executive Producer Bruno Julien

Btw, find us on social media!
Still Wakes the Deep Twitter
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1st December 2023 | News