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Hi! I make stuff. — Grad Student by day, Noise/Doodle-maker by night // Please, read my licensing page.

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ForgottenDawn's News

Posted by ForgottenDawn - December 31st, 2015


Jolly news this time!

Right at the birth of a new year here is for you version 0.04 of fade :D

Here’s a list of the changes and future features:

  • New areas available on the Playground zone, including some non-interactable events
  • Redesigned Sky Garden with new accessible areas
  • Expanded Ruins maps
  • Updated sprite sheets
  • Event optimization
  • New BGM and sounds!
  • Some placeholder parallaxes present in the Sky Garden and Ruins (will be replaced at a later time)

What will we likely see in the future:

  • Puzzles!! That’s right. My main interest has been to lay a framework of the game maps in order to play around with events and various elements included in the scenarios. I do have an idea of the kind of events that need to take place, so stay tuned for that ;)
  • Updated graphics for parallaxes and sprites here and there, including collectibles and more in-game objects
  • More custom music and sound effects
  • A possible ending scenario (not a priority right now)
  • Secrets…

I think that’s the bulk of it for now.
Stay tuned for more and Happy New Year!
//FD

PS: Special thanks to Zack the Great for his contribution to testing, programming and placeholder artwork! ;) You rock, dude <3

http://gamejolt.com/games/fade/36054

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Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 25th, 2015


Hey folks, what's good!

In the previous episode we talked about a puzzle/exploration game released not too long ago called Kairo. I highly recommend you to read the previous entries in order to give yourself a better idea of what all the fuss is about, and why all of a sudden I'm so eager to talk about exploration games.

This part is dedicated to not just a single game but rather an entire series of experiences. Experiences that the Newgrounds community has also stumbled upon at least once in the past since these games have been originally hosted on this very website back in the good old days. This time we take a look at the element of exploration from another point of view. A perspective that is part alienating, part protagonist.

I'm sure at least a good handful of people here are familiar with the so called "point and click" adventure games. You don't often have an on-screen character to lead, the scenarios are still backgrounds that act as the main scene of the game, and every action can be performed by a single mouse click. Such strain of adventure games has quite a glorious history spanning several decades, spawning directly from '70s and '80s text-based adventure games as soon as the first graphics were introduced in the mainstream.

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I could digress and fill entire pages with their history, but that's another story for another time and place. The concept of a point and click game is in my opinion intriguing because it often provides a distinctive aura of mystery as soon as the first screens are introduced to the player. Recent developments of the genre have pushed the envelope even further by giving such concepts a more stripped down, straightforward formula. You would often stumble on short games that have no plot - if not just a very basic premise as an excuse plot, no dialogue, just you stuck in a room and the lock and key puzzles preventing you to breach the exit.

"Escape the room" games have been a trend in recent years and still hold a certain degree of popularity among aficionados, even having entire websites such as this one wholly devoted to this niche. Worth of note, Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors for Nintendo DS, and from Newgrounds, gems such as the Alice is Dead trilogy by @HyptosisAn Escape Series by @Afro-Ninja, and the Cube Escape series by @RustyLake definitely deserve their own share of praise. These are just examples of course, Newgrounds itself is filled with similar experiences that I heartily suggest to try out yourself or mention in the comment section below.

The tediously long introduction actually served not as a crescendo to an ever-growing spiral of ramblings, but actually as a preparation to the surprisingly complex work of fiction that I am privileged to analyze with you all without giving away any potential spoiler. A complexity that lies within the disarming simplicity of its main premise. A hidden universe, or perhaps many -verses buried deep beneath the vastness of the largely unexplored network. Welcome to the Submachine.

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The Submachine series, born from the twisted neurons of @Mateusz-Skutnik, is quite a peculiar case of a point and click game gone mad by the revelation. We could say it is experimental in nature, in that from its conception of nearly a decade ago, the series has matured into something far more sinister and desolating than the innocent, standard escape the room premise a random mook like myself would be fairly accustomed to after a couple of similar try-outs.

Indeed, back in 2005 when the first Submachine chapter came out, the formula was quite basic. Something we've already seen around. No recollection of the past or of your current whereabouts, you are thrown straight into the action inside what seems to be some really dated machine with conveniently placed puzzles protecting strange anachronistic artifacts. It surely makes sense in context, right? It was a pretty short experience overall. Nothing really that groundbreaking, but still enjoyable. Enter the second chapter however, and things start to get interesting...

