Jonathan Boakes is the developer of “The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure” on the PC. He created the game from top to bottom, from the screenplay to the very last detail. This is his third game following Dark Fall (2002) and Dark Fall II: Lights Out (2004). All three games have centered on isolated and spooky locations rife with ghosts and paranormal activity. He answers some questions to give us some insight.
DreamStation.cc: Could you describe The Lost Crown to our readers and tell us what it is that you feel makes it so special?
Jonathan Boakes: The Lost Crown is a ghost-hunting adventure, in which you aid the mission of two young, ghost-hunters to uncover a legendary mystery in the fog shrouded streets of an isolated harbor town. This spooky adventure is based upon, and influenced by, the ‘classic’ ghost stories of old, so expect a few nasty surprises to be hidden away in the games many locations. 30+ hours of gameplay will see you explore ancient, haunted woodlands, plague infested crypts and long forgotten kingdoms.
DreamStation.cc: Could you tell us about the real-time ghost-hunting? Just from the description, it sounds almost like an action kind of element, am I following correctly?
Jonathan Boakes: Detecting and recording supernatural activity can require great reflexes and nerves of steel. The Lost Crown does not skimp on the ghost-hunting front, providing the willing ghost-hunter with a full arsenal of paranormal investigation tools, like the nite-vision camera (too see what hides in the Infra-red light spectrum) and the Dictaphone, or voice recorder, to trap the voices of those who have gone before. You will, literally, be able to hear the words of the dead!
DreamStation.cc: The Lost Crown features some very intriguing themes, something that most people and cultures, can relate to, what do you think it is about the supernatural/paranormal that appeals to people? Do you believe in ghosts?
Jonathan Boakes: I joined a group of Paranormal Enthusiasts (www.thelostcrown.com/casefiles) to research The Lost Crown, and its ghostly content, some time ago. I’ve encountered phenomena beyond explanation, and witnessed paranormal events that have shaken my beliefs and thoughts about what may dwell on ‘the otherside’. All cultures, around the globe, have tales and superstitions regarding ghosts, the spirit realm and poltergeists. It seems unlikely that such belief is not based in some form of knowledge, or suspicion, that life is not the end. Modern technology can explore that belief, exposing secrets hidden to the human senses, like bacteria was before the invention of the microscope. All we need to know is where to look, and what tools to use. Something The Lost Crown explores throughout.
Jonathan Boakes: I’d love to port to either of those platforms; I’m a big fan of mobile gaming, and believe adventure style games lend themselves incredibly well to that medium. The DS is small, funky and full of promise. The Wii shows such great potential. I’m not sure the platform has been served by the best material, to date, but that console is in its infancy, so is bound to evolve and impress. Porting any of my games to the Wii would be amazing, so, perhaps it’s a case of finding the right team to make the idea a reality. At present, I write, develop and create every pixel and sound in my games, but perhaps the Wii and DS could change all that.
DreamStation.cc: One major complaint about other point and click adventure games has been that they don’t offer the most replay value, to which some may counter books don’t really offer “reread value” either. So, do you think The Lost Crown offers a high replay value? Are there multiple endings or multiple ways to get to the ending? Also, how long do you anticipate the average gamer to take playing through the game?
Jonathan Boakes: The Lost Crown offers 30+ hours of gameplay, exploration and puzzle solving. That’s not a developer boast; the game has been enjoyed by some of the most experienced adventure reviewers. There are many ways to approach the puzzles and locations found in-game, with some events influenced directly by the gamers involvement with the story and characters. I have always enjoyed sprinkling clues to the puzzles throughout the story, often including several clues to puzzles, meaning each player will tackle the gameplay differently. In some instances, the ghost-hunting becomes more intense when you’ve researched your supernatural target, but it is not essential. Much of the gameplay is influenced by the player themselves.
DreamStation.cc: I see The Lost Crown as a sort of “survival horror lite” game, (though obviously this style of game came first) for those who like the concept of a Resident Evil/Silent Hill/Alone in the Dark, but can’t exactly get behind the too often overly complicated control scheme or difficulty level. Would you agree or disagree with that statement and what do you think about the “survival horror” genre as they seem to be the most closely related type game as well as the fact that they seem to borrow heavily from the point and click adventure?
