This developer blog is part of an ongoing series of posts organized by Square Enix and Siliconera to help bring exposure to indie developers on The Collective, a crowdfunding platform founded and managed by Square Enix.
– Cristian Diaconescu
What is Black the Fall?
Black The Fall is an atmospheric side-scrolling shooter with puzzle solving elements. An odd and unexpected black-and-white dream.
The amnesiac protagonist trope:
Black, our protagonist, enters this world having no extra information about the surroundings or about his mission, except what he sees. In this way, he resembles a lot with the player for none of them know the story at the beginning. His amnesia comes to emphasize that exploring this strange and stimulating reality is a very important part of the game experience.
Inspirations behind the story:
Communism – a long lost world
As a child, one of my favorite activities was to imagine new realities by altering the one I was living in. I guess in a way I’m still doing that, because Black the Fall has a strong inspiration source in the post-communist country I’m living in. The game imagines a bleak world you can’t fully understand and every once in a while you come across signs of the totalitarian “Machine”.
In the communist era industrialization was paramount. Abandoned giant factories towering the fields are living proof of a that. As you progress into the game the landscape transforms. The watchful eyes, the iron gates, the gigantic industrial colossi are part of your journey. Facing them will slowly reveal the story.
The social aspect of the communism inspired the way the Natives behave. They seem to be humans, in most ways just like you, but slightly different. As all the people that lived back then they are animated by suspicion, fear, uncertainty. Everyone should be regarded as a potential enemy, an informer, a criminal.
I’ll be introducing another NPC class called “the beggars” inspired by my day to day life. They are a constant presence in the abandoned houses, near markets, tube stations, railway stations, you name it. I even have a homeless “neighbor” that sleeps right outside my door. He’s a very polite elderly gentlemen, called Bebe. The idea behind this class is to have NPCs that you will not have to fight, although they can be very annoying because they will stick to you like glue. They will beg, make noises and alert the other Natives about your presence.
Even the puzzles are inspired by the old “good days”. I’m working on a puzzle that is basically a queue where you will have to conform in order to solve it.
Black & White:
I’ve been doing some research into b&w when working at art school. Being a student in the Graphics department, working with b&w is what I do all day. It’s my second faculty, my first one was the Polytechnics, where I have studied IT. During my 12 years of cg experience I had a secret love for Z-depth, the idea of distance represented by shades of gray from black to white or the other way around. The Z-depth render always made me feel nostalgic, melancholic and even a little bit anxious. Maybe the nostalgia comes from my early childhood TV. Everything was b&w back then.
After our Revolution things have changed. We’ve got colored TVs, cable and computers. Games that left a strong impression were Dizzy and later on Another World. Since then, I’ve wanted to make my own side-scroller but I never had the chance.
I started Black The Fall as an art school project for my mid-term exam. It was supposed to be a small game (side-scroller) with black-and-white graphics that emphasized the idea of journey. I aimed to make it as an interactive installation. As the project grew it became obvious to me that I want to make it a real video game. When searching for inspiration I found Limbo which for me was a confirmation that video games can produce strong emotions, that they can truly be an artistic way of expressing yourself.
Movies and cartoons:
Other sources of inspiration came from movies like Sin City, Brazil, The Matrix, The Colony, Dark City and many others. :) Last but not least comes Samurai Jack, which is one of my favorite cartoons ever. It has influenced decisively the way we do sound and music for our game.
Our game design is open-ended. We experiment a lot with mechanics, level design and A.I. All this to find new ways of sharing and conveying emotions.
I believe that games can be more than just entertainment. They can become a place where developers express themselves, a place where cultural diversity can be experienced.