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Starting from the second chapter, the mastermind behind the series makes sure to add a little something that gradually deconstructs the unspoken rules of what constitutes an escape the room game. In each chapter we see how the series matures into a universe that really comes up with its own rules rather than strictly following an already established archetype. Every added element brings a whole new level of mystery in an already vague, we could say surreal setting. So in what way does exploration play an important role in this series, and why?

I think the heart of the series doesn't really rest on the vague plot whose bits and pieces found here and there never really seem to give anything explicitly, but it's the game atmosphere that creates this mystical, intriguing aura. Artsy hand drawn scenarios aside, the fact that all chapters seem to be so incredibly desolate, that this submerged network looks like an intricate, chaotic junkyard of machinery from different eras powered by an unknown source and surrounded by nothing but a pitch black void, makes this whole journey not just a puzzle-driven chore but more like a personal search for the greater truth behind the Submachine universe.

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It is, in fact, a more psychological take on the usual escape the room type of experience. The sound department is as minimal as it can possibly be. Some creepy drone played every once in a while helps setting the dark, desolate atmosphere of the world outside the game scenarios — in other words, complete blackness. I'm sure some of you might regard the series as a horror series despite the fact that it really isn't. The series per se does a good job at inferring rather than showing. It's heavily implied that something has happened but we don't really know what nor by whom.

The main element that triggered the genie of curiosity in me was not even the atmosphere. It is rather the daunting presentation of a virtually infinite set of Submachine rooms, each with their own puzzles to solve and increasingly mind-bending geometries that take full advantage of the 2D interface. This concept is further expanded in one spinoff chapter called Submachine Universe, where the goal of the experience is to encourage players to explore the incredibly vast network of rooms and make up their own individual theories.

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It is ultimately an experience for a community of explorers that share a common thirst for knowledge and a passion for virtual archeology. It is no longer about the individual player grabbing pen and paper to solve yet another lock and key puzzle. It is a wider effort, where you are an element of a greater ensemble. The community itself expands the original concept by bringing a lot of interesting ideas to the table, where everything is relative to our own individual perception, and nothing is entirely certain. A metaphor for our real life universe? Maybe. I call it smart design.

The series creator only needed a context to create a fictional set of rules for everyone else to explore and complement with their own experiences. It is, in a sense, a feedback experience. Exploration in this series is not just a gameplay element tidally locked to the traditional lock and key mechanics of the puzzles, but it is pivotal in trying to understand the background of such an open-ended setting. The more questions you answer, the more questions arise at an ever expanding rate, I'd even dare say exponentially.

4507507_144849640723_latest.png

This is, in a nutshell, what makes Submachine a fascinating piece of work. The series might formally end with the upcoming 10th chapter, but it is never really over. There's still a lot more to explore, to unveil, to analyze, to theorize. It truly ends only with your attention switching to something else.

Stay tuned, folks.

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]


Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 19th, 2015


Hello there, good people!

I'm back with another article about exploration games, yay. I strongly recommend you to read the previous entry that generally introduces you to this peculiar breed of adventure games. Without further ado, let's jump straight into the heart of the hurricane with not just a brief recap of multiple titles, but a detailed spoiler-free analysis of a single title instead.

In fact, starting from this article, I will attempt to explore (no pun intended) the many facets of a video game sharing similar traits with other adventure games in a way that it hopefully encourages critical analysis and why not, stimulates one's curiosity. These articles are not to be considered reviews but rather reflections on various positive aspects of the title that in my humble opinion I deem interesting enough for a discussion.

Today's main star is a game that was released in 2013, featuring a neat minimal aesthetic and a mysterious atmosphere. Enter the lost world of Kairo.

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A game like Kairo fits those parameters I discussed in the previous article.

No dialogue? Check.

No explicit plot or narrative? Check.

Storytelling only through the means of graphics and sound? Check.

You are what could be best described as an entity of sorts. The game is witnessed in first person perspective. You can only walk and jump. In terms of first person controls, the game's minimalism also seems to restrain the number of commands to just two fundamental ones. For an experience like the one offered by Kairo, you don't really need more than two commands. Even running feels like something unnecessary that might ruin the solitary, dreamy pace of the experience.

It's as if the game itself does not want to distract the player from experiencing this game at its fullest. The description on Steam outlines the world of Kairo as "lost", implying something beyond our control already happened. A cataclysm perhaps. An event of unimaginable proportions that changed the world before we could even open our eyes in such profound ways that it now appears devoid of life and desolate. An already disarming and discouraging reality we are suddenly put in charge at the best of our abilities.

