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    Tuesday, June 27, 2006

    Progress Report

    Still no new updates on the progress of Exmortis 3. At the moment I am prioritizing between being sorted with my recent move and getting a new website up and running for a baseball tournament called "The Beaver Cup" that I am organising here in Sydney for the October long weekend.

    I'm almost finished with that tournament website, and on top of that I am being bombarded with web development opportunities due to word-of-mouth referrals as a result of recent web sites that I have had a hand in...

    As a result, I may be forced to place a lower importance on the Exmortis3 game as these web development opportunities have the potential to pay some outstanding bills, whilst the Exmortis series has no financial benefit to me and can be considered more of a hobby than a career furthering opportunity.

    But the more I put off doing any work on Exmortis3, the clearer the vision becomes of where I want to take this story. Plus I can assure you that I am very excited about implementing a certain element of game play in to this title - as I am sure it will make 99.9% of you react with "Holy shit! That's fucking sick!!" And the best part is, it's a relatively easy thing to implement...

    I won't spoil you with details on the gameplay element I am referring to, but once it's implemented - to those of you who felt that the 2nd game wasn't as blood thirsty as the 1st one - I say Exmortis3 will make them seem like Sesame Street!

    Saturday, June 17, 2006

    Yeah Yeah Yeah - I've been slack

    I know - I've been slack these last couple of weeks. Unfortunately I haven't got any new updates for anyone. I've been way too busy moving house, setting up my cable TV service and getting my funky new broadband connection up and running.

    However between the related headaches and stress, I managed to record a voice-over opening dialogue. Not sure if I will stick with it for the final version though - I hate the sound of my own voice and it clouds my "is that cheesy, or does it work" spidey-senses which has served me will in the first two games.

    I guess I'll leave it in for now and come back to it further down the track...

    I've also come up with some very wicked ideas that if I can translate correctly to the game, I'm sure it will be the talking point in subsequent reviews of the piece.

    Also, I just picked up a nice little Flash add-on package which some Flash developers will be familiar with - Electric Rain's Swift 3D... It's like a cut down user-friendly version of Maya/3DSM and it seems to be the preferred package when creating motion 3D vector graphics for flash.

    I don't know if I will learn how to harness it's awesomeness (is that even a word?) before the release of Exmortis3 - but the fact that I spend about 3 hours a day on a train between home and work, and that the nature of Exmortis3 tends to be a little too graphic for my fellow commuters to handle - I might just use that time to learn the application...

    Tuesday, June 13, 2006

    Exmortis Freaky Fact #3: Character Names

    Throughout the Exmortis series, the names of certain characters might seem relatively unimportant to everyone - however each name has relevance to me personally.

    Xavier Rehayem (Exmortis & Exmortis2) - The surname Rehayem is actually the name of a customer of mine from my day job as an IT sales consultant. I've never really known how to correctly pronounce the name, but I've heard different interpretations over the years. I haven't devulged to the customer that I have used his surname in this project... maybe he'll work it out if he ever plays Exmortis!

    Gwen Rehayem - Gwen was actually based on a shortly lived crush that I had on a famous Ms. Paltrow. I got over that quickly!

    Mr. Hannay (Exmortis2) - The surname is based upon a Rugby League player who is part of the North Queensland Cowboys, Josh Hannay. Interestingly enough, the name was originally used in another project of mine... After finishing work on Exmortis I began crafting a sci-fi horror project called "Anomaly" (which was eventually abandoned for a loss of any real creative interest in the story). An item you could obtain in the game was a key-card with a personal ID picture on it. That keycard picture was of a player profile of Josh Hannay.

    Vlaew (Exmortis & Exmortis2) - Throughout the series, a common font was used as the Ancient's text/language... that font is Fusaka. To create the final puzzle in the original game, I had to select the most bizzare looking characters from the Fusaka collection that weren't too clear to everybody that it was actual english text. The letters that I chose were V, L, A, E and W. Hence, the name of the character.