Jonathan Boakes: I’m a huge fan of the survival horror genre, having played many of the well-known, and beautifully executed, classics; such as the Fatal Frame and Silent Hill series. The puzzle solving, in both those series, enhances the story, often proving some welcome relief from the monsters. To scare players, and create tension, it is important to have calm moments in-between the action. I like to think that The Lost Crown has many tense, even scary, moments, as you prowl around haunted locations after midnight, but those scary nights are balanced by daytimes of exploration, chatting with characters and researching the nocturnal missions. Building an impression of ‘what to expect’ is as important as encountering the ghosts themselves.
DreamStation.cc: There are plenty of games that can instill fear into the player, but why do you think it is so hard to bring about any other emotions in games? Why is fear so easy to achieve whereas most other feelings are almost close to impossible?
Jonathan Boakes: I’ve had players email me reporting tears, disgust and laughter while playing The Lost Crown. I began the production with a screenplay. So, the game is very much story based. This means I was able to write emotional scenes, involving dialogue and gameplay, from different spectrums. Many scenes are heavy with melancholy, a sense of sadness for those who have passed, where as others are humorous; ghosts don’t have to be miserable souls, trapped in limbo forever. I can guarantee that the game includes some scenes which will surprise, in terms of the emotional content, and maybe shock a few others!
DreamStation.cc: The Lost Crown draws inspiration from Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, M.R. James, and E.F. Benson. What do you think is required reading before delving into The Lost Crown, and what’s your favorite ghost story?
Jonathan Boakes: A favorite ghost story?! Hmmm, that’s going to be difficult. I did have an absolute favorite, until very recently, but that all changed a few weeks ago. A mysterious stranger left me a collection of classic ghost stories when they passed away. I’d never met this fellow, nor heard of him, but he had admired my work, and felt the books would go to a good home (or library, as it were). I am currently racing through the material, much of which has never been published elsewhere, as it really is some of the best supernatural fiction I have ever read. The mysterious nature of the donation feeds my impressions, so I feel I will most definitely find a new favorite, hidden away in the dusty tomes. I guess I should say what my previous favorite was, so I’ll mention A Warning to the Curious, by M.R.James. The story is available, free, online, and comes highly recommended to those who enjoy a good tale.
DreamStation.cc: Do you think that the point and click adventure is a lost art, so to speak? In terms of innovation is there still a lot to be had in the genre in general?
Jonathan Boakes: Lost? Never. It’s just evolved, yet again! I believe the newer platforms will see resurgence in the genre. Think of all those Myst-like mechanical puzzles on the Wii. Why click to turn a rusty old valve, when you can physically strain with the effort. I think that would be a great experience. I’m not sure the non-action, non-filmic adventure could survive without plucky, dedicated independent developers, like myself and my peers, but time will tell…it usually does. You have to remember that my first game, Dark Fall, was produced as homage to an extinct genre; the point and click, Myst-style, lonely puzzle game. Those type of games had disappeared from shelves, so it came as some surprise to find the genre had a massive, dedicated following and fan base online. Since then, the genre has evolved to take in new technology, like The Lost Crown, and moves into new territory with each new title.
DreamStation.cc: Is there anything else you’d like to tell us about The Lost Crown that we may have missed?
Jonathan Boakes: Keep your eyes peeled, when playing, for unexplainable phenomena in the actual game screens. Many of the locations are real places, which I visit on a regular basis. The landscape and buildings are real, with many boasting their own ghost stories and supernatural phenomena. I experienced unexplainable events when researching, and photographing, the locations…with some of that material making its way into the actual game. So, keep in mind, when wandering the haunted world of The Lost Crown, that you may be seeing, or hearing, genuinely unexplainable phenomena…caused by the dead!
DreamStation.cc: What’s the scariest movie of all-time?
Jonathan Boakes: For me, hmmm, I guess it would have to be something recent…like The Ring (original). Hollywood tends to make very glamorous horror movies, whereas Ringu felt very gray, depressing and unpredictable. I guess the ‘urban legend’ story also felt very ‘now’ and horribly possible. The Asian horror genre is a bit tired these days, but back then, The Ring kept me awake at night…wondering who might be hiding in the mirror, the television or on the end of the phone line.
DreamStation.cc: What’s the better television show Lost or Heroes?
Jonathan Boakes: Easy. Heroes. I liked Lost, I really did, but it’s gone on, and on, and on… plus, I am totally mesmerized by Sylar’s eyebrows. They must surely be the most unusual actors on screen right now. What a double act! Quinto is going to make a great Spock.
DreamStation.cc: DreamStation.cc would like to thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for our readers. We sincerely appreciate it and we wish you the best of luck with The Lost Crown and all future projects.
Jonathan Boakes: Thank you for your interest in the game! Please enjoy the game, and have plenty of nightmares!
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