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(oh this looks perfect for a picnic)

This is in many ways the only premise we have of the world we are privileged to explore in Kairo. This is the main mystery still shrouded in a veil we are not yet aware of.

To outsiders, the game might just seem as a bunch of colored cubes and pillars. And surprise surprise, it turns out it is. It's an undeniable truth. However, it soon becomes apparent that these megalithic structures represent some sort of ruins from an unknown epoch, that these ruins maybe, just maybe represent something greater than what they appear to us. Something beyond our grasp. Something that was made for a specific purpose.

Despite the sheer scale of such structures, the game remains somewhat linear and formulaic, outlining its dual nature as a puzzle game.

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We often encounter strange glyphs during our journey to "fulfill a great destiny", as once again the Steam description recites. Symbols that we have no idea what they actually mean, if they mean anything to begin with. If we only consider the functional aspect of such communication devices, it's clear that it serves the purpose of simple pattern recognition. These symbols appear to guide you through some of the game puzzles, and they require observational skills in order to detect the slightest difference between each glyph iteration.

The problem of intrinsic meaning from a linguistic point of view is not really something that the game itself seems to be concerned about. It could be a hidden language, or a language within a language. It could as well not be the case. In a sense, it is something the player needs to answer for him/herself. The player may as well ignore the fact that such symbols exist within unexplained circumstances and simply focus on their presence during the puzzles. They are ubiquitous, yet their apparent lack of purpose and meaning feels alienating, contributing to the feeling of apparent solitude in a world that looks so clear-cut and clinical.

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We may in fact never really know the actual purpose of such symbols, nor why is the game world so obsessed with giving you puzzles in order to advance to the next stage - read as "giant megalithic ruin".

This kind of linearity makes you wonder if it was intended to be so limiting, which would almost sound as a contradiction compared to how open ended the actual narrative and setting are presented to the eyes of us explorers of the unknown. We are in fact free to explore the various scenarios within preset paths and boundaries, beyond which lies geometrical repetition and the monumental testimony of a civilization that never was.

This reasoning puts the world Kairo in a strange position when it comes to determining the role of exploration in the mysterious circumstances we are thrown in. From one side of the coin we are basically free of moving back and forth, left and right, in the three dimensions, and we know we have an apparent bigger mystery to solve. From the other side, however, we can only move within certain boundaries and the game itself is structured in a way that allows for little open-endedness, as the puzzle solving becomes mandatory in order to access the next areas.

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(please, mind the gap)

So ultimately, why is this game featured here?

I think that the game atmosphere is what ultimately draws the audience to determine what the experience is really for, regardless of the outcome and regardless of the many questionable elements I actually addressed in a Steam review of a while back.

The game actually succeeds in setting a nice premise for embarking on a journey filled with mystery and unanswered questions. This is what ultimately draws you to try out the game for yourself, especially if you're into such kind of experiences. An atmosphere helped by the lingering presence of a distant sonic texture in the background, unobtrusive sounds that never seem to clash with one another. They're essential and the sole audible commentary available in this game.

This is why Kairo still grabs attention. It's as if the game developers once said around the round table something like "Hey, let's make a puzzle game with a bunch of cubes and a few sounds, then we put some symbols here and there, some weird shenanigans and ruins... Are you guys digging it?" And lo and behold, yes they did. It's still not something you can experience by watching someone else's playthrough. It has to be experienced in first person. Maybe you'll be the one who will manage to uncover the mystery behind the world of Kairo. Or perhaps you will just chill while walking in laser-cut limestone ruins and have a drink while things happen as you walk by.

Both things work. How about you have a try?

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[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]


Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 16th, 2015


Hey folks, I wanted to talk about something different today.

I'm sure everybody here loves video games, right? Of course you do. Newgrounds has a whole portal for them and back in the days I used to surf it who knows how many times within 24 hours. I used to enjoy point and click adventure games, puzzle games, tower defense games, you name it. I really loved those, but there's a genre that has managed to catch my attention only in recent years: exploration games.

It's kind of a recent trend, even though I'm not knowledgeable enough to trace some sort of origin story behind such games, but I've been introduced to them relatively recently. When one uses the term "exploration" in a video game, it has to imply movement, adventure, discovery. Exploration in video games has been exploited for years, in fact.

The first Legend of Zelda game was one of the early pioneers of action/adventure games. You were thrown in a huge world (even by nowadays' standards it'd still be quite big), screen by screen, and you would have to slice and dice through the hordes of enemies along the way. There wasn't a preset way to fulfill the main objective. In fact, you could follow any path you'd enjoy crossing as long as you eventually reach the end game. There was, in a sense, a lot of freedom. So much that it confused players back then. "What do I do next?"

