Author Archive

On the violent themes of Lone Survivor

Thankyou for covering the game, Rock Paper Shotgun!  Having read the initial batch of comments I feel the rare urge to respond in some way, and that, rather than clog up the thread there, I’d leave them here.

First of all, I should note that this post explains some of the intent of the game which you may not wish to know in a spoiler-sense.

But I felt I should write it down because it seems that some people find the trailer unnecessarily dark / provocative. Which I can now see, looking at it another way. But I would defend it this way…

I tend to dislike games with unnecessarily-realistic / glorified violence in general, it’s a bit of a theme in this game, and others I’ve made… In fact this is the first game I’ve made with a gun. I’ve made a big thing out of the fact that you can get through the game without killing anything, and that taking pills, killing or eating rats is entirely optional…  and the game will recognise this.  I want to make a game where you think about the consequences of picking up a gun.  Some drugs can even be beneficial too though, right?  That’s another question I’m thinking about a lot.  It’s a game about looking after yourself as best you can, in a bad situation.  Some players may relish exploring the darker aspects, but I’m betting the majority stay clear, at least in their first playthrough.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve played and continue to play games which are violent, as combat is so frequently the main mechanic… but I’m more choosy about which ones I enjoy now, either it’s light-hearted and cartoon-ish, or it has some purpose to its portrayal of realistic violence, besides to shock.  Silent Hill 2 continues to be my principle inspiration here, as the nightmares were things a man with psychological problems had conjured up, abstract and representative. Lone Survivor is not a game about zombies.

I remember being quite turned off by a popular game whose principal USP on the back of the box was ‘strategic dismemberment.’  Lone Survivor attempts to provide (far less realistically portrayed) options for committing violent acts, but attempts to draw attention to just how weird / disturbing it actually would be to do them through the text.

The game is slowly paced, the fights are quite rare, as are the few moments of gore.  I hoped that by making it in a very low resolution it wouldn’t be visually shocking, but it’s perhaps turned out more so than I imagined.

There is a very positive ending to this game, if you play it in a certain way. I want it to be full of hope.

Anyway I hope that explains my intentions with the game a little better!

Thanks for reading as always,


Lone Survivor – IGF Trailer

It’s really happening, the deadline approaches, and I got all I wanted into it.  I will write about what’s gone into it at some point, before pushing onto the final levels: I look a bit like one of the creatures from DARK SOULS (Dark Souls.)  But for now relax and enjoy the movie…

Lone Survivor IGF Trailer

All go for IGF!

This picture shows how I feel (this is the new exhaustion system.)

Just over three weeks to go… Will it all be done in time?

I know one thing, that the game has become something else entirely this last month or so, since I took a break from it. It’s really helped and I’ve come up with something that feels no longer like a remake of old survival horror, but more like a new mashup of various things that I can’t really put into a category.

There’s a real nurture element to it, you are now linked with your apartment at almost all times, and you’ll need to rest your guy there and plan your routes as it’s the only place that’s safe. Hopefully you’ll enjoy the picking of the right food for the occasion, or the right drug in case of emergency. You may be able to find your way around all the monsters without even harming them at all.

If you must take the pills though, remember to make the most of your dreams…

Soul Brother OST / Lone Survivor IGF

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to finally present to you:


Available for purchase on Bandcamp on 11/9/11, with iTunes to follow in around a month.

So, without further ado, let me tell you a little about the project.  When I originally made the game, I figured it would be fairly small, and not have many players.  That of course all changed when it was picked up by [Adult Swim] Games!  The problem was I’d used loads of really famous samples, and if lots of people were going to play it, there was no way I could get away with it.  (It’s true, musicians do ‘get away with it’ all the time, because more often than not when sampling, the record the sample appears on doesn’t go on to make enough sales to warrant the sample owner chasing it up.  I’ll admit I’ve done it myself on my drum’n’bass work, although only on smaller releases.)

So this means I had to either clear or remove the samples.  Removing them would have been simple, and saved me a lot of money, but I felt that, even if the sales of the OST were less than the cost of the samples, (which is quite likely to be the case) people would appreciate it as a labour of love, which it definitely is!

The Ins and Outs of Sample Clearance

I was asked by a friend to recount my experiences with sample clearance, and it’s been a long and difficult process.

In the end, I removed a great deal of samples from the intro track, which had load of classic early-90’s hip-hop vocals and cuts… It would have cost tens of thousands to license them all, if I could even track down who owned the rights.  So I ended up re-working the track with my own vocal stylings and a bit of vocoder.

