Night Trap – The Beginning

In 1986 Hasbro were developing their own VHS-based games console called Project NEMO (“Never Even Mentioned Outside”), later renamed Control-Vision. The console was to be billed as a cheaper alternative to rivals Nintendo and Sega. A groundbreaking demo game with parallel storylines was created in order to further push the development of the console.

Produced by Robert Fulop and directed by James Riley, a four minute Full Motion Video Game demo called Scene Of The Crime was made. Shot in a Hillsborough house over a single weekend, the demo shadowed the concept of the Tamara play, with parallel storylines and multiple rooms to view.  It was a groundbreaking idea in the realms of gaming. Hasbro seemed happy with the (rather adult orientated) demo and ordered the go-ahead for full titles;

This is great. Now go and make it for kids.

A video clip of the Hasbro executives watching the Project NEMO demo of Scene Of The Crime was a hidden Easter Egg on one of their future games releases. You can see it below;

Who’s Norman?

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Three months later, in 1987, with a budget of $1’000’000 and a 250-page script, the first FMV Game was put into production. Shot over a three week period on a soundstage at GMT Studios, California, the game Night Trap (eBay link here) became a reality. The cast and crew shot their scenes, and one by one each scene was reset and shot again with a different outcome. The variation in outcomes would eventually allow the player to interact and choose storylines to follow.

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 As a member of the Sega Control Attack Team (SCAT), you have control over the CCTV system and a series of traps within a house. The house owners are hosting a second sleepover for their daughter. Mysteriously the girls from the first sleepover disappeared. Amd its your job to monitor the house, find out what happened, and protect the girls.

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Night Trap became world-renowned politically, albeit for the wrong reasons. Video game violence was brought to light in Congress as a legitimate debate. But Night Trap was tarnished as a violent and bloody game unfit for children. Although Night Trap was designed predominantly as a fun vampire game, and showed no sex, nudity or violence.

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Nevertheless, the debate over game violence caused serious damage to the games industry. And Night Trap is the reason there are now Ratings on all video games. The game was later censored and re-released.

 

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The clapperboards show that Night Trap was filmed in the summer of 1987, over a period of roughly 2 to 3 weeks.

Most interestingly, the controversial Bathroom scene (which isn’t controversial at all, given the hype it gained in US Congress which led to all future games on any console having an Age Rating certificate), seems to have been a night shoot, taking place in the early hours of 4am on Wednesday 29th July 1987. Considering they were shooting the bedroom scenes at mid day the day before and further bathroom scenes at mid day, they either split the shoot with different crews, or worked their butts off to get this in the can!

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The final edited product was also dubbed into Japanese, Spanish and French and released in those countries.  Later it was ported to the Panasonic 3DO and Sega Saturn games consoles, and re-released as a Directors Cut for the PC and Mac CD-ROM. The Directors Cut has no additional content, other than a different opening titles.

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Publishing Double Switch

Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating 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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Having had to play the game a few times myself to figure out some timings and work out the order of a few clips, it became obvious the game has a random element to it. Each time you play the Thugs and Intruders are different. However, it appears the rooms and entry times stay the same. This gives the player a chance to remember the structure of the game, although the video elements and trigger points differ and therefore could affect the perfect run. The final video below shows every thug and every intruder (repeated several times, as they are in the game too), with both trap and non-trap versions. I hope you like the final version. It took some blood, sweat and tears.

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The hope of creating such a video was to re-ignite interest in the game. I’d love to get involved with any re-release or porting, although I’m not in any way a programmer. But financially I’d love to support such a thing, should it become an Indiegogo or Kickstarter campaign.

As a quick example of how a DVD version of the game could work, I created this video. Hopefully it sparks some ideas.

The concept was great. The footage was great. The storyline and script were great. Finally, after a weeks worth of trials and tribulations, the fully rendered video is here. It shows every clip in the correct sequence in the game. It shows every occurrence of a Thug or Intruder, each with a trap and non-trap version. It didn’t come without a run of issues on my part. Missing clips, incorrect storyline order, unknown edit render errors.

Finally, I give you… Double Switch.

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Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 3 of this blog: Composing Double Switch.

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

Composing Double Switch

Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

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

As a freelance Director I’m never sure when work is coming. Thankfully a bunch of shifts came up this last week or so, which is great. But it means I’ve had to put the Double Switch project on the back burner.

However, as of last night the edit is complete. I now have the full EDL showing all the action at the same time and showing the storyline as it evolves. From this video I’ll be able to create a spreadsheet showing which clips run at which times, with timecode.

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I should point out that for the purpose of avoiding audio clash from actors in different rooms talking at the same time, there’s a bit of creative adjustment to the placement of a few of the video clips. I’m also not entirely sure if the running clips are definitive in their placement. As mentioned previously, some of the video filenames are ordered 1, 2, 3, 4, but the order in which they play in the game may be 3, 1, 2, 4. Perhaps there’s some randomisation in the game which mixes it up a little each time its played. There were occasions when a bad guy has just been trapped in one room, yet they suddenly appear at the same time in another room. Again, I’ve slid those videos further apart to make the gap between them viable time for the occurrences to have been realtime.

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It should be noted that the amount of clips playing at the same time substantially ramps up the closer you get to the end of the game. The chances of keeping your number of ‘captured versus escaped’ low at this point was rather hard! As was keeping up with the actual storyline.

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One thing I’d like to do is make it a better experience with headphones and therefore tweak the audio, so that cameras on the left are in the left ear, and similarly right ear for the right hand side cameras. This’ll take a bit more work.

Since my teeny MacBook Pro might take half a day to render out the video, I’m not going to start the render till I’m happy with the audio. So stand by your beds for the final video.

For now, here’s a peek at the overall edit timeline. It’s rather busy and complicated!

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Part 1 of this blog: Deconstructing Double Switch.

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating Double Switch.

Part 4 of this blog: Publishing Double Switch.

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

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.

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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:

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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