Dark Fall Post Play Interview with Jonathan Boakes  
by Ghostlady
August 23, 2002

 

Jonathan Boakes, from XXv Productions, the creator of Dark Fall, has given me the privilege of this post play interview with him.  Please read on, I think you will find this quite interesting.
 
Comments:
This wonderful ghost story, and I call it a ghost story even though it is a game, is truly delightful.  Starting on a journey to an abandoned train station and to the hotel that resides next to it, you are searching for your missing brother, who was investigating the paranormal activity going on there.  As soon as you arrive, you will meet Tim Pike, a ghost of course, and he helps you on your way.  Your next job is to search all the rooms at the train station and hotel to look for the clues, which will unfold all the bizarre happenings that occurred there many years ago, including disappearances of the hotel inhabitants and a soldier of war.  Read books, diaries, letters.  Summon up ghosts on a ouija board.  Gather keys to open locked doors.  Explore basements and bathrooms and bedrooms and the attic.  Solve puzzles and cryptograms.  Floors creak and sprites dart out in front of you.  The phone rings, should you answer it?  Sometimes I didn't want to.  What it boils down to is a good old fashioned ghost story.


Question 1

At one point in the game, you acquire goggles.  When these goggles are put on and moved over certain areas of a room, they allow you to view pictures from the past.  Is it really the goggles that give you this ability, or is it the ghosts giving you these pictures?

Jonathan
The messages scrawled on walls are clues and warnings left you by the ghosts.  They are actually trying to help you, in the only way they can, but end up creeping you out even more.  They don't realize that leaving scrawled messages on walls is actually more likely to disarm you than comfort you.

The rooms that seem to have two time periods are actually powerful hotspots in the hotel.  A strong radioactive trace is still evident from some event or haunting, this radiation can be viewed through the goggles, a little like when you get white spots in your vision after staring at the sun.


Question 2

At the beginning of the game, you are walking over a footbridge.  Tim Pike is talking to you.  He tells you that if you ever get stuck, to come here.  I never went back to the footbridge.  What would have happened if I did?  Is this a help/hint area?

Jonathan
Tim Pike is an emergency helper.  He can give you further information about any puzzles you find.  For example, if you go to the theodolite (orange machine on platform 2), and then go back to the spot of the footbridge, Tim will tell you who it belongs to, and where you might find something useful about it.  The clues he gives you are quite cryptic, but they are meant to get you in the right direction if you are struggling with what to do next.

The best way to use Tim's help, is to visit the puzzle where you are stuck (for example: Piano), get a close up view of it, and then go straight to Tim.  There is no timer on how long you take to get back, but if you enter other rooms (off of the natural path), Tim's concentration will be broken.


Question 3

Who are the sprites that fly around supposed to be?  Is it Tim Pike only (helping you) or any one of the ghosts?

Jonathan
There are a few different light sprites (or energy orbs as Polly's website informs you).  If you view some of the webcams, you'll notice that two of the orbs tend to stick together, could this be Betty and Thomas?  The secret lovers?  The energy orbs, are, exactly that .  The actual souls, if you like, of all the people the Dark Fall has taken.  From Tom Oliver to Pete Crowhurst...


Question 4

Is the dead soldier really the basis of the story?

Jonathan
There are two soldiers:  Arther, George Crabtree's friend, was killed in the second world war.  If affected George's mind, but didn't affect the Dark Fall itself.  Tom Oliver, the Civil War soldier, who disappeared in 1647, was another one of the Dark Fall's victims.  After being left alone in the cellar of Dowerton Inn, he was a prime target for the Darkness, that was hiding only a few meters away.  He fed the Darkness, but didn't directly influence it's release.  That came later, when George and Arther decided to play amateur archeologists one afternoon in 1947...


Question 5

In a journal, there is a reference made to Pluckley, in Kent, and that it has long since been held as the most haunted village in the U.K.  Is this a real place?  If so, have you ever been there?

Jonathan
Yes, Pluckley is a very real place, and not far from where I was born in Maidstone.  The village is a very odd place, and although the ghost stories seem to be less and less popular, it still has an air of the unnatural.  There are quite a few good books which discuss the ghosts of Pluckley.  Such as the haunted crossroads, where a gypsy woman was murdered by bandits, some have claimed to hear her cries on quiet moonlit nights.  Or, the Grey Lady of the parish Church, who floats among the gravestones and through the nave of the church.  Some believe she was once a member of the local aristocracy, The Derring Family.  There is even a headless horseman, complete with carriage.  As far as I can remember, there are 12 known ghosts in all.  So, budding ghost hunters could make the village the start of a spooky supernatural holiday.


Question 6

Did you depict any of the characters after real people or the history of the train station or hotel after real places or events?

Jonathan
No actually, I made them all up.  Parts of the setting are based on a television set used by a programme called "Sapphire and Steel", which also involved a haunted train station.  But, that is where comparisons end.  Many of the characters in Dark Fall have photos for you to view.  They are all real people, with many being taken from ancient family photo albums.


Question 7

Did you depict any of the characters after yourself?

Jonathan
I think Pete Crowhurst and I are quite similar, and there are aspects to both Polly and Nigel that I like to think exist in me somewhere.


Question 8

What inspired you to write a story like this for an adventure game?

Jonathan
I love ghost stories in general, everything from the Victorian darkness of M.R. James, through to modern fare as the schlock horror of "Thirteen Ghosts" or post modern philosophies of "The Sixth Sense".  Ghost stories make great games, especially adventure games, where the ticking of a clock, or creak of a floorboard can take on a life of their own.  Dark Fall seemed a perfect story for the 2D slide-show style game, as it had that Victorian "pop-up" book look and feel.


Question 9

Is there a reason that there is no label on the CD?

Jonathan
Yes, there was.  Originally I planned to present the game disk as part of the actual story.  You would have been sent the disk by Polly, who in her last moments was able to print her journal to disk and send it to you.  The disk was going to be wrapped in a hurried note, with directions on how to get to the station (i.e. how to launch the CD).  I was advised to dump the idea, as some thought that a few wouldn't get the concept and would think I was being cheap!  So, the only aspect of the idea is the mysterious blank disks.  In the near future, the game is being printed on ominous "black" disks.  The dataside is completely black, so effectively the game plays from out of the darkness...

Thank you Jonathan

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