The problem was that left Mr.Soul, the ‘theme tune’ of Soul Brother, and the track Mirko, both of which used samples from classic house track ‘We Can Rise’ by Copyright (strangely ironic name), on Defected Records.

Defected are known for licensing their samples regularly – in fact it could be said they actively court it as a source of revenue.  They release all of their tracks as acapellas in compilation albums, and for many dance music producers it’s quite a tempting prospect to listen through them when looking for a vocal hook.  I’ve used plenty myself, in some cases as placeholders I then get a vocalist to re-record, but in the case of these tunes, the vocals are integral to the hook and feel of the tunes… I just wasn’t prepared to compromise, even if it meant making the project at a loss!

The Process Itself

The first step was to negotiate the retaining of the rights to the Soul Brother OST from Adult Swim.  Normally you sell the rights alongside the game, but I was very keen to keep the rights as the music had already taken as long as the game at that point.  Amending the contracts in this way took a lot of back and forth, but we got there eventually!  Once that was done I needed to work out how much it was going to cost…

First you get in contact with the label who owns the vocal.  The standard agreement is a percentage of profit along with a flat fee for each track.  Once you’ve settled on these numbers, contracts are drawn up.  Once I knew the cost I could get back to [Adult Swim], and once they were happy that there weren’t any gotchas (for example, restrictions on the reuse of the music on any ports, sequels, movies, TV spinoffs… etc) they were happy.

The tracks then need to be ‘published’ – a term used to descrive who takes responsibilty for collecting royalties.  Fortunately I still have a publishing company from my drum’n’bass record label, Space Music, so that stage was fairly simple.

The final stage is then to register the tracks with PRS (the Performing Right Society.)  This is where the majority of royalties come from, they track public performance of music using a number of different heuristics (it’s all a bit black magic.)  But of course they can’t track tunes they don’t know about!

I hope this explains a little about the process to those considering sampling…

Defected Records

The Album Itself

Now I’d like to say a little about the album and where it’s come from.  There are 11 tracks, of which 6 are from the game itself.  Each of these 6 tracks has been majorly re-worked, improving the production, adding new elements, additional vocals and so on, and extending them, etc.  I originally spent about two months on the in-game music, trying lots of things that didn’t work (and trying desperately to avoid falling back on chiptunes!)

Since then I’ve probably put another few weeks into those tunes, and I hope you’ll agree that the OST versions are a lot nicer!

The other 5 tracks are all unique to the OST.  Three of which feature me singing…  Which is, err, quite a new thing for me.  I often put little backing vocals on my d’n’b work, and used to sing in indie bands when I was younger, but this is the first stuff I’ve actually released with verses and choruses and so on.

Some of these additional songs have actually been in the works since 2008, when I was first experimenting with electro-house.  Nothing came of it at the time and I shelved the music until now.  I spent another few weeks completely re-working these tracks to bring them up-to-date, and make them fit with the existing tracks.


So that’s Soul Brother OST.  It will be available for purchase from this Sunday 11/9/11 (in UK date format.)  For now you can head over to the Bandcamp page and listen, and make up your mind whether you’d like to indulge come Sunday!

In the end, it’s something I’m really proud of, if nothing else because it’s the first project I’ve done which I feel somehow bridges my life as a musician and as a game designer…  hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I did making it!

*   *   *

One More Thing…

I know this is going to come as a surprise to those who read my last post… but!


Wait, what?


Yes, that’s right.

After a series of long discussions, emails, and tweets from friends and supporters of the project, I figured it really would be stupid to give up at this point.  I admit, I panicked.  I really felt it was too full of problems to be fixable.  But what I’ve done is to break it down in baby steps, try and get to the root of what the problems actually are, and whether there are ways to fix them.

Well I think I finally have a good idea of how proceed.  So my plan is to go all out for IGF now (it was always the plan – I just bottled it at the last minute.)  I do have a tendency to do this: it’s the third hiatus on Lone Survivor, and even Soul Brother fell off the map for over a year at one point.  In the end I realised that this is my last real chance to secure a future as an indie developer…  and it would be foolish to blow it.

