Diary Of A Madman #1

April 4th, 2011

Believe it or not, I was trying hard to find a proper title for this post… When I finally found the words, I slapped myself repeatedly. Duh. Of course, this is none other than the Asylum Developer’s Diary: Unrated! that I mentioned a few moons ago, but that’s too long and definitely not SEO-friendly. So, Diary Of A Madman is.

To tell the truth, I was planning to launch this diary after a bunch of upcoming announcements since I feared there wouldn’t be enough interest at this point. I was very wrong. Just yesterday we had our 666th. (human) fan on Facebook and to welcome him we posted a screenshot of Asylum… that was previously available here on the blog! The reaction was pretty strong and within a couple of hours the page exploded: a dozen more fans, 22 likes and many, many comments… on Sunday, folks. Sunday! It’s our most popular post by now with a whooping 33 likes (a definitely strong impression in Facebook terms).

If this is the reaction towards a dark and murky screenshot, I can’t imagine what’s gonna happen when you see what we have in store here. Anyway, the burning question of course was: what the bloody heck is going on with the game? Hence the reason why I’m launching this diary today after many uneventful months with no announcements or new materials whatsoever. Hopefully you will find this diary mildly exciting, although I’m sure that friend developers will be very interested in what I have to say.

Actually, to be fair there was a further glimpse of Asylum during an interview I did with Matt Barton a month ago, more precisely brief in-game footage. Matt is a great guy and he runs what is hands down one of the best channels in all of YouTube. Make sure you check out his amazing work.

Logo large

Perhaps one of the more interesting bits of that interview was the shocking revelation that the engine behind Asylum is no longer called Kinesis. I won’t tell its new name yet but you can see the suggestive logo right here. The approach is different: Kinesis was too technical for my taste and reminiscent of Microsoft’s Kinect too, and I really want to set this engine apart as much as possible. In fact, it’s so friendly that I’m hoping users won’t even think of it as an engine but a very simple interface to develop adventures. Why I’m telling you all this? Because it will be made publicly available and free to use. No strings attached. We are positively out of our minds, yes, but this is in reality part of a much bigger and cunning plan. At the moment there are about a dozen developers assisting us in the project, suggesting features and improvements. It’s all very exciting and is gaining a lot of momentum. For instance, the engine currently supports node-based games. Now, this is how you connect the nodes:

foyer5:link({ E = foyer4, W = waiting1, S = foyer2 })

foyer6:link({ E = visiting1, W = foyer4 })

foyer7:link({ S = foyer3 })

That is, we use a neat feature of Lua – tables – to tell each node how it should connect with other nodes in the cardinal directions. This translates into an interactive spot that, when clicked by the player, performs the transition. Of course, the script allows creation of any number of spots, anywhere you want, and of any size and shape. More on that later. For now, you can see how easy it would be to create a very quick prototype of the entire playable areas. And creating the actual nodes is even easier!


Another aspect that is taking us considerable time is the music. If Scratches was any indication, you know that I take music very seriously. This time we are fortunate to work with Daniel Pharos and his Knights Of Soundtrack, a guy who is equally cool and scary. He’s the leader of Beyond The Void and WORSHIP, Gothic Rock and Doom Metal bands respectively, so I’m sure you know what I mean. We have devised with Daniel a very interesting approach to the music in Asylum. You see, the building where the game takes place – the Hanwell Institute – is very large and open, and players have the ability to move around it at will from the first minute. We don’t have a clear distinction between areas other than the separate floors (four counting the basements), which demands a more sensible approach to the music. It should be organic and dynamically shift as players explore Hanwell.

A great example of this is the hospital and cells area which are reached after a long corridor. To enter the cells you must first cross the hospital, and we’re talking about some very sinister rooms here. So, the short walk through the hospital should somehow anticipate the horror that awaits you at the cells in terms of mood, including the music. To achieve this, we’re dealing with a multilayered soundtrack. Each track contains at least three layers which, combined in a determined way, create three instances of similar music: mild, tense and horrifying. You listen to the mild instance as you walk through the long corridor, then tense when you enter the hospital, and finally it’s horrifying when you are in the cells.

Asylum screenshot2

It’s very effective, trust me, especially because you won’t know for sure when the music is really changing (that is, except for this particular occasion I’m giving away to illustrate the example). Thus, this organic approach to the music is bound to mess with your head. It’s tricky though because we must make sure that all the layers are always in sync and the shifts are smooth (for instance, to avoid a poor effect when annoying players enter and leave the hospital repeatedly).

I believe this how the old iMuse system from LucasArts worked, which is pretty neat. As far as I know, nothing like this has been implemented in adventures for quite a while.