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(yep, that's the whole map)

Final Fantasy games and console-style role playing games adopted varying degrees of exploration: from letting players fully cross an entire overworld filled with dungeons and smaller areas to explore, to simply offering alternate paths within a confined linear space concealing normally out-of-reach treasure chests or extras, often visible in the main path.

Whatever the game or genre you're in, if we are offered the opportunity to scout around, chances are we are gonna take it. Why? For many reasons. Human beings are curious by default. We question why things are the way we perceive them. We seek a deeper meaning to the flow of conscious we experience. However, human beings are also fascinated by the unknown because the feeling of discovery injects a powerful adrenaline rush in our brain that drive us to pursue greater heights. What better reward than that? Who are we to neglect ourselves a good ol' adrenaline fix? ...Anyone?

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(image credit: "Keyhole Dreams" by MindSqueeZe)

The feeling you get when you explore a new area in Skyrim filled with new items and dungeons to explore, or when you explore a cave in Minecraft filled with riches at the core, or when you dive deeper into the lore of Assassin's Creed II through the hidden puzzles unvealing a massive conspiracy... Examples are countless. It makes us feel like pioneers, the fortunate explorers of a mysterious and ever-changing world. It becomes our adventure, with our personal resolve.

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(screenshots from Borderlands 2 and Skyrim)

But when does exploration become the driving element in a video game? What if it's only about exploring your surroundings, lacking the conventional elements that normally constitute a video game like a well-written plot, enthralling dialogues between the characters, and an ultimate goal?

There are a couple of examples that fit this idea in spades. Games that challenge the very definition of "video game" as a medium of interactive fiction. These two examples acquired recent popularity thanks to various Youtubers filming their own escapades in the worlds of LSD: Dream Emulator and Yume Nikki. LSD was originally conceived in 1998, in a dark and humid Japanese basement where a guy thought it was a brilliant idea to base his own video game off someone else's dream journal. Good job. The game was released only in Japan for the Playstation and the result was rather... bizarre.

For starters, it is in first person perspective, which means the player sees what the playable character (the one you're controlling) is seeing in real time. Secondly, the game has an apparent emphasis on randomness, given that it's based off a dream journal it's not that surprising. However, as you keep playing, the game somehow makes sure to become increasingly more absurd and eccentric by scrambling textures, adding random events here and there, playing FMVs, and sometimes spawning a shadowy figure known as "The Grey Man" that will erase your Flashback data if you get too close to him, meaning that you won't be able to replay your past dreams. Do you think it's weird enough? Enter Yume Nikki.

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(actual screenshots from the game)

Yume Nikki was originally released in 2004, with the latest stable version out in 2007. It was made in the RPG Maker engine, so graphically, it is highly reminiscent of the 16-bit era of JRPGs drawn in top-down perspective and what-not. However, it's not a role playing game. The main character, Madotsuki, is a young girl that apparently refuses to step outside of her apartment for unknown reasons, so her only solace is in her dream world. How sweet, right? Not really. For one, the game makes sure to instill a distinctive atmosphere, making the experience very surreal and eerie. Most scenarios don't follow a logical route, so it's quite easy to get lost. Along the way you may stumble upon "Effects", collectibles that do something from modifying a certain game mechanic to simply being a change in Madotsuki's wardrobe.

Now, the game does have an official ending actually, which implies a story of sorts. The problem is, however, that there's no clue in the game telling you have to witness it. You're not forced to follow any objective in particular, in fact. You're thrown straight into the experience with the only explained premise of how the dreaming mechanic works, and that's pretty much it. What is the first thing the player does when reaching the dream world? Pick one of the areas and explore. It's as simple as it sounds.

The main catch about Yume Nikki and the plethora of fan games that spawned in the following years (check them out, by the way) is that the absence of dialogue and an interwoven narration automatically makes the player assume certain things instead of the game itself. Yume Nikki in fact does a good job at inferring things rather than showing them most of the time. Surely, when you consider the psychological implications behind certain events or elements, it's really not that subtle. However, the way the experience is designed inevitably leaves a mark on the player who will likely start speculating on the dream world right away.

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(screenshots from the game)

Both the eccentric graphics and quirky sound design contribute to the relative success of this modern way of conveying certain themes. Some areas could be described as interactive paintings, like staring at an exhibition in a museum and getting sucked in through the observer's own imagination. It's the subversion of a rule. It's not the game that necessarily has to give you something to make you feel rewarded or accomplished, but it's the player that adds meaning to the ludic environment through his/her own experience as a gamer and as an individual.

