Shoot! Nightmare at Exile

Shoot! Nightmare at Exile

“Shoot! Nightmare at Exile” is a live-action First Person Shooter game produced at Vallekilde Højskole for Exile Game Jam Spring 2013.

I had the original idea, did the game design for it, recorded and edited all the video footage and created the sound effects for the game, with Gabriel Durac helping out on the project as a programmer and Kristian Rømer creating the original soundtrack.

The game is sort of a spiritual sequel to my Nordic Game Jam project NGJ Fighters, where the game was mostly made of live-action video footage of two characters fighting against each other. The idea seemed to attract some attention, so I wanted to take that a bit further for this new game.

Nightmare at Exile 1

Partly inspired by games like Mad Dog McCree and Los Justicieros, I wanted to put together a short game where the player walks through Vallekilde Højskole (on rails – it’s pre-recorded video footage after all) and has to defend himself against hordes of enemies attacking him at every step, with an epic final boss fight at the end.

To get the project running I managed to create a simple prototype in Unity where a looping video of my friend Peter Ølsted shooting at the camera and taking cover would play infinitely. If the player clicked on him when he was out (detected by a plane that would only be active at the right time), the game would then switch to a video of Peter getting shot. I also managed to get a similar test with an enemy attacking the player in melee combat without taking cover.

Unity test

After I got the test running I showed it to Gabriel, the programmer, who had shown interest in working with me on this (also I’m thrilled to have worked with yet another person I had never made a game with before at a game jam!) He quickly understood what I wanted to do, but suggested doing it in Adobe Flash instead.

The reasons for the switch are many, but mostly because it would make syncing the video with the invisible target area that players ultimately click on much easier when using Flash’s timeline. And while Flash was definitely not perfect (constant crashes, memory errors, compiling stopping without giving away any messages at every second build, limits in video importing…) it did a great job at providing smooth gameplay.

Nightmare at Exile 2

The trickiest part no doubt was trying to get more than one enemy attacking on the screen at the same time. As you can see in the picture above, Nina, Simon and Astrid are all attacking the player simultaneously. This is actually THREE different video clips put together to look like one, playing independently and each one with its own tempo. This made it possible to kill the enemies in a different order every time, with only the character shot falling to the ground while the rest kept attacking. Very tricky, but it worked flawlessly.

It was also a lot of fun getting a lot of people to participate in the production of Nightmare at Exile as actors (then again, it was also a lot of fun asking random Vallekilde students if they wanted to die… on the camera). It has definitely taught me a few things to take into consideration in future projects about planning and camera positioning for this type of interactive video. Of course for a 48 hour game there are lots, LOTS of errors here and there, especially when it comes to changes in lightning, but I let them be since this is, after all, a game made purely for the fun of it.

Even cooler was putting together the final boss fight that takes place in the living room at Vallekilde if the player manages to survive that far, but I won’t spoil it here.

This was also my second time recording and editing sound effects for a game, so not only have I learned a bit more of programming (with the Unity prototypes), video production and Flash development, but also sound design, even if it was all done very quickly in the last few hours. Definitely something worth looking into further in the future.

The game is currently available for downloading as a SWF file from game jam games hosting website Unicorn7. You might need to open it with your web browser if you do not have the external Flash Player application installed.