    Thursday, June 08, 2006

    Exmortis Freaky Fact #2: Use of EVP

    The use of EVP (electronic voice phenomenom) with in the Exmortis2 game was inspired by another point n click flash game by the name of Lost Found. I found that the most compelling feature of that game is how the storyline revolves around the mythos of a painting that supposedly depicts a ghostly figure in the background and the subsequent supernatural rumours about it bringing misfortune to it's owner's.

    What made Lost Found an inspiring piece of work for me was that it had that element of "this story is based around a real life haunted object" - something that the original Blair Witch movie also utilised effectively.

    In Exmortis2, I wanted to emulate that creepy feeling that I got whilst reading the backstory of that painting, and playing the Lost Found game.

    I came up with the idea to use actual real life EVP recordings within Exmortis2 to achieve this objective. I won't divulge everything to you about which sounds are EVP and which are not - with the exception of one particular scene...

    In the cellar scene, when you switch the CB radio to Channel 10 you will hear a gun fight confrontation in which the dialogue is spoken "Get the hell out of here!"... That line is one of the EVP recordings I've used within the Exmortis2 game...

    Wednesday, June 07, 2006

    Early Teaser Now Online

    Greetings my fellow hell spawn! :) Happy 666 day for yesterday...

    Got another screenshot for y'all... which is clearly posted above. Trust me when I say that the screenshots you've seen so far look MUCH better when you see them animated...

    Some good news - hop on over to Newgrounds and check out the teaser trailer I knocked up last night for Exmortis3... It's nothing special, but hopefully it will create a little bit of anticipation for the conclusion to the story.

    Apart from knocking together the trailer last night, I once again shrugged off my house-moving/packing duties to put some more time in to the opening intro/scenes. I pretty much spent from 6.30pm through to 12:30am glued to my notebook touching up. Yes - I am paying for it today whilst I am at work... Caffeine is my best friend right now...

    Tuesday, June 06, 2006

    Exmortis Freaky Fact #1: Vent Ambience

    The ambient background sound of the vent scene in Exmortis2 is actually a metallic panel (removed from my computer chassis) being smashed HARD over the top of my skull! Echo, reverb and EQ filters were applied afterwards to add some brain rattling flavour! No pain - no gain, I guess...

    Spiritworld Concept

    Ok - despite the fact that I am in the middle of a move to a new house and I am supposed to be spending every single spare moment of my time packing boxes, I actually managed to sneak in a few hours of work last night in a bid to conceptualize one of the opening scenes. I came up with a nice looking scene (see picture above) of the player's character standing on a cliff face looking over the spiritworld.

    It might not be clear in this picture, but the animation that I put in last night creates a nice little partical run off effect behind the player's character. I guess that's my attempt at some kind of supernatural/ethereal remniscent of the Constantine movie's Hell-Dimension effect - probably the only cool thing in that movie :)

    I also managed to differentiate the speeds between the rushing clouds in the sky and the low lying fog/clouds wrapping around the Alien-esque mountains in the distance.

    I probably won't usually give away a great deal of screenshots to avoid spoiling any plot points that aren't set in stone, but the above shot will only be seen for less than 5 seconds in the intro - so I figure "what the hell... why not?"


    Monday, June 05, 2006

    Newgrounds Exmortis Almost to 1 Million Plays!

    Just a quick shout out that Exmortis is only 25,000 plays away from hitting the 1 million hit mark over at Newgrounds! Rock on! :)

    Newgrounds has accounted for about 25% of worldwide hits for Exmortis and Exmortis 2. By those calculations, that puts 4 million people as having played the first game, and I know for a fact that 802,000 people worldwide have played Exmortis2 (Thanks to Mochibot for those stats)

    That puts exposure to my work at around 5 million which is a quarter of the population of Australia! hahaha... It's the little things in life that are often the best... ;)

    Early Days

    Welcome to the inaugural post for what I hope will be an ever expanding blog in which I will catalogue my progress in the making of the 3rd and final (well, I'm 99.9% sure it will be final) chapter in the Exmortis trilogy.

    First and foremost, let me just introduce myself. My name is Ben Leffler. I'm a 28-year old guy from Sydney Australia who has been dabbling with computer design and concept since I was an 8-year old kid programming games and apps in LBasic on my TRS-80 computer.

