Recreating Double Switch

Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

This entry is documenting my sudden re-addiction to the Digital Pictures game Double Switch, and an attempt to help port it to other platforms using only the data from my original Sega CD copy. NOTE: I’m in no way capable of coding anything myself!

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The easiest part of all this so far has been the video decoding. It’s time consuming, but easy enough. Since the converted AVI videos were created with out-of-sync audio, I went down the route of saving separate files. I’ve estimated that I’ve exported probably over 50’000 PNG frames which have then been re-sequenced and a separate WAV audio file applied before being re-saved with the same file name. This file still also includes the on-screen data as captured by the SCAT video software, so every newly created file is also being run though Handbrake video software to crop off the bottom and eliminate the unwanted data, and also shrinking down the video file from a 10mb AVI to 2mb MP4.

side-by-side

Analysing the file names has led me to the following conclusions; ALEX, BAND, BAS, BRU, GRADS, LOB and STOR are obviously the individual rooms of Alex‘s room, the band room, the basement, Brutus‘s room, the Graduates room, the lobby and basement storage.

File containing EST are establishing scenes, showing a character in their room not doing anything other than distracting you, and taking you away from other rooms that require traps to be set.

EF files are Eddie giving you a “screw up again…” warning, or a Fail and game over.

HF are the Handyman giving a fail before game over.

Files starting with 1, 2 or 3 indicate the storyline as Chapter 1, Chapter 2 or Chapter 3 of the game.

Files containing a 1, 2 or 3 elsewhere denote the order of clips.

The letter “T” indicates a clip containing a Thug who can be trapped.

The letter “I” indicates an Intruder dressed in green who can be trapped.

Therefore for example, ALEXT3_SGA is a trap scene in Alex’s room with the third bad guy in a black suit.

Easy!

Four other clips are self explanatory; Digital Pictures Logo, Easter Egg, Game Over and End Credits.

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There’s a handful of things I’ve discovered along the way that I’ve had to keep an eye on. The Digital Pictures logo is 15fps, whereas everything else appears to be 12fps. This caught me out when I was trying to rebuild Image Sequences and the audio didn’t fit.

But more interesting, I noticed that any file on the Sega CD depicting the “ALEX” room is actually flopped in the game. What I mean by that is that it was shot on-set in-camera one way (and encoded and written to every disc that way), but when you actually play the game, every “ALEX” video clip is flipped the other way round. See the image below for perhaps a better representation of what I mean:

DS_flop

On the left is the SCAT video decode. On the right is the in-game footage. Curious!

It’s only the “ALEX” room that is affected. I imagine this to be something unforeseen during the shoot but when they came to the game edit, it made sense to flip the image around and make it look like the doors and windows were on the left side of the room and therefore logically it makes sense for the layout of The Edward Arms to have a room on one side, mirrored by a different room on the other. If you look closely enough you may very well spot Corey Haim holding items in his right hand in one room, but holds them in his left hand in Alex’s room. The suited bad guys have their handkerchiefs in their right breast pocket in the Alex room, but their proper  left breast pocket everywhere else. Alex’s room number is 321, as seen on the door in only THREE clips. It’s flipped in the game, but due to the degradation of the video clip you’d unlikely notice anyway.

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FUN FACT: A similar “flopping” technique was done by James Cameron in the movie Terminator 2, when the canal truck chasing John Connor crashes through the bridge wall and plummets into the canal below. Actor Robert patrick wore a reversed police uniform and sat at a mock driving rig in the passenger seat, with the real driver hidden behind black tarp in the drivers seat. When the image was flipped it looked like Patrick was driving! Eddie Furlong also wore a reversed Public Enemy t-shirt so they could flip the image in the edit and have everything look correct.

I’ve written more about Terminator 2 in this blog post: Trailer Forensics: Terminator 2.

James Cameron took this a step further when filming Titanic by building one entire side of the ship, however every piece of text was written backwards and they flopped it in the edit. I even own a reversed prop piece; Jacks 3rd Class Boarding Passes as won in the card game! But I digress…

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Another puzzle was discovered when I was putting the video clips in order to play them all  at the same time like a real CCTV system (see video at the end of the blog). Not all of the clips go in sequence. For example, Thug files numbered 1-4 followed by intruders numbered 1-4 in Alex’s room (ALEXT1, ALEXT2, ALEXT3, ALEXT4, ALEXI1, ALEXI2, ALEXI3, ALEXI4). Going through the file names whilst watching back a recorded version of the whole gameplay showed that the file names mostly appeared to be going in sequence. But there are a couple that don’t go in that order. Occasionally it’s 2, 4, 3 1. This is because there is a degree of randomisation in the game. Each time you play it bad guys appear in the same rooms at roughly the same time. but the clips that are played are random.

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So I exported every single frame and every audio clip, and recompiled every clip to make a much more manageable MP4 version. I’ll keep the first batch edits with the original encoded data on, as I suspect in the future this data will correlate to the timeline in some way and will help in reconstructing the game. Another thing of note here is that not all the clips have a corresponding timecode on the data, so it’s not always going to be dead accurate on which clip goes where.

I’m certainly no games coder. I’m a Studio Director! So in the spirit of my line of work, here’s a sneak peek of what I envisage the final conversion could look like.

My idea would be fairly simple in principle; all the cameras play out in the sequence they normally would in real time, and by clicking on a CCTV screen at the right time you flag for the trap to be triggered. If you trigger the trap, the video plays up till the diversion point whereby the ‘trap’ version plays. If you don’t click the camera, the video clip continues to play out the non-trap sequence. Too many non-trap sequences and you fail. Likewise, perhaps a double-click on a camera showing the Code Numbers to allow Eddie to escape the basement indicates you’ve registered the number and therefore don’t fail either…

Who knows. At this stage, everything is speculation. I’m just editing a fancy video!

Now obviously in the game there are 7 areas, and I’ve only included 6 screens. Due to the fact Eddie is stuck in the basement for the majority of it and we don’t really see him, I’ve made the bottom-left screen both the basement and the storage area. So far I haven’t come across two clips that should play at the same time.

I’ve also scoured YouTube for “longplay” clips showing people playing the entire game in one sitting, so I can figure out which video clips are playing at which time. For the purpose of sound (which I didn’t really play with in the above video, but obviously needs work) it may be likely that some of the clips will move backwards or forwards along the timeline so as not to have spoken words clash on different cameras. Some sound may be dipped so it’s still audible, but it not being required for the purpose of the storyline.

For now, I’m marching on ahead with converting the videos. And when I get time I’ll put together a sequence spreadsheet with all the clips in the correct order and the aforementioned divergent points.

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Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

Related post: Project NEMO And the Unfortunate Demise of FMV Games

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About Mercian Media

My name is Alex, and I work in the Film and TV industry. I work freelance for various employers on several shows including Big Brother, Celebrity Big Brother, Sky News, Sky Sports, London Live, Bloomberg and QVC. All views are my own.

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