That’s all for now and quite a big update for our first installment! What’s next? You can expect rather soon-ish* a new gameplay video, the first batch of official HD screenshots, and finally, the announcement of the engine along with a playable teaser of Asylum. Also coming up next week, it’s back to our regular revisiting of cult movies, games and books here at Slightly Deranged. And there was much rejoice!


*DISCLAIMER: My definition of “soon-ish” is very ample.


March 17th, 2011

See? It took a while but we got here. At last, new content! In truth, my comeback article for this week was supposed to be a lighthearted look at an outrageous Japanese B movie from the mid 60’s called Frankenstein Conquers The World. But then the earthquake that has recently hit Tokyo put me on the fence about featuring the article… I nearly decided that it still would be a fitting tribute to Japan, to their unique culture and movies, but now there’s the problem with radioactivity and, unfortunately, this was a prominent feature in my pick. I quickly dismissed the article as inappropriate for now.

Instead of choosing another Japanese movie I decided to forget about tributes to avoid any misunderstandings. I will say this: what happened in Japan is absolutely terrible and has been a huge blow for the entire planet. Such punishing tragedies are almost unthinkable; we’re talking about an entire country here, an entire culture that has been stopped in its tracks. It was shocking then to see how a huge of portion of the web world has been following this tragedy with morbid fascination. From companies taking advantage of the situation, celebrities mocking the Japanese to religious zealots claiming they deserved it, humanity has reacted in a pathetic way. Think twice before deciding those people are in the minority.

There’s been much talk against nuclear power as well and its consequences, which are obviously devastating. I believe it’s hypocritical to say this; not when most of us depend so much on power. Cars, computers, TVs, stereos, planes, more technology… Our fast-paced world demands this today. Unless we’re willing to shut down entire industries, we must rely on nuclear power or vast quantities of oil, which in the long run can be just as bad as radiation.

So, the current circumstances made me think quite a bit about the issue of technology and I found myself coming back to J.G. Ballard and his views on the technological landscape. Yes, as if it wasn’t obvious by now, I do like the man. The question perhaps is this: is technology a problem and, if so, what can we do about it? To answer this question, we must first understand our relationship with technology. This was my line of thinking, so I decided to do a little experiment for the first major update in the last four months (yikes): I selected Crash to do a combined writing on the movie and book, exploring their meaning. The resulting text drifted away however and tried to fit the concept of Crash into our modern society, so it’s definitely very experimental for the Slightly Deranged standards. It might be a bunch of nonsense or not, that’s up to you for decide.

Overall, I think the article is a fitting analysis: following the unfortunate and terrible tragedy in Japan, society is struggling to decide what do to about the nuclear power. Hint: nuclear power is not the problem; the demand for it is.

In a less somber mood, the writing is also fitting in a way because this week was David Cronenberg’s birthday. Even thought the adaptation of Ballard’s novel was a hit and miss, we wish David a very (belated) happy birthday. As a bonus, I have uploaded a rare TV short by the BBC not even listed in IMDB, featuring J.G. Ballard himself before the Crash novel was even written. It was filmed in 1971 and it’s a must-see.

Hope you enjoy the read!

I Have Returned For The 4.0.37e50th. Time

March 3rd, 2011

Yes, I’m still here. Yes, I do care about you. No, I’m not dying but thank you for asking. It has been a while indeed… past November to be exact since the blog is in hiatus. From the next paragraph and below I’ll be explaining the reason why behind this silence, and what to look forward within the upcoming weeks, but if you couldn’t care less and only want the good stuff (e.g., scantily clad women and tentacled creatures) let me assure you that we’ll be right back at those in just a few days.

So, I know that many of you are craving for more Asylum news; if my mailbox is any indication, hundreds of you (OK, maybe tens). The reason why the blog has been quiet is simply because we have been working non-stop on the project since before the Holidays. And I mean that: even Santa helped us to test an upcoming demo. It certainly paid off as we’ve progressed a huge deal these past few months. We’re already testing a build of the game (with actual people, that is) and most of them have been honestly floored by the detail and lifelike atmosphere. It’s so downright unnerving to walk around the Hanwell Institute. Granted, we have the occasional naysayer who goes “meh” but we promptly spanked him. Needless to say, he won’t say “meh” anymore… He probably won’t say a thing ever again.

Anyway, we have made progress on all fronts really, not just Asylum. So much in fact that we will be disclosing news about our current three projects very soon. Except this time “soon” doesn’t mean “within the next eight months” but really soon enough. I promise. You are bound to love at least one of our upcoming announcements; unless you only care for scantily clad women, in which case I redirect you to the first paragraph of this post.