    It is the unbelievably positive feedback that provides me with continual motivation to spend an obscene amount of time working on such projects as the previous two Exmortis games. I really do appreciate that so many people have embraced my previous work like they have. It makes it all worthwhile in the end... you guys have been a great source of inspiration for me, and in return I hope that my work can also inspire and motivate you in return.

    And so I begin my conceptual work on the final Exmortis game.

    Going on my previous games, there isn't a great deal of structure to the creative process behind the scenes. I don't sit down and write a script or even outline the plot. Both Exmortis and Exmortis2 had very little on paper, and they only really flowed from whatever creative energy I had as I was going from flash scene to flash scene. Not very professional, huh?

    I'm probably more patient than 90% of people in this world however when it comes to creating the game, I want jaw-dropping results and I want it straight away! That's one of the major things that inspires me to go on with the process and remain enthusiastic about it all. Unfortunately that can sometimes work against me because it almost forces me to rush the process and either churn out sub-standard work or get me frustrated to the point where I toss in the towel.

    Exmortis2 had at least two false starts to it's production. The first false start was the most devestating, as it took a further 8 months before I forced myself back to the project.

    I had a basic story premise (the post-apocolyptic setting which I ended up using) but I hit a brick wall when I decided that I wasn't happy with the feeling of the first few scenes and how they introduced the task at hand.

    There was no church, nor was there a dark character there to put you on the path to fulfill his nefarious plans. There were no religious references originally intended, nor an intention to make the sky crimson red, the ground parched or any of the "Exmortis horde pandemic" backstory you can read about in the diary and news clippings of the game. It was pretty much a bare bones start, and it was that lack of projected scope that killed it off for me for so long.

    8 months later, I visited my original Exmortis game at and browsed through the positive user reviews again. It was then that I realised that it would be crazy of me not to follow up the game with a sequel. It was enough to get me back in front of the notebook again, but this time I had a better grasp of certain plot points, and a more energetic and enthusiastic gusto to inspire me with.

    But once again I made a false start which put me off the project for a few weeks. It was the first few scenes once again that just didn't feel right. This time around, the Lochear Fields Ranch was going to be the opening scene. That was supposed to be the original safe house. The bodies the player finds inside the house were supposed to be fellow members of the resistance. But it left me with a dilemma in how I was going to make it clear what direction you needed to take to accomplish an unclear task.

    And then the revelation. Lying in bed one night trying to visualise what it would be like to live in a rural area whilst this demonic horde swept across the world destroying and eviscerating everything in sight. What does humanity hold so dearly, and what would happen when that is taken away? Some people would claim security is most important. Happiness. Contentment. But then it occured to me what the catalyst would be for all hope to be lost.

    The failure of religion and faith in our deity(s). And then it hit me - how I was going to introduce this religious sub-plot without coming off a) too preachy or b) too anti-religious... I then knew what the first scene would be.

    Then back to the creative process and from then on I never looked back. The story continually evolved as I created scene by scene. I decided that my pondering thought of somehow involving Xavier Rehayem and his daughter Gwen back in to the story would again serve to help the player's progress whilst creating direction and motivation to continue the story onwards.

    I eventually reintroduced themes such as the importance of numbers (in the sudoko element and once again the deaths of five innocent people as in the first). I tried to remain true to the colour palette of the first in creating sepia scenes with only the sky and gore hued in crimson.

    There were a lot of other small reoccuring themes that I drew upon from the original game - but it was funny as I never intended to do as such in pre-production... It just kinda happened...

    Anyway, I've probably babbled a bit too much in my first post here. But before I finish up, you'll probably want to know where I'm at with the third game - considering that is the point of this blog after all!

    The answer is rather dissappointing to some. I haven't done a great deal at this point in time... I've been on a bit of a creative break/hiatus to replenish my enthusiasm. I've got a good idea for a bare bones plot that I am going to go with. But let me just let one cat out of the bag for all you that are interested...

    (Highlight to read)

    You will reprise the role of your character from the 2nd game... Mr.Hannay... well... kind of... *evil smirk*