It's what a journalist once called "environmental storytelling" or in other words, how to let the game atmosphere speak for itself before any written or spoken word interferes with the player's immersion in the virtual world. Or how is a scenario able to convey deep feelings and themes through the sapient use of visuals, a coherent aesthetic, and sound. The holy communion between these different elements can ensure the success of an immersive world that is only waiting to be explored.

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(photo credit: Ubisoft - Assassin's Creed Revelations The Lost Archive DLC

Once you reach, as a developer, that nadir of artistic grace upon which anything becomes within your reach, it's literally only the beginning. It's something that can be achieved even with incredibly small projects, as long as all the elements are in place. I used to think such experiences can only be enjoyed by some, but I now think it's the same misconception that some musicians and artists might mature over the years. Video games, such as music, and the wealth of other artistic mediums, are for everyone. It's really down to individual tastes, whether you like something or not, but there's no such thing as an "X's art" or "art for X group of people".

There really are a lot of people who enjoy these kind of adventure games because it allows them to come up with their own stories and their own experiences, making them something truly personal and memorable. There might be a nostalgia factor involved too, but I honestly think it's also the pursuit of something simpler and direct that doesn't necessarily involve many instructions or elements in order to be enjoyed.

I think these are exciting times and I do have a clear vision of what I could possibly come up with in the future. Starting from _fade and possibly other small side projects, I can experiment such design philosophy within my current possibilities. One can only imagine...

Thanks for having survived my ramblings! Feel free to leave a comment down below ;)

[Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3]


Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 14th, 2015


Hey folks, just a quick announcement.

More tracks will be coming soon both on Newgrounds and Audiojungle, preferably when they're done.

There's some newly released stuff on my portfolio, so feel free to check it out.

Stay tuned,

//FD


Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 13th, 2015


I'm not gonna publish any circumstantial phrases like "My thoughts go to the French people", "We should stand united", yadda yadda.

We've heard them. We know what happened already.

This could have been prevented.

This isn't even the beginning; we already had a bloody prologue.

It's gonna be a long and dark night, everyone...

R.I.P. 11/13 Parisian Victims

//FD


Posted by ForgottenDawn - November 4th, 2015


I think it looks pretty swell.

What do you think? :)

http://audiojungle.net/user/forgottendawn


Posted by ForgottenDawn - October 23rd, 2015


Hello folks,

Just a quick announcement over the recent changes in my network:

- I have updated this link listing all the pages related to Forgotten Dawn including the newly introduced Audiojungle portfolio. This is still a temporary measure until the advent of my own website which will be due at some point in the future.

- My Redbubble account has been terminated, because I've simply grown uninterested about it and it does not represent my main activity in any way or form.

- My Youtube channel is no longer partnered/monetized. This is old news, but I wanted to reiterate it just because.

- My Audiojungle portfolio now welcomes another exclusive track in the hopefully ever-growing roster. (yay!) Feel free to check it out! More tracks are on their way.

- My Gamejolt page is not yet linked to the network for several reasons: at the current stage, there's not much I can show aside only a work in progress project by the title of _fade. There are a lot of irons in the fire and a lot of ideas that I would like to develop at some point, so if the stars align in the future, I'll definitely consider its introduction to the network. I'd just like to ensure a certain level of quality before actually showing what I have in mind.

That is all for now, stay tuned!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_q-TTmAFKQ


Posted by ForgottenDawn - October 21st, 2015


Hey there folks!

As a follow up to the previous update, I am now very happy to announce that my first exclusive audio for Audiojungle has been approved :))

Available at this link: http://audiojungle.net/item/the-dream-web/13234569

More tracks are on their way there, and a fresh new start is always very exciting.

Feel free to check it out!

//FD


Posted by ForgottenDawn - October 17th, 2015


Hey folks, how's it going?

As you may have already noticed, I've been taking a hiatus here in order to focus on other projects and indeed real life.

I am currently busy in game development on a project that I can't reveal yet, but it's taking some time and I definitely want things to align accordingly.

Besides that, I am currently thinking of starting producing exclusive music for this website in order to diversify my output and try to keep a steady production.

Does that mean I won't be making music for Newgrounds anymore?

Of course not. I'm just saying it can be another opportunity for me to reach a wider audience and keep the engine roaring.

That's all for now, stay tuned for further updates.

//FD