This year, I got a chance to play and review an independent game called Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants. The game has had quite a lot of success over the years. I was really impressed by just how good the game was. It made me want to make a game myself. I can do it! Oh.....but.....wait.......that would require some kind of talent, right? Ah, such is life. I think I'll leave that to someone like Bill who obviously knows what he's doing. At the time of my review, I asked Bill if he had anything new we could look forward to.
His answer was: "I am playing around with a few ideas and technology on another game... but nothing worth mentioning yet since I want my next game to be scarier than LHoD: Shadows of the Servants".
Hmmm....Bill's keeping his cards close to his chest. Is there a way to get him to crack? Perhaps alcohol? Given the stories he writes, scare tactics aren't going to work well. Thankfully, a short time later he spilled the beans about his latest project: "Last Half of Darkness: Beyond the Spirit's Eye".
A deserted town.....a black jewel protected by evil....Vampires??? My interest has been more than peaked and I thought it was high time we got to know a little more about Bill.
[Adventure Lantern]: Let's start off with something obvious. Can you please tell us a little bit about yourself and WRF Studios?
[Bill Fisher]: My name is Bill (William R Fisher III Studios) and I developed the original "Last Half of Darkness" almost 17 years ago in 1989. The original contained only 16 colors, approximately 40 locations and was released primarily as Shareware. As technology evolved, so did my interest in making a scarier adventure experience. And with that, "Shadows of the Servants" was born in 2005.
[AL]: What made you decide to try your hand at game developing?
[BF]: My first computer was the Radio Shack MC-10 and I just began playing around with the BASIC language then started programming very simple text adventures in high school. I continued to improve gameplay and graphics on newer computers throughout the years until something was developed worthy of distribution.
[AL]: What do you think is the most difficult part of being an independent developer these days?
[BF]: Basically it all comes down to resources. As an independent my resources are somewhat limited and I continuously find myself having to balance certain features, animations or areas due to the fact that there are only so many hours in the day.
[AL]: Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants (LHoD: SotS) has gained quite a following and continues to spark interest in the adventure gaming community. Do you think adventure gaming websites are an important aid to the independent developer?
[BF]: Absolutely. Adventure websites provide a great way of informing the public on projects they might not otherwise ever hear about. Of course the same is true for independent movies which I am a fan of too. Especially horror (though that's probably no surprise huh?)
[AL]: For the gamers out there who have not had a chance to play LHoD: SotS, can you please give a brief summary of the storyline?
[BF]: A dark spirit, spawned through the death of a cursed monkey, has governed the deserted New Orleans estate of the late Dr. Muretta and her family for over fifty years. The ancient voices of the black world exist here among the ashes of the dead, where a new story is born and the graves of a thousand monkeys set the eerie backdrop for a terrifying exploration into terror. The latest installment to "The Last Half of Darkness" story, the new title offers a spine-tingling story of terror, mysterious puzzles and bizarre imagery. Summoned to a world of voodoo and black magic, the player must explore a ghostly New Orleans estate and local town to solve the riddles of the darkness left behind.
[AL]: How did you come up with the idea for the storyline in LHoD: SotS?
[BF]: It was on my vacation to the uncharted section of the Brazil rain forest where I first heard the legend of the dark monkeys from the locals....just kidding! Actually the story simply evolved through several weeks of imaginative writing and rewriting.
[AL]: I can honestly say I would not want to meet up with any of your characters in a dark alley.....or a fully lit one either. And, I'll never look at monkeys the same way again. Was your original intention always to scare the "you know what" out of us?
[BF]: I definitely wanted to make "Shadows" a little scarier than the original story (1989 version). Hopefully, I succeeded.
[AL]: I, being quite the chicken, played with all the lights on and I still jumped out of my skin. Do you think most people took your advice to play in darkness or are there more chickens out there like me?
[BF]: Well, I hope people play it as suggested. In fact I make my nephew (who is 14) beta test my games completely alone in a dark room late at night. Sometimes I catch him turning the sound down because he feels something freaky is about to happen. I wonder if anyone else does this?
[AL]: LHoD: SotS makes excellent use of ambient sounds, music, or lack of music to create the mood. It was right on target in making the hair on the back of the neck stand up. Was it difficult to find just the right balance?