Back to the blog: I’ll be catching up with all sorts of belated material starting the next week. A look back at the highlights of 2010 game-wise and movie-wise, a review of the incredibly good FMV adventure Darkstar, your usual affair of extremely rare movies and games, and of course the Asylum Developer’s Diary: Unrated!, in which I will be disclosing all kinds of groovy secrets about our upcoming flagship game at Senscape. Here’s the proof; the first in-game screenshot ever released:

Yes, that’s 1920×1080 pixels. And wait till you see it in motion!

Stay tuned for more, and thank you for the patience!

It’s Been A Long And Winding Tentacle

November 26th, 2010

We have a very special update today with even more significant changes. This month (November, right?), exactly one year ago, Slightly Deranged was unleashed to the masses. Which according to my calculations means the site is ONE YEAR OLD! Yay! That’s right, Happy Birthday, Deranged Ones!


It’s been an amazing ride so far and we got staunch supporters of the site (thank you two!). During its first year, Slightly Deranged has covered 17 retro games, 31 cult movies and 1 book (hey, it’s a new feature), along with a bunch of lengthy articles. Not too shabby and, even though the update rate has decreased considerably since our beginnings, I’m planning to make it to 100 cult things covered by the end of 2011. How I’m going to achieve that, I’ve no idea…

Anyway, you’ll notice there’s quite a few noticeable changes, namely a massive overhaul in the organization of content. I’ve unified everything related to games into its own distinct section, as well as movies. Those articles long enough to quality as reviews have been renamed to “Feature” so that you can distinguish them on the list. It’s looks rather nice; here, have a look. The book/game/movie of the month have been unified into these sections as well, but they’re all going to be featured with a thumbnail on the main page as usual. There’s been even more internal clean-ups which you probably won’t notice but I can assure you they make my life much easier. Of course, there’s still more to be done, but for the time being I believe this is a much cleaner layout.

What to expect next? Stay tuned for my revisit of this first deranged past year, highlighting the most popular articles and movie clips!

PS: I have no idea who did that cake, I simply googled for “really disgusting birthday cake”. You can’t imagine what I found.

I Have Returned For The Nth. Time

October 23rd, 2010

And so it begins… The dawn of a new era at Slightly Deranged! See, I wasn’t kidding with my last post: the update was really coming soon. In fact, I have been tiding up several things here and there for the past couple of days. I hope you like these changes and the new slogan, although I believe there’s more polishing coming up soon; I fear that sidebar is getting too bloated now that I’m adding a new category. That’s right, the very first book in our new section is being covered today, and it’s a great one: J.G. Ballard’s High Rise, just in time before the Vincenzo Natali’s movie adaptation hits the streets. It’s a harrowing read, a very uneasy look into our most darkest emotions, but well worth your time. Additionally, we relive possibly the best platform game that ever appeared on the IBM PC: Zeliard, product of the Sierra On-Line/Game Arts partnership back in the early 90’s. It’s a truly amazing game and it brings back very fond memories.

However, the entree of the day is definitely this long forgotten gem (how many of these exist anyway?) released just a bit after the sad demise of the Hammer Films studio, at least when it came to movie productions: House Of The Long Shadows, the only movie featuring Peter Cushing, Vincent Price, Christopher Lee and John Carradine. Equally funny and scary, this historical piece is inexplicably unbeknownst to a whole generation of horror movie fans, and it is my duty to tell you all about it.

That’s it for today (heck, did you want more??) and I’m looking into a few more interesting changes and a higher update rate. As always, your support and comments are important so don’t hesitate to chime in if you have anything to say, even if it’s nasty and it could hurt my feelings, although you would have to be really nasty and potentially very graphical to offend me. It’s good to be back, and I hope someone reads the blog on Saturday!

Did I Say Next Week?

October 21st, 2010

Bloody hell, I should know by now not to commit to any dates. As you may have realized by todays announcement (Scratches Director’s Cut being re-released by Meridian4), I’ve been awfully busy these past few weeks and, as usual, Slightly Deranged took the hit. But I’m working on the write-ups right now, and they are all going to be much larger than usual. I’m hoping to upload all the new content tomorrow… yes, TOMORROW!

Oh boy… I just did it again.

Yegads! Is This A New Post?