I’ll be totally honest and say that development funds are running short (I have about three months living money left, until I hit the emergency cash reserved for finding another job.)  So, if you’d like to help in some way, I won’t be using the donation model (I much prefer to sell something rather than just ask for money) – the best way you can help me is by heading over to the Soul Brother OST page, and purchasing it!  There’s a low minimum price, but you can pay whatever you like…  So if you really feel like giving me hundreds of thousands of dollars for your copy of the OST, you’re more than welcome!

Seriously though, every purchase will really help Lone Survivor along the way.  So even if the music’s not for you, you can consider it a donate button if you like!

Thanks so much to everyone who’s supported me through this difficult time.  I hope to have it finished by New Year, but if it runs over I’ll consider taking preorders to help with the final push.  Either way, I promise to not stop until the game is done, and put every bit of remaining blood, sweat and tears into it.

Yes, you can quote me on that!

Back on Hiatus

I’m very, very lost with Lone Survivor right now.  The stuff I’ve been adding has just made the game far more complicated, not necessarily better as far as I can tell.  I seem to be heading down a path where there’s almost too much content for one person to create.

I’m not actually sure I can finish it at all at this point, but maybe with some space between me and it, I can figure it out.  Maybe not, and if so, that’s just how it was meant to be.

In the meantime I will be experimenting with a number of small things, nothing in particular.  I may have to get a job too, as I can’t support this kind of procrastination financially!  I was giving some proper thought to returning to the ‘big game’ industry, but then I realised I should probably put some distance between myself and games for a while.  I might try and get a really normal job, one that’s not creative for a change, just to give me some breathing space to think about what I really want to do, indie-games-wise, and life-wise.

Now my plans have changed a lot in the past few years, even from month to month, so it’s hard for me to predict if this hiatus will be short, long or even permanent.  I just wanted to let you guys know, and to say thankyou to you all for all the support for this game and others I’ve made.

I’ll leave you with a final screenshot of the game, a new room I added last week:

So for now at least, it’s goodbye from me, and goodbye from You!

Cold Bloody Murder

I’m going to keep the blog more active, now a few more people have stopped by (thanks as always,, and others who covered the trailer.)  Hello to any new readers who’ve stopped by, welcome to superflat world!

Here is my screenshot saturday, which shows the new exterior area (it’s actually the first location I worked on two years ago, greatly changed.  Feels strange to be back there though!)

You can also see the new lighting stuff going on, the improved grain and contrast etc, which I’ve been spending time on.

For comparison’s sake, here is the same shot from the build alpha 0.2, posted here early in 2010:

It’s times like this you look back and realise some progress has actually been made!

Lone Survivor official trailer debut!

Direct link to youtube…

Warning: contains semi-spoilers!

Having taken a few weeks to really think about it, I’ve decided I’m going to be back at work on this baby full-time until it’s done. I’m risking everything on it financially, but I believe in it enough to do it…


My entry into Ludum Dare 48.  It’s a game about my dad, set in Liverpool of the 60’s where he’d recently emigrated to.  Made in under 48 hours. I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out, although I appreciate it’s fairly personal and may not have the same weight for other people! I certainly giggled a lot while making it, partly from exhaustion though maybe.

It’s written in RPGMaker 2003, so it’s Windows only I’m afraid.  I’ve based the visuals on a ZX Spectrum with a slightly tweaked palette to make it more digestible.

Very happy to have something finished to share with you guys again though!

Click the image to go to the game download page.


I forgot to mention this one, it’s a sort of horror-antithesis of Lone Survivor, called LS3D.  Whereas that game is focussed on the psychological aspects, this is a purely visceral thriller, with I suppose something of a back-story to the main game thrown in.

(Click the image to go to the dev log over on the forum)

It began as an entry into the awesome the ‘Justice’ Pageant, over on, a new forum I’m a mod on, and occasional suggester of ideas to. It aims to be a development centric forum, not really focussed on the social aspects so much, pure geekery and artery.  There’s a bunch of people involved in it (Stephen Lavelle runs the Pageants in particular.)

Anyway it wasn’t finished in time, but may be later when I figure out a way to!  I’m back to work on Lone Survivor at the moment, and the Soul Brother soundtrack, as well as other music things and a brief but much-needed holiday, so things have been quite busy all in all

New Light!

Off on holiday today, but I’ll leave you with a screenshot showing the new lighting system (notice the grading across the screen), the redrawn art (I’ve done a second detail pass on all the art) and the new area (in fact the first area I began two years ago.)  Also you can see the item combination system here.  I wonder what irradiated orange + squid stick tastes like?

It’s going well!