[BF]: The "Less is More" theory seems to work here. More music was actually designed but was not used to create a slightly creepier feel.
[AL]: You've been tweaking LHoD: SotS for quite a while now. At this point with the latest release, is there anything you would still want to change?
[BF]: No. I don't think I will touch "Shadows" anymore. Anything else I want to add, I will reveal it in a new chapter. Such as "Beyond the Spirit's Eye".
[AL]: There is definitely a buzz of anticipation on the game forums about "Beyond the Spirit's Eye". Can you start us off by giving us the premise of the story?
[BF]: Can't answer this one yet. (I don't want to say much yet as far as the story is concerned since I am continually tweaking the story.)
[AL]: Will we start off in the same town as LHoD: SotS? And, will it be played from the 1st person perspective?
[BF]: It will be 1st person and it will be in an entirely new location.
[AL]: What made you decide to take your story in the vampire direction? Is it related to the story in "The Lost City of Vampires" which you feature on your website as an RPG?
[BF]: Not entirely a new direction. (Remember the vampiric monkeys who attacked Jaja?) No it is not related to "Lost City"
[AL]: Will "Beyond the Spirit's Eye" maintain the same interface style as Shadows?
[BF]: Yes. I think previous players of "Shadows" would not want me to change that.
[AL]: Are you planning on scaring us yet again?
[AL]: What can we expect to be different in "Beyond the Spirit's Eye"?
[BF]: No maze...but other than that it's really cut from the same mold as "Shadows". I think previous player of "Shadows" enjoyed the balance of mechanical, cryptic poetry, and inventory puzzles, so I don't want to change much in that way. Of course since it's a new chapter, it will involve new puzzles, characters and storyline.
[AL]: The trailer looks exciting! Quite Creepy. Will you be maintaining the same style of graphics in "Beyond the Spirit's Eye"? What will be improved for the new game?
[BF]: The graphics are slightly improved for this version.
[AL]: Will there be a lot of different characters in the game? Will we be able to interact with them?
[BF]: I'm shooting for a very similar interactive feel to "Shadows" in this respect.
[AL]: Shadows started off with a child's voice asking a question. A child's voice is also in the trailer. Is the child significant to the story or is this just to give you that "Children of the Corn" feeling?
[BF]: I think it is just to evoke the innocence against evil feeling. That contrast seems to provide a good creepy story.
[AL]: Another enjoyable feature of LHoD: SotS is the puzzles. What I loved the most was really having to pay attention and even taking notes. You don't get everything handed to you on a silver plate. And, the puzzles were different from the normal fare. Having to play a boardwalk style cups game was a wonderful addition. What kinds of puzzles can we expect to play in Beyond the Spirit's Eye?
[BF]: Similar yet different (If that makes sense?) This is the hardest aspect of designing the new chapter. I think my players enjoyed the balance between different puzzle types in "Shadows of the Servants" and I want to provide the same experience in "Beyond the Spirit's Eye"
[AL]: I know that you don't like to give out release dates way ahead, but I've seen 2007 on the various gaming sites. Could you at least narrow us down to 1st or 2nd half? Pretty please!!!!
[BF]: Although the "Last Half" seems more fitting due to the games name - I'm shooting for the "First Half".
[AL]: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers about "Beyond the Spirit's Eye"?
[BF]: "Beyond the Spirit's Eye" is another chapter in the twisted dark story of the "Last Half of Darkness" that should provide the player an exciting and enjoyable experience in the world of Adventure gaming.
[AL]: One final question. Do you think there is a brighter future out there for adventure games? And, how much of a role do you think Independent games will play?
[BF]: I think there will always be a future for Adventure games. Although I enjoy all types of games, it is so nice to have the option to sit down and relax with an interesting adventure game without the frustration of timed or action sequences.
Adventure Lantern thanks Bill for taking time out of his busy developing schedule to talk with us. It is with great anticipation that we await his newest release. Get ready to have some medical bills......we'll be hitting our heads on the ceiling once again.
Be sure to check out Bill's website: www.lasthalfofdarkness.com You can order Last Half of Darkness: Shadows of the Servants here and also play a free online version. Other great games can be found there as well.
More information and the trailer of Beyond the Spirit's Eye can be found at the official Last Half of Darkness Web site.