September 29th, 2010

Things have been rather quiet here at Slightly Deranged this month. Of course, I have loads of excuses this time but I’m not going to bore you with them; suffice to say, I’ve been programming – a lot – and when I program I find myself in “the Zone”, which means I live in a different reality than yours, not to mention another space-time continuum. It’s scary. You know what’s really surprising though? During September the blog had the most visits ever without a single update; I know, it’s insane! This is probably because, in less than one year, there are tons of content that shows up in search engines: over 30 movies remembered and almost 20 games reviewed, amongst other things. It’s a very generous offering when you consider it’s only me behind the keyboard. Which brings me to my next point…

It’s gotten seriously difficult for me to deliver the weekly movie/game combo. It’s not so much the writing itself but the logistic behind the posts: seeking screenshots, a movie clip, update the listings, etc. I’ve tried to find a workaround, maybe reduce the write-ups, include less screenshots, but I realized that it wouldn’t be fair to backtrace in that regard now that we achieved a nice level of quality. The solution is simple: instead of weekly picks, I post monthly picks. Alright alright, now put down the forks and torches! This is really for the best and it doesn’t rule out the possibility that I comment on more games and movies during each month, it’s just that I will be relieved from the “Movie/Game Of The Week” format. That said, I’m going to make up for this change by including a new feature.

I’ve been thinking, so this site is about cult movies and games, an eclectic mix that has been working so far, and then it struck me: what else could qualify as “cult”? Something that is related and falls into this strange category that appeals to a very limited audience… But of course! Books! Literature! Heck, nobody reads anymore, therefore: cult. After all, most of the stuff we tend to discuss in the blog has in common with books. In all seriousness, I’ve been reading a lot lately and I feel compelled to comment on my findings and recommend you the works I’m sure you will enjoy (hint: as expected, it’s mostly science fiction and horror). If you couldn’t care less about this, don’t fret: all the posts will be carefully filtered with tags. But really, I promise I will highlight the good stuff only.

So, to recap: no more weekly movie/game but monthly movie/game/book. There, I feel more liberated already. As always, feel free to comment or send me your suggestions. The new format debuts next week and the picks are really special this time! Until then my Dear Deranged Ones.

To Sum It Up…

August 27th, 2010

The week is coming to an end, so let me remind you of these noteworthy updates. First we had a very important movie covered in the blog, the seminal El Topo. It truly is the definition of “cult” (I wonder how many times I said that) and a landmark achievement of underground cinema, so you already know what to watch this weekend. Next, I had a fond look back at Isle Of The Dead, a creative Wolfenstein 3D clone from the early 90’s. However, I realized that the only fond thing about this game were just my memories…

Finally, there’s a lengthy ongoing interview at Adventure-Treff, the great German site about adventures games, that covers past, present and future of Senscape, including revealing new details of Asylum. I did warn those guys that I can get very chatty, but they didn’t listen so the result is a whooping 15-pages article that will be delivered in three parts. You can read the first one right here, and don’t worry because that link is in English. Be sure to read them all!

That’s it for now, hope you have a great weekend and may you watch many horror movies. Take care now, bye bye then!

What Have Boxers, Evil Doctors And Toxic Waste In Common? Why, This Post.

August 19th, 2010

Curses! I had forgotten about the GDC and Gamescom in Europe this month. Those bloody expos have foiled my plans to deliver more regular updates during August… In case you haven’t heard the news, a man called Daniel Pharos has managed to infiltrate with a powerful computer loaded with a vast selection of Top Secret materials from Asylum, and he’s right now showing these to a legion of publishers craving for a hot new product to license, including major players in the industry. I understand there already talks about movie rights even.

If you apply the reality check to the paragraph before, I’m basically saying that Daniel was very kind to carry a netbook with a bunch of videos from Asylum and he’s introducing the game to maybe a dozen publishers. But the outlook is quite positive and we hope to share more news very soon!

Anyway, back to Slightly Deranged: this one of those major updates that I’ve been meaning to deliver for the past few weeks. Most importantly, we have a feature article about Boxer, the very best front-end I’ve ever got the pleasure to use. It really adds a whole new dimension to DOS emulation. I’m also throwing into the mix the mandatory game and movie. First, The Secret Island Of Dr. Quandary, a very particular educational adventure from the early 90’s, and second, The Toxic Avenger which I’m ashamed to say that I’ve only seen it for the first time very recently. It’s really awesome though and a worthy, suitably deranged entry for this blog!

That’s it for today, and please stop sending me emails every single day asking about the next update, I’m always working on stuff for the blog (that line needs some reality check as well). See you folks soon!

Of Cadavers And Mausoleums (Yum!)

August 3rd, 2010

So, things are finally coming back to normal here at Slightly Deranged after two very hectic months, though I fear this is going to be one very hectic year. And maybe the next one too. Anyway, I’m committed to bring you one movie and game per week through August (let’s see how long that lasts) as well as a few other goodies. While I’m preparing a post introducing to the masses (that means you and you) the ultimate DOS experience, you can enjoy today some comments about Cadaver, an overlooked classic from The Bitmap Brothers – you know, that company that pwned the Amiga – and One Dark Night, a very sinister horror film from the 80’s. Cheerio!