Tag Archive | Digital Pictures

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.

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

Deconstructing Double Switch

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating 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

Very much in the spirit of Dave Voyles blog Deconstructing Night Trap, I’ve started a similar project for Double Switch. The trials and tribulations of such an endeavour are documented here.

Please note, at this stage I’m merely decoding video clips, and personally have no coding skill whatsoever. I’m certainly no Dave Voyles!

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Sega games were my childhood. The Sega CD was my teens. I can’t tell you how many hours I must have spent playing the game Night Trap. Not only playing it but writing down the times, documenting the storyline and creating sequences for the perfect run. I was eleven years old. Without connecting too many dots, it’s easy to see why I ended up working in TV as a Director. I even work on the reality show Big Brother UK, watching 46 cameras and following the action. The image below shows a one room covered by every angle, and that’s not including the camera crews behind the 60+ two-way mirrors…

Big Brother Reality Gallery Screens

Night Trap, Sewer Shark, Double Switch and Ground Zero Texas were all I ever played. Non stop. Day after day. 23 years later that Night Trap guitar rift still gives me goose bumps. And the scene is still interested in those games. Earlier this year an almost unknown Kickstarter project started, and sadly failed by reaching only 12% of their financial goal. The original team behind Night Trap were looking for funds to port all the original 35mm footage to file and re-release the game in “HD”; Night Trap ReVamped.

I, and many others, got to the project too late. And it feels like those involved took it as a kick in the teeth, despite the love still going for such a thing to happen.

(I should mention at this stage that I collect movie props and production paperwork. I managed to get my hands on an original Digital Pictures baseball cap. And knowing that a copy of the production script and behind the scenes stills for Night Trap existed as a Kickstarter Tier absolutely breaks my heart! They exist, and I can’t get them!!)

I began to dig deeper about the potential re-release and joined the Night Trap Facebook page. This community is very much still alive and kicking, and recently a post appeared to show how Night Trap could potentially be ported and played via a website. And this got me onto the path of Deconstructing Double Switch. IMG_0028 The first thing to be done was get all the footage that’s currently available in the best resolution possible. The game was released on Sega CD, Saturn, PC and allegedly Mac (though I can’t seem to find any evidence of this!). The best footage at this stage should be the Saturn version, 15fps v the Sega CDs 12fps, but there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to access the Saturn video files. Long story short, the only way I can think to get this footage would be to emulate the Saturn and play through the game. The downside to this is that any overlays to the game would be visible, and it wouldn’t be a true copy of the digital files, nor would it be complete clips beginning to end of shot. I’d also need to play the game dozens of times to capture every clip. I’m not going ahead with screen capturing at this stage, but it may happen in the future if necessary.

However, there is a tool which can read Sega CD “.SGA” files and convert them from disc to AVI movies. Annoyingly the Saturn discs contain a similar file structure with .SGA files, but sadly the SCAT tool doesn’t read them. This could be something to do with the increased frame rate, palette or resolution. I’m yet to find an answer.

An issue with using SCAT for the Sega CD files is that the video is ultra poor quality, coming in at a resolution approximately 192 x 138 with a colour palette of only 64. This isn’t the problem of the tool itself, merely the mangled and destroyed footage created by Sega in order for the hardware of the Sega CD to decode (some of the details of which I’ve written about in this blog post: “Project NEMO and the Demise of FMV games“). The other stumbling block I’ve come across is that the SCAT tool saves the AVI files with debug info on the video.

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The debug info isn’t too much of a problem as this can be cropped off during any future conversion from AVI to MP4. But then the audio seems to slip too. I think this may be to do with frame rates? And there currently isn’t a way to adjust the AVI frame rate when the file is saved via SCAT. The only other way, which is massively inconvenient, is to export every frame separately as a PNG Image Sequence, save the WAV separately, and then re-combine the sequence at 12fps in Quicktime 7.

This is hugely time consuming and not as straight forward as I had hoped. The folder structure for the 155 video clips and all the PNG files required is mind boggling to say the least. But at present, this is what is required. Till someone comes up with a better batch-convert answer…

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Updated:

23rd July 2015 18:00 100% video files converted- 155/155 files

Part 2 of this blog: Recreating 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